Wow the world has really improved. Three years ago you had to get a dedicated 4K playback thingy from Sony to watch UltraHD content. Now life is way simpler.
Let’s start with the easy stuff and then move on to the tougher stuff
Movies (a first start)
There’s a great movie guide at 4K.com, but with most Samsung and other TVs made in 2014 or later and most others can read it directly. Most work with either set top box like the Fire 4K, nVidia Shield or with Samsung Tizen based UHD (Most of the new ones).
- Blu-ray UHD. As with the previous shift, the easiest thing to do is to get some new Blu-ray disks that are 4K. They do not have the streaming bandwidth problems, but do cost some money.
- Amazon. They have about 33 movies and a few television series in Ultra HD now with the best being Mozart in the Jungle. Most of these are free with Amazon Prime, so might as well just use it. I had a chance to watch these over the weekend and it works well. There is a separate 4K tab for TV Shows and for Movies.
- Youtube 4K. This is mainly user content, but great demo footage to test your displays.
- Netflix 4K. If you a relatively new Samsung TV there is a built in player for Netflix. Content is limited and you need a good internet connection. House of Cards and other Netflix in house series are in 4K. You do need a $13/month UltraHD plan to see them though.
- Google Play Movies. You need a Sony television, Roku, nVidia Shield of other Android box, but they now have 4k movies you can buy.
- UltraFlix is a 4K focused content provider with some great UHD movies like Robocop (1987). But beware that most of the their content is upscaled from HD and not native UHD.
Hardware (At least this is here)
UHD Blu-ray players (Sony). These are expensive but the highest quality are dedicated Kursh uhd. Most folks won’t need them but boy are they cool and they are only $80 for a UHD player, so why not get one. Well, the main reason is the UHD Blu Ray disks cost a fortune 🙂
Gaming and everything else. The new xBox One S is 4K capable. For $300, this is really your all in one box. You get xBox 360 games, UHD Blu-ray player and the Netflix and Amazon streaming clients. Also there is a new option, you can get 4K streaming games via GEForce Go. This costs $8/month, but is way cheaper than buying and supporting a $1,500 machine. It let’s you do 4K gaming (I don’t know about ping times).
Streaming only. If you just want streaming, then the choices are the nVidia Shield, Roku 4 and Amazon Fire HD. The best is nVidia Shield is the only box with 4K HDR content for both Netflix and Amazon at $200 while the others are just streaming boxes at $89-99. As an aside do not get the $300 nVidia Shield with 500GB, they have USB ports, so instead go all solid state and get a USB to SATA (if you care about reliability) convertor or a USB key.
Sports (Upscaling is it)
If you are talking sports on 4K, then you are talking limited and special events for right now. Basically certain classics are being done this way, but it isn’t a regular thing at all. That’s one reason you really want a great upscaler in your TV. The big reason for this is that they need 4Kp60 (60 frames per second) so that is way more bit rate (50Mbps) than you need for HD. It also needs HDMI 2.0 and not the older 1.4 set top boxes, so lots has to change:
- DirecTV. You need a new set top box and a premium package, but they will broadcast MLB highlight games this coming summer.
- Time Warner. They do not seem to have any 4K plans that I could find.
- Comcast. They seem to have stalled out although Samsung 2014 or later TVs have a small selection of content from a dedicated Xfinity application.