Flip the calendar back to 2017 and you’d be hard-pressed to find a 4K TV for less than $1,000. Now they’re available for a quarter of that. Yet, despite being more affordable (and thus at the center of more home entertainment setups) than ever, finding 4K content to watch can still be a bit of a chore.
That’s not to say there isn’t plenty of 4K Ultra HD material out there waiting to be consumed, because there is — you just need to know where to find it, and you’ll also need to be willing to pay for it. Fortunately for you, we searched far and wide to help you find the best 4K content on the market, with the highlights including Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, and Netflix.
Cost: $16 per month for the Premium plan that includes Ultra HD content.
Requirements: Recommended internet speed of 25Mbps or higher; multiple 4K Ultra HD TVs from manufacturers including Samsung, LG, Panasonic, Sony, Vizio, Philips, TCL, and Hisense; or a compatible 4K Ultra HD TV connected to any of the recent 4K-capable Roku streamers, , or Chromecast Ultra, among others.
Netflix, a constant innovator, was one of the first services to offer 4K Ultra HD content, which took flight with the second season of its original series House of Cards. Since then, the content has been growing consistently — all of the service’s major original series are now being shot in 4K, and some in HDR, including recent hits and old favorites. Netflix is also continuously adding new 4K films and breathtaking nature docs to its library.
Cost: Included with a $120 per year or $13 per month Prime Membership; select titles for a rental start at $8, and titles for purchase range from $20 to $30.
Requirements: Recommended internet speed of 25Mbps or higher; select Samsung, LG, Sony, Vizio, and Panasonic 4K Ultra HD TVs, as well as compatible 4K Ultra HD TVs connected to 4K-capable Roku streamers, Nvidia Shield TV streamer, Apple TV 4K, and (of course) Amazon Fire TV 4K-capable streaming devices.
Amazon’s “free” service — which comes with a Prime subscription — launched with 4K Ultra HD versions of some of its original series like Mozart in the Jungle and Transparent and has since expanded to include most of its original series, as well as lots of other television series and films. Amazon also streams many of its original series in HDR, including Jack Ryan in Dolby Vision.
The service also has a rotating selection of 4K Ultra HD movies as part of its Prime collection; the exact number of specific titles available will vary from month to month. As for the not-so-free selections, Amazon sells a number of 4K Ultra HD titles starting at around $20.
Cost: Starting at $6 for an ad-riddled experience, $12 for ad-free.
Requirements: Apple TV 4K or Google Chromecast Ultra, with an internet speed of around 16Mbps for the best results — versus the 6Mbps required for Full HD and 3Mbps needed for HD.
After pulling its entire catalog of 4K content without so much of a sniffle to its customers back in 2018, Hulu has once again ventured into the wonderful world of 4K Ultra HD. This time, it’s made its entire selection of 4K Hulu Originals available to Apple TV 4K and Google Chromecast Ultra owners — with the list of both on-demand content and supported devices expected to grow in the near future.
Cost: Starting at $6 for new release rentals, $20 for new release purchases.
Requirements: Apple TV 4K
Following the release of the Apple TV 4K, iTunes has begun adding a selection of 4K and HDR content to its store. These titles are available to purchase or rent. Finding content in the iTunes store is easy — icons flag the content as 4K, HDR, and/or Dolby Vision (Dolby’s proprietary HDR format). One perk of iTunes is that the 4K versions of titles cost the same as the HD versions, which is drastically cheaper than most other services.
Cost: Some rentals are free (ad-supported); paid 4K rentals start at $7, $10 to $20 for purchase.
Requirements: Recommended internet speed of 10 to 11Mbps or higher; Vizio, LG, and Roku-equipped 4K TVs; 4K-enabled Roku streamers or Nvidia Shield TV device paired with compatible 4K Ultra HD TV.
Movie rental/downloading service Vudu has been quietly working its way into the 4K Ultra HD conversation. The service has slowly expanded the number of supported devices and is constantly adding more. Vudu’s library is continually updated with many of the latest UHD movie releases, and it’s now one of the better services for finding UHD films to show off your 4K TV’s capabilities. It’s also part of Movies Anywhere, which lets you store your digital vault from multiple services.
Cost: Free; $12 per month for YouTube Premium subscription; $2 to $15 for film rentals/purchases.
Requirements: Recommended internet speed of 25Mbps or higher; Ultra HD TV with Android TV OS and select Samsung and LG TVs; 4K-capable Roku streamer, Amazon Fire TV, Nvidia Shield TV, or Chromecast Ultra hooked up to a 4K TV. Keep in mind that the number of TVs that support YouTube’s brand of 4K is still in flux — just because there’s a YouTube app doesn’t mean it’ll be in 4K — so check with retailers before making a purchase.
Thanks in large part to its massive army of video contributors and a barrage of 4K cameras now on the market, YouTube has quickly become one of the best sources for 4K Ultra HD content. You won’t find a big catalog of films or TV series, but those looking for some brilliant scenes to show off their TV’s mad 4K Ultra HD skills will find them here — everything from nature videos to high-flying stunts. And perhaps best of all, most of it is free — such as the popular HDR Channel.
Cost: $1 to $10 per rental.
Requirements: Recommended minimum download speed of 10Mbps or higher; app available on select Samsung, Hisense, Vizio, and Sony Bravia Ultra HD TVs, 4K-capable Roku devices, Amazon Fire TV, or Nvidia Shield TV streaming box.
As the self-proclaimed host of the largest 4K Ultra HD library of streaming content available, Ultraflix hosts several hundred hours of 4K nature documentaries (including multiple titles originally created for IMAX), dozens of concerts, videos from musical acts, and hundreds of hours of sci-fi, action, comedy, and drama, all for rental in 48-hour blocks.
Cost: Starting at $2 for TV episode rentals, $8 per movie for a 24-hour rental, and $15 to $35 for purchases.
Requirements: Sony 4K Ultra HD TV; 4K Ultra HD TV with HDCP 2.2 copyright protection and a PlayStation 4 Pro for 4K Ultra HD playback (other Sony devices are supported, but they do not have 4K playback).
Sony’s video on demand (VOD) service allows the purchase and rental of around 200-plus movies and TV shows.
Cost: Rentals start at $5 (varies by title) and movies cost $20 to $25 to purchase.
Requirements: Recommended minimum 10Mbps download speed; select Ultra HD TVs, PC, or 4K-capable Roku streamer hooked up to 4K Ultra HD TV.
This service was originally known has M-Go, before Fandango purchased and rebranded it. The service offers 4K UHD movies for either purchase or rental, as well as a healthy selection of films that are also offered with HDR. Unlike some other services, FandangoNow has a list on its website that makes it easy to see which movies are available with HDR, and what is only available in standard 4K.
Cost: $6 rentals, $12 to $20 for purchase.
Requirements: 20Mbps internet connection; Chromecast Ultra, Nvidia Shield TV, or 4K-capable Roku streamer connected to a 4K TV, among other Google devices.
Google has its own 4K streaming device, the Chromecast Ultra, and the Google Play Store has a selection of 4K movies available for rental or purchase. This service isn’t just relegated to the Chromecast Ultra, however. Any 4K-capable streamer that supports Google Play — such as Roku devices or the Nvidia Shield — can access these movies via the Google Play app.
Cost: Starts at $55 per month.
Requirements: 30Mbps internet speed recommended; Chromecast Ultra, Fire TV, Roku, or Apple TV.
In July 2018, FuboTV became the first live-sports TV-streaming service to offer programming in 4K with HDR. At first, the only games to take advantage of this increased visual fidelity were 2018 World Cup matches, but the service later added some NCAA football games in 4K as well. While 4K content is still fairly limited, the service is equipped to show both Fox and FS1 in 4K with HDR10, so if nothing else, expect to see more live sports making use of these technologies moving forward. The service has also said it will begin offering some entertainment programming (not just sports) in 4K with HDR this fall.
Broadcast, Blu-ray, and gaming
Cost: $4 to $16 per 4K Ultra HD title on demand; live channel requires DirecTV Ultimate or Premier package.
Requirements: On-demand: Manufacturer-certified DirecTV 4K-ready TV (or standard 4K TV and 4K Genie Mini) and DirecTV’s Genie HD DVR (model 530 and up). Live: Previous requirements plus the latest Genie HD DVR.
Pioneering the first 4K Ultra HD service for any cable or satellite provider, DirecTV set up shop to deliver a handful of VOD movies in 4K in November 2014. Top launch titles included Star Trek (2009) and Transformers: Age of Extinction, along with several nature documentaries and some older movies like Forrest Gump and Amistad. The channel now offers live programming on a limited, event-based schedule, and there are plans to offer a handful of new live 4K Ultra HD channels — including more live sports — in the future, though just when remains a mystery.
Cost: $8 per 4K Ultra HD title on demand, live packages start at $60.
Requirements: Dish Hopper 3, 4K Joey (optional add-on for more than one TV), and compatible 4K Ultra HD TV, Dish Network programming package.
With the introduction of its Hopper 3 hardware and 4K Joey, Dish joined DirecTV in offering 4K content both live and on-demand. As long as you’ve got the equipment, live 4K programming is available on any channel that offers 4K, though that is an admittedly small list at this point. As more channels add 4K programming, you’ll theoretically be able to access it as long as the channel is in your programming package. A fair number of movies are available in 4K on demand as well, for $8 per rental, compared to $3 for standard definition and $7 for high definition.
In August 2018, Dish added Epix’s full catalog of 4K movies to its catalog. This brings titles like Arrival, The Magnificent Seven, Star Trek Beyond, and Transformers: The Last Knight to the service in 4K. You may or may not have been waiting for one of these to arrive, and you’ll either need to subscribe to Epix for $7 per month or the Dish Movie Pack for $10 a month, but in general, more 4K content is better than less 4K content.
If you can’t find what you’re looking for in 4K via Dish’s live or on-demand offerings, the company’s hardware also supports Netflix streaming in 4K, though you’ll need a Netflix subscription to access it.
Cost: Free to Xfinity TV customers.
Requirements: Xfinity XG1v4 or select Roku devices, select 4K TVs from LG, Samsung, and Sony.
Comcast premiered its own 4K service in December 2014 with a streaming app. For now, there are limited titles available, most of which fall under the umbrella of Comcast subsidiary NBCUniversal’s library. At first, 4K content was only available from a VOD app for Samsung UHD TVs, but the service eventually released 4K set-top boxes. The service also offers Netflix integration and even includes a subscription in some packages, letting you watch Netflix in 4K via your Xfinity set-top box.
Cost: Ultra HD Blu-ray players run anywhere from $80 to $1,000; Ultra HD Blu-rays average $14 to $30 per movie.
A physical format some have dismissed as obsolete in the streaming age, Ultra HD Blu-ray discs and their corresponding players offer the best way to watch 4K Ultra HD content in terms of quality. The platform exhibits fewer artifacts than highly compressed 4K streams and brings along HDR10 and Dolby Vision support (along with Dolby Atmos and DTS:X immersive sound). Just note you will need an Ultra HD Blu-ray viewer to view them, or an Xbox One S or Xbox One X.
Price: About $20 to $60 per game, plus fees for additional content and premium online services.
While there’s plenty to watch from the services and platforms discussed in this article, it’s not the only form of entertainment your 4K TV can enhance. For the gaming crowd, there are now two 4K- and HDR-compatible consoles on the market: The PlayStation 4 Pro and the Xbox One X. Both offer a marked visual upgrade over their 1080p HD counterparts, though we should note that the PS4 Pro does not support 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray, while the Xbox One X does. (The Xbox One S will upscale from 1080p.) Seeing that Sony invented Blu-ray, it’s an odd miss, though the PS4 does play HD Blu-rays.
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