Apple made quite a splash last September when they announced any eligible movie purchased on iTunes in HD would automatically be available in 4k. This is because most Digital 4k movies were selling for $29.99 from services like Google Play and Vudu, and popular movies on iTunes generally sell for $19.99, That’s a $10 difference in price, and soon Apple competitors were forced to drop their prices. That’s good news for all of us. But if you’re new to watching movies in 4k with or without HDR, here’s what you need to know.
A Quick Overview
4k (also branded as Ultra HD or UHD), improves the resolution of Full HD video by 4-times, from 1080×1920 (2.1 megapixels) to 3840×2160 (8.3 megapixels). HDR, on the other hand, is a video specification that adds more color depth and contrast in video images (although it has been an option for digital cameras for some time). While the increase in resolution adds sharpness to video, many professionals say HDR is a more significant improvement over non-HDR imagery.
What 4k TVs Support HDR?
Not all 4k TVs support HDR, unfortunately. You’ll generally find the less expensive 4k TVs don’t include the feature. Be sure to research which models support HDR before buying, or, talk to a Best Buy Geek Squad member or local electronics expert to be sure you get the right model. Samsung indicates HDR support with a feature called “Peak Illuminator Ultimate” or “Pro” that can be found in their SUHD line of Ultra HD TVs. Other 4k TV manufacturers that support HDR include Vizio, Sony, Panasonic, LG and more.
There isn’t currently a standard for HDR. The two most popular HDR specifications are HDR10 and Dolby Vision, although Hybrid Log Gamma (HLG) is an emerging HDR spec that’s used on YouTube. All HDR profiles add more color depth (up to 10-bits, although Dolby Vision can reach 12-bit) which is much deeper color range than the conventional Blu-ray and HD video with 8-bits. 4k TV manufacturers have been reluctant to place labels on their on packaging because of the lack of a standard, so consumers need to be sure they are getting a 4k TV that supports HDR before buying. Most TVs support more than one HDR specification.
Apple TV 4k
To view 4k and HDR content you need the newest Apple TV 4k released late September, 2017. After many years of not supporting 4k or HDR content, the 2017 Apple TV does both, and will playback titles in both HDR10 and Dolby Vision HDR specifications. The new Apple TV is priced at $179 (32GB) and $199 (64GB).
Sufficient Internet Speed
In order to stream 4k Ultra HD content (with or without HDR) you’ll also need sufficient bandwidth. There are, of course, options to download movies from iTunes to watch later. However, if you’re streaming a title we recommend at least 25Mbps internet speed, although we’ve been able to cleanly watch 4k content with 15Mbps in the past.
What Can You Watch?
There are plenty of movies to watch in 4k/HDR from Apple TV. In fact, just about every 4k title offered on Apple TV supports HDR though either HDR10 or Dolby Vision (See the full list below). Newer titles in 4k on Apple TV include Baby Driver, Wonder Woman, and T2 Trainspotting, but there are also a few remastered classics available like Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and Goodfellas. For TV shows and series we recommend using the Netflix app or Amazon Video app (coming soon to Apple iOS), because Apple hasn’t listed any episodic series in 4k/HDR yet.
Where to Buy
You can buy 4k/HDR movies from Apple TV on the Apple TV 4k itself, or, through the iTunes mobile apps for iPhone and iPad. You’ll see the little “4k” and “HDR10” or “Dolby Vision” icons under the movie poster thumbnail. As mentioned above, the most expensive 4k title you’ll typically see is $19.99.