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A Roku 4K TV is almost guaranteed to deliver a stellar picture.
Thanks to the price drop in Ultra HD 4K TVs in the past few years, the chances that you already own 4K TV set are pretty good. If you don’t own one already, a Roku 4K TV is almost guaranteed to deliver a stellar picture. But having a 4K TV is only half the battle. You’ll need a device that lets you watch 4K Roku channels and 4K movies without re-upping your collection of Blu-Rays. Of all the streaming devices, Roku supports the most 4K video options. Here’s everything you need to know to get started with Roku 4K.
What do I need to know about Roku 4K?
High definition has been standard for over a decade, but after years of bathing in the wonder of 1080p video, something better arrived. The 4K picture offers a dramatically improved image, delivering four times the pixel resolution of standard HD TVs. While a 1080p image is 1,080 x 1,920 pixels, a 4K Ultra HD screen provides 2,160 x 3,840 pixels, offering sharper picture and more vivid colors than ever before. Blacks are darker, colors pop off the screen, and support for 60 frames-per-second videos on creates the smoothest image on the market.
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What devices can stream 4K Roku?
While Roku has a fleet of streaming devices available for customers, only five models and TVs support 4K picture. Users can start streaming 4K content for just $39.99 thanks to the entry-level Roku Premiere. However, if you want to add Roku’s enhanced voice control remote, you’ll need to pick up the $49.99 Roku Premiere+ or the Roku Streaming Stick+.
Users with large digital media collections will want to consider the $119.99 Roku Ultra. This top-of-the-line 4K streaming device includes USB and microSD ports to play your existing media files and a private listening remote. The remote allows you to plug in a pair of headphones to enjoy your favorite programs without disturbing anyone else in the house.
Finally, Roku has partnered with several TV companies to make 4K sets with built-in Roku functionality. We highly recommend the TCL RK Roku TV thanks to its incredibly low prices and equally impressive picture quality. No matter your budget, Roku offers a reasonably priced TV set.
The best 4K Roku channels
If you’re looking for 4K action at the lowest price, no platform offers more content than Netflix. Everything the company produces is released in Ultra HD 4K, so from original movies to original series, you’ve got hundreds of options to choose from. Netflix has also licensed a few of its most popular third-party titles to keep viewers happy. Non-Netflix programming like (Planet Earth, Breaking Bad, Blue Planet, Better Call Saul, Ex Machina, and Ghostbusters) is currently available in Ultra HD along with the Netflix catalog. Remember, you’ll need a Premium Netflix membership to 4K Netflix programming. Premium membership costs $14.99 per month.
2) Amazon Prime
Your standard Amazon Prime membership comes with free 4K shows and movies to watch, something that sets Prime apart from Netflix. Like Netflix, most of the 4K content streaming on Prime is from the company’s studio. Amazon’s original films tend to be thoughtful, low budget indie projects, like the Oscar-winning Manchester by the Sea. While these films are beautiful, if you’re looking for action you’ll want to check out Amazon’s series. Original shows like Jack Ryan and The Man in the High Castle provide plenty of fireworks missing from the more thoughtful films.
YouTube has one of the largest libraries of free 4K content anywhere online. You’ve just got to know how to find it. From music videos to web series and documentaries, YouTube is a never-ending foundation of content. If you’re not sure how to get started, just do one of your normal searches and add “4K” to your search terms. You’ll be streaming jaw-dropping video in no time. Upgrade to a YouTube Premium membership and you’ll be able to stream even more high-quality content.
Vudu is the best digital rental space on Roku with a massive library of 4K movies for rental and purchase. Each week, new releases hit the store often before they hit physical locations like Red Box. Vudu users can purchase Venom, for example, a week before the Blu-Ray is released. The only potential issue is that 4K titles are often only available for purchase for their initial release window. Still, purchased titles are cheaper than going to the movies. If you don’t mind watching standard HD, Vudu also has a large collection of free, ad-supported movies and shows to enjoy.
4K makes movies look incredible, but its ability to bring documentaries to life can’t be overstated. Curiosity Stream is a budget-priced documentary service with 2,000-plus shows available for just $2.99 per month or $11.99 per year. Topics cover everything from the underwater cave systems of America’s national parks to Mars exploration. Curiosity Stream is an affordable and educational open the door to exploring the world from the comforts of home.
If life has you stressed out, try relaxing with Spectiv’s soothing programming. For $5.99 per month subscribers get access streams of gorgeous nature footage, ambient sounds, and peaceful imagery. Spectiv is certainly a niche service, but after testing it, we’re sold. The footage is stunning and coupled with a good sound system it’s a legitimately relaxing experience.
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Roku 4K TV cons
4K sounds like a perfect experience, but as with all emerging technologies, there are a few downsides to consider. Here are the hidden frustrations that come with Roku 4K at the moment.
1) Rental cost and availability
Services like Amazon Prime and Vudu offer 4K movie rentals, but be prepared to pay a premium. 4K rentals average $6.99 to $7.99. Some titles can cost as much as $9.99 to rent. Of course, that’s if the title you’re looking for is available in the first place. Many titles are only available to purchase in 4K on these digital stores.
Granted, it’s still cheaper to buy a digital movie in 4K than it is to take a family of four (or even two people) to a movie still in theaters. But if you’re a big fan of renting, the cost difference can be initially jarring. The one exception is UltraFlix, which regularly features 4K catalog rentals like Robocop for just $2.99. Unfortunately, its catalog is limited.
2) Cost of service with limited content
Want to watch 4K content on Netflix? You’re going to pay extra. While the standard HD package costs $11 per month, 4K Premium streaming is $14 per month. If this cost included everything on Netflix, that would be fine. But 4K is primarily limited to Netflix’s original programming and a few licensed titles.
Amazon Prime thankfully does not charge a premium for 4K content. However, it only offers original series and Amazon produced movies for free to Prime subscribers. That wouldn’t be such a big deal if Amazon made action movies, but its thoughtful and meditative indie movies don’t always call for Ultra HD.
3) No 4K streaming TV
Currently, there are not any streaming TV services that offer 4K content, though FuboTV has tested beta versions of 4K channels. While your 4K TV will upscale standard HD content to look better than before, it’s not a true 4K picture without a 4K signal. Still streaming HD sports on your Roku to a 4K TV looks much better than a traditional HD image. Hopefully in 2019 4K live TV streaming will finally become a reality for cord-cutters.
4) Data caps
4K streaming requires a high-speed internet connection, and we mean high-speed. A standard HD video only requires a 5Mbps connection. Meanwhile, an Ultra HD 4K stream needs around a 25Mbps connection to get the most out of your set. If your internet service provider sticks you with low speeds and data caps, 4K might require you to renegotiate your contract to enjoy fully.
What is the best 4K device for Roku?
For most users, the Roku Streaming Stick+ provides all the 4K streaming power you’ll need. We’ve tested it extensively to stream subscription and rental services. In each test, the Roku Stick was fast, easy for users who didn’t previously know how to use Roku, and, most importantly, produced an incredible picture.
We tested the device on a 100Mbps internet connection. The quality of your stream will depend on your internet speed. The Streaming Stick+ is also one of the best portable streaming devices on the market. Roku has made it simple for users to log into even the most frustrating hotel wi-fi setups.
For just $49.99, you get a 4K-ready streaming device, complete with voice-controlled remote and Roku’s incredible library of streaming channels. When you’re ready for 4K streaming, look no further than the Roku Streaming Stick+. It’s the full-featured, budget-priced Ultra HD streaming device of your dreams. Most importantly, while 4K streaming is still in its infancy, with the Streaming Stick+ you’ll be ready when the next wave of apps arrives.
Need more help? Here are the best Roku hacks, how to turn off your Roku, how to use Kodi on Roku, and how to make Roku screen mirroring work. If you’re looking for something to watch, here are the best Roku channels, Roku private channels, Roku free channels, and free live TV on Roku.
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John-Michael Bond is a tech reporter and culture writer for Daily Dot. A longtime cord-cutter and early adopter, he's an expert on streaming services (Hulu with Live TV), devices (Roku, Amazon Fire), and anime. A former staff writer for TUAW, he's knowledgeable on all things Apple and Android. You can also also find him regularly performing standup comedy in Los Angeles.