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iTunes Movie Differences: SD vs HD vs 4K HDR

iTunes originally only offers SD 480P videos. Then Apple adds the the support for HD movies including 720P and 1080P movies to improve visual experience for customers. Now with the Apple TV 4K released recently, Apple bring the iTunes movies to the next level, enabling users to stream the 4K HDR or Dolby Vision movies on the compatible devices.

But some new users may feel confused about the difference between the SD, HD and 4K HDR iTunes movies and don't know how do they work. If you also have these questions, you can follow me here in this article, I will focus on the topic of iTunes movies SD vs HD vs 4K HDR.

itunes movie difference

Part 1. iTunes SD Movies vs iTunes HD Movies

SD and HD movies are still the mainstream videos from iTunes. When you look at the movies or TV shows from iTunes, you will find that most of them are available in both SD and HD quality. Both are similar when playing on small screen devices, but there are actually several main differences as below.


In general, iTunes SD movie is having 480P resolution while the HD video has 720P or 1080P resolution, so the quality of HD movie is better than SD movie's.


Nowadays about half of the iTunes videos including movies and TV shows are sold at the same price for both SD and HD. However, some HD movies or TV shows are still more expensive than the SD ones especially for the latest movies or TV shows. For example, an SD iTunes video may cost around $9.99 to $14.99 to buy and an HD one could cost $14.99 to $19.99.

Size and Downloading Speed

An HD video usually contains multiple times the pixels and info of an SD movie. Therefore, the file size of an HD video is significantly bigger than an iTunes SD video's. For instance, an SD video is 1.5G and an HD video is up to 4G. When you are going to download the HD video, it will take a lot longer based on the same downloading speed.

Playback Requirement

As for the SD video, you can play them from any computers with the iTunes installed and all kinds of IOS devices. But for the HD iTunes videos, you need to make sure the device supports HDCP and have a high enough performance so that to play smoothly and get best the best out of iTunes HD videos.

Part 2. iTunes HD Movies vs iTunes 4K HDR Movies

For the HD movies and 4K HDR movies, they are sold in the same price by Apple, but the differences between the other aspects are much bigger.

Video Resolution

To get started, let's learn more about 4K HDR movies 4K video usually refers to the ultimate high resolution video with the resolution 3840*2160 pixels or 4096*2160 pixels. It usually comes with much detailed and sharper imagery. In addition, the iTunes 4K videos may also support HDR and Dolby Vision. HDR supports broader range of colors and luminance. If you see the HDR icon or Dolby Vision icon on an movie from iTunes store, then the movies can play in HDR or available in Dolby Vision. So you will absolutely get better experience on iTunes 4K HDR movies compared to the iTunes HD movies.

Video Size and Media Content

As for the size, a one-hour video may have up to 100GB capacity which is couples the sizes of an HD video. Since the size is so big, it is not so convenient to create 4K videos and store them on iTunes store. Nowadays, the 4K videos from iTunes are not as popular as the iTunes HD videos. But as the development of 4K technology, more and more media contents will surely be released.

Playback Method

Finally, the biggest difference is that Apple don't allows to download iTunes 4K videos but you can download the HD videos or SD videos without any problems. The only option you got for iTunes 4K video is to stream it on compatible devices such as the Apple TV 4K. Also, you need to have a display device with up to 4K resolution to enjoy the best visual effects of 4K movies. In addition, since it is through streaming, you would have to make sure you have at least 25MBPS fast connection speed. Else the video may not play smoothly.

Part 3. Summarize: What Kind of iTunes Videos to Buy

Now you should have a better understanding about the differences between iTunes SD, HD and 4K HDR media files. Have you decided what kind of iTunes movies meet your requirement best yet? In my opinion, the SD movies are better for the old small screen Apple devices or low-end computers with iTunes player. For the users who have HD players and want to save the videos for watching anytime, it is better to choose iTunes HD 720P or 1080P movies. And if you care about the video visual effect badly, then iTunes 4K movies will be a great choice. To sum up, every type of iTunes videos are great for different purposes, just pick up the type you want.

By the way, another thing worth to mention is that all the iTunes purchased and rental movies or TV shows are DRM protected, making them only available through iTunes players or authorized Apple devices. If you do want to play the iTunes movies on other non-Apple devices such as Windows devices or Android devices and so on, there is an alternative way to use a special tool DRmare M4V Converter to help you bypass the DRM at a 30X faster speed.

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