4K TVs are hurtling towards HDTV-level prices at incredible speed and content production in ultra HD is accelerating as well. You can stream 4K content on Netflix and Amazon Video and watch UHD Blu-ray movies in stunning visual fidelity on 4K TV. Although Blu-ray has no 4K resolution but its 1080p on HD TV is also attractive to cinephile.
So when we enter the age of 4K and Ultra HD, many people will ask: which is better, 4K Blu-ray discs or 4K streaming services? And comparing to Blu-ray, if it is worth investing for. We've compared 4K Streaming, 4K Blu-ray and Blu-ray to see how the different sources stack up.
4K Streaming vs 4K Blu-ray vs Blu-ray: image quality
Since 4K is getting more and more popular, let's start with the image quality. Netflix is the first one to brought 4K video to the mainstream in 2014, planting a flag in the 4K world. Amazon Instant Video joined in and the two services cornered the 4K market.
The 4K content in 4K streaming is very good. You can get four times the pixels of a Full HD 1080p resolution – approximately 8.3m pixels. But how does it compare against Blu-ray and UHD Blu-ray?
When we compare a 4K stream with a 1080p Blu-ray. Shading, especially in the dark, is more nuanced on the Blu-ray. Colours are richer and more solid. You may not get the outright sharpness of a good 4K stream, but it is at maximum resolution the moment the video starts playing, and the latest 4K TVs do a good job of upscaling.
Meanwhile, the video quality of a UHD 4K Blu-ray is leaps and bounds over 4K streaming and regular Blu-ray. The picture is crisp, with stunning clarity making the most of fine textures. Colours are vivid and subtly shaded, especially in dark scenes.
What's more, one of the best things about 4K Blu-rays is high dynamic range (HDR) which ramps up contrast, brightness and colour range. With HDR, the picture is gorgeous, and we reckon it is the future of home cinema.
In conclusion: 4K streaming and 1080p Blu-rays have their own strengths and weaknesses, but both are easily beaten by the dynamism and subtlety witnessed on Ultra HD Blu-ray.
Winner: 4K Blu-ray
4K Streaming vs 4K Blu-ray vs Blu-ray: audio quality
Sound quality is another important criteria to judge a 4K video source. This is one area where streaming loses out rather badly. Most people won't use a surround sound system when watching a video on streaming serves. So when people are streaming 4K content on 4K streaming sites, they tend to get compressed Dolby Digital Plus. A few titles offer that in 7.1, but mostly it's a 5.1.
On the other hand, when you watching a Blu-ray movie, you will get the uncompressed Dolby TrueHD or DTS HD Master Audio, typically in 5.1 but regularly in 7.1. The weight, scale, detail and dynamic range on disc is a lot more intense, making for a more cinematic experience. Audio quality between standard Blu-ray and 4K BD is hard to differentiate.
Dolby Atmos makes your surround taller and more immersive, with eerily accurate effects placement. In this way, Netfix is confident that it won't be doing that any time soon. Most Blu-rays right now have no Atmos-compatible, but it is standard spec on all the UHD Blu-rays so far. And if you don't have an Atmos setup, the disc defaults to Dolby TrueHD 7.1.
Winner: 4K Blu-ray
4K Streaming vs 4K Blu-ray vs Blu-ray: 4K content
No matter how excellent your 4K picture and sound quality is, if you have only few 4K content, you will lose the battle. 4K streaming services have more titles than 4K Blu-rays, all 4K content available at the touch of a button. Discs, meanwhile, are to be collected. It will be a while before you have a full shelf that offers much choice.
Meanwhile, a streaming service is also cheaper than buying UHD Blu-rays and Blu-ray discs. For a flat fee each month (it's currently £9.99 for 4K Netflix) you can watch as much as you want, while 4K discs are around £20 to £25 each.
What's more, you need professional 4K Blu-ray Player when playing 4K Blu-rays on 4K TV, which would cost you around $600.
Winner: 4K streaming
4K Streaming vs 4K Blu-ray vs Blu-ray: conclusion
In short, 4K streaming is all about convenience. You have a vast, ever replenishing choice, and you can access it instantly. You don't need to waste time to wait for the 4K Blu-ray release and arrival after you rent and bought online and shop. But if you are pursuing image and sound quality, Full HD Blu-ray will be a pretty choice.
4K Blu-ray Ripper to Help You Watch 4K Blu-rays More Conveniently
As we said above, it is difficult and expensive to play 4K Blu-rays on 4K TV cause that a professional 4K Blu-ray Player is pretty expensive. On the contrary, a $42 4K Blu-ray Ripper will be a nice tool to help you stream 4K Blu-ray on 4K TV. Pavtube ByteCopy, as a professional 4K Blu-ray Ripper, can easily rip, cooy and remux 4K Blu-rays for your LG 4K TV, Samsung 4K TV, Sony 4K TV, etc. It can convert 4K Blu-ray to 4K H.265 MP4, 4K H.265 MKV, 4K H.264 MP4 for 4K display and compress 4K Blu-ray to 1080p for HD display. It also can remux 4K Blu-ray to AVI,WMV, 3GP, etc container.
You don't need to worry about the ripping speed cause ByteCopy joined H.264 and H.265 NVIDIA encoder to get 30X realtime 4K H.265/H.264 encoding on the condition that your computer is geared with a CUDA-enabled GPU. It has many features that isn't listed here. You can learn more about ByteCopy in this 4K Blu-ray Ripper reivew.