If you recently purchased a 4K Ultra HD television — or you’re thinking about scooping one up — you’ll likely find yourself on the hunt for the best 4K content to enjoy (and show off) in all of its sweet, eye-popping glory. Fortunately, it’s easier than ever to do.
While it’s still nowhere near as prevalent as HD content, the 4K Ultra HD content pipeline has transitioned from a trickle to a steady flow, and in the next few years, it’s going to be more like a rushing river. You’ll find some content is only available on certain devices, but that’s a much smaller issue than it used to be. There is also the factor of HDR (high dynamic range), which offers greater color depth and epic contrast, but isn’t supported via every source. Still, most sources have expanded considerably since launch, making this a great time to consider going all-in on 4K Ultra HD.
To save you some hassle, we compiled all current and forthcoming major 4K Ultra HD content sources in one place, with details on pricing, popular titles, and when to expect more.
Cost: $14 per month for 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 models, Amazon Fire TV, or Chromecast Ultra, among others.
Netflix, a constant innovator, was one of the first services to stream 4K Ultra HD content, which took flight with the second season of its original series House of Cards. Since then, 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 like its shrinking list of Marvel series. 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 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 models, Nvidia Shield TV streamer, Apple TV 4K, and (of course) Amazon Fire TV 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 a high number 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, meaning 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 $3 for rentals, $20 for purchases.
Requirements: Apple TV 4K ($180) connected to a 4K UHD TV.
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 will 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: $10 for rental, $20 to $30 for purchase.
Requirements: Recommended internet speed of 10 to 11 Mbps or higher; Vizio, Roku, or LG 4K TVs, 4K-enabled Roku devices or Nvidia Shield TV device paired with compatible 4K Ultra HD TV, select 4K TVs.
Movie rental/downloading service Vudu has been quietly working its way into the 4K Ultra HD conversation. The service has slowly expanded its 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 Disney’s Movies Anywhere program, 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 25 Mbps or higher; Ultra HD TVs with Android TV OS and select Samsung and LG TVs; or 4K-capable Roku models, 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 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 10 Mbps or higher; app available on select Samsung, Hisense, Vizio, and Sony Bravia Ultra HD TVs, 4K-capable Roku models, 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 hundreds of 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 Ultra HD TV; or 4K Ultra HD TV with HDCP 2.2 copyright protection and a PlayStation 4 Pro for 4K Ultra HD playback (though other Sony devices are supported, they do not have 4K playback); or a Sony FMP-X10 4K Ultra HD media player ($500 to 700).
Sony’s video on demand (VOD) service allows the purchase and rental of around 200-plus movies and TV shows. Movies typically take up around 40GB of space, and though renting will save a lot of room, many titles are only available for purchase. Frankly, streaming 4K from other services is a much more convenient option. On the other hand, downloading will result in slightly higher video quality.
Cost: Rentals start at $5 (varies by title) and movies cost $20 to $25 to purchase.
Requirements: Recommended minimum 10 Mbps download speeds; select Ultra HD TVs, PC, or 4K-capable Roku models 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: $5 rentals, $20 to $30 for purchase.
Requirements: 20 Mbps internet connection; Chromecast Ultra, Nvidia Shield, or 4K-capable Roku model connected to a 4K TV, among other Google devices.
Google has its own 4K streaming device, the Chromecast Ultra. While the device will support some of the previously mentioned services out of the box, 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 device that supports Google Play — such as the Roku Ultra or Nvidia Shield — can access these movies via the Google Play app.
Cost: $45 to $50 per month.
Requirements: 30 Mbps internet speed recommended; Chromecast or FireTV (Roku and Apple TV support coming soon).
In July 2018, FuboTV became the first live 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 now the service is streaming some NCAA football games in 4K as well. While 4K content is still fairly limited, this means that 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 $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 in order 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 via a streaming app. For now, there are only limited titles available, most of which fall under the umbrella of Comcast subsidiary NBCUniversal’s library. At first, 4K content was only available via 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.
Ultra HD Blu-ray
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 hard-copy format some have dismissed as obsolete in the streaming age, Ultra HD Blu-ray discs and their corresponding players account for the best way to watch 4K Ultra HD content in terms of quality. The platform offers fewer artifacts than highly compressed 4K streams and brings along HDR10 and Dolby Vision support (along with Dolby Atmos and DTS:X sound) and a more expansive color spectrum to grow with the 4K Ultra HD TVs of tomorrow.
Ultra HD Blu-ray players from Sony, Samsung, LG, Philips, Panasonic, and many others are available and prices are extremely reasonable. The Xbox One S and Xbox One X are also capable 4K Blu-ray players that are capable of HDR. Here is a list of Ultra HD Blu-ray titles, as well as more information about 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray.
Price: About $20 to $60 per game, plus fees for additional content and premium online services.
While there’s plenty to watch from the above services and platforms, it’s not the only form of entertainment your 4K TV can enhance. For the gaming crowd out there, there are now two 4K- and HDR-compatible consoles on the market: The PlayStation 4 Pro and the Xbox One X. Both are 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.