Amazon began streaming in Ultra HD in December, 2014 with with their original productions Gortimer Gibbon’s Life on Normal Street, Transparent, and Alpha House that were all shot in native 4k. Their video service has a growing selection of titles available in Ultra HD to Prime members at no additional charge (Netflix charges $2 more), and a wider selection of premium movies to rent or purchase.
New premium movies in UHD include titles such as Manchester by the Sea, Cafe Society, and Spectre. Recently-added Amazon Originals available in UHD include American Playboy, I Love Dick, and Bosch Season 3. If you’re looking for HDR their original production Chi-Raq will stream in High Dynamic Range to TVs that support the specification. (Read: How To Stream 4k Ultra HD With HDR)
Subscribe to Amazon Prime
Although it’s not necessary to be a Prime subscriber to view Ultra HD content, the number of titles available to members is well worth the $99 per year if you start adding up rental fees and purchases. All of the Amazon Studios original series are available at no extra charge, and some series are already in their second and third seasons. They’ve also got some popular movies to watch if you are a member (see list below). The nice thing about Amazon Prime is that 4k streaming is available free, where Ultra HD service with Netflix costs a few bucks more per month. Sign up for Amazon Prime here.
Make sure your device or Smart TV is 4k Ultra HD Compatible
Amazon Ultra HD content can only be accessed through supporting devices including Fire TV (2nd generation), Roku 4, Roku Premiere, Roku Premiere+, Roku Ultra, Shield TV, and Ultra HD Smart TVs using the Amazon app. Devices must also support HDCP 2.2 content protection standards in order to play 4k content. Right now, PCs and mobile apps using the Amazon Video app are not able to view Ultra HD content (or even see labels indicating Ultra HD resolution).
Be sure to have sufficient Internet Speed
Amazon suggests a minimum of 15 megabits-per-second to stream Ultra HD. We’ve found that if there aren’t a bunch of other devices streaming video from the same home network at the same time the 15Mbps per second is enough to get by without many dropouts. Restart your modem or call your ISP if the Ultra HD video won’t play correctly. Use this SpeedTest from Comcast Xfinity.
Find Ultra HD titles on Amazon
You can try searching for a title you know is available in Ultra HD, or go to the home screen on the Amazon Video app and use the remote arrow down down until you see Amazon’s categories for Ultra HD titles (see photo above). With the Amazon Video app for Samsung Smart UHD TVs, we were able to see categories for Ultra HD television shows and movies, both included with Prime and available for purchase. View a list of 4k UHD titles on Amazon.
Check your TV’s Info
Amazon doesn’t indicate the video resolution of a specific title (at least through the Amazon app we used for Samsung TVs). To be absolutely sure you are streaming in Ultra HD there are two possible methods. The first, use the down or up arrow on your remote control and at the bottom left of the image you should see the video resolution. The second possibility is to use your 4k TV’s on-screen “Info” display that should indicate the current video resolution, frame rate, and sound format the TV is receiving. The video format should say 2160 (not 1080p) or Ultra HD. Be patient if the video doesn’t stream in Ultra HD immediately, as sometimes it takes some time to buffer the 4k video due to its high demand in bandwidth.
Change your Picture Mode to Movie
We strongly suggest changing the TV Picture Mode to “Movie” for films and most Ultra HD content. After testing Mozart in the Jungle and Gortimer Gibbon’s Life on Normal Street we found the “Movie” preset to more accurately display the detail and range of color available in 4k (and sometimes HDR) content. Of course, TVs may vary so test different Picture Modes for yourself.
What about HDR?
Amazon has an expanding list of HDR titles. The acronym stands for High Dynamic Range and represents a new color standard (defined by either HDR10 or Dolby Vision specifications) by adding deeper color, wider contrast, and more detail in dark and light areas. But not many 4k TVs are equipped to display HDR, and neither are all streaming media players. The color spec requires HDMI 2.0a (a firmware upgrade to HDMI 2.0). Netflix, Amazon and Vudu apps will play 4k HDR titles if the TV supports it (Vudu HDR titles are Dolby Vision and not compatible with many TVs). Media players that support HDR include Roku Premiere, Roku Premiere+, Roku Ultra, Shield TV. Learn how to stream in HDR.
Set up a decent Audio System
Most of Amazon’s titles are offered in 5.1 surround sound, but if you don’t have a home theater system we suggest at least a soundbar. Even the most expensive 4k Ultra HD TVs have really weak audio systems with tiny speakers that often point backwards and don’t offer much wattage. We suggest a premium surround sound system or sound bar with a minimum of 200-300 watts for enhanced viewing of movies with 5+ channel audio.
Here’s an overview of some Ultra HD content found on Amazon. See our full list of movies, TV shows, and other titles available on Amazon Video.
TV Series in Ultra HD (w/Prime)
- Le Mans (Season 1)
- Long Strange Trip (Season 1)
- Thirteen (Season 1)
- Good Girls Revolt (Season 1)
- Goliath (Season 1)
- Crisis in Six Scenes (Season 1)
- Playboy (Season 1)
- Gortimer Gibbon’s Life on Normal Street (Seasons 1, 2)
- Fleabag (Season 1)
- The Kicks (Season 1)
- One Mississippi (Season 1)
- Mozart in the Jungle (Seasons 1, 2)
- Transparent (Seasons 1, 2, 3)
- Alpha House (Seasons 1, 2)
- Orphan Black (Seasons 1, 2)
- Mad Dogs (Season 1)
- Just add Magic (Season 1)
- The Man in the High Castle (Season 1)
- Red Oaks (Season 1, 2)
- Hand of God (Season 1)
- Bosch (Season 1, 2)
- Sneaky Pete (Season 1)
- The Last Tycoon (Episode 1)
TV Series in Ultra HD (Purchase)
- Better Call Saul (Seasons 1, 2)
- Blacklist (Seasons 1, 2)
- House of Cards (Seasons 1, 2, 3)
- Breaking Bad (Seasons 1-5)
- Bonnie and Clyde
- Masters of Sex
Popular Movies in Ultra HD (w/Prime):
- Manchester by the Sea (Prime)
- Spectre (Prime)
- First Live 4k from Space (Prime)
- Chi-raq (Prime)
- Jerry Maguire (Prime)
- Hitch (Prime)
- Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
- Tom Clancy’s The Division: Agent Origins
- Funny Girl
Popular Movies in Ultra HD (Purchase)
- Captain Philips
- The Amazing Spider-Man
- Lawrence of Arabia
- The Perfect Guy
- Men in Black (I, II, III)
- Bad Boys (I, II)
- The Professional Extended Cut
- The Monuments Men
The Amazon Ultra HD titles listed above can only be accessed through Fire TV (2nd generation), Roku 4, Roku Premiere, Roku Premiere+, Roku Ultra, Shield TV, the Amazon Video app for Smart 4k TVs, and other supporting devices. (List of devices that support Amazon 4k Ultra HD.)
[Note: This article has been updated June 11, 2017.]