With 4K-UHD-TV-prices at all-time lows, more of us now own, or plan to get a 4K set in the near future. Because most of the programming has not yet been sent in 4K, you might be wondering where you can find content that can take advantage of your TV’s with a higher resolution screen.
There are a growing number of options. In terms of pure quality of the picture, you can not do better than one of the new 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray players on the market now. But not everyone wants to rent or buy physical disks—or the cap of $200 to $400 on a new 4K player.
Satellite TV providers DirecTV, now owned by AT&T, and Dish Network both offer a limited amount of 4K programming to their subscribers. DirecTV is the most aggressive of the two. It now has three UHD channels in the line-up, and some 4K broadcasts of sporting events, most recently a couple of NBA games. But you must have satellite reception for these services.
For most of us, that makes the streaming of UHD content of an online service is the fastest way to a higher quality of 4K content in the home.
More From Consumer Reports
Top pick tires for 2016
Best used cars for $25,000 and less
7 the best mattresses for couples
The best matching washers and dryers
Top 10 car picks for 2016
The good news is that there are a growing number of options for streaming. The big subscription services like Amazon and Netflix, already have a decent amount of 4K content in their libraries, and they shoot most or all of their original series in 4K. Just this month, Hulu is a member of the 4K club, with a limited selection of UHD content, mainly some of the original shows and James Bond movies. There are also several pay-per-view ” services, so you can purchase or rent 4K movies and shows.
Many of these programs also support high dynamic range, or HDR, a technology that allows for more contrast between light and dark areas of the photo. That makes for more realism, detail, and vibrancy of the many scenes when they are played on a Tv that can be displayed.
Here you will find more details about streaming 4K movies and TV shows:
Amazon Prime, a $99 per year
You can find a good selection of 4K films and programs on both the subscription-based Amazon Prime video service and Amazon Instant Video, the company à la carte pay-per-view service.
The good news for Amazon Prime subscribers is that, unlike Netflix, Amazon does not levy a surcharge to get 4K-quality. You will find 4K displays in a special menu section of the service, provided you have a 4K TV with the Amazon app. Just scroll through the selections until you find “First Ultra-HD TV” or “Ultra-HD Movies.”
Amazon is the filming of the original content shows such as “Mozart in the Jungle,” “Transparent” and “Alpha House,”in 4K, so we expect the roster of 4K titles to grow. Such as Netflix, Amazon supports both the HDR10 and Dolby Vision formats. (Yes, this is the tech industry, so there are overlapping layouts to wade through.)
FandangoNow, $7 rental, $25 for the purchase of
This service was called M-Go before it is acquired by Fandango. You can rent movies for streaming or to buy them as a download on some Samsung 4K Tv’s and storage devices that work with Vidity, a new 4K download service.
You can also stream 4K movies and a few TV shows, LG and Samsung smart 4K Tv, Roku 4 streaming players. You have more 4K choices if you’re willing to buy titles, including “The Martian,” “Deadpool” and “Kingsman: The Secret Service.”
Netflix, $12 per month
To 4K films and programs, you’ll have to make the pony a little bit more money—$12 per month for the top-four-screen plan, that UHD titles. Netflix was one of the early adopters of 4K content, and the grid of UHD content is growing. Like Amazon, Netflix is committed to filming all of its original series in 4K, and it has also moved quite aggressively into the world of HDR. Earlier this year, Netflix told us that it would have 600 hours of 4K content—150 hours in HDR by the end of the year. The service supports both the HDR10 and Dolby Vision formats; if you have a TV that supports HDR, HDR, and Dolby Vision logo appears next to the title of the description. You can search for “4K” or “HEAD” or scroll down for a selection of 4K content. Original shows include “House of Cards,” “Jessica Jones,” and “Marco Polo.” The last show was cancelled, but you can still watch “The OA,” “Daredevil” and “The Ridiculous 6” in 4K with HDR.
Sony Ultra, $30 for purchases
Sony’s 4K streaming service, which supports HDR10, has about 100 movies and TV shows in 4K. There are no rentals, only purchases, and movies cost about $30. Sony says about half of the titles of the HDR, and that all of Sony’s 4K 4K HDR (HDR10) titles will be available through Ultra. Sony Ultra-active of the company sonypicturesstore.com website.
UltraFlix, free $10 per title
Parent company Nanotech says that it wants to UltraFlix the “Netflix of 4K,” because the focus is almost exclusively on 4K content. According to the company, it offers more than 600 hours of 4K UHD content, such as movies, TV shows, IMAX releases, concert videos, documentaries, and other special event videos. The company has signed a deal with Paramount Pictures to hundreds of movies from that studio a number of remastered for 4K in the service. Rentals cost anywhere from $1 to $10, with a 48-hour viewing window. The company also claims UltraFlix offers about 100 hours of free content.
Vudu, $10 rent, to a maximum of $25 for purchases
Vudu’s claim to fame is the beginning of the support for Dolby Vision HDR, plus Dolby Atmos sound. But now 4K HDR service is limited to certain LG and Vizio 4K UHD TV-lines, although the non-HDR 4K service is also available on the 4K Roku Tvs, and 4K-enabled Roku, Chromecast, and a Nvidia Shield streaming players. If you have a compatible system, the good news is that Vudu has a large selection of top current titles, such as ‘Suicide Squad’, ‘The Secret Life of Pets’ and ‘ Mad Max: Fury Road.” Unlike Netflix, Vudu is a pay-per-view service for the rentals and purchases in place of a monthly subscription. So, you can usually rent 4K movies for $10, or buy them outright for $25.
YouTube for free with ads
YouTube is in the 4K game longer than anyone, but that is largely due to user-generated content. In contrast to most other streaming services, that the HEVC video codec, your TV will need to support VP9, the Google-developed codec used by YouTube. Fortunately, most newer smart Tv’s do. YouTube is a free, ad-supported service that has a ton of 4K videos, and even a smattering of 8K content (don’t ask). Not surprisingly, YouTube is more heavily on user-generated content than blockbuster movies and TV shows, but then again, it’s free. Last month, YouTube added support for HDR, and earlier this year launched YouTube Red, an ad-free subscription service that costs $10 per month.
Copyright © 2005-2016 Consumers Union of U.S., Inc. No reproduction, in whole or in part, without written permission. Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers on this site.