Your Guide to 4K Streaming, Devices, and Channels

by | Apr 26, 2019 | Brand Guides, Equipment Guides, Streaming Guides

Forget HD—watch your shows and movies in ultra-high definition.

There’s nothing quite like watching Avengers: Infinity War only to have your immersive cinematic experience ruined by a fuzzy, pixelated picture. Ugh.

To get the full effect—and we mean full effect—of every ultra-high definition movie and show, you’ll want to upgrade that old TV to a 4K model. And you’ll need a 4K streaming service to go with it. Here’s our take on the most popular ways to watch 4K content.

How to watch 4K TV and movies

4K providerBest forPrice*Service typeStart watching
Amazon Prime VideoAmazon lovers$12.99/mo.StreamingFree trial
NetflixOriginal content cravers$15.99/mo.StreamingFree trial
DIRECTVSports fans$35.00–$110.00/mo.SatelliteView plans
DISH2-year price lock$69.99–$99.99/mo.SatelliteView plans
Xfinity4K streaming integration$49.99–$124.99/mo.CableView plans
VuduNo subscription$5.99–$19.99/movieStreaming (movies only)Watch now
YouTubeFree viewingFree to $11.99/mo.StreamingWatch now
4K providerAmazon Prime Video
Best forAmazon lovers
Price*$12.99/mo.
Service typeStreaming
Start watchingFree trial
4K providerNetflix
Best forOriginal content cravers
Price*$15.99/mo.
Service typeStreaming
Start watchingFree trial
4K providerDIRECTV
Best forSports fans
Price*$35.00–$110.00/mo.
Service typeSatellite
Start watchingView plans
4K providerDISH
Best for2-year price lock
Price*$69.99–$99.99/mo.
Service typeSatellite
Start watchingView plans
4K providerXfinity
Best for4K streaming integration
Price*$49.99–$124.99/mo.
Service typeCable
Start watchingView plans
4K providerVudu
Best forNo subscription
Price*$5.99–$19.99/movie
Service typeStreaming (movies only)
Start watchingWatch now
4K providerYouTube
Best forFree viewing
Price*Free to $11.99/mo.
Service typeStreaming
Start watchingWatch now

*Prices subject to change. Data valid 2/26/2019.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to watching TV in 4K. Let’s take a dive to see what other 4K streaming services are hiding under the surface.

4K streaming services

Streaming serviceBest forPrice*Start watching
Amazon Prime Video LogoAmazon lovers$8.99–$12.99/mo.Free trial
Netflix LogoOriginal content cravers$15.99/mo.Free trial
Vudu LogoNo subscription$5.99–$19.99/movieWatch now
YouTube LogoFree viewingFree to $11.99/mo.Watch now

*Prices subject to change. Data valid 2/26/2019.

Leading the (slow) charge into 4K are streaming services. It’s here that you’ll find the most 4K, ultra-high definition content—but 4K can still be scarce.

Amazon Prime Video

Requires: 4K/UHD TV or monitor and a 4K streaming device or 4K smart TV

Streaming bandwidth: 15 Mbps or more

4K content sneak peek: Homecoming, The Incredibles 2, The Man in the High Castle, Ant-Man and the Wasp, and Blacklist

Just wanna travel back in time with Claire while watching Outlander in full 4K? You can chip in for just Amazon Prime Video—and the price is pretty reasonable. You’ll pay more each month if you grab Netflix or YouTube Premium instead, making this deal stand out from the rest.

But if you want the free two-day shipping, unlimited music, and unlimited photo storage (among other perks), the $12.99 a month price for a full Prime membership might still be a no-brainer. (Psst, you can save a little and pay a yearly fee of $119 instead.)

If you order a lot of stuff from Amazon, we think the extra cost for a full Prime membership is well worth it. Who doesn’t like ordering a large bottle of catnip and spreading the entire contents across your house just two days later? It’s the best way to keep your cats busy while you binge-watch Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan.

Get a 30-day free trial of Amazon Prime Video

Netflix

Requires: 4K/UHD TV or monitor and a 4K streaming device or 4K smart TV; desktop streaming requires Windows 10 and a monitor that supports 4K

Streaming bandwidth: 25 Mbps or more

4K content sneak peek: Orange Is the New Black, Russian Doll, Ozark, Frontier, and Black Mirror

Netflix has upped the ante in the past few years with its captivating originals like Stranger Things, Fuller House, and Narcos: Mexico. Thankfully, these originals and more are viewable in 4K if you get the Premium plan, so don’t worry about missing any minor visual details.

Sure, this year’s price hike made Netflix the most expensive streaming service (unless you count Hulu + Live TV). But the extensive revolving library of videos and TV series—including international favorites—could make it well worth your while.

Get a 30-day free trial of Netflix

Vudu

screenshot of vudu 4K movies

Requires: 4K/UHD TV or monitor and a 4K streaming device or 4K smart TV

Streaming bandwidth: 11 Mbps or more

4K content sneak peek:  A Star Is Born, Bohemian Rhapsody, Venom, Crazy Rich Asians, and Ralph Breaks the Internet

If the all-too-common monthly payment plans make you cringe, Vudu offers up a refreshing alternative: you’ll pay a one-time fee to rent or own any of its 4K movies. Say whaaat? No more midnight trips to Redbox for you.

If you do decide to rent a Vudu movie, keep in mind you have 30 days to start watching it. Once you press play, you’ve got 24 hours to find out how Rachel and Nick’s unlikely romance unfolds in Crazy Rich Asians.

Start watching Vudu now.

YouTube

Requires: 4K/UHD TV or monitor and a 4K streaming device or 4K smart TV

Streaming bandwidth: 15 Mbps or more

4K content sneak peek: Avengers 4: ENDGAME Trailer, Earth from Above, Cyberpunk 2077 Gameplay Reveal (mature content), The Lion King 2019 Trailer

YouTube certainly beats out all other streaming services when it comes to price for 4K content. You don’t need to subscribe to YouTube Premium (formerly YouTube Red) to view 4K videos. Huzzah!

That’s right—you get 4K on YouTube for free. But a YouTube Premium subscription gets you an ad-free YouTube experience plus Originals. Hmm . . .

But it’s difficult to find 4K content on YouTube. (Unless you like a variety of relaxation videos and movie trailers.) Right now, your best bet is to search for the video you want and add one of the following tags to the end of your search:

  • HDR
  • 4K HDR
  • 4K
  • UHD

Start watching YouTube now.

Not sure you’re streaming YouTube in 4K?

To double-check that the video you’re about to watch is actually in 4K, click the settings cog wheel at the bottom right of the video and click “Quality.” You’ll see a full list of resolution options—select “2160p 4K” to start watching that movie trailer in all of its 4K glory.

Other ways to stream in 4K

Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, Vudu, and YouTube are four of the main ways you can stream in 4K. But you have a few other options if you’re still on the hunt for the perfect 4K streaming or video service.

Wait, what about Hulu in 4K?

Back in 2016, Hulu announced plans to roll out 4K video streaming, starting with the PlayStation 4 Pro and Xbox One S. But chances are you won’t find 4K content on Hulu now—the streaming service erased any mention of 4K support. Here’s hoping Hulu brings back 4K soon.

4K cable and satellite TV providers

ProviderBest forPrice*No. of 4K channelsStart watching
Dish LogoSports fans$35.00–$110.00/mo.3View plans
DIRECTV Logo2-year price lock$69.99–$99.99/mo.1View plans
Xfinity Logo4K streaming integration$49.99–$124.99/mo.4K content variesView plans

*Prices subject to change. Data valid 2/26/2019.

Already paying for a satellite or cable TV plan? You’ve still got the option to go 4K. But depending on the provider, there’s a lot less 4K content to go around with standard TV compared to streaming services.

DISH

Requires: 4K/UHD TV connected to the Hopper 3 or 4K Joey and a DISH America’s Top 120 package or above

4K channel:

  • 540: 4K documentaries and sporting events

DISH offers just one 4K channel: 540. It’s here you’ll find Ultra HD documentaries and sporting events, including football games, basketball, and last year’s Olympics.

You’ll also find on-demand movies and shows in 4K. It’s likely these change a lot, so keep an eye on your DISH channel guide to find out when and where they’re playing.

Have a Netflix account? The Hopper 3 integrates Netflix, so you don’t need to dig for the regular ole TV remote under your couch when you decide to watch Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes. Talk about easy.

View DISH plans

DIRECTV

Requires: 4K/UHD TV connected to the latest 4K Genie Mini, a Genie DVR (model HR54 or higher), and a DIRECTV Select package or above (or Más Latino and above en español)

4K channels:

  • 104: 4K documentaries and AUDIENCE shows
  • 105: 4K pay-per-view movies
  • 106: select 4K events

DIRECTV is your best bet for 4K content. With three dedicated 4K channels, it puts DISH and Xfinity to shame. At least for now.

DIRECTV’s channels 104 and 105 are dedicated to 4K content all day, every day. Tune in to channel 104 and get swept away with vibrant 4K nature documentaries and original content from AUDIENCE.

If you’re feeling the need to cuddle up on the couch and watch a flick, channel 105 has a full lineup of pay-per-view movies.

Channel 106 broadcasts select events in 4K too. And you can get your DVR ready to go by checking the 4K events calendar. (Penn State at Northwestern? Bust out that DVR!)

View DIRECTV plans

Xfinity

Requires: 4K/UHD TV connected to the XG1v4 or Xi6 cable box (or above) and an Xfinity Economy package or above

4K channels (varies by location):

  • Smithsonian
  • Discovery
  • Stingray
  • BBC America

Not to be left out, cable provider Xfinity also offers a few select 4K channels plus events. You’ll need at least the Economy package to get the Smithsonian, Discovery, and BBC America channels in Ultra HD. (Just be aware some of these aren’t always available on the next package up, so double-check the channel lineup before you sign on the dotted line.)

If you’re a sports fan, chances are you’ll find some of the world’s biggest competitions broadcast in high-def detail. Last year’s 4K event lineup included the Olympic Winter Games and the FIFA World Cup.

If you upgrade to the Digital Starter package, you’ll get X1. This integrates with Netflix, YouTube, and Amazon Prime Video, so you’ll have even more options for putting your new 4K TV to good use.

View Xfinity plans

4K streaming devices

DeviceBest forPriceGet it
Fire TV Stick Image
Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K
Built-in storage$View on Amazon
PlayStation 4 Image
PlayStation 4 Pro
4K streaming + gaming$$$View on Amazon
Roku Premier Image
Roku Premiere+
Most 4K streaming apps$View on Amazon
Xbox One Image
Xbox One X
Ultra HD Blu-ray player$$$View on Amazon

*Prices subject to change. Data valid 2/26/2019.

Want to get your hands on all the streaming services in one go? Then a 4K streaming device might be your new BFF. Plug one into your TV and get ready to be blown away by those intense 4K graphics.

Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K

Plays 4K content on Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and Vudu.

Plug the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K in, and you’ve got access to most of the 4K streaming apps out there. (As long as you have an account with the app, of course.) While the stick is relatively large, it can plug into the back of your TV and stay out of sight, out of mind.

Turns out the Fire TV Stick is also compatible with Alexa. Once you’ve asked her to add Coke Zero to your grocery list, tell Alexa to turn on The Man in the High Castle on Amazon Prime. Then settle in for a long night of TV screen drama, no juggling the remote in the dark required.

View on Amazon

PlayStation 4 Pro

Plays 4K content on Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and YouTube.

Already own a PlayStation 4 (PS4) Pro for gaming? Then you’re golden—as long as you have a streaming service subscription. Go ahead and watch Orange Is the New Black in 4K.

While it comes stocked with streaming apps like Netflix and Prime Video, the PS4 Pro is missing what you might consider a huge piece of the 4K viewing puzzle: an Ultra HD Blu-ray player.

But those who prefer streaming in 4K instead of buying a physical copy of the latest movie shouldn’t be too bothered. Instead of wondering how to organize all 422 of your spouse’s DVDs and Blu-rays, you can just rent the movie digitally, no shelf space required. Marie Kondo would be proud.

And if you’re a console gamer, we’re guessing your ears will perk up when you hear the PS4 Pro supports 4K gaming. Horizon Zero Dawn in ultra-high definition? Oh, baby!

View on Amazon

Which is better: PlayStation 4 Pro or Xbox One X?

Without starting a flame war, we’ll just say both consoles have their merits. But we’ve laid out all the pros and cons in our Best Gaming Consoles guide if you really want to dig in.

Roku Premiere+

Plays 4K content on Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, YouTube, Vudu, FandangoNOW, and UltraFlix.

Meet Roku, known in the 4K streaming community as the best of the best. That’s because this petite device supports more 4K streaming apps than any other out there. (At least at the time we’re writing this.)

The Roku Premiere+ also comes with a remote you can use instead of your regular TV remote. That’s right—use this bad boy to change channels, jack up the volume, or press Play. No one needs to know you have 12 other remotes stashed away in a drawer somewhere because this baby does it all.

P.S. The Roku Premiere+ was updated in 2018, so be sure you’re getting the latest model. There are some older ones still floating around out there.

P.P.S. Roku just released a Roku skill for Alexa on March 4, 2019. Time to strike up a conversation!

View on Amazon

Xbox One X

Plays 4K content on Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, YouTube, and Vudu.

Right away the Xbox One X takes the lead over the PS4 Pro because of one simple fact: it includes an Ultra HD Blu-ray player. Rejoice!

Ok, but sidenote: you’ll need to turn HDR on and download the Blu-ray Player app on your Xbox One X before you can dive into immersive 4K graphics while watching Ready Player One.

You’ve also got the option to play 4K games on the Xbox One X. Who doesn’t want to experience Middle Earth in all its glorious, beautiful detail while playing Shadow of War?

View on Amazon

Best 4K TVs 2019

TelevisionBest forPriceSizeLearn more
LG 65 C8P OLED TV ImageLG 65 C8P OLED TVBest 4K visuals$$65"View on Amazon
Sony A9F Master Series OLED TVSony A9F Master Series OLED TVAmazing sound quality$$$$65"View on Amazon
TCL 55R617 Roku Smart LED TV ImageTCL 55R617 Roku Smart LED TVBudget price$55"View on Amazon
Samsung QN65 Q9FN QLED Smart TV ImageSamsung QN65 Q9FN QLED Smart TVSmart cable management$$65"View on Amazon
Vizio P-Series 4K HDR Smart TV ImageVizio P-Series 4K HDR Smart TVDeep blacks + high contrast$55"View on Amazon
LG 65 C8P OLED TV Image
TelevisionLG 65 C8P OLED TV
Best forBest 4K visuals
Price$$
Size65"
Learn moreView on Amazon
Sony A9F Master Series OLED TV
TelevisionSony A9F Master Series OLED TV
Best forAmazing sound quality
Price$$$$
Size65"
Learn moreView on Amazon
TCL 55R617 Roku Smart LED TV Image
TelevisionTCL 55R617 Roku Smart LED TV
Best forBudget price
Price$
Size55"
Learn moreView on Amazon
Samsung QN65 Q9FN QLED Smart TV Image
TelevisionSamsung QN65 Q9FN QLED Smart TV
Best forSmart cable management
Price$$
Size65"
Learn moreView on Amazon
Vizio P-Series 4K HDR Smart TV Image
TelevisionVizio P-Series 4K HDR Smart TV
Best forDeep blacks + high contrast
Price$
Size55"
Learn moreView on Amazon

*Prices subject to change. Data valid 2/26/2019.

You won’t get far with your 4K dreams without a 4K TV. If you don’t already have one set up in your living room, be ready to empty your savings account. Most newer models cost a couple thousand dollars at least—except for TCL models, which tend to be less expensive.

Big-hitter brands in the 4K TV world are LG, Sony, Samsung, and TCL. Surprised? We weren’t either. Whatever brand you end up settling on, there are a few things to look for while you shop:

  • Want better picture quality? OLED TVs cost more but have better graphics than LED TVs.
  • Look for at least a 120 Hz refresh rate.
  • Measure, measure, measure before you buy. Don’t bring home a 65-inch TV only to find it doesn’t fit.
  • Look for at least three HDMI ports. You’ll need them for your TV box, 4K streaming device, and gaming console or Blu-ray player.
  • Don’t worry about 8K TVs . . . yet.

What is 4K resolution?

4K resolution is typically 3,840 x 2,160 pixels and is also referred to as UHD, or Ultra-High Definition. Today, most TVs (55 inches and larger) are 4K.

Here’s how 4K resolution measures up to other common resolutions you’ll find out there:

  • 4K (UHD): 3,840 x 2,160 pixels
  • 1080p o(Full HD): 1,920 x 1,080 pixels
  • 720p (HD): 1,280 x 720 pixels
  • 480p (SD): 640 x 480 pixels
  • (Bonus) 8K: 7,680 x 4,320 pixels

Want to know more?

When will TV stations broadcast in 4K?

Right now only DIRECTV, DISH, and Xfinity offer select channels in 4K—but we should see more TV stations broadcast in 4K soon as the technology becomes more commonplace. (Don’t hold your breath, though.)

If you want to watch more shows and movies in 4K, your best bet is to subscribe to a streaming service like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, or Vudu.

 

What devices can stream 4K?

If you don’t have a smart 4K TV, use one of these devices to stream 4K movies and TV series instead:

 

What streaming apps have 4K?

Quite a few streaming apps have 4K support now, including the following:

 

Is Amazon Prime in 4K?

You bet! Amazon Prime Video offers up quite a few shows and movies in 4K resolution. Some of our favorite Amazon Prime 4K movies and shows include these titles:

  • The Man in the High Castle
  • Ant-Man and the Wasp
  • Blacklist
  • Homecoming
  • The Incredibles 2

 

Which Internet Service Providers have 4K channels?

Right now, Xfinity is the only Internet Service Provider (ISP) that offers 4K channels through its cable TV service.

But if you’re looking for an internet connection that’s fast enough to stream in 4K (at least 11 Mbps or faster), chances are you have some options. Check your ZIP code below to see which ISPs are available in your area.

 

Start 4K streaming. Check for fast ISPs in your area.

Edited by Cara Haynes

About the Author

After earning a degree in journalism at the University of Minnesota, Catherine McNally has been writing professionally for 10+ years. After falling head over heels into the black hole that is the internet in 1998, she taught herself to code websites and build computers. She has a soft spot for gadgets that make life easier (hello, Roomba!) and loves RPGs and MMOs. #PCMasterRace

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