4K World Cup 2018 guide: How to watch, what you need and the best compatible TVs

Everything you need to know about streaming the beautiful game this summer

How to watch the World Cup in 4K

The USMNT are sat at home and England are destined to get knocked out by Colombiain the last 16, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be exploring the best ways to watch the World Cup, in 4K, on your smart TV.

Since this kind of opportunity only comes around every four years, you don’t want to be shortchanged with standard definition. Thankfully, the BBC has announced that its World Cup 2018 coverage will be shown live in 4K UHD to those in the UK, while those in the US also have the opportunity to max out their picture for the World Cup. But, despite this, achieving the optimal viewing experience isn't as clear-cut as it may seem.

In short: you won’t be able to flick across to any old compatible channel and receive top picture quality — you’re going to have to be, ahem, on the ball and have the right kit at your disposal. That's why we’re here to guide you. So, whether you want an idea of the best TVs to watch the World Cup in 4K, or simply need information on how to get the best quality from your existing setup, read on for all the answers.

Where can I watch the World Cup in 4K? (UK and US)

4K World Cup guide: How to watch the football in 4K

Let’s kick things off for those in the UK, whose only option for 4K is tuning into the BBC’s coverage. The broadcaster will be showing all 29 of its World Cup matches in Ultra HD and HDR through the BBC iPlayer, but the key thing to be aware of here is that that not everybody is guaranteed entry to the highest quality.

According to the Beeb itself, there’s only a limited number of spaces available (in the tens of thousands) on a first come, first served basis for each game, which means you’ll almost certainly have to jump straight in when the build-up starts to have a chance at seeing Gary Lineker et al. in mind-melting, grizzly detail. In theory, it's a "trial". In reality, it's "annoying".

But what about through terrestrial means? Well, that’s a non-starter, unfortunately. The BBC doesn’t have enough bandwidth to push the games through its traditional platform, and neutrality rules allegedly prevent it from being able to air games over cable or satellite, even though there are whispers to suggest Sky was willing to back the 4K broadcasts to its UHD subscribers at no cost to the BBC.

Obviously, these factors greatly limit who will be accessing the 4K HDR World Cup streams, but it's a slightly more manageable situation for those in the US.

Four routes are available for you to travel down if you want to watch 4K HDR Stateside, but, from what we can tell, only two will let you watch the games live: through Hisense's Fox Sports: 2018 FIFA World CupEdition app and DirecTV’s 4K channel (only available to subscribers and those with a 4K-compatible DirecTV receiver and TV).

If you're not overly concerned about live action (a questionable move on your part), you can always catch up on games through Comcast's Xfinity X1 platform, which will be taking coverage from Telemundo and Fox and letting you play it on demand the day after the live games have taken place. And though this isn't ideal, Comcast has confirmed that all 64 games will be in crisp and glorious 4K with HDR.

Dish Network, too, says that it will show the tournament in 4K, but at this stage we still don't have information regarding the amount of games, whether they'll be shown live or support HDR. When we do have more, we'll update this section.

As you can probably tell, there’s none of this trial business going on in the US, either, so you won’t have to compete with other viewers just to get on board with your preferred option.

What do I need to watch the World Cup in 4K? (UK and US)

4K World Cup guide: How to watch the football in 4K

It goes without saying, but, hey, we’ll say it anyway: you need a 4K TV to stream the World Cup in 4K. Shocker, right? For the uninitiated, these TVs are generally 2160p, which means a resolution of 3840 x 2160 pixels, while there are also some overkill, 8K equivalents you can explore too.

But picking up the right TV isn’t the end of the story. Again let’s cover off the UK viewers first, who can also check out the list of compatible TVs with the BBC’s coverage here. You'll see that it's far from a comprehensive list. Many top-end models, from big name brands, aren't invited to the World Cup 4K party, and there are errors within that list to be wary of. It's also possibly not complete, with the Roku Streaming Stick+ and a group of Sony's 2018 range added in the week leading up to the big dance.

Obviously, the nature of the list means it's worth doing some checking yourself, just in case. Now, this likely isn't a foolproof test, but if you head to iPlayer's settings, scroll down to 'Try new features in iPlayer BETA', and play the Ultra HD trial or test loop, we imagine there's a strong chance you'll be eligible to compete for the BBC's trial coverage when it comes to games.

Also, we don't have full word as to whether the iPlayer apps on Sky Q and the likes will have access – we've asked the BBC for confirmation – but we do know that Apple TV and Amazon Fire TV are not options. Sorry.

And sadly, if you thought your biggest problem was getting in, well, you’re also going to need a broadband connection strong enough to churn out speeds of 40Mbps if you want the max, 3840 pixel stream. If your connection can only manage 20Mbps consistently, that will drop down to 2560 pixels. These streams will automatically scale to match your broadband capabilities, with all resolutions using 50 frames a second refresh rates.

In the US, as we mentioned above, your live 4K options begin and end with Hisense and DirecTV. If you're choosing to go with the former, you’re going to need one of the company’s premium Ultra HD TVs, including the Hisense H6E, H8E and H9E. And, as we outlined, if you're a DirecTV subscriber with a 4K-compatible DirecTV receiver and TV, you're good to go.


The best TVs to watch the World Cup 2018 in UHD 4K

Excited? Indeed you should be – especially if you’ve already got one of the TVs on the BBC’s list or you’ve got a compatible Hisense set in the US. If not, no fear – we’ve chosen our five top 4K televisions to watch the World Cup in UHD on.

Sony AF8

Really want to impress your mates this summer with an absolute TV monster? Then look no further than the OLED-tastic AF8. With picture and sound quality the same as you’d find on Sony’s more ‘funky’ looking A1, the screen itself actually provides the audio thanks to the Japanese giant’s Acoustic Surface tech.

Sony AF8
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Samsung Q7

Samsung has led the way on the LCD-front with its QLED tech, and the Q7 shows LCD has plenty of life left in it yet. Colours are bold and vibrant, and the peak brightness this TV is capable of means HDR looks stunning.

Samsung Q7
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Hisense H6E

If you live in the US, you’ll need a Hisense TV for that Fox 4K app, and the good news is they come in pretty cheap. You can get a 43-inch set for less than $350 – which is great value for a HDR TV.

Hisense H6E
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Philips 55POS9002/05

This Philips Android OLED TV packs in the P5 picture quality engine to digitally optimise everything you view, and Ambilight tech means a more immersive picture too, emitting a wide glow from three sides of your TV screen onto the wall.

Philips 55POS9002/05
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LG 55SJ950V

LG claims this TV is great for people not in the best optimal viewing angle – which is likely if you've got a room full of your pals all watching the game. That's thanks to the Nano Cell Display tech, which enhances off-centre colour consistency and reduces colour distortion due to viewing angle.

LG 55SJ950V
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1 comment

  • Homz

    not true about the US... Fox and FS1 will broadcast in UHD without the need for the Hisense app... As far as I know DTV will have these 4k broadcasts, not sure about IPTV like layer3 which has streamed 4k college football on FS1 before. 

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