Guide to Streaming 4K

guide-streaming
Welcome to part two for getting the most out of 4K in your home!  In the previous article ‘Guide to 4K Ultra HD Discs’ we talked about getting your home theater set-up for physical media.  Now we will be getting into streaming and all the peripherals surrounding that.  Each section will focus on different  services and media hubs offered by all the major players currently out there. Again, this article won’t get into the nitty gritty of each service, this is more of a quick start guide.
4K ultra hd
(updated November 22nd, 2016)

HARDWARE REQUIREMENTS
I know you are eager to jump right in and start watching, but to insure you have the best experience you need to make sure you have the following items ready to go.
 
INTERNET SPEED
  • 14Mbps or less is not recommended. You will constantly be buffering and the stream will automatically take the quality down.
  • 15-25Mbps is the minimum. You’ll have the occasional hiccup or dip in picture quality due to your local traffic.
  • 25-35Mbps is recommended. You shouldn’t have any issues with streaming 4K.
  • 35Mbps or more is ideal for the perfect 4K streaming experience.
 
COMPUTER OR SMART TV
  • Computer - Most desktops built after 2011 should be OK. 4K video itself doesn’t require a lot of hardware but the operating system on top chews up a lot of resources which can impact performance.  As a general rule, a 2.0GHz dual-core i3 with 4GB of RAM and a basic video card will run 4K. Don't forget to hook it up to a 4K monitor too.
  • Smart TV - While many TV’s have built in apps for Netflix/Amazon/etc, only some have 4K capabilities.  If you are going to be plugging in an external device for content at least one of your HDMI ports must support HDCP 2.2.  Some 2015 and most 2016 models have at least 1 HDMI input meeting that requirement.  Check the tech specs beforehand.
 
MEDIA BOXES AND HDMI ADAPTERS
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Amazon Fire TV supports 4K, but the Fire Stick does not.
  • HDR: NO  |  Atmos/DTS:X: NO  |  HDMI 2.0  |  30fps
Chromecast will be offering 4K soon.
  • Ultra - HDR: YES  |  Atmos/DTS:X: NO  | HDMI (unknown)  |  (unknown)fps
Roku offers many models that support 4K.
  • Premiere - HDR: NO  |  Atmos/DTS:X: NO  | HDMI 2.0  |  60fps
  • Premiere+ - HDR: YES  |  Atmos/DTS:X: NO  | HDMI 2.0  |  60fps
  • Ultra - HDR: YES  |  Atmos/DTS:X: NO  | HDMI 2.0  |  60fps  |  Optical Out
NVIDIA Shield - 4K Streaming Media Player, Gaming and Android Device
  • HDR: YES (Netflix) | Atmos/DTS:X: YES (Atmos) | HDMI 2.0 | 60fps
Xbox One S - Plays 4K UHDs, Games, and Streaming
  • HDR: YES | Atmos/DTS:X: NO | HDMI 2.0 |  60fps
Can't decide which one to get? Check out The Ultimate 4K Hardware Shootout
guide-amazon
TOTAL LIBRARY
  • Amazon offers around 160 movies and 35 TV shows in 4K.  They have an ever growing collection of movies and TV shows to select from.
EXCLUSIVE CONTENT
  • Yes, but as with all services, exclusive content from studios come and go. Recently Amazon has even been producing their own exclusive content in 4K like TransparentBosch, and Mozart in the Jungle.
A/V QUALITY
  • Video - 4K streams are roughly 15Mbps.  Some are available in HDR.
  • Audio - Computer Streaming: DolbyDigital+ 5.1.  If you have Amazon Fire TV you can receive up to 7.1 surround.
  • 4K is not available to stream on a computer. You will need a Fire TV or Amazon App built into your UHD TV.
PRICING
  • Amazon’s 4K rental service is included with Prime ($99/yr). Buying in 4K is $25+/movie and $4/episode.

guide-netflix
TOTAL LIBRARY
  • Netflix offers around 40 TV shows and 45 movies in 4K.  Similar to Amazon, their 4K content collection is growing every month.
EXCLUSIVE CONTENT A/V QUALITY
  • Video - 4K streams are roughly 15Mbps. Very few are in HDR.
  • Audio - Surround sounds depends on the show ranging from DD+ 5.1 to 7.1 surround.
  • 4K is not available to stream on a computer. You will need the Netflix App built into your UHD TV.
PRICING
  • Netflix is a purely rental service. To qualify for 4K streaming you must have the “4 Screens + UHD” Package for $12/mo.

guide-roku
TOTAL LIBRARY
  • One of the largest due to the fact it is a ‘middle-man’.  You can access other services like HBO, YouTube, and Amazon through the player. Most of the other services/channels require a separate subscription. (See Pricing below.)
EXCLUSIVE CONTENT
  • Yes, but as with all services, exclusive content from studios come and go.
A/V QUALITY
  • Video - 4K depends on the service you are watching from. Most premium content is around 15Mbps. 
  • Audio - DD+ and DTS 5.1 are supported through HDMI or Optical out.
PRICING
  • The Roku Ultra is $125 and each channel requires it’s own separate monthly subscription (typically $5-15/mo.)

guide-vudu
TOTAL LIBRARY
  • Vudu currently has 55+ movies and zero TV shows in 4K.
EXCLUSIVE CONTENT
  • None.  They do not produce their own content, everything is licensed from studios.
A/V QUALITY
  • Video - 4K streams vary from 11Mbps to 15Mbps.  Many titles available in HDR.
  • Audio - Half of the UHD titles offer Dolby Atmos.
PRICING
  • Most 4K UHD movies rent for $10.  Buying a UHD movie ranges from $25-30.

guide-youtubeguide-youtubeguide-youtubeguide-youtubeguide-youtube
TOTAL LIBRARY
  • Technically unlimited, but finding quality content is rare due to the fact anyone can upload any video they have made. Most 4K content is movie trailers, nature scenes, and travelogue episodes.  Currently, YouTube does not offer any ‘Hollywood’ movies or TV in 4K.  Most 4K trailers and clips are upscaled 2K.  There is no quality control.
EXCLUSIVE CONTENT
  • Some of the larger YouTube personalities and shows are slowly switching over to 4K like Rooster Teeth and PewDiePie.
A/V QUALITY
  • Video - 4K YouTube streams have been recorded as low as 8Mbps.  YouTube recommends uploaders aim for 12-30Mbps.
  • Audio - Limited to 5.1 surround @ 512kbps.  Uploaders frequently upload in lesser quality, there are no guidelines.
PRICING
  • Basic YouTube is free to stream.  Limited content is available to watch offline. YouTube Red is $10/mo and provides access to exclusive shows and viewing less advertising.

Unfortunately, Hulu and Apple TV do not offer 4K at this time. There are also other services (FandangoNOW, Wuaki TV, Vimeo) and media boxes (Samsung and Sony) to stream and store 4K content. This site will be adding new services that become popular in the future, so keep your eyes peeled and check back here for updates. As stated in the previous article, just watching and having a 4K screen is only part of the experience; to get everything 4K has to offer you’ll want to hook up a full sound system as well!
 
Still have questions? Feel free to contact me if you need advise on how to build the ultimate home theater!
 
Did you miss out on Part One? 'Guide to 4K Ultra HD Discs' can be found below.
 
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