The Intel Media Box : The Gateway to 4K
Courtesy ROBERTO BALDWIN, Wired
The 4K game is on. Photo: Jim Merithew/Wired
Intel’s media box is coming and it may be the 4K device we’ve been waiting for.
Intel announced Wednesday that its fourth-generation Haswell processors would support 4K resolution. That’s great news for computers, but even better news if that technology finds its way into Intel’s upcoming set-top box. With the Iris graphics news and Intel’s desire to break into the TV market with an all-in-one set-top box, the company could deliver the first real 4K content device. And that would be great, because the 4K transition needs a device that actually pushes content to those expensive TVs.
With 3D pretty much dead in the water, TV manufacturers are pushing 4K (or Ultra HD) as the next great television technology. At this very moment, you can buy a 4K TV from Sony for $5,000, but there’s no content to speak or devices capable of pushing it. Yes, yes, we know about the $700 4K Media Player from Sony. But it only works with Sony TVs, and after watching The Amazing Spider-Manfor the 34th time, you’ll want more out of your expensive television.
Intel has been tight-lipped about its upcoming media box and over-the-internet subscription TV service. It has promised to deliver smarter bundles than you’re currently getting from cable and satellite providers. Intel’s VP of Media Erik Huggers told the crowd at Dive Into Media the box also will have a superior UI and it will support streaming apps like Netflix and Amazon.
Add in 4K capability and you’ve got all the TV you want in to a device ready for the future of video. It’ll do all of this using one HDMI port and the broadband connection you already pay for.
Intel declined to comment, but its plan to shove TV through your ISP’s tubes will give a whole lot of people a viable alternative to the cable TV provider monopolizing their local market. Plus, thanks to the newly ratified HEVC (h.265) codec, those tubes can handle 60fps 4K transmissions. The new codec brings the size of a 4K transmission down from 45-50Mbps to 10Mbps. According to the networking gurus at Western Digital, you should be able to sustain that speed with a 20Mbps account.
Although it might be awhile before networks start broadcasting and streaming 4K content, sources familiar with the situation say they are testing 4K broadcasts. Netflix is watching how 4K evolvesaccording to a Stuff interview with Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos on May 1. Chief product officer Neil Hunt told the Verge that streaming will be the best way to get 4K video and it should appear with in a year or two. What’s more, it hopes to have House of Cards encoded in 4K later this year.
The dirty little secret in all of this, of course, is the fact you need an absolutely ginormous TV for any of this to matter. Unless you’re starting at a screen bigger than 60 inches, you’re just not going to notice the improved resolution. That said, if you absolutely, positively must have the very best resolution and you’ve got the screen (and budget) to make it worthwhile, a box that supports 4K should be on your wish list.
Whether you need it or not, 4K content is coming. Intel is in the position to lead the transition. It has the technology, it just needs to bring it together.