Over the last few years, 4K resolution, also known as Ultra HD (UHD), has become increasingly popular for TVs and Streaming content. With over 4 times more pixels than standard 1080p HD, 4K offers sharper, more detailed video quality that brings entertainment to life. As more households adopt 4K TVs and displays, streaming services have also started expanding support for 4K content.
YouTube TV, the live TV and cloud DVR streaming service from Youtube, launched a 4K add-on package in 2018. For an extra monthly fee, subscribers can now stream select live and on-demand movies, shows, and events in 4K resolution.
In this in-depth blog post, we dive into everything you need to know about YouTube TV 4K offering. We’ll cover the 4K streaming requirements, content and channels available, features, pricing details, and how it compares to competitors. Read on for a comprehensive review to help you determine if upgrading to YouTube TV 4K is worthwhile for your needs.
Overview of YouTube TV 4K Service
For those unfamiliar, here’s a quick primer on YouTube TV. Launched in 2017 and now available across the US, YouTube TV offers live TV and on-demand streaming across a wide variety of channels including sports, news, entertainment and more. Some key details:
- Channel Lineup: 85+ networks like ESPN, TNT, TBS, CNN, Fox News, Disney, AMC, locals like ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox. Add-ons available for more channels.
- Supported Devices: Stream on phones, tablets, computers, and TV streaming devices like Roku, Fire TV, Android TV, Apple TV, Chromecast. Limited support on game consoles.
- Notable Features: Unlimited cloud DVR, simultaneous streams, personalized profiles, VOD library of shows/movies, real-time stats and scores while watching sports.
- Pricing: $64.99/month after a free trial period. Add-ons like 4K Plus, Sports Plus, Spanish Plus packages available.
YouTube TV competes with other live TV streaming services such as Hulu + Live TV, fuboTV, Sling TV, DirecTV Stream. It’s aimed at cord-cutters looking for a cable TV replacement with a modern streaming experience.
Now let’s look at one of YouTube TV’s biggest value additions in recent years – the availability of 4K Ultra HD streaming.
What is 4K and UHD?
Before we dive into YouTube TV 4K offering, let’s clearly define what 4K resolution and Ultra HD (UHD) video are all about.
- Refers to display resolution of 3840 x 2160 pixels. This is over 4 times more pixels than 1080p resolution (1920 x 1080).
- Offers sharper, more detailed picture quality compared to HD, with finer clarity in textures, objects, and overall image.
- It is called 4K because the horizontal resolution is approximately 4,000 pixels. Other common 4K terms are 2160p, 4K Ultra HD, 4K UHD.
Ultra HD (UHD)
- UHD builds upon a 4K panel by adding features like HDR, wider color gamut, and higher frame rates.
- High Dynamic Range (HDR) increases the contrast ratio with brighter whites and deeper blacks. Expands color volume.
- A wider color gamut increases the range of displayable colors. More realistic and nuanced.
- Higher frame rates up to 120fps make motion look smoother.
- A combination of these technologies enhances 4K resolution for an immersive viewing experience. True cinematic quality.
Benefits of 4K UHD
Some benefits 4K UHD offers compared to regular 1080p HD:
- Sharper clarity and detail in images – better able to see individual leaves on trees, fabric textures, hair follicles, etc.
- Smoother, more realistic motion in action scenes and sports.
- More depth and dimension to the picture.
- Vivid, nuanced colors that pop on the display.
- Immersive viewing experience, especially on larger screen sizes.
- Ability to sit closer to the screen without seeing pixels.
Overall, 4K UHD allows viewers to appreciate extra detail in content and get more engrossed in what they are watching. It brings theater-quality visuals into the home.
Minimum Requirements for 4K Streaming on YouTube TV 4K
To stream content in 4K resolution on YouTube TV, there are some minimum technology requirements:
- Requires internet download speeds of at least 25Mbps for 4K streaming.
- For the best 4K HDR streaming experience, internet speeds of 35Mbps or higher are recommended.
- 4K video requires significantly more data bandwidth compared to HD. Insufficient speeds can mean buffering and quality issues.
- Use internet speed tests to check your connectivity rates. Hardwire your streaming device if possible.
4K Compatible Display Device
- A 4K UHD TV, computer monitor, or tablet with at least 3840 x 2160 pixel resolution.
- Smart TVs from brands like Samsung, Sony, LG, Vizio etc. with built-in YouTube TV 4K app recommended.
- Computer monitors and tablets typically max out at 4K resolution and don’t support HDR.
HDMI version and HDCP
- Use an HDMI 2.0 cable or higher that supports HDCP 2.2 content protection. Older HDMI versions may be limited to 30fps.
- HDMI cable must be able to handle the 4K video bandwidth which is up to 18Gbps. Quality cables are recommended.
High Dynamic Range (HDR)
- HDR support allows you to take advantage of expanded contrast and colors.
- Look for 4K TVs, tablets, and displays with HDR, HDR10, Dolby Vision certification.
Meeting these minimum requirements ensures your devices can fully leverage 4K UHD’s enhancements for the best quality streaming experience.
Supported Devices for 4K Streaming
In addition to your TV or display, the streaming device you use to run the YouTube TV 4K app must also support 4K and meet certain specifications. Here are the supported devices:
- Most newer 4K smart TVs have a built-in YouTube TV app that supports 4K playback. This includes top brands like:
- Samsung (models 2016 and later)
- LG (webOS 3.0 and later)
- Vizio (SmartCast OS 2016 and later)
- Sony Android TVs also support 4K YouTube TV streaming.
Streaming Media Players
- Roku (Premiere, Streaming Stick+, Ultra, 4K models)
- Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K, Fire TV Cube, Fire TV Stick Max
- Apple TV 4K (5th gen or later)
- Chromecast Ultra
- NVIDIA Shield
- PlayStation 4 Pro
- Xbox One S, Xbox One X
- Limited to streaming in 1080p: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch
- Smartphones and tablets are currently limited to a max of 1080p streaming, even with 4K screens.
- Pixel density is too high on smaller screens for 4K resolution to matter.
For the best 4K streaming experience, use a newer smart TV or dedicated media player. Also ensure to use Premium HDMI cables to handle the high bandwidth 4K video requires.
YouTube TV 4K Channels and Content Offering
Now that we’ve covered the technology required, what 4K content can you actually watch on YouTube TV? Here are details on the current 4K channels and programming:
Live 4K Channels
- NBC and NBC Sports in 4K for select live sports like Premier League soccer, Sunday Night Football, NHL games, NASCAR, and the Olympics.
- Fox Sports in 4K for certain live events like MLB games, WWE Smackdown, and college football.
- ESPN and ESPN2 in 4K for some live games from leagues like the NBA, MLB, College Football, and more.
- FX, Discovery, other channels may offer certain shows or events in 4K.
On-Demand 4K Content
- YouTube Originals like Cobra Kai, Step Up, Impulse available in 4K.
- A handful of popular movies like Spider-Man: No Way Home, Top Gun: Maverick, and more.
- Nature documentaries like Planet Earth II and selection of 4K space and travel programs.
- The limited number of classic shows and current series available on-demand in 4K.
Ongoing 4K Expansion
- As more networks upgrade production and broadcasting capabilities, expect wider 4K content.
- Live sports will likely lead the way with 4K game coverage. More movies being shot in 4K as well.
- Library of 4K VOD programming should continue growing steadily over time.
The 4K content selection on YouTube TV is still limited compared to standard HD, but is expanding. Sports and movie lovers in particular can appreciate the current 4K offering.
YouTube TV 4K vs 1080p Video Quality Comparison
How much better does 4K content really look compared to regular 1080p HD on YouTube TV? Here is a detailed video quality comparison:
Sharpness and Clarity
- 4K resolution allows you to see every blade of grass on a field, beads of sweat on players, vivid details in scenes that are not visible at 1080p.
- Texture details like fabric and skin imperfections are more discernible, creating a sharper and more realistic picture.
- 4K pixels are smaller and spread across a wider canvas, making images crisper.
- Fast action sequences in sports, movies, games have less motion blur in 4K.
- Higher 4K frame rates up to 60fps creates smoother, more fluid visuals especially for live sports.
Depth and Dimension
- Added perception of depth to the picture, with better layering between foreground and background subjects.
- Expanded contrast, brightness and HDR technology enhance this further.
- A wider color gamut displays more shades, tones and gradients for a nuanced and vivid visual experience.
- Colors like greens, reds, blues pop out and feel more natural.
- 4K allows you to sit much closer to large screens without seeing pixels or quality loss, for a theater-like experience.
- Sweeping landscape and nature visuals in 4K feel like looking through a window.
While 4K may seem incremental on smaller screens, the impact on large displays is dramatic. Sports, movies and shows simply come alive in Ultra HD.
Is YouTube TV 4K Add-on Worth it?
YouTube TV’s 4K Plus add-on costs an extra $19.99 per month on top of the $64.99 base package. Is the upgrade worth this premium for most viewers? Here are some pros and cons to consider:
The Pros of Upgrading
- Provides a centralized place for both live and on-demand 4K content.
- Unlimited DVR storage means you can record 4K programs to watch later.
- Gradual expansion of 4K channel lineup over time.
- Appealing for sports fans to watch games, matches, and events in Ultra HD clarity.
- Must-have for new 4K TV buyers who want the best picture.
The Cons of Upgrading
- Overall 4K selection is still limited compared to the huge HD library.
- Only some live sports and special events are available in 4K for now.
- Lack of support for 4K streaming on mobile devices hampers value.
- An additional $240 per year is not insignificant for households on a budget.
Is it Worth it for You?
- Die-hard sports fans who want the best game-viewing experience will find great benefits.
- Movie buffs will appreciate major films available to stream in 4K with HDR.
- Nature and documentary lovers can enjoy top-notch visuals.
- Households who recently upgraded to 4K TVs have the most incentive to upgrade.
- Budget-conscious subscribers may want to wait for content library and device support to expand further.
Take your specific viewing habits and budget into account when deciding if YouTube TV 4K package provides good value. But the enhancements for sports alone may win over many fans.
YouTube TV 4K vs Competitor 4K Offerings
YouTube TV isn’t the only live TV streaming service with 4K offerings. How does it compare to the Ultra HD packages of competitors like fuboTV, DirecTV Stream, and others?
- Offers comparable 4K HDR channels like Fox Sports, NBC, beIN Sports, MSG Networks.
- Also includes 4K sports from RSNs like AT&T SportsNet, ROOT Sports, and Altitude – gaps for YouTube TV.
- Larger base package but higher pricing at $69.99/month. 4K add-on is $7.99 more.
- Slightly lower starting price but charges $10 for HD quality and $20 more for 4K package.
- Has TNT, TBS, and truTV in 4K which YouTube TV lacks.
- Limited to streaming on 2 devices simultaneously unlike YouTube TV’s 3 streams.
Hulu + Live TV
- Currently lacks any 4K channels or content. They are rumored to be adding 4K soon.
- The base $69.99 package otherwise has similar offerings to YouTube TV.
- No 4K offerings yet. Maximum quality is 1080p HD. Plans to add 4K reported.
- The cheapest service starts at $35 per month but has fewer channels overall.
YouTube TV holds its own against the 4K competition by offering a solid selection of sports, flexibility with unlimited DVR, and wider device support. But competitors fill some gaps especially with regional sports in 4K. Shop around to compare.
Final Verdict on YouTube TV 4K
After closely evaluating YouTube TV’s 4K offerings, here is our final verdict:
- A solid variety of live sports in 4K like NBA, MLB, NFL, soccer, and college sports.
- Unlimited 4K cloud DVR allows recording programs to watch later.
- Steadily growing on-demand selection of 4K movies and some shows.
- Flexible streaming with 3 simultaneous device limits.
- Overall 4K content library is still thin relative to all the HD programming.
- No 4K streaming support on smartphones and tablets.
- Missing 4K channels offered by some competitors.
Should You Upgrade?
- Sports fans will find excellent value in games and matches broadcast live in 4K.
- Movie watchers can appreciate major film releases streamed in Ultra HD.
- New 4K TV owners will notice the quality difference and boost from 4K.
- Budget-conscious subscribers may want to wait for a wider 4K expansion.
YouTube TV 4K provides a solid foundation for 4K streaming that will only improve. Sports fans will benefit most immediately from the 4K upgrade today while more content is added.
- YouTube TV 4K Plus official webpage
- YouTube Help Center 4K requirements
- Tom’s Guide Hands-on YouTube TV 4K Review
- CNET YouTube TV 4K Review
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