You went out and bought yourself a big-screen TV and paired it with the best of home theatre systems in the hopes of getting the ultimate viewing experience, only to see grainy images reflected back. But this is to be expected. The more you enlarge an image, the more it gets pixelated, which is, in fact, worse than watching it on a tiny mobile screen.
If you want the ultimate viewing experience, you must back up world-class tech with content in 4K HD resolution. Times have changed and where once you’d only find a handful of movies in 4K at exorbitant prices, today you can find tons of quality 4K content at a fraction of that cost. Where to find it is a bit difficult though and can seem like a chore. Lucky for you, we’ve scoured the net and compiled the ultimate guide to watching 4K content.
How to Watch in 4K
Sony's Ultra 4K
DIRECTV (Subscription starts at $59.99 /mo.)
DIRECTV was the first provider to begin offering 4K HD picture quality and it’s still leading the race. It is also known as the first satellite provider to launch a channel dedicated to 4K content. To view it, however, you do need the latest Genie box, HR-54.
The satellite provider boasts of three 4K channels, 104, 105 and 106. The first one broadcasts a mix of 4K content 24/7 - pre-recorded documentaries, travel shows, and original series. While 105 allows you to access 4K movies and live sports events on a pay per view basis. Lastly, 106 airs special live events for interested viewers. New subscribers and those interested in an upgrade get 4K Ultra HD included at no additional cost. It could, however, cost you between $4 and $16 per 4K Ultra HD title.
To complement your DIRECTV service with the best possible broadband internet connection, choose AT&T internet
DISH Subscription starts at: $59.99/mo.
DISH may like to think of itself as the king of the televisual industry, but this satellite provider is no match for competitor DIRECTV. Still, there are certain benefits to using the DISH service.
The DVR, Hopper 3, from DISH is 4K compatible, so any channel that broadcasts 4K content is accessed through the DVR only - even if that channel is included in the package. The reason is at this point there is limited programming available in 4K on DISH TV – and 4K HD viewing is mostly limited to their On Demand library.
DISH, however, does allow you to rent or purchase select 4K UHD titles On Demand for $8 each. Given that renting a standard definition movie costs $3 while one in HD costs $7, $8 for 4K seems fair - especially given the wide range of titles available On-Demand Library – a library that expanded dramatically in mid-2018, when DISH added the full catalog of EPIX® to it, bringing you shows and movies like Transformers: The Last Knight, Star Trek Beyond and others. To access this programming you might, however, need to subscribe to EPIX® which costs $7 per month or get the DISH Movie Pack which costs $10 per month.
You can also watch 4K content through the Netflix app integrated within the system, but you will need a subscription to access it just like EPIX®. Analyze what you would need to have the best 4K experience.
FuboTV (Subscription starts at: $55.00/mo.)
FuboTV came to introduce programming in 4K with HDR in 2018 thus becoming the first live-sports TV streaming service to have ventured into the arena of high-resolution video content. Initially, the only games that could be viewed in 4K resolution were the 2018 World Cup matches, but now NCAA football games to are available on this channel.
Overall 4K content is still limited but if you’re a sports fan, we’re sure you’ll appreciate the enhanced televisual experience while you watch your favorite games.
Xfinity (Subscription starts at $49.99/mo.)
One of the largest U.S. cable providers, Xfinity has finally released its 4K compatible DVR and customers can now easily access 4K content. Xfinity launched 4K service in 2014 through a streaming app, but the number of available titles remained limited - that is however due to change soon following the introduction of the X1 boxes. If you had the chance to tune into the 2018 Winter Olympics with Xfinity you must have experienced their 4K service firsthand; and if you now find yourself craving for more 4K HD content from the provider, you can surely sign up for the Netflix app which comes integrated with your subscription as it does with DISH.
Netflix (Subscription starts at: $16/mo. (for Premium plan with Ultra HD content))
Sometimes it’s better to go directly to the source. If you already have a provider, one that doesn’t offer 4K content, and you can’t switch due to contractual obligations or you don’t want to simply because of the ruckus it would cause, subscribing to a streaming service is your best bet.
Netflix sometimes comes integrated with the cable or satellite TV service. If that’s the case, you’re lucky you won’t have to get anything extra. If not, you’ll have to buy a compatible streaming box which will add to your cost. We, however, think that is still worth it. A number of Netflix’s original series like House of Cards, Sense 8, Jessica Jones and Daredevil are available in 4K. In addition to this many mesmerizing nature-related documentaries are also available in 4K, which we’re sure you’ll love. Netflix keeps on adding new 4K content so you’ll never get bored.
Amazon Prime (Subscription starts at: $12.99/mo.)
This streaming service carries a pretty hefty price tag, but we promise it’s worth it. It gives you access to tons of On Demand content in its video library including a few high-definition 4K titles. If you’re a cord-cutter looking for a streaming service, Amazon Prime is a strong contender.
You also get free service when you subscribe to Prime. It gives you access to 4K Ultra HD shows and movies as well as most of its original series including Transparent and Mozart in the Jungle. It also broadcasts a lot of its original shows in HDR, so it’s sure to keep you entertained without paying extra.
Amazon uses rotating mechanisms and the 4K titles available vary from month to month so you get something new each month. Then again you might not be able to view some of your favorites for some time. You’d be happy to learn you can also rent some select titles starting at a price as low as $6 or for that matter, purchase your favorites at a starting price of $10.
If you want a smooth experience though, you will need 25 Mbps-fast internet at least.
You’ll also need a compatible 4K Ultra HD TV and a 4K compatible streaming device like Chromecast Ultra, Apple TV 4K or Amazon Fire TV 4K.
Hulu (Subscription starts at $5.99/mo. for an ad-riddled experience & $11.99 for ad-free)
Streaming services are all the rage these days and Hulu is a great option for 4k content, posing strong competition to Netflix. Hulu began offering content in 4K at the end of the year 2016, but the rollout has been slow since – albeit in more recent times it appears to have started picking up. Hulu now offers its entire selection of 4K original series the likes of which you won’t find elsewhere. The biggest drawback was its limited compatibility with devices - you needed PlayStation 4 Pro or Xbox One S for streaming - but Hulu has expanded to include Apple TV 4K and Google Chromecast Ultra now.
FandangoNow (Rental starts at $5 per title & Movies cost $15 to $35 on purchase)
FandangoNow is another great streaming service for 4k content. It offers a number of movies in 4K which you can rent or purchase. The best part, the app works with most streaming boxes like Chromecast Ultra and Amazon Fire which means you won’t have to spend additional on getting compatible devices.
Sony’s Ultra 4K (Purchase price starts at $30 per movie)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment and Sony Electronics launched Sony Ultra, a 4K UHD streaming service in 2016. The service boasts a huge library of 4K titles, but the catch is you have to purchase content, while each costs a staggering $30, much more than what you’d pay Netflix, Amazon Prime or Hulu.
YouTube (Free site; Premium package starts at $12/mo.)
This streaming service has limited feature-length 4K content but what it does offers is tons of free programming. If you’ve already spent big bucks on getting the Smart 4K HD TV or other 4K compatible equipment, you might want to lay off spending still more and simply open YouTube. The vast library of demos and shorts will give you an idea of what’s in store. If you want more, you can upgrade to the Premium package which costs $12 a month.
iTunes (Price dependent on the title purchased)
If you’re an Apple fan, you’ll be happy to learn the company has finally entered the 4K arena. Content on iTunes is now available in HDR and 4K. When browsing through the titles, look for the HDR or 4K symbol to ascertain if the content is available in 4K too. Also, make sure your Apple TV supports 4K resolution, meaning you’ll need the 4K model for the purpose. If you have HD content and your device is compatible with 4K that content would automatically get updated to the newer version.
UltraFlix (Rental cost between $1.99 and $9.99)
UltraFlix is a streaming app with one of the largest 4K HD content libraries out there. The library has several hundred hours of 4K content in varied genres such as sci-fi, action, comedy, and drama as well as nature related documentaries; not to forget, videos from musical acts and dozens of concerts, which you can rent in 48-hour blocks.
The downside is you can only rent the content. If you want to rent some movies out for family time, UltraFlix is the place for you, but depending on your viewing habits, it can get costly.
The app is compatible with Samsung, Apple TV 4K, Amazon Fire TV, Hisense, Roku 4, Vizio, Nvidia Shield TV streaming box, Windows 10 PC, Sony Bravia Ultra HD TV, and Chromecast Ultra so most people shouldn’t have any problem.
Ad-ridden 4K content is available for free; rentals range from $0.99 to $5.99 while purchase per title ranges from $4.99 to $24.99
VUDU is another streaming app that allows you to rent quality 4K content. Unlike Ultrafix however, you can also purchase select titles. Its expansive library has the latest UHD movies in store too.
VUDU has been expanding the number of its supported devices. Its connection with Movies Anywhere allows you to save content for viewing.
Disney (The monthly subscription starts at $6.99/mo.)
Most of the services listed above existed before 4K streaming hit the market, which is why they were slow to introduce new content on their platforms. This is not the case for Disney. There are more than 600 movies and shows you can watch, many of which are in fact available in HD and 4K Ultra HDR.
Gaming Consoles (Priced at approximately $20 to $60 per game)
If you are looking to play games in 4K HD quality, PlayStation 4 Pro and Xbox One X are what you need. These consoles are compatible with HDR and 4K both. While there are a number of services and platforms that allow you to watch TV shows and movies in 4K, there are only a few that’ll give you the 4K gaming experience.
These consoles offer a clear upgrade over other 1080p HD devices. Bear in mind, however, 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray is not supported by the PS4 Pro, though it does allow you to stream HD Blu-ray and 4K content from Amazon Prime and Netflix.
Have you yet to invest in 4K?
If you’re looking for 4K content, our guess is you already have the devices to support it. But if you’re looking out of curiosity wondering if you should invest in upgrading to 4K, we’re here to tell you should and soon!
Your standard HD gives you 1920 x 1080 pixels - considering the 4K Ultra HD furnishes a minimum of 3840 × 2160 pixels, it’s safe to say you’re losing out especially with all the new content coming in.
If you find these numbers confusing, let us give you another example. 4K is four times more detailed than standard HD which means that when you zoom in, you’ll see every freckle, every wrinkle there is.
Reason to Buy a Big TV
The bigger the better! If you’re looking to get a big-screen TV but couldn’t find a good enough reason, well 4K is a great justification.
Experts recommend you get at least a 60-inch screen to really appreciate 4K programming, but bear in mind you must have enough space to view it as well. The TV should be positioned at a specific distance for optimal viewing so make sure your room is big enough too.
As the technology is becoming more mainstream, prices of 4K and Ultra HD TVs are on a decline, becoming more affordable; so you won’t feel guilty either.
Previously, there wasn’t enough content to warrant your upgrade to 4K, but now it’s different. You can get TV shows, movies and even live matches in 4K. So, What are you waiting for?
Frequently Asked Questions
Is 4K TV worth it?
4K is progressing fast so if you’re a little confused about whether or not you should invest in it, we’d recommend if you have the funds, go for it. The TVs are getting bigger and cheaper and 4K programming is available more the change.
What Do I need to view 4K?
Not all TVs can display the high pixel count that 4K promises. Before you go for getting 4K content, you might want to check if your TV is 4K compatible.
4K streaming box or TV service
Having access to content and a TV isn’t enough. You’ll also need a DVR that supports the new technology. Or a TV service that broadcasts 4K channels. After all if the content does not arrive in 4K format, how can you expect one to view it as that?
4K-compatible HDMI cable
Next on the list is the cable that facilitates the content. HDMI cable connects your TV and media device and it’s just as important to ensure the cable is also 4K compatible
It goes without saying that high-speed internet is a must. The amount of detail involved in 4K HD means larger volumes of data being transmitted at any given time; and to ensure a smooth transmission you must have access to a high-speed internet connection.
So if you’re considering buying a 4K TV, know that it is not enough to furnish all that you need for the 4K experience.
What’s the difference between 4K Ultra HD, UHD and 4K?
They’re all pretty much the same. For the cinema standard, we use 4K terminology while Ultra HD is intended to be the ‘consumer-facing term’. There is however a difference in resolution.
4K: 4096 x 2160
Ultra HD: 3840 X 2160
4K Ultra HD means both resolutions are available.
Are You Actually Streaming in 4K?
A quick way to check if what you’re watching is actually 4K is by looking at the HD-Report. It contains a list of 4K titles available on Amazon Prime and Netflix.