How Much Better Is House of Cards in 4K?

Netflix announced at CES that it would begin shooting original series in ultra high-def 4K, and now British site HDTVtest has caught the first glimpse of the streaming giant's 4K content in the wild. How much more evil does Kevin Spacey look?

Here's what HDTVtest had to say:

The opening shot of Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) and his wife (Robin Wright) running in a park at night is a testing sequence with lots of gradients and camera noise, and we saw minor posterization during the fade in, and around the street lamps. To our eyes, the [2160 HD] layer did not look visibly more detailed than the [1080 HD] one in this fairly dark scene. Where the 4K version did shine was with bright, colourful scenes. On-screen images were rendered with greater sharpness and smoother gradients, receiving a very slight boost in intra-scene gamma and contrast in the process too. Every time the video stream switched from [1080p HD] to [2160 HD], it's as if a veil had been lifted from the front of the screen, bringing objects – even faraway ones in long shots – into breathtaking clarity.

HDTVtest notes that Netflix's quality is ultimately hampered by compression, so while the ultra HD stream sometimes looks crisper, it's still not a Blu-Ray killer. It's also helpful to bear in mind that 4K streaming content can only be viewed on a brand-new 2014 4K TV with the necessary H.265/HEVC decoder built in. There aren't a whole lot of those out there, and the ones that are on sale will cost you.

Still, it's promising to hear that—at least in well-lit scenes—4K streaming isn't just hype. And it won't be long before you're able to count the pores on Kevin Spacey's forehead. If that's the kind of thing you yearn for. [HDTVtest via Multichannel]