So you’ve treated yourself to a state-of-the-art 4K TV set after watching the salesroom demos showing old movie trailers, stunning nature sequences or timelapse videos of vibrant cityscapes.

But now that you’ve set your ultra HD telly up at home, and run out of people to bore with the slow-panning muzak, what 4k content is actually available to watch?

Well the short answer is – as of mid 2015 – not a great deal. There are no TV channels broadcasting 4K signals on satellite or terrestrial, although a new standard has been agreed upon and tests are currently in progress on the satellites that Sky uses.

Realistically the earliest a broadcast ultra HD channel will start in the UK is this autumn, probably as a super premium channel on Sky. So in the meantime we will have to look at non-broadcast video channels.

Of course all 4k screens will upscale existing HD or even SD content, so it’s not as if you can’t watch anything on your super expensive new set.

But if you want to reward your eyeballs with video that makes the most of the 3840 x 2160 resolution of Ultra HD to deliver a picture with a stunning 8,294,400 pixels per frame, then your choices are limited to the following options.

Amazon Prime Instant Video

Amazon Prime Instant Video

What you need

  • An Amazon Prime Membership (£79 per year – no premium for UHD)
  • A 15Mbps internet connection
  • A compatible television (see below)
Brand Models
Samsung U6840, U6900, U8500, U8700, U9000
LG UB9700, UB9800, UB820, UB850,
Sony X85, X9, X95, X90

What can you watch?

TV shows:

Alpha House, Transparent, Orphan Black, Gortimer Gibbons,

Amazon Pilots:

Mozart in the Jungle, Bosch, Hand of God, The After, Point of Honor, The Man In The High Castle, Down Dog, Halt and Catch Fire, Turn , Salem Rogers, Mad Dogs

Films:

Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Funny Girl, Hitch, Philadelphia, After Earth, American Hustle, Captain Phillips, Hancock, Moneyball, The Mask of Zorro, The Amazing Spider-Man, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, The Patriot, Think Like A Man Too, Elysium, The Da Vinci Code, and This Is the End

Music:

Tony Bennett & Lady Gaga: Cheek to Cheek Live

It’s fair to say that Amazon has dipped its toes into the Ultra HD waters rather than dived right in. On the one hand, it has a vested interest in pushing Ultra HD content, as this helps stoke demand for the higher-priced 4K television sets that Amazon sells. On the other hand, the cost of licencing and distributing the data-greedy Ultra HD films and TV shows can take a big chunk out of Amazon Prime’s slender margins, especially as the company isn’t charging a premium for the content.

So at the moment, the Amazon Prime Ultra HD catalogue is limited to its original TV content (Alpha House, Transparent etc.), the 2015 range of Pilots (including the excellent The Man In The High Castle) and a small selection of Sony films including Captain Phillips, American Hustle and Elysium.

Netflix Ultra HD content

Netflix Ultra HD

What you need

  • An Netflix Premium subscription (£8.99 per month – £3 premium)
  • An 25Mbps internet connection
  • A compatible television (see below)
Brand Models
Samsung F9000 with Samsung Evolution Kit (SEK-2500U) HU6830, HU6900, HU7000, HU7100, HU7200, HU7250, HU7500, HU8200, HU8500, HU8550, HU8700, HU9000, HU9800, S9, S9V
LG 47G2, 55G2, UB820, UB830, UB836, UB900, UB980, UC970, UB8000, UB8200, UB8500, UB8550, UB8600, UB9200, UB9300, UB9500, UB9700, UB9800, UB856B, UB850T, UB950T, UB820V, UB830V, UB850V, UB950V, UB980V,
Panasonic XW804, XW904, XW944
Sharp UD27U
Toshiba L8400, L8900
Sony NSZ-GS7, NSZ-GS8, NSZ-GT1, NSZ-GX70, X8500B, X8505B, X9000B, X9005B, X850B, X900B, X907B, X950B, X955B

What can you watch?

TV Shows

Daredevil, House of Cards, Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul, Marco Polo, The Blacklist, Moving Art Nature Documentaries,

Films

Ghostbuster 1 & 2, The Smurfs 2, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Jerry Maguire

Netflix has been at the vanguard of the Ultra HD 4K bandwagon, with much of the heat and noise about the format emanating from the company’s powerful PR machine. But away from the marketing Sturn und Drang, the reality is that Netflix’s Ultra HD line-up is not as extensive as you might imagine.

Certainly the anaemic selection of blockbuster movies suggests that the reality of 4K content on tap is a long way behind the promise (The Smurfs 2, anyone?). That said, much of Netflix’s ‘binge view-friendly’ box-sets such as the recent acclaimed Daredevil reboot, House of Cards, Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul are all available in pristing Ultra UD 4K. The downside is that you have to pay a £3 premium on the standard £5.99 per month subscription rate to access them. You’ll also need a pretty fast internet connection – Netflix recommends a stable 25Mbps to be sure of getting the best quality.

Interestingly Netflix’s FAQ page also notes that an Ultra HD 4K stream will chew up 7GB of bandwidth every hour. So if you did binge view the entire 5 seasons of Breaking Bad you would have used up a whopping 329GB of data. So it’s best to ensure you don’t have a data cap on your broadband if you plan to watch a lot of Ultra HD material.

 

UltraFlix

UltraFlix Ultra HD

What you need

  • An UltraFilx compatible 4k TV set (at present these are limited to 2015 release Sony models, although Samsung support is in the pipeline)
  • A 8Mbps internet connection

What can you watch?

Interstellar, The Good, the Bad & the Ugly, Robocop, Rocky, Fargo, Rain Man and a bunch of B-movies and TV shows.

They claim to be the world’s largest library of 4K content – although 600 hours isn’t that much when you think about it. And both the share price and the website UI are bargain basement – so there is just a suspicion that these guys are chancers hoping to make a quick buck out of the lack of Ultra HD content. Even the shonky name is redolent more of an 80s video shop than a 21st century broadcasting titan. It serves to show how thin on the ground Ultra HD content actually is when companies like UltraFlix make it into articles like this.

 

YouTube Ultra HD content

YouTube Ultra HD

What you need

  • A PC or Mac
  • An HDMI cable
  • A 15Mbps internet connection
  • A 4k TV set

What can you watch?

YouTube’s Ultra HD offering is mainly made up of demos of 4K content from hardware companies, nature clips, video games footage, the occasional movie trailer (including Star Wars The Force Awakens and the fantastic new Mad Max spot) and fan-made compilations. To find Ultra HD 4K content, enter ‘4k’, ‘UHD’ or ‘Ultra HD’ into the search box. Interestingly, if your hardware and internet connection is robust enough you can see many clips in super smooth 60 frames per second playback. Sweet.

 

Ultra HD Blu-Ray

Ultra HD Blu-Ray

The current Blu-Ray standard cannot output video in 4k resolution – it maxes out at 1920 x 1080. However the Blu-Ray Disc Association has agreed on a new 4k platform: Ultra HD Blu-Ray.

This will not only offer full 4k 3840 x 2160 resolution along with a host of other hi-tech features, including:

  • High Dynamic Range (HDR) – the latest buzzphrase, pushed by Dolby, which offeres much improved colour and contrast ranges
  • Expanded colour gamut – the current colour systems date back to CRT-era screens. The new Ultra HD format will take advantage of new developments on modern TVs such as quantum dots to offer far more realistic colour.
  • Higher colour depth: this is upped from the current 8-bit to 10-bit
  • Higher frame rates (FPS) – while most movies remain 24 or 30FPS, the new standard has headroom to go all the way up to 60FPS. This ultra-smooth rate will be welcomed by games players but most movie fans gave the experiment a thumbs down when it was trialled on The Hobbit.
  • Higher capacity discs – the current Blu-Ray standard offers a maximum of 50GB on a dual-layer disc. Ultra HD Blu-Ray discs will come in 66GB and 100GB.

What can you watch?

Nothing yet. The first Ultra HD Blu-Ray discs are due to land late 2015 – and you’ll need to get a new player to view them.

 

Blu-Ray ‘Mastered in 4k series’

Mastered in 4K Blu-Ray

What you need

  • A Blu-Ray player
  • A 4k TV set

The Sony ‘Mastered in 4k’ series of Blu-Rays was released by Sony and claims to be optimised for viewing on 4k TV sets. These Blu-Rays retain the HD 1920×1080 resolution of the standard, but Sony claims that by using 4k video as the original source, the quality is that much better. Sony has also improved the colour output to provide a more realistic tonal quality.

What can you watch?

Ghostbusters, Spider-Man, Total Recall, Glory, Taxi Driver, The Amazing Spider-Man, Battle: Los Angeles, Angels & Demons

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