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Everything you need to know about 4k and Amazon
How to make the most of Amazon’s amazing 4K choices.
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The affordability of Ultra HD 4K TVs has brought the cinema experience as close to television as it has ever been. Whether you are already a proud 4K TV owner, or you are in the market for a new 4K TV, Amazon has several products that can deliver an optimal 4K experience.
To ensure that you get the best image quality for your buck, you need more than just a great 4K TV. You need the right Amazon 4K TV device and the right content. Here’s how to use Amazon products to watch 4K movies, 4K channels, and the brand-new Disney+ in 4k.
How do I watch 4K with Amazon products?
Customers are most familiar with the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K, which plugs into a 4K capable television. But, there are a number of Amazon products with 4K capability. Some televisions come equipped with Amazon Fire technology and the Amazon Fire TV Cube offers a robust voice-controlled 4K experience. When it comes to simply playing content on your TV via remote or Alexa voice command, the Cube and the Fire TV Stick 4K are similar. However, the voice commands on the Cube are more robust and integrate more easily into “smart home” systems.
What do I need to know about Amazon 4K?
For years, high definition has been the gold standard for home viewing. While 1080p video still looks great today, we now have something even better. As a little back-of-the-napkin math will tell you, 4K images deliver nearly 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. This means you get a sharper image and more vivid colors than ever before. Blacks are darker, colors pop off the screen, and support for 60 frames-per-second videos creates the smoothest image on the market.
The best Amazon Fire 4K 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.
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.
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 font 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.
7) Apple TV+
Though it only has a small library of launch titles, independent tests have found that Apple TV+ content has the highest quality 4K streaming. Splashy launch titles like Dickinson and The Morning Show have been the talk of social media while beautifully shot projects like The Elephant Queen will show 4K in all its splendor. The current cost of Apple TV+ is $4.99/month, though if you own certain Apple products, you may qualify for a discount.
Boasting a massive library of titles from the Disney vault, alongside new content like The Mandalorian and the live-action reboot of Lady and the Tramp, Disney+ is already making a lot of noise despite its recent entry into the streaming wars. Monthly subscriptions are $6.99, and a bundle that offers Disney+ along with Hulu and ESPN+ is $12.99 per month.
Amazon Fire 4K 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 Amazon Fire 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 25 Mbps 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 Amazon?
That all depends on your needs. If you want to optimize your television for 4K content and simply get down to watching high-quality film and TV, then the Amazon TV Stick 4K is probably the right option for you. The cost-effective option is simple to set-up and easy to use. The Amazon TV Stick 4K also now has Alexa-enabled voice commands, so you can use it with a remote or hands-free.
Some users might want a more robust option that is ideal for a user who has created a “smart home” environment. While you can set-up an Amazon TV Stick 4K to do things like controlling your lights, thermostat, and other devices, the Fire TV Cube is designed to interface with your home’s numerous devices and create a kind of leisure hub. The more robust functionality and ease of connectivity will be more than enough to justify the price hike for many users.
- Everything you need to know about 4K smart TVs
- Stream 4K TV: The best devices for streaming 4K TV
- What are the best subscription streaming services for 4K?
- The best 4K movies and TV shows on Amazon Prime
- The best 4K movies and shows on Disney+
- How to stream Hulu in 4K
- Everything you need to know about Roku 4K TV
- What is Ultra HD?
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Brenden Gallagher is a politics reporter and cultural commentator. His work has been published by Motherboard, Complex, and VH1. He’s the co-founder of Beer Money Films, an indie production company. Based in Los Angeles, he works in television drama as a writers assistant.