With many new 4K, UHD TVs coming to market, a lot of people will want to know what they can watch on them? One the one hand, that’s almost a silly question. You can watch anything. The resolution of the display device does not limit what content you view on it. Most readers have 1080p resolution TVs in their homes, but the programs they watch from their cable provider are in 1080i, 720p or worse.
Redbox and Netflix are still doing a brisk business in 480p DVDs, which also are being displayed on 1080p TVs.
But we know what you mean. You want 4K content, and don’t worry, that’s coming. At the Samsung CES booth Netflix was demonstrating 4K streaming onto a Samsung TV. Yes, 4K streaming. Of course, that was just a demonstration, and not a perfect one, but the potential is clearly there (see video below).
During LG’s CES press conference, a company representative mentioned that LG is working on 4K content delivery, but did not elaborate when asked about it.
However, Sony seems to be moving ahead strongly in the 4K content direction. Current buyers of Sony’s 84-inch 4K TVs also get a video server pre-loaded with about 10 movies, plus other video goodies. At CES the company showed a prototype of a device it plans to start selling later this summer. It will allow 4K movies to be loaded via either a BD-ROM disc or an Internet connection, though the company wouldn’t offer any details on how that would work. A likely scenario would be that movies automatically load onto the player, then show up on a menu that allows you to unlock them with a purchase.
Sony also has a way for you to benefit from 4K technology without actually having a 4K TVs. This year Sony Pictures will release a selection of movies that are “mastered in 4K” at a higher bitrate onto standard Blu-ray discs. Titles announced so far include The Amazing Spider-Man, Total Recall, The Karate Kid, Battle: Los Angeles and The Other Guys. These will still be 1080p movies, but presumably they will look better than earlier versions of the discs. The concept sounds a little like the old Superbit DVDs that Sony produced years ago.
Here’s a short video of Netflix streaming in 4K onto a Samsung Ultra HD TV:
Grant Clauser has been covering home electronics for more than 10 years with editorial roles in several consumer and trade magazines. He's done ISF-level damage to hundreds of reviewed products and has had audio training from Home Acoustics Alliance and Sencore. He's also the author of the book The Trouble with Rivers. Follow him on Twitter @geclauser.