What can I watch on my 4K TV?
From Netflix and top-flight football on Sky and BT to super-sharp Blu-ray and HDR video – who says there’s nothing to watch in 4K? You can enjoy sharper detail, more colours, greater depth and faster contrast rates with a 4K Ultra HD TV.
4K Ultra HD TVs have 4 times as many pixels as a Full HD television. More pixels mean a better picture – enjoy a much sharper, more detailed picture made up of more than 8 million pixels. Full HD TVs have only around 2 million pixels.
To get the full 4K experience you need content recorded, mastered or broadcast in 4K resolution. So what can you watch on your 4K TV?
Sky TV has just announced its plans for showing 4K content from August, joining the ranks of Netflix and other pioneers.
First things first: Choose a future-proofed TV
In order to enjoy proper 4K content choose a TV that is futureproofed with the right tech. To stream Netflix or Amazon in 4K your TV must be able to decode the HEVC.265 video compression format. And if you want to watch Ultra HD Blu-ray movies you need to have an HDMI 2.0 port on your TV for the player to plug into.
The latest high-end 4K TVs can offer an even better picture thanks to HDR (high dynamic range). Pair an HDR-ready TV with HDR content and you can enjoy improved colour and increased contrast between bright and dark scenes.
In a nutshell: Stream Netflix and Amazon shows to your TV in 4K over your home Wi-Fi
Netflix and Amazon Prime Instant Video both stream in 4K. Most of our 4K TVs are also ‘Smart’ which means they can connect to your home Wi-Fi. They have built-in apps for Netflix and Amazon.
Find the retro Stranger Things – the TV show of 2016 - and foodie show The Chef’s Table as well as prison drama Orange is the New Black. Netflix now offers 10 times as much 4K content as when it first began streaming in the resolution.
Amazon has dystopian post-war drama The Man in the High Castle and movies like Spiderman and Elysium. 4K content is provided as part of its regular Amazon Prime Instant Video package, while with Netflix you need a ‘premium’ package.
What do I need?
- Fast internet connection above 25Mbps
- Subscription package: Amazon Prime Instant Video (£7.99 p/month) Netflix Premium plan (£8.99 p/month)
What about 4K HDR streaming?
Netflix streams content in 4K HDR – you can already watch Marvel’s Daredevil and Jessica Jones, along with foodie show The Chef’s Table and more. It plans to have around 150 hours of HDR content by the end of 2016.
Marvel’s Iron Fist, which is being shot in 4K HDR, makes its debut in March.
Amazon Prime Instant Video also has 4K HDR content – including Men In Black 3, the post-apocalyptic After Earth and Elysium. Remember, you’ll need a 4K HDR TV.
4K broadcast TV
In a nutshell: Enjoy 4K on proper broadcast TV services like Sky and BT Sport
Remember how much of a game-changer it was when you were able to watch Sky Sports HD on your HD TV? Now you can watch in 4K.
BT was the first to broadcast in 4K with BT Sport Ultra HD. On it you can watch top-flight domestic football, as well the best of the European club competitions.
Sky started showing movies, natural history documentaries and football in 4K Ultra HD earlier this year as part of its Sky Q service. To benefit from it you’ll need its premium Sky Q Silver box and subscription package.
To get the football and movies you’ll need to add Sky Cinema and Sky Sports to your Sky Q Silver subscription package. But you’ll be able to watch documentaries and entertainment with the Sky Q Silver bundle alone.
Now Virgin Media has thrown its hat into the ring with the launch of a 4K set-top box. Virgin isn’t however showing movies or sports in 4K just yet. But you will be able to watch Netflix and YouTube in 4K.
What do I need?
For BT Sport Ultra HD: Relevant BT TV package; BT Ultra HD set-top box; BT Infinity broadband
For Sky Q: Sky Q Silver package; Sky Q Silver Box; Sky Broadband recommended for the best Sky Q experience, but compatible with other services
What about the BBC?
The BBC has yet to offer any 4K programming but it has just announced that Planet Earth II is to be trialled in 4K HDR on the iPlayer. There are currently 4 minutes of clips available to those with the right type of television.
A clip of a frog shows a ‘really deep Ferrari red that you would never get in broadcast television at the moment,’ says a BBC Research & Development spokesperson.
‘We want to show that this is how the BBC could make ultra-high definition HDR material available to iPlayer,’ they added.
Ultra HD Blu-ray
In a nutshell: Blow your old movies out of the water with a Blu-ray player and discs that’ll give you the best possible 4K experience
Blu-ray players were designed to be used with a Full HD TV, which was fine at the time because HD televisions were the norm. But now 4K UHD TVs are becoming the norm, those original players can no longer deliver the high standard you’d expect from Blu-ray.
Enter Ultra HD Blu-ray players and special 4K discs designed for 4K UHD TVs. Ultra HD Blu-ray players have 4 times the resolution of regular Blu-ray players to deliver more detailed pictures with sharp edges and 3D-like depth.
The picture is incredibly smooth and blur-free in fast-moving scenes too thanks to the high frame rate of up to 60 frames per seconds. Film studios like Sony and 20th Century Fox have launched 4K Blu-rays such as Oscar-winning The Revenant, Deadpool and Spider-Man 2.
What do I need?
- Ultra HD Blu-ray player like this one from Panasonic
- Ultra HD Blu-ray movies
What about HDR? Absolutely. Ultra HD Blu-ray discs include HDR data so when you pair them with a 4K HDR TV and an Ultra HD Blu-ray player the picture quality is superb.
Still want more? Record your own 4K content
If you have a new iPhone 6s or a Samsung Galaxy S7 phone then you have your own 4K resolution video camera in your pocket.
Why not shoot your own footage to play back on your TV? Whether that’s high-resolution outtakes from a family party or your child riding their bike for the first time.
Take things a step further with a DSLR camera with built-in 4K video capabilities. A new DSLR like the Nikon D500 is lightweight and portable and can record up to 30 minutes of 4K video.
It’s got a great angled touchscreen for framing awkward shots at a skate park or when filming wildlife. Record 4K video from your DSLR.