4K Streaming Guide: What Is It, What Devices Support It & Do You Really Need It
Is 4K streaming here to stay, or is it just a passing technological fad?
Although 4K technology has been around for a while, 4K streaming capabilities are becoming increasingly popular as the technology advances. Streaming services like Netflix and Hulu are scrambling to offer 4K content to their subscribers, but what is 4K streaming, and why should you care? Let’s find out.
What Is 4K Streaming?
4K streaming provides a way to watch video content, usually movies and TV shows, at a much higher resolution than traditional HD. Many popular streaming services, like Netflix and HBO Max, offer 4K content to enjoy your favorite shows and movies in the best possible video quality.
It is not enough to watch a 4K stream video to obtain a 4K resolution. It’s not that easy. To take advantage of 4K streaming, you'll need a 4K-compatible device and a high-speed internet connection. Otherwise, you'll be stuck with standard HD content. 4K streaming movies are fantastic, but make sure you have all the necessary hardware first.
The True Meaning of 4K
We all know 4K streaming movies have higher quality, but why? A 4K video is a digital file with a resolution of at least 3840 x 2160 pixels. That’s four times the number of a standard (1920 x 1080) HD video. With so many pixels, it’s a perfect format for larger screens.
The result is a clearer, more detailed image that looks incredible on our screens. If you have ever seen a 4K video, you know how real and lifelike they can appear. It’s an immersive experience that will make you feel like you are right in the middle of the action.
All of this comes with a cost, whether we’re talking about required hardware or internet speed and bandwidth.
What Speed Is Needed for 4K Streaming?
The main concern people have with 4K streaming is the bandwidth required. A single minute of 4K video can spend more than 200MB, which means you need a lot of data to stream even a short movie.
If you don’t have an unlimited data plan, this can quickly eat into your monthly allowance and result in some hefty charges. That’s why it’s essential to understand how much bandwidth you need for 4K streaming before you dive in.
The minimum internet speed for 4K streaming is 25 Mbps, but we recommend you have at least 50 Mbps for a smooth experience. You'll need even more if you live with someone who uses the internet for live streaming, online gaming, or watching 4K movies.
To put this into perspective, the median internet speed in the United States is well over 100Mpbs for fixed broadband, but as long as you have 50 Mbps or more, you should be able to stream 4K content without any issues.
Over 56% of VPN users rely on VPN to access Netflix; if you are one of them, you must also consider that using a VPN will decrease your connection speed. Remember that you'll need more than the bare minimum because you'll also be using your internet connection for other apps.
If your internet is slow, you may still be able to view 4K streaming services, but you will most likely suffer from buffering and other video interruptions.
What Devices Can You Use for 4K Streaming?
In order to watch 4K video content, you need a 4K-compatible device. This includes most smart TVs, gaming consoles, streaming devices, and computers. Many of the latest models from popular brands like Samsung, Sony, and LG come with 4K capabilities.
If you’re unsure if your device is 4K-compatible, a quick Google search should give you the answer. You can also check with your device’s manufacturer.
What Is a 4K Streaming Device?
4K streaming devices are a great way to watch movies and TV shows in the highest possible quality. Most modern televisions can now display images in 4K resolution, so the viability of streaming in 4K is now primarily dependent on having sufficient internet speed.
There are several different 4K devices on the market, so you'll need to do some research to find the one that's right for you. You'll also need to ensure that your television can display 4K content. However, this shouldn't be a problem if you have a newer television.
Once you've found the right 4K streaming device for your needs, you'll be able to enjoy the best possible picture quality when watching movies and TV shows. You may even find that you prefer 4K content over traditional HD content.
What Are the Benefits of 4K Streaming?
Several benefits come with 4K content, including:
- Improved picture quality: This is the most obvious benefit of 4K streaming services. With four times the number of pixels compared to standard HD output, you’ll get a clearer, more detailed image that looks incredible on any screen.
- A more immersive experience: 4K streaming content is more immersive than standard HD content. The increased resolution and detail make it feel like you are right in the middle of the action.
- Better value for your money: If you have a 4k-compatible device, upgrading to a 4K streaming plan is a no-brainer. You get access to a whole new world of content for just a few extra bucks per month.
What Are the Disadvantages of 4K Streaming?
There are some disadvantages to 4K streaming, too, including:
- Increased data usage: One of the biggest downsides of 4K streaming is increased data usage. A single minute of 4K video can spend more than 200 megabytes, so you’ll need a large monthly data cap.
- Higher monthly bills: If you have a capped data plan, streaming services with 4K content can quickly eat into your monthly allowance.
- Compatible devices required: You need a compatible device to watch 4K content. This includes most smart TVs, streaming devices, gaming consoles, and computers.
- Special cables required: To get the full benefit of 4K streaming, you also need the right cables. For example, you need an HDMI 2.0 cable to connect your 4K-compatible device to your TV.
Do You Need 4K?
You don't need 4K unless you have a 4K TV or monitor. Most people don't, and even if you do, a lot of content isn't available in 4K yet. So unless you're an early adopter with money to burn, you should save your money and stick with 1080p.
If you're looking for good picture quality, 1080p is still the way to go. It's the standard resolution for most content and is what most TVs and monitors are designed to display. 4K looks better, but it does come at a cost.
Remember, 4K will make you spend a lot more data and make it harder to achieve recommended VPN internet speeds for streaming region-locked content. That said, if you already have the hardware and an unlimited monthly internet cap, there’s no reason not to take advantage of it and enjoy the best-looking movies and TV shows your device can provide.
We feel 4K is worthwhile because it improves image quality and increases viewing enjoyment. Our "What Is 4K Streaming?" article covers this topic in much more detail, so give it a look.
4K has four times the number of pixels as HD. The higher the number of pixels, the more detailed the picture is.
All Netflix titles with the Ultra HD logo next to their description will be played in 4K if your device supports it. You can also enter “UltraHD” in the search bar and access all the available 4K movies on Netflix.
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