4K TVs were definitely a hot gift this past Christmas—and now that you’ve had time to get it set up, it’s time to really get into the 4K viewing experience. But what can you actually watch on a 4K TV? The standard is just starting to get popular, so you might have to go looking around a bit. To save you the trouble, we’ve done the looking for you!
A Quick Introduction to 4K and Ultra HD
Before we get started, it’s worth taking a moment to explain a few things about 4K and Ultra HD (UHD), two of the most popular terms in TVs right now. First of all, they’re actually different, though not notably so. A 4K resolution is 4096×2160 pixels, while Ultra HD is 3840×2160, which means it’s slightly narrower. There’s very little real-world difference, and both 4K and UHD will provide a noticeable improvement from 1080p HD. Another name for Ultra HD is 2160p.
You’ll get some people telling you that 4K is a professional production standard, while UHD is a consumer and broadcast standard, and that 4K really only means that there’s a horizontal resolution of about 4000 pixels, which means there can be some variation . . . and those are both true. But for the most part, you’re fine using them interchangeably.
Another thing to note is that some services require that you have a specific TV or 4K decoder chipset for you to watch Ultra HD content. I’ve tried to point out where this is the case below, but when in doubt, check the manufacturer’s or provider’s website.
Fortunately, Netflix is making quite a bit of 4K content available, and appear to be committed for the long haul. Two of the service’s most popular series, House of Cards and Breaking Bad, are available in 4K, and more things are being added regularly. Before you sit down to watch Star Trek: Into Darkness in Ultra HD, however, you need to make sure of a couple things.
First, check Netflix’s help guide to make sure your TV can stream UHD from the service. Most TVs can, but there are a few that have decoder chipsets that won’t work with the standard that Netflix uses. Just click the link in that last sentence, select the manufacturer of your TV, and make sure yours is on the list. Also, you’ll need a really fast internet connection—Netflix recommends 25Mbps minimum.
Second, you’ll need to have a premium plan from Netflix. Not everyone can stream 4K—you’ll need to be a subscriber of their top-level plan, which will run you $11.99 (£8.99) per month. Once you’ve made that upgrade and made sure that your TV is compatible with Netflix’s Ultra HD streaming, you’re set to go!
If you have a Netflix-4K-compatible TV, you’ll see the “UltraHD 4K” row on your homescreen (seen in the image above), which contains a number of 4K titles that you can stream. 4k.com has a list of Netflix 4k movies and TV shows, though there’s no guarantee that this is up to date.
With the price of 4K TVs continuing to come down, it’s a safe bet that Netflix will want to increase the number of 4K offerings pretty quickly (especially because it’ll get more people to sign up for the premium plan!).
Also, if you’re making your first foray into Netflix after getting your 4K TV, check out our full guide to the video streaming service, which will fill you in on all of the important things you need to know.
Other Movie and TV Offerings
While Netflix is the best way to get most movies and TV shows in 4K, you do have a few other interesting options. Both Samsung and Sony have external hard drives that come pre-loaded with 4K content that works with their TVs, though both have pretty negative reviews on Amazon, so think twice before you drop several hundred bucks on one. Sony’s Video Unlimited service also offers 4K video.
If you own a Samsung TV, you can use the lesser-known M-GO streaming service to stream 4K content, as well. Like Netflix, their current selection is limited, but you can bet that they’ll be working to add as much as they possible can to the lineup. Amazon’s announcement that they’d be filming all of their original programing in 4K means that there’s a lot that you can get from their instant video service, as well.
Panasonic also debuted a 4K Blu-Ray player at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show, so you can expect to see some 4K Blu-Ray discs this year.
If you’re looking for streaming videos in 4K, YouTube has you covered. Although there isn’t a way to search specifically for 4K content yet, if you add “4K” to your search term, you should be able to find some great videos that take advantage of the phenomenal resolution of your new TV.
Just typing in “4K video” gets you a list of some pretty cool things:
If you’re not sure if the video that you’re watching is available in 4K, just click on the gear in the bottom border of the video and adjust the resolution; if it goes up to 2160p, you’re good to go!
If you’re looking for a specific kind of video—movie trailer, nature documentary, GoPro footage—you can see if you can find a channel that offers that type of content. For example, the GoPro channel is a great place to start if you want jaw-dropping footage of all sorts of things. Devinsupertramp also has a lot of 4K videos that range from breathtaking to totally ridiculous.
When you run a search on YouTube, the best way to limit the results to videos that might have 4K available is to use the filter for HD video. On the results page, there’s a drop-down labelled “Filters” directly under the search bar. Selecting “HD” won’t limit results to just 4K, but it will get rid of the videos that don’t have any HD offerings, which is a good start. Hopefully YouTube will add a 4K filtering option in the near future.
And if streaming 4K uses up too much of your bandwidth, don’t miss 4K Video Downloader, an app that will let you download the videos in their Ultra HD glory for later viewing.
As for watching live TV in Ultra HD, your options are rather limited. There aren’t any TV stations that regularly broadcast in 4K in the US or the UK, though occasional events are available, and a number of providers are talking about trials that you might be able to take part in.
For example, last year’s Super Bowl and World Cup were both broadcast in 4K, though in limited areas. The BBC is considering broadcasting some documentaries in 4K, though that remains a rumor at this point. So far, your best bet for TV is to stream TV shows from a service like Netflix or M-GO. Again, here’s hoping that the increased number of 4K TVs that people are buying encourage TV providers to create more 4K content!
Where Do You Get 4K?
Now that you have an idea of where to get started on finding 4K content for your new 4K TV, it’s time to get out there and put it to use! Let us know what you’re able to find and the strategies that you find useful for finding 4K movies, TV shows, and videos.
And if you decided to hook up your new TV as a monitor to do some 4K gaming, let us know how that goes, too!
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