Are you looking to step up your TV viewing experience to 4K? Maybe you want to experience 4K’s HDR picture quality.
If you’ve a 4K TV, you may be wondering whether you should get a 4K Blu-ray player or opt for 4K streaming since you’ve a high-speed Internet connection.
To help you decide let’s take a look at the difference between 4K Blu-ray and 4K streaming.
4K streaming has been around since 2014, thanks to Netflix and later, Amazon Instant Video.
So, what do you get with 4K streaming? You get picture quality that’s four times the resolution of Full HD 1080p video.
That’s around 8.3 million pixels (3840 x 2160).
4K Blu-ray offers the same amount of pixels.
So, if you’ve a fast Internet connection, say around 100Mbps, would it be wise to opt for 4K streaming as there’s no difference between it and 4K Blu-ray?
Isn’t it much cheaper than buying a 4K Blu-ray player and 4K Blu-ray discs?
Well, not quite. 4K streaming doesn’t quite measure up to 4K Blu-ray in some instances.
The main difference between 4K Blu-ray and 4K streaming is the video compression used.
One hour of uncompressed 4K video would take up about 5TB of space. That’s too large to be fitted into a 4K Blu-ray disc or to be streamed over the Internet.
So, the way to manage this is through compression (removing unnecessary details from the video). If one frame of a video is very similar to another frame , the codec only tells the video player to update only the pixels that change instead of having to redraw the whole frame. In this way space is saved.
Netflix recommends a minimum Internet connection speed of 25Mbps to view its 4K streams. Obviously, a high compression level is needed to make it possible to transmit video over the Internet.
The higher the compression, the lower the video bitrate and video quality.
Blu-ray on the other hand supports 82Mbps to 128Mbps through an HDMI connection. This is at least 3 to 5 times higher than 4K streaming.
Technically, the picture quality of 4K Blu-ray should be much superior than 4K streaming..
But then you’ll not see the difference between 4K Blu-ray and 4K streaming when you’re watching a 4K streaming movie that doesn’t have much action (where people are just talking – drama movies).
Where the video contains rain and snow and much movement, you’ll not get the quality as you would over 4K Blu-ray. 4K streaming compression will show with videos with lots of movement or details.
Content, Convenience and Cost
Where 4K streaming stands out is the range and availability of content. You’re spoilt for choice at the number of videos you can watch for a monthly subscription.
You don’t have go shopping for a 4K Blu-ray and return disappointed just because a particular title isn’t available.
Also, you can access 4K content on the go, on your computer, tablet or smartphone. You also save shelf space if you already have a sizeable collection of movies.
4K Blu-ray discs are pricier. You would have to factor in the cost of a 4K Blu-ray player as well.
But then again there’s the price of high-speed Internet service to consider to watch 4K streaming videos. A technical glitch with your Internet connection will also interrupt your enjoyment of 4K streaming videos.
Despite the content range and convenience of 4K streaming, many wouldn’t touch it with a barge pole.
Your favourite movie may not be available for repeat viewing. It may be removed when streaming rights expire.
Collectors would opt for building their own library of Blu-ray discs, especially those released in 4K.
With a Blu-ray disc, there’s ownership pride. You get to enjoy repeated viewings. Plus you get to enjoy bonus or special features from audio commentary, deleted scenes and even director’s cut.
4K Blu-ray or 4K Streaming?
If video quality is a concern and need the highest video bit rate to enjoy a movie at near-cinematic quality , then you would want to opt for 4K Blu-ray.
If you’re not a fussy viewer and just want to watch drama or documentaries then then 4K streaming should do just fine to serve your entertainment needs.
Now that you know the difference between 4K Blu-ray and 4K streaming, you are best placed to make a choice.