So, you’ve bought a new 4K TV and want to show it off, but there’s nothing to watch? Well, it seems like that is often the case with 4K content. Even though some providers have just started offering 4K content, the selection is still pretty small.
The only three cable service providers that have 4K content are DIRECTV, Dish Network, and Xfinity. While they all have a unique offer, more often than not, there’s something missing from their packages.
Let’s take a look at who has the best offer on the market right now. We’re also going to see if there are some alternatives to traditional cable service providers and what makes their offer special.
What is 4K?
First, you might be wondering why it is so difficult to find shows and movies to watch in 4K. Well, 4K refers to a resolution of 3840 x 2160 pixels, and it’s a resolution higher than HD.
If you have a 4K TV, you’ll probably have a much brighter and better-defined picture compared to your old TV. Also, 4K resolution is not necessarily about sharpness, but more about texture and detail.
Keep in mind that you need a certain internet speed to be able to watch content in 4K. While the speed differs from one provider to the next, if you want to be on the safe side, you should go with 30 Mbps.
While some streaming providers offer 4K content, the cable TV industry still needs to catch up. Let’s see who are the top three cable providers for 4K right now.
1. DIRECTV 4K TV — Best Overall
If you’re not familiar with the company, DIRECTV is one of the biggest cable providers in the industry. They offer numerous packages and have different services. With DIRECTV, you can stream content, watch in 4K, and much more. Also, they have a huge library with over 50,000 shows and movies which you can watch on-demand.
The reason why DIRECTV wins best overall is their 4K channel selection. First of all, no matter which package you choose, there are a few dedicated 4K channels. You can watch different sports games, events, and movies.
Not only that, but you can also find a schedule of all the 4K programs on their website. By clicking on the schedule, you can see all of the upcoming HDR events. None of the other 4K service providers have schedules like this in their offer.
Also, they are expanding their 4K library every day. Currently, they have over 100 blockbuster titles, including different documentaries and original series, in their offer. Now, this might not be as big as YouTube’s 4K library, but it’s still better than some of the other competitors.
Next, let’s talk about what you’re going to need to even watch content in 4K. It goes without saying that you need to have a 4K TV. In addition to a DIRECTV subscription, you’re also going to need their latest Genie DVR. The DIRECTV subscription won’t be compatible with an old DVR, and you need to have either a model HR54 or higher.
If you don’t want to connect your TV directly to the Genie DVR, you’re going to need a 4K Genie Mini receiver to connect everything. Keep in mind that the price of the Genie DVR is included in your monthly subscription. On the other hand, you’ll have to pay extra for the 4K Genie Mini.
To start off, DIRECTV offers six different packages. The smallest one is Select, which has over 155 channels, and the biggest one is the Premium, with over 330 channels.
In order to get the 4K offer, you need to get the Select package, which is the cheapest one. You can also get any of the packages on a 7-day free trial to test them out before you commit to a long-term contract.
2. DISH 4K TV — Runner Up
Dish was the next competitor for the title of the best 4K service provider. The company has some amazing deals and packages, along with a great channel selection. Moreover, they have some added services, such as free installation for up to six rooms. Also, for satellite TV, they guarantee that your price will stay the same as the day you signed the contract.
Although Dish doesn’t have dedicated 4K programs like DIRECTV, they do support 4K programming. If you decide to go with the offer from Dish, you’ll have access to plenty of on-demand movies and TV shows. Just keep in mind that it’s a much smaller library compared to the one DIRECTV has.
However, Dish outshines DIRECTV in certain areas. Namely, the fact that it’s compatible with Netflix brings Dish quite a few “brownie points.” For most of its original content, Netflix has a 4K resolution available. So, if you choose Dish, you’ll have access to Netflix’s vast 4K library.
While you can watch thousands of movies and shows, keep in mind that you won’t be able to watch sports or special events with Dish. Even though they have numerous local and international channels in the packages, none of them are available in 4K.
First, you’ll need a 4K TV and a subscription to Dish. You’re also going to need Dish’s 3 Hopper DVR. If you don’t want to or can’t connect your 4K TV to your Hopper DVR, you’re going to need the 4K receiver from Dish, called the 4K Joey.
The DVR comes with the subscription. However, if you want the 4K Joey, you’re going to pay a bit more. Dish’s set up and equipment are pretty similar to the one you need for DIRECTV. Also, they’re about the same price, so the tiebreakers will probably be the channels you’re interested in.
Dish offers four different packages for you to choose from. The smallest one has 190 channels, and the biggest one has over 290 channels. All of them come with a DVR and a voice remote. No matter which package you want, the 4K programming comes with all of them.
Also, you can watch Netflix regardless of what package you have. Just keep in mind that if you want to watch Netflix on Dish, you’re going to need a Premium Plan from Netflix. If you download the Dish app, you can watch your shows and movies from multiple devices, including your phone and tablet.
3. Xfinity 4K TV — Last in Show
Next, let’s talk about Xfinity and why they came in third. With over 300,000 movies and TV shows to watch on-demand, Xfinity has an offer that is tough to pass up. Of course, there are plenty of add-on channels you can choose from to complete your package.
In order to get access to 4K TV, you need to get the Xfinity X1 box. If you get the X1 box, not only will you be able to watch 4K content, but you can also watch YouTube, Netflix, and live TV.
Also, if you go for the X1 box, you can connect your phone to your TV screen. Once you’ve connected the two, you’ll be able to see the caller ID and Readable Voicemail on your TV. With the X1 box, your 4K TV will immediately recognize that you’re watching content in 4K and upgrade your resolution.
You can get 4K content on-demand if you have an XG1v4 or Xi6 TV Box that’s set to 2160 resolution. Furthermore, if you have either of these box sets, you’ll be able to watch the Women’s World Cup live, as well as Netflix, YouTube, and Amazon Prime Video.
Keep in mind that if you want the XG1v4 box, you won’t be able to order it online, but instead, you’ll have to contact Xfinity to directly order it from them.
If you want to get the Xfinity 4K service, you’ll need a bit more than just their subscription. You also need Xfinity’s Stream app, which is only compatible with Samsung TVs. Not only that, but if you want to use the Stream app, you’ll have to use the Xfinity Internet.
There are three packages you can get from Xfinity — Starter, Preferred, and Premium. With the Starter Package, you have access to over 140 channels. The Premium Package is the biggest and most expensive one, and it has over 260 channels.
Also, depending on the kind of content you like to watch, there are different add-ons you can get. All of these add-on channels and plans are available with the Xfinity X1 subscription.
Alternatives to 4K Streaming Providers
There are a couple of ways you can watch your favorite content in 4K without signing a contract with a cable provider. You can look into buying a subscription for Netflix, YouTube, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, and Vudu. Let’s see what the benefits and drawbacks of watching 4K content on these platforms are.
As you might know, there are loads of original shows on Netflix that are available in 4K. Not only will you be able to watch their original shows, but you can also stream numerous new and old releases.
If you want to watch 4K content on Netflix, you’ll need to get their Premium Plan. Also, not only will you be able to watch Ultra HD content, but you can also watch it on four different devices at the same time.
There are a few more things you’ll need before watching 4K on Netflix. First, you’ll need a 60Hz monitor or TV. Also, you’re going to need a stable internet speed of 25 Mbps or higher. Finally, you’re going to have to set your streaming quality to Auto or High.
Amazon Prime Video
If you want to avoid getting a Netflix subscription, Amazon Prime Video is your best bet. They have a huge streaming library, and most of their original content is in 4K. If you want to check out which movies and TV shows are available in 4K, you can take a look at this list.
Keep in mind that this list changes all the time, and Amazon is adding new TV shows and movies daily. It’s also important to note that you don’t actually need an Amazon Prime account in order to get Amazon Prime Video.
Of course, you won’t find the latest TV shows and movies on YouTube, but there’s still a lot of 4K content you can watch. Watching videos on YouTube doesn’t require any kind of subscription or special equipment. However, if you want to watch some of their original shows, you can get a YouTube Red subscription.
When it comes to internet speed, YouTube requires the same speed as Amazon Prime Video — 20 Mbps. YouTube can be a great place to start if you’ve only just bought a 4K TV and don’t know what to expect.
As you’ve seen, there are some other providers you can check out, such as Hulu or Vudu. However, since they’re not as popular as Netflix or Amazon, they don’t update their libraries quite as often.
4K Ultra HD Blu-Ray
If you can’t or simply don’t want to stream, you can always go for 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray. If you want to have physical copies of all the movies you’ve watched, all you need is a 4K Blu-ray player. Lucky for you, they’re getting easier to find, and you can buy one on Amazon.
When you’re looking to buy a 4K Blu-ray player, just make sure it’s HDR compatible. You can buy the regular Blu-ray players off Amazon or Microsoft’s Xbox One S console, which also works as a 4K Blu-ray player.
Hopefully, this article proves helpful when you start your search for the best 4K service provider. As you can see, if you want to go with a traditional provider, there are only three options to consider.
Between DIRECTV, Xfinity, and Dish, you need to decide which features are most important to you and what kind of content you enjoy watching. If you want to watch regular, local channels that are in 4K, you should opt for DIRECTV. However, if you prefer watching Netflix’s original shows, you might want to go for Xfinity or Dish.
On the other hand, if you just love watching newly-released content, you should look into getting either a Netflix or Amazon Prime Video subscription. Of course, if you just want to dip your toe into the 4K resolution pool, you can always start with YouTube.