Skip to main content

Digital Trends may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site. Why trust us?

YouTube TV in 4K: Everything you need to know

When it comes to streaming live TV in the United States (or streaming any kind of video anywhere, for that matter), resolution and bit rate remain as important as ever. And you’re now able to enjoy YouTube TV in 4K. Some of it, at least. And if it seems like it’s taken forever for that to happen, you’re not wrong.

The basic fact is that it takes a lot of bandwidth to stream video — and that’s even more difficult when you’re talking linear TV, (and more so still if it’s a live event like sports). So it’s not really that much of a surprise to learn that most live channels stream at 720p resolution — or maybe 1080p if you’re lucky. (We’ll leave frame rate out of the equation for a minute, but it’s a thing, too, especially for sports.)

For the most part, 4K resolution — we’re talking 2160p — is pretty hard to come by. FuboTV has had some in the past, and YouTube TV has joined the 4K party via its optional 4K Plus add-on. And it’s a big deal. When you look at YouTube TV versus Hulu With Live TV — which is its biggest competitor — you’ll quickly note that 4K is something the latter definitely lacks on the live front.

That YouTube TV 4K Plus add-on actually gets you three major features, and they definitely help justify the price (especially considering that you don’t get everything in the higher resolution). They are:

  • 4K resolution on some content.
  • The ability to watch as many streams on your home network as you want.
  • The ability to watch recorded shows and movies offline on mobile devices.

Those are the big points, but let’s break it down a bit. Here’s everything you need to know about 4K streaming on YouTube TV.

YouTube TV 4K streams settings and user options.
Phil Nickinson/Digital Trends

YouTube TV 4K price and how to add it

First things first: You’ll need an existing YouTube TV subscription if you want to watch anything in 4K. That still runs $65 a month (as of September 2021), plus tax. The 4K Plus add-on costs another $20 a month. But it’s currently offered at a $10-a-month promotional discount, which is good for the first 12 months. After that, you’ll pay the full price.

So with no other add-ons, including 4K on your YouTube TV subscription will cost a total of $75 a month for the first year, then $85 a month after that.

To add the 4K Plus add-on to your subscription fee, you’ll need to go into your YouTube TV account from a web browser. (Click your avatar in the top right corner, then choose Settings, and then Membership. Or this link should take you right there.) Look for the 4K Plus add-on, then add it.

That’s also where you can cancel the 4K Plus add-on if you decide you don’t want it any longer.

What can you watch in 4K on YouTube TV?

Adding the 4K Plus add-on doesn’t magically upscale everything on YouTube TV to a higher resolution. That’s just not how it works. You’ll still need the content itself to be available in 4K resolution to actually make use of that part of the add-on. (We’ll repeat, again, that it’s really just one-third of what you get, though it’s definitely the most important third.)

You can split what’s available in 4K resolution into two categories: On-demand, and live. You’ll find a bunch of shows available on-demand from Discovery, FX, Tastemade, and Nat Geo. That includes high-profile titles like What We Do in the Shadows, Snowfall, Make This Tonight, Struggle Meals, and How It’s Made  — and that’s just for starters. And they look great in 4K resolution, as you’d expect for something that’s been prerecorded and optimized for streaming.

Where 4K content really shines, though, is when it comes to live events. And by that, we really mean sports. On that front, you’ll find live games and events from ESPN, Fox Sports, and NBC Sports. What’s available is seasonal, of course. In the fall, you’ll find college football and the English Premier League, for example.

Sports in 4K are still pretty few and far between, but we’ll take whatever we can get. The best way to find out what’s coming up is to hit the Home tab on YouTube TV, and then the 4K filter.

This is the part where someone will stand up and yell, “but it’s not true 4K!” And they’re almost certainly right. When it comes to sports, what you’re almost certainly watching is some sort of upscaled feed. That is, it’s shot in either 720p or 1080p (probably the latter), then upscaled at the source to 4K resolution, and then streamed by YouTube TV. Yes, native 4K would be a lot better. That’s what you get when you’re watching a movie or show on Netflix or Amazon Prime Video. But moving that much data in real time to as many people who watch a live sporting event is really hard. So for now, we still have to contend with upscaling.

But here’s the thing: Sports in 4K look better. A lot better.

YouTube TV 4K streams.
Phil Nickinson/Digital Trends

What devices support YouTube TV in 4K?

This is where things get a little tricky. Not every piece of hardware out there supports 4K resolution, of course (and your TV also will have to have a 4K panel). Here’s the official list of devices that support YouTube TV in 4K:

  • 4K smart TVs running Android TV
  • Smart TVs from Samsung, LG, and Hisense, from 2016 or newer
  • Chromecast with Google TV
  • 4K Roku streaming players
  • Apple TV 4K (2021)
  • PlayStation 4 Pro
  • Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K
  • Nvidia Shield

Obviously missing from that list is web browsers, despite the fact that you can find a 4K monitor fairly affordable these days. YouTube TV tops out there at 1080p.

It’s also worth mentioning that the 2017 model of Apple TV 4K is missing from that list, but we’re starting to see some content available on that older model in the full 3480 x 2160 resolution.

What else do you get with YouTube TV 4K?

As mentioned above, content in 4K resolution is just one-third of the features that are included in the 4K Plus package.

In addition to everything looking better, you’ll also be able to download recorded shows to a mobile device for offline viewing. That means you won’t need a data connection to watch, say, Snowfall, while you’re on the subway. Just hit the download button (it looks like an arrow pointing downward) for the show. If the button is grayed out, the content isn’t available for download.

You’re limited to one device at a time for downloaded content. You won’t be able to watch that show on another device before first deleting the downloaded version.

The other feature included in the 4K Plus add-on is the ability to watch on as many devices at once, so long as you’re doing so on your home network. That feature works for family members under the same account, too.

If you’re outside your home network, you’ll still be limited to three streams at once.

Editors' Recommendations

Phil Nickinson
Phil spent the 2000s making newspapers with the Pensacola (Fla.) News Journal, the 2010s with Android Central and then the…
When is the best time to buy a TV?
Samsung The Terrace outdoor TV.

Need a new TV? If you do, we have all kinds of great posts to help you find the best TV for you, as well as the best options for TVs under $1,000, under $500, and even TVs with specific operating systems like Roku and Google TV. But you're here because you want to make sure you don't lose the farm when buying one and to do that, you want to know: When exactly is the best time to buy a new TV?

If you believe the hype and marketing tactics from TV manufacturers and retailers, you’d think it’s always a great time to buy a TV. This, of course, isn't true. You can save significant money on a TV if you bide your time and strike when the deals are to be had. And while it's also a good idea to bookmark our regularly-updated best TV deals posts, a few key times during the year to be extra vigilant include: Springtime when the new TVs of the year start arriving, making for some good deals on last year's models; Amazon Prime Day, which typically lands in the mid-summer; Black Friday/Cyber Monday at the end of November; and the lead-up to Super Bowl because when's a better time to get a big new TV? We're going to get into all of those right now.
Follow the new TV release cycle

Read more
YouTube TV: plans, pricing, channels, how to cancel, and more
The YouTube TV on a Roku TV.

When you think of streaming video, you think YouTube. And so YouTube TV — Google's live TV streaming service — very much just makes sense for a lot of people. Designed for those who want to cut the cord and ditch their cable or satellite subscriptions (and known in the industry as a multichannel video programming distributor, or MPVD), YouTube TV competes in the same arena as other streaming television services like DirecTV Stream (formerly known as AT&T TV Now and DirecTV Now), Sling TV, FuboTV, and Hulu With Live TV.

And YouTube TV offers a unique mix of features that make it very appealing, so much so that it's now the No. 1 service in the U.S. in terms of the number of paid subscribers, with some 5 million subscribers as of June 2022 — up some 2 million from the last time the service gave an update in October 2020. The popularity is due to several factors. YouTube TV is easy to use. It's got a selection of channels that's competitive with all its rivals. And the YouTube TV price is competitive, too. You're able to watch YouTube TV on pretty much any modern device. And the fact that parent company Alphabet (aka Google) has been marketing the heck out of it the past few years certainly hasn't hurt, either.

Read more
NFL Sunday Ticket price looks to push more viewers toward YouTube TV
NFL on YouTube TV.

We're still months away from the next NFL season, but we now have pricing information on the next incarnation of NFL Sunday Ticket, the subscription that lets you watch all out-of-market games. The package has left DirecTV's satellite service and will now be available on YouTube and YouTube TV starting in August.

The option to sign up will be available "over the next few days," according to the official YouTube blog. And there's a $100 discount if you sign up by June 6, 2023.

Read more