YouTube TV in 4K: Does YouTube TV have 4K content?

Unlike YouTube and its standard user-generated videos, YouTube TV is a popular cord-cutting solution for live TV fans. Launched in 2017, the streaming service now features more than 80 channels. But if you’re looking for a superior viewing experience, you may be wondering if YouTube TV has 4K content. Read on for the answer, and everything there is to know about YouTube TV’s 4K capabilities. And don’t forget to check out our full YouTube TV review.

What is 4K programming?

When it comes to understanding what 4K means, it can be easy to get bogged down in technical jargon. What you need to know is that 4K, also known as Ultra High Definition (UHD), is a step up from your usual high-definition (HD) TV. A 4K display can broadcast a picture that’s around four times clearer than a high-definition screen. So if you’ve ever wanted sharper details and the ability to really see what’s going on in dark movie settings, 4K is the resolution for you. This invention is also often paired with a High Dynamic Range (HDR) feature, which can showcase a billion colors on screen compared to the standard 16 million.

Although 4K TVs have been around for a while, 4K content is still up-and-coming. However, streaming services’ 4K libraries are always growing to include not just blockbuster movies, but also hit shows and even a handful of live sporting events. Essentially, if you want the latest technology that provides a high-quality, theater-like atmosphere, you have to try 4K. 

Does YouTube TV support 4K resolution?

Unfortunately, YouTube TV is one of the streaming services that’s yet to introduce 4K streaming. However, you can still stream all kinds of content in regular HD — a resolution that may be more than satisfactory for some people. You will, however, find free 4K videos on the standard YouTube site. The company also makes some well-known shows and movies available to buy or rent in 4K. Fees range from $2.99 up to $19.99 per title.

Which devices support 4K streaming on YouTube TV?

As 4K streaming isn’t yet available on YouTube TV, you can access the highest quality available via any of the service’s compatible devices. The long list includes pretty much every streaming device on the market:

  • Amazon Fire TV (including Stick, Cube and select smart TVs)
  • Android phones (running Android 5.0 Lollipop and above)
  • Android TV
  • Apple TV 
  • Google Chromecast
  • iPhones and iPads (running iOS 10 or later)
  • PlayStation 4
  • Roku players and TVs
  • Smart TVs (select models by Hisense, LG, Samsung, Sharp and Vizio SmartCast)
  • Web browsers (Chrome and Firefox)
  • Xbox One

If YouTube TV did introduce 4K streaming, it’s likely this feature would work on almost every 4K device that exists. These include 4K smart TVs, Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K, Apple TV 4K and Google Chromecast Ultra. Note that if you’re using a streaming device to watch 4K content, you still need to ensure your screen can support such a high resolution.

YouTube’s movie and show rentals and purchases can be viewed in 4K on Android TVs and select smart TV models along with Chromecast Ultra. This device list also applies to free YouTube 4K videos. Again, you’ll need to ensure your display is 4K-compatible.

What content on YouTube TV supports 4K streaming? 

Seeing as YouTube TV doesn’t have any 4K content, the only Ultra HD content available from the company is via the standard YouTube site. Free 4K videos tend to come in the form of striking nature documentaries, global travel explorations and mouth watering cooking shows. You can catch the odd movie trailer in 4K, too. 

You’ll have to do a little digging if you want to buy or rent a 4K title. Most of them fall into the movie, rather than show, category. For example, there are nostalgic box sets like the entire Harry Potter saga along with captivating dramas like Captain Phillips and recent hits like Joker

What’s the recommended internet speed for 4K streaming on YouTube TV?

Even though you have a 4K-compatible device and 4K-ready content, you still won’t be able to view Ultra HD in all its glory without the right internet speed. If it’s too slow, your stream will either buffer repeatedly or revert back to playing in HD. But if your internet speed is perfect, you’ll be able to enjoy a stable and super clear stream. 

There are no specific internet recommendations for YouTube TV 4K as it doesn’t yet exist. But YouTube recommends a speed of at least 15 megabits per second (Mbps) for 4K content. Some experts, however, recommend a minimum speed of 25 Mbps for the best experience.

You may need much more than this when you factor in all the other devices that use up bandwidth in your household. Whether it’s your housemate’s game console or your trusty computer, the more devices connected to your WiFi, the slower your internet will be. 

Our hot take

YouTube isn’t yet a 4K streaming service, but that doesn’t mean it won’t become one in the near (or distant) future. In the meantime, there are plenty of other services that do house 4K content, including on-demand platforms like Netflix and Hulu and live TV streamers like fuboTV. Plus, you can catch YouTube’s other 4K content in the form of free videos and films that you can rent or buy online.

If you’re holding out for YouTube TV to make an appearance on the 4K service list, the best thing you can do is take stock of your current streaming technology. If it’s not quite up to 4K levels, consider upgrading. Whether that’s through buying a 4K smart TV or investing in a 4K-ready device and strong WiFi, a little preparation will ensure you’re ready to watch the highest TV quality around.

Lauren Sharkey