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Your Guide to Watching 4K HD in 2022

Are you fuzzy on how to watch 4K HD TV? We can clear things up.

Now that 4K technology is becoming the new standard for TV resolution, and TV providers carry more 4K TV channels and on-demand content, you probably have questions. What are the best 4K TVs? Which 4K streaming service is best? Our TV experts have the answers for you.

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Is it worth buying a 4K TV?

In a word: absolutely! There’s more 4K content available now than ever before—and we’re even seeing 8K content. And almost all new TVs (and streaming devices and Blu-ray players) are capable of displaying 4K resolution. And you can get a positively sweet 4K TV for less than $700 now. Look at our 4K TV Buyers Guide to see our recommended 4K TVs.

What does it mean if a TV is 4K?

“4K TV” means that the TV is capable of displaying 4K resolution, but only if the source media (live TV broadcasts, streaming media, physical media, video games, etc.) is also 4K. If not, the TV will play the media in its original resolution (standard- or high-definition).

But some newer TVs have a feature called AI upscaling, which is capable of boosting high-definition media—like an HD Blu-ray or stream—to near-4K resolution.

My TV says 4K Ultra HD or UHD—are those the same as 4K?

Pretty much. Technically, “4K” is the terminology for the cinema standard, and Ultra HD is meant to be the consumer-facing term. There is only a slight difference in resolution:

  • 4K resolution: 4096 x 2160 pixels
  • Ultra HD resolution: 3840 x 2160 pixels

But 4K has gained more traction in everyday use, so the two are often used interchangeably. And the difference between the two is difficult to see with the naked eye.

So, if your TV says 4K Ultra HD, it meets both of these standards for resolution.

A diagram showing the difference between full HD and 4K Ultra HD resolution.
While full HD has 1920 x 1080 pixels, 4K Ultra HD has a minimum of 3840 × 2160 pixels.

What are the best 4K TVs?

If you want to watch TV in 4K, you’re going to need a TV that can display a 4K picture. The good news with 4K TVs is that they’re backward-compatible, meaning you can watch standard–definition (SD) and high–definition (HD) content on them too; it just won’t look quite as incredible.

We recommend some 4K smart TVs below. And if you want more help choosing a 4K TV, check out our 4K TV Buyer’s Guide.

Top 4K TVs

TV Price Editorial rating Display type Resolution Details
Samsung QN90A Neo QLED
Editor's choice
$1,277.95 4.7/5 Neo QLED 4K HDR View on Amazon
LG C1 OLED
Best picture
$1,296.99 4.6/5 OLED 4K HDR View on Amazon
TCL 6-Series Mini-LED QLED Roku
Best under $1,000
$639.99 4.3/5 Mini-LED QLED 4K HDR View on Amazon
Hisense U7G ULED
Best under $500
$428.00 4.3/5 ULED 4K HDR View on Amazon

Amazon pricing as of 10/05/22 at 2:00 p.m. MDT. Read full disclaimer.

CableTV.com uses paid Amazon links.

What are the best 4K cable and satellite TV providers?

We’ve named satellite TV provider DISH the best overall TV provider and the best TV provider for families for two years running. DISH has lots of channels, affordable pricing (with a three-year price guarantee), and the popular, powerful DISH Hopper 3 receiver/DVR, which can handle 4K live channels and streams.

If you’re not sold on DISH, or you’d prefer a cable TV provider, check out our complete guide to the best TV providers and find the best TV package for you.

Top 4K cable and satellite TV providers

Service Price Editorial rating Channels Details
DISH
Editor's choice
$79.99–$109.99/mo. 4.7/5 190–290+ View Plan

Read full review
DIRECTV
Best for sports
$74.99–$149.99/mo. 4.2/5 160–330+ View Plan

Read full review
Verizon
Best value
$70.00–$224.99/mo. 4.6/5 125–425+ View Plan

Read full review
Spectrum
Cheapest
$59.99/mo. 4.1/5 125+ View Plan

Read full review

Data as of post date. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

What are the best 4K streaming services?

Netflix received our Editor’s Choice Award for best overall on-demand streaming TV service for its huge library of original and licensed movies and shows—including many in 4K UHD. But to watch Netflix in 4K, you’ll have to sign up for its most expensive plan, Netflix Premium.

Top 4K streaming services

Service Price Editorial rating Streams Details
HBO Max
Editor's choice
$9.99–$14.99/mo. 4.5/5 3 View Plans

Read full review
Netflix
Most original content
$19.99/mo. (Premium plan) 4.3/5 4 View Plans

Read full review
Prime Video
Best value
$8.99–$14.99/mo. 4.2/5 3

View on Amazon

Read full review
Peacock
Cheapest
Free–$9.99/mo. 4.3/5 3 View Plans

Read full review
Disney+
Best for families
$7.99/mo. 4.6/5 4 View Plans

Read full review

Data as of post date.

At $19.99 a month, Netflix Premium is the most expensive Netflix plan ($4.50 more than Netflix Standard), but you’ll also get twice the amount of simultaneous streams. If that’s too much for you, Amazon Prime Video doesn’t charge a premium for 4K content—but it doesn’t have nearly as much original content as Netflix.

Top live TV 4K streaming services

Service Price Editorial rating Channels Streams Details
YouTubeTV
Editor's choice
$64.99/mo. 4.5/5 100+ 3 View Plan

Read full review
Hulu + Live TV
Best value
$69.99–$75.99/mo. 4.2/5 70+ 2 View Plan

Read full review
Philo
Cheapest
$25.00/mo. 3.7/5 60+ 3 View Plan

Read full review
fuboTV
Good for sports
$69.99–$79.99/mo. 4/5 111–166+ 3–10 View Plan

Read full review
Sling TV
Best for channel add-ons
$40.00–$55.00/mo. 4/5 30–50 1–4 View Plan

Read full review

Data as of post date.

We think the best live TV 4K streaming service is YouTube TV ($64.99 a month, 100+ channels, 3 streams). It has tons of channels, a generous on-demand library, and unlimited DVR storage. And with YouTube TV’s 4K Plus add-on ($19.99 a month), you can watch in 4K, enjoy unlimited in-network streams, and download content to view offline.

If you’d rather try another live TV streaming service, Hulu + Live TV ($69.99–$75.99 a month, 70+ channels, 2 streams) doesn’t charge extra for 4K—but Hulu doesn’t have 4K TV channels—just 4K on-demand content.

What are the best 4K streaming devices?

We prefer the affordable Roku Ultra (regularly $90–$95 but frequently less than $70). It supports tons of streaming TV and music apps, features free on-demand content via the Roku Channel, has the fantastically intuitive Roku operating system, and the deceptively simple Roku remote control. And, of course, it supports 4K content.

If you’re a gamer, you might want to check out the NVIDIA SHIELD TV Pro ($199.99), which is great for streaming TV—and also video games from your Steam account.

Top 4K streaming devices

Device Price Editorial rating Video Audio Details
Roku Ultra
Best overall
$89.99 4.7/5 1080p, 4K, HDR, HDR10+, Dolby Vision Digital Stereo, DTS Digital Surround, Dolby Atmos

View on Amazon

Read full review
Chromecast w/ Google TV
Best for Android users
$39.99 4.5/5 1080p, 4K, HDR, HDR10+, Dolby Vision Digital Stereo, DTS Digital Surround, Dolby Atmos

View on Google

Read full review
Amazon Fire TV Cube
Best for Alexa
$119.99 4.4/5 1080p, 4K, HDR, HDR10+, Dolby Vision Digital Stereo, DTS Digital Surround, Dolby Atmos

View on Amazon

Read full review
Apple TV 4K
Best for Apple fans
$189.98 4.8/5 1080p, 4K, HDR, HDR10+, Dolby Vision Digital Stereo, DTS Digital Surround, Dolby Atmos

View on Amazon

Read full review
NVIDIA SHIELD TV Pro
Best for gamers
$199.99 4.6/5 1080p, 4K, HDR, HDR10+, Dolby Vision Digital Stereo, DTS Digital Surround, Dolby Atmos

View on Amazon

Read full review

Amazon pricing as of 4/18/22 at 3:43 p.m. MDT. Read full disclaimer.

CableTV.com uses paid Amazon links.

What do I need to view 4K media?

To watch TV in 4K, you’ll need a 4K TV (obviously), 4K content, a 4K streaming device, 4K Blu-ray player, a 4K–compatible HDMI cable, and plenty of internet speed.

  • 4K TV: If you try to play 4K content on an HD TV, you’ll see it in HD. Make sure you’ve got the right kind of screen for your needs.
  • 4K content: You’ll need a subscription to a cable or satellite TV provider, or streaming TV service, that carries 4K TV channels, 4K on-demand content, or both. You can also buy digital or physical 4K media.
  • 4K-capable streaming device: Pretty much any streaming device supports 4K nowadays—but always check before you buy.
  • 4K Blu-ray player: If you’re into the superior picture and sound of 4K Blu-ray discs, you’ll need one of these to play them.
  • 4K-compatible HDMI cable: A “regular” HDMI 2.0 cable can probably handle 4K, but an HDMI 2.1 cable is the new hotness—but only if your TV has an HDMI 2.1 port.
  • Internet connection: Can your internet connection handle the extra load from 4K streaming and the other internet activities in your house? If you’re not sure, we can help with our internet speed guide.

Is 4K TV better than LED?

LED and 4K TV are two elements of picture quality. LED is your TV’s display type, just like OLED, QLED, Neo-QLED, ULED, et cetera. It’s how your TV forms a picture and displays colors. Resolution is what we’re talking about with 4K—and it’s all about detail.

How do I know if I’m watching 4K?

To confirm that you’re watching in 4K, check these two things:

Display: Make sure you’re watching on a 4K TV. More than one of us (ahem) has tried playing a 4K YouTube video on a regular HD TV. (You know, just to see if it’ll work. Derp.)

Source: Sometimes you have to tell your “smart” gadgets that you want to watch in 4K. Check the resolution settings on your streaming devices. And if you try to play an HD Blu-ray/DVD/stream on most older 4K TVs, it will play in HD.

Can you tell the difference between 1080p and 4K?

The naked eye can tell the difference between HD (1080p) and 4K resolution—but only if you have a larger TV (at least 50″). And, obviously, the larger the TV, the better.

Final take

Now that you have some great HD content to watch, make sure you get the best sound quality to go with it! Check out our guide to the best sound systems.

And stay tuned for future updates. Until then, check out our resources and equipment guides for more advice on all things 4K HD.

Full Amazon disclaimer

Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on Amazon.com at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product. CableTV.com utilizes paid Amazon links.

CERTAIN CONTENT THAT APPEARS ON THIS SITE COMES FROM AMAZON. THIS CONTENT IS PROVIDED ‘AS IS’ AND IS SUBJECT TO CHANGE OR REMOVAL AT ANY TIME.

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