Amazon is now offering a spattering of movies and TV shows in 4K for Prime subscribers. The only problem? This means nothing for those who don't have a 4K smart TV from selected brands to enjoy the enhanced imagery.
Ultra HD, known as 4K video, offers four times as many pixels as standard HD, resulting in extremely clear images.
"We want to deliver the best entertainment experience, and offering Ultra HD movies and TV shows raises the bar on quality and innovation that customers have come to expect from Amazon," said Michael Paull, vice president for Amazon Digital Video. "We're also excited that Ultra HD is the latest benefit of the Amazon Prime membership, giving members instant access to great movies and TV shows in a premium picture resolution at no additional cost."
The move comes after Netflix began rolling out 4K video streaming to subscribers in April, a feature that costs $3 more per month than its standard streaming subscription. Unlike Netflix's 4K offering, Amazon Prime subscribers will not need to pay extra to enjoy 4K video.
They will, however, need a 4K TV, and those don't come cheap. Those who want to take advantage of the new feature will need a 4K Smart TV from Samsung, Sony or LG, with the cheapest compatible TV with Amazon Prime 4K content being the Samsung UN40HU6950, which runs for $897.99 on Amazon. Additional devices will be added over time, and a full list of supported devices is available from Amazon's website.
While many will not be able to take advantage of the offering just yet, the addition of 4K video streaming certainly does future-proof Amazon Prime's video streaming capabilities. As TVs get higher in resolution, an increasing number of consumers are eager to begin enjoying video content in their living room. It is especially important for the company to offer 4K video if it wants to remain competitive with the likes of Netflix.
Amazon and Netflix are not the only video-related companies to be getting into 4K video. Video-sharing site Vimeo has also begun offering 4K content. While users cannot yet stream video in 4K, they can download 4K video files to enjoy on Ultra HD displays, such as the 5K display found on the latest iMac.
The list of immediately available 4K movies on Amazon Prime includes the original series Alpha House and Transparent as well as a number of Sony movies, including After Earth, Captain Phillips, This Is the End and Godzilla.
Ultra HD has been used in movie theaters for a while now and displays content at 3,840 x 2,160 pixels.
While 4K video is the next step in video streaming, 5K displays have already begun appearing, raising an interesting question as to how long it will be before 4K is outdated. Many suggest higher pixel counts are going to matter less as the human eye can no longer differentiate between pixels at such high pixel densities.