Amazon began streaming in Ultra HD in December 2014 with the 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 (while Netflix charges extra), and a wider selection of premium movies to rent or purchase.
New premium movies in UHD include titles such as The Report, The Aeronauts, and James Bond titles like Tomorrow Never Dies. Recently-added Amazon Original Series available in UHD include Hunters, Agatha Christie’s The Pale Horse, and Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan. If you’re looking to test your TV’s HDR capability check out Marvel Studio’s The Avengers, Amazon’s Honey Boy, or the original series The Expanse, to name a few. (Read: How To Stream 4k Ultra HD With HDR)
Here’s what you need to start watching Amazon Prime in 4k Ultra HD (with some titles in HDR if supported).
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 $119 per year (or $12.99 per month) 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. Amazon also licenses quite a few popular movies to watch if you are a member (see a full list below). The nice thing about Amazon Prime is that 4k streaming doesn’t cost more, as opposed to Netflix who charges a few bucks more per month. Sign up for Amazon Prime.
Make sure your device or Smart TV is 4k Ultra HD Compatible
Amazon Ultra HD content can only be viewed on supporting devices like the Fire TV Stick, Fire TV Cube, Apple TV 4k, Roku models (including 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. Most devices that stream 4k will be labeled with either 4k, Ultra HD, or UHD. Look for HDR in the device specs as well. HDR formats include Dolby Vision, HDR10, HDR10+, and HLG. As of this article, PCs are not able to stream Ultra HD content. (See this list of devices that support Amazon 4k Ultra HD.)
Use HDMI 2.0 Cable & HDCP 2.2 Port
Bandwidth demand for 4k is much higher than 480p, 720p, or 1080p so you’ll need an HDMI 2.0 cable that is made for 4k content at 60fps and HDMI port that supports HDCP 2.2. HDR requires HDMI 2.0a, so be sure to pick up a premium HDMI cable to ensure the highest quality video. Amazon has premium Monster HDMI cables starting at $24.99 and Best Buy has got high-quality Audioquest cables starting at about $35.
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 network at the same time the 15Mbps per second is plenty enough to get smooth 4k video without many dropouts. Restart your modem or call your ISP (Internet Service Provider) if the Ultra HD video won’t play correctly. Use this SpeedTest from Comcast Xfinity or Netflix’s Fast.com to check your download & upload speeds.
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 various Smart UHD TVs you can see categories for Ultra HD television shows and movies, both included with Prime and available for purchase. You can also view our 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 a couple of methods. You can use the down or up arrow on your remote control and at the bottom left of the image you should see the video resolution. Another 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. You can also use the remote control of a streaming device to see the specs. Be patient if the video doesn’t stream in Ultra HD immediately, as sometimes it takes some time to buffer 4k video due to its high demand in bandwidth.
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/HDR10+ or Dolby Vision specifications) by adding deeper color depth and luminance, wider contrast, and more detail in dark and light areas. But not all 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 all TVs). Most newer model 4k media players and 4k Blu-ray players support HDR (at least one of the formats). Learn how to stream in HDR.
Suggestion: Change your Picture Mode to Movie
We strongly suggest changing the TV Picture Mode to “Movie” or “Film” for most Ultra HD content, especially if the content and TV support HDR. After testing numerous movies and TV series we found the “Movie” preset to more accurately display the detail and range of color available in 4k/HDR content. HDR expands color, but so do certain TV settings. For example, the “Sports” setting on most TVs adds saturation and contrast with a higher frame-rate. Cinematic settings are usually on the darker side of the spectrum with less saturation, contrast, and slower frame rates (like 24p). Of course, all TVs vary so test different Picture Modes for yourself.
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 with multiple speakers 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 backward and don’t offer much wattage. We suggest a premium surround sound system or soundbar with a minimum of 200-300 watts for enhanced viewing of movies with 5+ channel audio.
See our full list of movies, TV shows, and other titles available on Amazon Prime Video.
[Note: This article has been updated with current specs & requirements.]