There’s watching TV — and then there’s watching your favorite show in the incomparably pristine quality that can only be provided by 4K resolution. For streaming services across the board, super-high-definition image quality is a game-changing feature that’s becoming an ever-growing industry standard. What’s more, as an increasing number of users switch to 4K television sets, there’s a greater demand for compatible content. Amazon Prime, Disney+, and Netflix have all followed the trends and provide an ever-growing library of TV shows and movies that align with this burgeoning movement.
Which begs the question, does Hulu have 4K? Unfortunately, when it comes to this particular trend, the streaming giant has found itself behind the eight ball.
When it comes to Hulu, the fourth-most-subscribed-to streaming service, you might guess 4K ubiquity would be high on the list of priorities. However, Hulu 4K has lagged far behind its biggest competitors for some time now. At one point, Hulu completely abandoned support for 4K streaming altogether before quietly reintroducing it in 2019.
While Hulu does offer this high-quality resolution for some of its content, there are a few catches that could serve as deal-breakers for some viewers. First, only select programs on Hulu can be viewed in 4K. Second, Hulu only supports this type of streaming on a limited number of devices. So if you’re a Roku user, for instance, you won’t have access to this feature.
Below, we’ll break down the ins and outs of 4K streaming on Hulu, and what types of viewers stand to gain the most from Hulu’s super high-definition content.
What does 4K mean and why would I need it?
So what exactly is 4K, and what’s so great about it?
To get a sense of why 4K is an increasingly popular format, it helps to understand the context first. For years, the standard high-definition (HD) streaming rates for most television screens were 720 pixels per inch (p) and 1080p. Around 2015, 4K TVs entered the mass market and became more popular more quickly than HDTVs did when they were initially released. Add to that the fact that the number of US households that own a 4K television has increased dramatically in the past few years, and it’s no small wonder why many streaming services are ramping up their compatible content offerings.
So what is 4K? Basically, TVs with this capability have screens that stream content at a resolution that’s four times that of a standard 1080p screen. This means that where an HDTV’s image would have roughly 2 million pixels at 1080p, a 4K TV screen crams nearly 8 million pixels into the same amount of space. Think of it as gazing at the Colorado Rockies through a screen door versus stepping onto the porch and viewing the landscape directly.
It’s also important to note that to take advantage of 4K, you must buy a 4K TV and configure it properly. Because 4K is a game of fitting more pixels into the same amount of space, you’ll notice the difference in quality much more with larger television screens than you will on small televisions.
Before moving onto the brass tacks of Hulu’s offerings, another term you may frequently see paired with 4K is “HDR.” This acronym stands for “high dynamic range.” HDR TVs provide a wider range of colors than TVs without HDR capabilities. Unfortunately, Hulu currently streams in standard dynamic range (SDR), so you won’t be able to take advantage of your TV’s HDR capabilities.
Circling back to why you might want the option to stream in 4K, it really does come down to preference. Once you experience the vibrancy and detail of this type of viewing, you might very well be among those who choose to upgrade.
Do both Hulu and Hulu + Live TV packages support 4K resolution for streaming?
One nice thing about Hulu’s 4K streaming is that you won’t need to pay extra to access this capability.
Do you have to pay extra for 4K on Hulu?
No, 4K streaming comes free with a basic Hulu subscription. You should know that not all movies and shows on Hulu will be available in 4K. Additionally, only a few devices will support 4K streaming. You can check which devices will allow you to stream 4K content here.
The biggest downside of Hulu’s compatible offerings is that they’re largely limited to Hulu’s most popular shows and Hulu Originals. While services like Amazon Prime and Netflix are constantly expanding the list of titles available to stream in 4K, Hulu still trails behind with a significantly smaller library.
Unfortunately, Hulu isn’t super clear about whether Hulu + Live TV offers 4K programming, as their website only outlines the HD streaming capabilities supported with live TV.
In other words, it appears Hulu + Live TV doesn’t yet support 4K streaming.
What 4K content is there on Hulu?
As previously mentioned, the library of Hulu 4K content is limited to just a few offerings for right now. While Hulu itself hasn’t posted a comprehensive list of programs, it’s confirmed that all of its exclusive and original shows are available in 4K, which include titles like:
- The Accident
- The Act
- All Night
- The Awesomes
- The Bisexual
- Castle Rock
- Difficult People
- East Los High
- Find Me in Paris
- The First
- Four Weddings and a Funeral
- Future Man
- The Great
- The Handmaid’s Tale
- Hard Sun
- High Fidelity
- I Love You America with Sarah Silverman
- Light as a Feather
- Little Fires Everywhere
- Looking for Alaska
- The Looming Tower
- Marvel’s Runaways
- The Mindy Project
- Moone Boy
- National Treasure
- Normal People
- The Path
- Quick Draw
- Safe Harbor
- Shut Eye
- Solar Opposites
- Spoilers with Kevin Smith
- Veronica Mars
- Wu-Tang: An American Saga
Which devices support 4K streaming on Hulu?
When it comes to devices that support Hulu’s 4K streaming, Hulu is infamously behind the curve. While competitors like Amazon Prime and Netflix both stream a greater variety of content to a larger number of supported devices, Hulu’s options have proven to be significantly more sparse.
Hulu has insisted they’re working on expanding the number of devices that support 4K streaming. However, the list is still quite short. Currently, the devices you can use to access 4K programming on Hulu include the following:
- Amazon Fire TV
- Amazon Fire TV Stick
- Apple TV (fifth generation or newer)
- Chromecast Ultra
- LG TVs (select models only)
- Xbox One
Unfortunately, Hulu’s 4K streaming isn’t supported by PS4, Roku, or any other devices aside from those listed above. So if you want to tap into these capabilities but don’t have the right hardware, you’re out of luck.
What internet speed do I need for 4K streaming on Hulu?
When it comes to streaming — especially in super high-definition formats — speed is key. More pixels means more data, which means you’ll need more speed to accommodate the upgrade in picture quality.
To stream 4K on Hulu, the minimum recommended speed is 16 Mbps. If multiple people are on the internet at the same time, a minimum speed closer to 25 Mbps is recommended.
Remember, ultra-high-definition streaming requires using a larger amount of data to achieve that famous crystal-clear picture quality (you’ll recall we’re now working with 8 million pixels instead of 2 million pixels.) It’s important to note that streaming at this level of quality will also gobble up as much as 7 gigabytes of data per hour — more than the 6 Mbps required for 1080p streaming, or the 3 Mbps required for 720p streaming.
Keep in mind that if your internet service provider caps your data at a certain point, you may need to look into other plans or internet service providers if you want to take advantage of 4K streaming.
The final cut
Larger-than-life realism and crystal-clear imagery are making their way to Hulu, but far more slowly than with other streaming services. It’s possible to find content on Hulu that streams in 4K, however, the selection of programming — for right now — consists exclusively of Hulu originals and doesn’t include Hulu+ Live TV. If you’re a die-hard fan of Hulu originals who demands the highest-quality streaming, you’ll appreciate Hulu’s offerings.
By contrast, competitors Amazon Prime TV and Netflix offer TVs series and movies in 4K that span beyond their collections of original content. Not to mention Hulu’s parent company, Disney, has made a far more comprehensive push into this realm with Disney+, with a massive catalog of offerings that stream in 4K.
Compared to other services like Amazon Prime TV, Disney+, and Netflix, Hulu’s 4K streaming options are extremely limited. So if 4K content streaming outside of Hulu’s original content is a deal-breaker for you, you’ll want to explore other streaming services. For more information about Hulu or Hulu + Live TV, check out our Cord Cutters News reviews.