Part 2: Video Marketplaces/Downloadable Content:
Following up my last piece about 4K streaming services, I wanted to further investigate ways to access 4K content. The second most common way to access 4K content is by buying and downloading through a marketplace. Similar to my last piece, I will compare some strengths and weaknesses of each option.
Strength: Free upgrade. Any current 1080p titles that you own on your account will be upgraded to their 4K counterparts as they roll out for no additional charge. Also, all 4K content will cost the same as 1080p content, no upcharge for the higher resolution
Weakness: Accessibility. Be ready to cough up at least $200 for an Apple TV 4K, because Apple’s video service is only available on Apple’s devices, unfortunately.
Amazon Instant Video:
Strength: No purchase necessary. If you have an existing Amazon Prime membership, you will be able to download a number of titles for no additional charge as a part of the Amazon Instant Video service.
Weakness: Availability and variety. Only select titles are available for download and only for a certain timeframe, so it’s really hit or miss here.
Strength: Timeliness and service availability. The company advertises that it gets content weeks before streaming services such as Netflix, so if you want content sooner, go with this service. Also, Vudu is widely available on many devices, which is a plus.
Side note: Now that I addressed some of the major video marketplace services, I wanted to address one other way to access 4K content: Blu-Ray discs. The last remaining survivor of traditional physical media in the age of 4K, Blu-Rays offer the highest quality as far as visual fidelity with 4K content.
The downside is cost. Blu-Rays tend to be the most expensive option in this lineup. Although Blu-Ray players are becoming more and more affordable, the price for the good ones varies and can get expensive. Blu-Rays are sold at most major stores with an electronics department such as a Walmart or a Best-Buy, and are even sold on Amazon.com. I don’t think it is the best bang-for-your-buck, though, because the cost is way higher when compared to the other methods discussed thus far. If you want the highest quality 4K content, though, definitely check out 4K Blu-Rays.
The bottom line: Although a bit more pricey when compared to the streaming services of my last post, downloadable 4K content is a great option, especially for those who don’t have the required Internet speeds to stream 4K content without endless buffering and stability issues. What iTunes is doing right now seems to be near unmatched, so if you already have a bunch of movies on your iTunes account, that seems to be the best option because you will get a free upgrade to a 4K version of your movie eventually (plus 4K content costs as much as 1080p content on iTunes, a huge plus).
If you aren’t in Apple’s ecosystem but have Amazon Prime, go with Amazon Instant Video. You might not get as much choice as iTunes, but you are still getting some downloadable content for no additional charge. If you don’t fall in either of these camps, maybe give Vudu a try.