If you want the proper 4k or HDR experience from your TV, you need to watch genuine 4k or HDR video. The availability of high quality, 4k HDR content is increasing steadily, and is much more readily available than even a few years ago. Here are some of the ways you can watch the ultra high definition content you crave.
In 2019, hundreds of Blu-ray movies are available in 4k, which makes it the best place to find 4k movies.
UHD Blu-rays were first released at the beginning of 2016. While streaming 4k content has limitations based on bit rate, connection speed, and bandwidth caps, you just need to grab a UHD Blu-ray and pop it into a UHD Blu-ray player to start enjoying higher-resolution content.
They are only playable with UHD Blu-ray players, which use lasers of a different wavelength than regular Blu-ray players. You also need a TV that complies with HDCP 2.2 to watch UHD Blu-rays in UHD; watching UHD Blu-rays on a TV that doesn't will result in the movies being played in 1080p.
It is also possible to watch UHD Blu-rays with some game consoles, including an Xbox One S or Xbox One X.
A lot of earlier 4k Blu-ray movies were not actually filmed in 4k. They were filmed in lower resolutions then upscaled to 4k in editing. This is still an upgrade over 1080p.
Like any other stream, these options use your internet connection to deliver content to you. 4k streams will require much more bandwidth than regular HD, so make sure you have both a good enough connection speed and a high enough bandwidth cap to stream 4k content.
Note: In an effort to keep bandwidth costs down, the bit rate for some 4k streaming content can be relatively low – 1080p Blu-rays have higher bit rates. This means that while the resolution is there, the streams have less information, and so they are not very high quality.
These are videos uploaded by regular users, but by the sheer amount of 4k content, nothing has YouTube beat for now. If you're looking for a way to test out a new 4k TV's capabilities, this is a great place to start. Youtube also supports HDR, which is supported by many streaming devices and the majority of 4k UHD TVs.
Here are a few 4k videos to get you started.
Here are some HDR Channels and videos to test out that functionality.
Netflix has added a lot more 4k content in the past few years. Many of the offerings are Netflix's own TV shows, but there is a significant selection of licensed movies in there as well. Almost every Netflix original released is now available in HDR, as well as a lot of licensed content. Almost all new content is in 4k nowadays.
Netflix now also supports Dolby Vision HDR, on top of regular HDR10. Learn more about Dolby Vision here.
Note: Not all Netflix apps/devices will allow 4k streaming. Like with UHD Blu-Rays, your player and screen must support HDCP 2.2 or higher, which unfortunately, excludes some monitors. You can verify whether yours does at this link.
You get access to quite a few 4k TV shows and movies with an Amazon Prime subscription. Amazon seems to be pushing pretty hard to add HDR content, too, which is good news for people with compatible TVs. Much like Netflix, they are also producing a lot of their own high-budget HDR content, most notably the very popular "The Grand Tour".
Like Netflix, Amazon Prime has also started adding some Dolby Vision HDR content, which can be played from the Prime app on the majority of TVs that support Dolby Vision. Prime also supports HDR10+, but only for viewers located in the United States.
These options allow you to rent or buy movies for streaming or download. As with the subscription streaming options, they will use bandwidth to deliver your content to you. Once again, the bit rates are not as high as you’ll find with physical media.
Amazon's Prime Instant Video service now has a great selection of UHD content available. There are some restrictions on access (rentals can only be watched for 24 hours from starting the film; film must be watched within 30 days of rental), but the same is true of most video on demand services. Individual TV episodes cost $3.99, and movies cost $24.99-29.99.
Amazon Instant Video used to be separate from the Prime Video Service. The two have now been merged, and you can buy, rent, or stream videos from a single account.
Vudu has a big selection of UHD and HDR content available to rent or purchase. You will need a UHD TV with access to Vudu to watch movies in UHD, or a Roku 4 connected to a UHD TV. To watch the movies in HDR, you will need to get a TV that supports Dolby Vision. Pricing is a little steep - you can expect to pay about $30 to purchase a movie in UHD (around the same as a UHD Blu-ray), and around $10 to rent - but is more or less in line with the other UHD VOD services. It also ties in with Ultraviolet.
These are options that are exclusive to those with subscriptions to particular TV providers. Some use up bandwidth, while others are delivered via satellite. The bit rates for the various systems vary.
Available on some Samsung and LG UHD TVs, the Xfinity UHD Sampler app requires a Comcast subscription that includes Xfinity UHD. A couple of TV shows are available through this, including 'Chicago Fire.'
You need a DirecTV Ultimate or Premier subscription, a Genie HD DVR, an internet connection, and either a compatible smart TV or a 4k Genie Mini. If you’ve got all of those components, you’ll be able to rent 4k movies from DirecTV, and also access a dedicated 4k channel that plays nature documentaries, travel videos, and other content.
Dish's new Hopper 3 and 4k Joey are both capable of playing 4k video. The Hopper 3 is the main DVR/receiver, and the Joey is able to access content via the Hopper 3 when the two are connected via a wired network. You can use these to access on-demand 4k movies and TV shows, as well as Netflix.
4k content availability has improved quite a bit in the past year, and should continue to improve at a rapid pace over the next. There are many different services available at several different price points, meaning most people who want to enjoy 4k UHD content on their TVs should be able to find something that suits them well.