When it comes to live, linear streaming television — that is, things other than video-on-demand like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video — 4K resolution is hard to come by. That's because live TV in and of itself isn't easy. And the higher the resolution (and higher the bitrate, which is separate but related), the more data you have to push as a provide.
And so the only option we've had for any 4K live video has been the occasional sporting event on FuboTV.
That appears to finally be changing, however, as YouTube TV has just added a "4K Plus" option as a premium add on. (A feature it previously alluded to.) Technically it costs $19.99 a month, though YouTube is doing the first 12 months at $9.99 a month — and that's after a 30-day free trial.
And we're not just talking live, linear TV in 4K resolution. The add-on subscription will also unlock the ability to watch simultaneously on an unlimited number of devices at home (previously the limit was three, and that'll still be in effect if you're away from your home network), and the ability to watch recorded shows offline on mobile devices. (The content itself will have to support that, though.)
At present, only seven channels will be available with any 4K content. Those are Discovery, ESPN, Fox Sports, FX, Nat Geo, NBC Sports, and Tastemade. And even then, what you're watching presumably also will have to be served up in 4K resolution. Typically, live sports have been streamed in 720p resolution at 60 frames per second. Google, in its blog post announcing the new 4K option, says that we'll see live sports in 4K from ESPN and NBC later this summer.
Once you've added the 4K option, you'll see a new 4K section on your Home screen, promoting various shows that you can watch in the increased resolution. So far it appears to be shows that YouTube TV also has made available on demand. So it's not quite (or at least not yet) true linear 4K.
You'll need an internet connection that can support the increased data required to stream YouTube TV in 4K. Google says that'll require at least a 15Mbps connection.
And you'll also need hardware that supports 4K. That means your TV will have to have a 4K-capable display, and anything else you're using to stream YouTube TV also will need to support 4K resolution. Google says that includes Chromecast with Google TV, any 4K Roku streaming devices, the 2021 Apple TV 4K (but not the 2017 model, apparently), PlayStation 4 Pro, and the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K. Google also notes that on some content available in 4K elsewhere may be served up in a lower resolution on Apple TV 4K and PS4 Pro.
You'll also be able to take advantage of the increased resolution with 4K-capable Android TV smart TVs, other smart TVs from manufacturers like LG, Samsung and Hisense, and on NVIDIA Shield.
Phil spent his 20s in the newsroom of the Pensacola (Fla.) News Journal, his 30s on the road for AndroidCentral.com and Mobile Nations and is the Dad part of Modern Dad.
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