There’s been a great deal of talk (and hype) recently over 4K UHD TVs and 4K UHD programing. Most new televisions have 4K capability, and streaming platforms like Netflix and Amazon Instant Video (with Prime membership) are promising an increase in 4K content within the coming years. In fact, it’s been estimated that, by 2025, more than half of US households are expected to own at least one 4K-capable TV.
But, what even is 4K?
To summarize, 4K – or, Ultra High Definition – gives you current technology’s best quality picture on an electronic display, such as a television, iPad, or laptop. 4K UHD gives you four times as high a resolution as “Full HD.” It’s name refers to (roughly) the amount of pixels on the horizontal side of the screen you’re watching. To learn more about 4K technology and how it creates such a great quality picture, I suggest checking out this short article and video posted by CNET.
Currently, there’s not much programming in Ultra High Definition, and it will be quite some time before you can watch all of your favorite shows on the platform, including broadcast television. However, if you subscribe to Netflix and have an Amazon Prime membership, some 4K content is available to you, granted you have a 4K capable TV.
The majority of what Netflix offers in 4K UHD is original content, such as “House of Cards,” “Marco Polo,” “The Crown,” “Chef’s Table,” “Sense8,” and “Bloodline.” Non-original shows in 4K UHD are harder to come by: so far, they only offer “Breaking Bad,” and “The Blacklist” in Ultra High Definition. Netflix has also teamed with Louie Schwartzberg, an award winning producer, director and cinematographer to create a four-part nature documentary series called “Moving Art,” presented in 4K UHD.
If you’re interested in checking out any of these titles in 4K, here’s what you’ll need:
- A 4K capable TV
- A compatible streaming device, such as a Roku 4, Roku Premiere, Roku Premiere+, Roku Ultra, Amazon Fire TV (Second Generation), Nvidia Shield, TiVo Bolts, or most 4K Smart TVs
- The most expensive package on Netflix ($11.99/month) – it’s the highest tier they offer and it allows you to stream in UHD, as well as on four simultaneous screens
- Good internet connection –Netflix recommends 25 megabits per second or higher
- Streaming quality set to “High” on your Netflix account
To browse for Ultra HD content on Netflix, type “4K” or “UHD” into the search menu. Updated versions of the streaming service and supported TVs will also display a row dedicated to 4K content on the app.
Amazon Instant Video
Like Netflix, Amazon Instant Video offers some original content in 4K, such as “One Mississippi,” “The Man in the High Castle,” “Good Girls Revolt,” and “Transparent.” Unlike Netflix, the majority of Amazon’s 4K UHD content is in film, like “Fury,” “Pineapple Express,” “The Patriot,” and “Men in Black 3.”
The good news about watching 4K on Amazon Instant Video is that you don’t need a special subscription plan – you can watch original content in 4K with your regular Prime membership. However, most of the newer movie titles available in 4K are pay-only – even to Prime members – for around $20 each. That could accumulate into a hefty bill over time.
System requirements to watch Ultra High Definition on Amazon is similar to that of Netflix, except that they recommend a high speed internet connection of 15 megabits per second.
If you have a second generation Amazon Fire TV, and it is connected to a compatible Ultra HD TV, the Movies and TV sections on your main menu will include “4K Ultra HD” categories where you can find and browse titles available in UHD.
Since there isn’t much 4K content available at the moment (or any solidified plans to make 4K available on broadcast television), buying a 4K UHD capable TV for the sake of being able to watch your favorite shows and some films in higher resolution doesn’t seem worth it (for now). However, if you are looking to purchase a new TV for the holidays, pretty much all your options are 4K friendly. Therefore, if you have the TV capability, as well as a streaming device that allows for UHD, it’s worth the investment. Netflix and Amazon have both promised to offer more 4K shows and movies on their streaming platforms in the coming years, and other streaming services are following suit.
Do you watch TV and movies in Ultra High Definition? Think it’s worth the investment? Tell us about your experiences with 4K UHD in the comments section below!