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 $40.
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, at a price of $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.
Requirements: 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray player, discs, and compatible 4K Ultra HD TV.
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 1080.) Seeing that Sony invented Blu-ray, it’s an odd miss, though the PS4 does play HD Blu-rays.