Where to Get the Most 4K HD Programming for Your New TV
If you just got a 4K HDTV (lucky you!), or are considering buying one, you’re probably feeling a little skeptical. Is there really enough 4K HD programming available to make it worth the investment? A year or two ago, the answer would have been an emphatic no—but times have changed. 4K technology is out of beta and now comes standard on most new TV equipment, so content providers, cable companies, and streaming services are following suit. We’re seeing lots of 4K HD content cropping up from multiple services on every level.
While it’s still far from ubiquitous, 4K HD programming is definitely available. We’ve compiled a list of where you can go to take that dazzling new 4K HD TV for a spin.
|Source||Type||Cost||Type of Content||Required|
|Xbox One S||Gaming System||$299||Games, movies, and more. Xbox also incorporates HDR technology.||N/A|
|PlayStation 4 Pro||Gaming System||$399||Games, movies, and more. Does not support Ultra HD 4K Blu-ray, however. Includes HDR.||N/A|
|DISH||Satellite Service||$34.99–$74.99/month||Most 4K is through Netflix integration or On Demand.||Hopper 3|
|DIRECTV||Satellite Service||$50–$125/ month||DIRECTV does have a dedicated 4K channel.||Genie HR 54|
|Comcast||Cable Service||$19.99–$109.99/month||On Demand titles through NBC Universal.||Samsung 4K TV|
|Netflix||Streaming Service||$12/month||Many big name Netflix Originals are in 4K HD.||Compatible 4K TV, 4K Roku, Amazon Fire, or Chromecast Ultra.|
|Amazon Prime||Streaming service/rentals||$99/year Prime membership||Some Amazon original series are in 4K HD.||Compatible 4K TV, 4K Roku, Amazon Fire, or Chromecast Ultra.|
|VUDU||Streaming rentals||$10 rental/$20 purchase||Movies. HDR with Dolby Vision available.||LG 4K TV, 4K Roku, VIZIO 4K TV|
|YouTube||Streaming||FREE||Mostly free demos and nature shorts.||Compatible 4K TV, 4K Roku, Amazon Fire, or Chromecast Ultra.|
|Fandango Now||Streaming rentals||$7/rental, $20–$25 purchase||Merged with M-GO. Movies only.||Samsung 4K TV, 4K Roku.|
|UltraFlix||Streaming rentals||$1–$10/rental||Largest 4K HD library available, including movies, concerts, and documentaries.||Compatible 4K TV, 4K Roku, Amazon Fire, or Chromecast Ultra.|
|Sony’s Ultra 4K||Streaming||$30 purchase||50+ titles available for purchase.||Compatible Sony 4K HD TV.|
|Ultra HD 4K Blu-ray||DVD Player||$125–$650||Primarily movies. Amazon alone has nearly 2,000 titles listed as Blu-ray Ultra HD 4K.||N/A|
Data effective as of 1/25/2017
Want a provider that delivers HD content? Search for one near you with our ZIP code tool.
Read through our answers to the questions you’re probably still asking about 4K below.
Things to Consider
Is 4K TV worth it?
The industry has consolidated around this technology and it’s here to stay; there’s no doubt about that. If you’re still debating whether or not to invest in a 4K TV, for more information on 4K, features you should be aware of before you buy, and our recommendations for the best 4K TVs.
4 Reasons Now Is the Time to Invest in 4K
1: Resolution Revolution
While standard HD has 1920 x 1080 pixels, 4K Ultra HD has a minimum of 3840×2160 pixels.
That resolution though, right? It’s a pretty big deal. Resolution is basically the concentration of pixels, and 4K technology has eight million—twice as much as regular HD. At a distance, the difference isn’t discernible to the naked eye. But when you get up close and personal, you’ll see every flicker of light and every line on a face.
Wait. My TV says 4K Ultra HD or UHD? Is that the same thing as 4K?
Yes, mostly. 4K is the terminology for the cinema standard, and Ultra HD is the consumer-facing term. There is, however, a small difference in resolution. Take a look at the numbers.
4K Resolution: 4096 x 2160
Ultra HD Resolution: 3840 X 2160
If your TV says 4K Ultra HD, it meets both of these standards for resolution. Want to learn more about 4K technology and Ultra HD? Take a peek at this in-depth explanation from Tech Radar: Everything You Need to Know About Ultra HD.
2: Go Big or Go Home
The onset of 4K is finally your excuse to get an enormous TV. For 4K viewing, experts generally recommend a sixty-inch screen for a mere five-foot viewing distance. Yep, that’s huge. Find out if your TV is positioned the correct distance for optimal viewing.
3: Open Your Wallet. It’ll Be Worth It.
For a long time, 4K and Ultra HD TVs just weren’t affordable. That’s changing now that the technology has moved off the bleeding edge of beta and into your living room. As you’ll see in our 4K TV Buyers Guide, you can get a decent modem for under $1,000.
4: Coming Soon to a Living Room Near You
The 4K content library is finally filling up with not just recent movie titles, but TV shows and other programming as well. If you’ve never witnessed Bill Murray’s face in glorious 4K Ultra HD, you just haven’t lived. Better get on that, people.
What else do I need to view 4K?
Hopefully it’s clear that a new TV is in order, but if not, we’ll resolve any ambiguity now: If you want to watch 4K content, you need a 4K HD TV, capiche? The best part about 4K is that it’s backwards compatible, meaning you can watch regular resolution stuff on it, too. It just won’t look quite as incredible.
Not sure which TV to buy? We’ve got you. Take a peek at our 4K TV Buyer’s Guide and select the TV that meets your needs off our recommended list.
4K-Streaming Box or Service
Beautiful pictures and advanced technology are great, but it doesn’t really matter if there’s nothing to watch. In some cases, you can connect content directly to your 4K TV (think Sony Ultra), but most of the time you’ll need to use a box of some sort. Roku’s Ultra, Amazon Fire, or Chromecast Ultra manage streaming services that offer 4K content like Netflix, Amazon Prime, and more. Even if you have DISH or DIRECTV, you’ll need their advanced DVR equipment (The Hopper 3 or The Genie HR-54) to view 4K properly.
4K-Compatible HDMI Cable
There is some debate about whether or not this is really necessary, but the majority of TV manufacturers recommend an advanced HDMI cable optimized to handle Ultra HD content.
Speeds You Need
Streaming in 4K eats up even more bandwidth than HD, so you’ll need to make sure your internet speeds will support all that streaming. How much speed do you really need? Well, it depends on the number of devices you have and how you use the internet. To get our best recommendation for internet speeds that’ll satisfy your connected household, click the speed tool below.
The Details on the Best Ways to Watch 4K
Most of the big name electronics brands make a 4K Ultra HD Player, so if you’re a movie buff who enjoys having a collection of DVDs on display, go for it. Just keep in mind that if you do more than watch movies, you might get more mileage out of a gaming system like the Xbox One S, which will let you play video games and watch Ultra HD Blu-ray DVDs.
Xbox One S incorporates HDR technology, which stands for High Dynamic Range, and enables better color contrast and display. Many TV manufacturers and industry experts believe HDR is more important for realistic picture and detail than 4K resolution. And—unlike the PlayStation 4 Pro—Xbox One S will play Ultra HD Blu-ray movies, making it a more versatile entertainment system.
The newest iteration of the PlayStation may not be a Blu-ray player, but it does have one thing going for it: access to Sony’s 4K HD content. You can download and purchase movies and other content with the PS4 Pro, which, similar to the Xbox One S, uses HDR technology to bring spectacular graphics to life.
DISH is known as the technology leader in the cable and satellite industry, but it’s been a little slow on the uptake with 4K HD in comparison to its competitor DIRECTV. While the Hopper 3 is 4K compatible, most of the Ultra HD content is available on demand or from the Netflix app, which is integrated into the Hopper 3.
DIRECTV became the first provider to offer 4K HD, and everyone else has been racing to catch up ever since. The satellite company is also the first provider to have a dedicated all 4K HD channel—although you’ll need the latest Genie (HR54) to fully appreciate it.
If you’ve got a Samsung 4K HD TV, Comcast stands ready to provide a handful of 4K programs and content through its UHD streaming app. But if you have a different TV, tough luck. There has been plenty of buzz about an X1 box from XFINITY with more 4K HD compatibility, but it has yet to emerge as promised.
Netflix is your best bet for a variety of 4K HD content at a budget price. However, you’ll have to invest in a compatible streaming box if your cable or satellite TV service doesn’t integrate Netflix. But it’ll be worth it: many of Netflix’s original series are available in 4K HD, including classics like Daredevil, Sense 8, and Jessica Jones.
Prime membership looks like a hefty price tag, but once you understand the perks and benefits, you’ll be sold. One of the enticing membership features is access to the Prime video library, which includes quite a few 4K HD titles. Amazon also features tons of 4K Ultra HD titles for purchase.
You’ll need a Roku 4 to get the content, but VUDU offers a growing number of 4K HD movies and other titles. And if you have a compatible TV, you can watch a few of them in HDR with Dolby Vision, which is considered to be the peak of color performance and dynamic, rich display.
YouTube doesn’t have much feature-length content in 4K HD, but what it does have is free content, and that makes all the difference. If you’re just looking to show off your new screen, bring up YouTube on your Smart 4K HD TV and you’ll have access to an astonishing library of demos and shorts, most of which will look more real than the view outside your window.
M-GO and Fandango have merged to create Fandango Now, a streaming rental service that offers movie titles in 4K. There are dozens to choose from for rent or purchase, and the app is available on most streaming boxes like the Roku 4, Amazon Fire, and Chromecast Ultra.
This streaming app allows you to rent quite a few 4K HD titles. In fact, it boasts the largest library of 4K HD content available. The downside is they aren’t available for purchase just yet. But if you’re looking to peruse and be impressed, UltraFlix’s app is on the Roku 4, Amazon Fire, and the Chromecast Ultra.
Don’t get this one confused with the UltraFlix app. This is Sony, and as such, it has access to the enormous library of 4K HD titles that is Sony Pictures. The catch? Ultra is only available to those who own a Sony 4K Ultra HD TV, and the titles in the library are only available for purchase at a hefty price of $30 a piece; that’s a deal breaker for the vast majority.
Made it all the way to the end and still looking for more? Unfortunately, the choices for 4K HD content are not a vast, bottomless pit—at least not yet. Stay tuned for future updates, and until then, check out our resources and equipment guides for more advice on all things 4K HD.