Netflix 4K coming to a select few PCs

Microsoft has announced that Netflix 4K support is coming to a small number of Windows PCs over on its Windows Blog. Owners of 4K TVs and high-end HTPCs shouldn't get too excited, since this support has some meaningful restrictions.

First, Netflix 4K streaming is supported only on seventh-generation Intel CPUs, more commonly known as Kaby Lake. These chips pack hardware support for the 10-bit HEVC encoding scheme Netflix uses for 4K content, unlike past iGPUs.

Second, high-resolution Netflix will require playback through Microsoft's Edge browser running on the Windows 10 Anniversary Update, something that could limit market appeal, to say the least. The popular Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox browsers do not support Microsoft's PlayReady 3.0 DRM scheme at this time.

According to Ars Technica, Nvidia Pascal GPUs have support for Microsoft's PlayReady 3.0 DRM and have 10-bit HEVC hardware acceleration, but are still not on the support list for Netflix 4K streaming. So far, Kaby Lake chips are only offered in recent laptop releases. Apple's recently updated MacBook Pro laptop line does not include Kaby Lake CPUs, so those running Windows on Apple hardware will apparently have to wait until the next hardware refresh. Desktop Kaby Lake CPUs are expected to arrive in early 2017.

For now, despite the existence of 4K Netflix support on the PC platform, most PC owners will still have to view 4K Netflix content using set-top boxes like Amazon's Fire TV, Roku Premiere, or the Nvidia Shield.

Comments closed
    • sophisticles
    • 3 years ago

    After reading through the comments I can’t seem to help but think that most are not seeing the big picture. Most of you are looking at this as a DRM play and I agree on the surface it would seem like it is and I can understand the desire to copy protect content of this level of quality (10 bit HEVC 4k) but I think the more interesting subtext is that this is just another example of the Wintel marriage at work, the desire and actions of big, powerful, deep pocket corporations engaging in deals design to box out the competition and drive sales of their latest and greatest products.

    Think of it this way, MS develops this DRM that only works with a browser they created that in turn only runs on MS’ latest OS with the latest update. They license it to Netflix who in turn agrees to use it on their premium content, the high end stuff that requires the latest, as yet unreleased, Intel gpu in order to play back (it takes way too much cpu power to decode 10 bit HEVC 4k via software).

    It’s win-win all around, Netflix protects their premium content with a top tier DRM scheme (regardless of what people have said in these comments bypassing MS’s DRM is no easy feat) and Intel/MS get to sell more of their products to those that wish to view this high end content.

    Of course no one has mentioned but it does one no good to buy Netflix’s 10 bit HEVC 4k content if they don’t have a monitor capable of displaying 10 bit 4k, it still needs to be scaled down to whatever the max resolution of the end user’s monitor is and 8 bits.

      • YukaKun
      • 3 years ago

      I don’t disagree, but counterpoint:

      You’re still alienating your user base. People with regular laptops/PCs that *can* run 4K content even with the DRM are going to be pissed (I know I am) and probably will take their business to another service. Amazon Prime, as of late, is starting to look fairly attractive 😛

      Cheers!

        • sophisticles
        • 3 years ago

        Do you know of a lot of laptops out there that have 4k monitors capable of outputting a 10 bit signal?

        Likewise do you know of a lot of monitors and tv’s that can output a 10 bit 4k signal?

        To output a 10 bit signal you need a software player that can handle a 10 bits per color channel, a monitor capable of displaying such a signal, and a video card capable of outputting a 10 bit signal, non-Quadro cards are only capable of outputting 10 bits when using a DX surface.

        In a nutshell I would be surprised if there’s more than 1 or 2 members of TR that would actually be able to enjoy such content in it’s intended form.

    • JosiahBradley
    • 3 years ago

    NO

    • cynan
    • 3 years ago

    Seeing as how I just got access to 1080p and 5.1 audio on my Windows PC (just recently got Win 10) I cab wait a bit longer for 4k

    • trackerben
    • 3 years ago

    For less than $80, I can get a standalone Marshmallow stack in a box that can pull in 4K streams from many of the best cloud and live content services. And all the world’s unofficial streams too, if I choose a box with regular Android and Play Store.

    A potentially bigger expense would arise in the need for a new HDCP 2.2-ready 4K TV. In many cases it would make sense to put money into a new TV plus if you don’t already have one.

    • Anovoca
    • 3 years ago

    It has officially become more practical to build/buy a 4k gaming PC than a 4k Media PC.

    smh

      • techguy
      • 3 years ago

      Nah, just wait for Kaby Lake NUCs. It’s what I’m doing.

        • xeridea
        • 3 years ago

        So, you are suggesting everyone just waits a few months, and buys an expensive piece of hardware that is totally unnecessary, or spurge for an expensive system upgrade, when their is no technical reason they can’t use their current hardware? You sound like the kind of guy the MPAA loves. Someone who just blindly accepts their garbage, and plays their game, even if it cots you hundreds of dollars extra.

          • techguy
          • 3 years ago

          Expensive piece of hardware? You clearly don’t know what a NUC is.

          Needs depend on usage model. If you want an HTPC that is a low power compute device in a small form factor that supports every format known to man, the NUC is the *perfect* device for this need.

            • brucethemoose
            • 3 years ago

            The non-atom NUCs are pretty expensive compared to Android streaming boxes.

            • techguy
            • 3 years ago

            That’s fine, they’re also more capable devices since you can run a full-blown desktop O.S. on them. More capability = higher cost.

            • xeridea
            • 3 years ago

            I know what a NUC is. It’s a tiny computer, with noisy fans. You can get one for like $200 (unless you don’t want any storage or ram). So if I have an existing HTPC, or computer, why should I be forced to go buy and setup another one, and have more things to manage just because MPAA keeps forcing stupid DRM on everyone? Try playing games on a NUC, or many other things people do with HTPC.

            If you want to watch on a NUC that’s fine, my gripe is the stupid MPAA is making things crazy difficult for paying customers, which just breeds more pirates anyway, making only paying customers suffer.

            • cphite
            • 3 years ago

            The obvious – incredibly, stunningly obvious – point that you’re missing here is that a whole lot of people [i<]already have machines[/i<] intended for this need and don't feel like they should have to shell out more money to buy a new device, no matter how "perfect" you may believe that new device to be. It'd be one thing if there were some technical reason for the existing machines not to work... that's part of the deal with technology. Improvements are made, things take more magic smoke to work; we all get that and accept it. This isn't that. DRM is also part of the deal, unfortunately. We get that too - a lot of us don't like it, but we get it. The folks who own content want to protect said content. This isn't that, either. This is basically telling folks that they have to use a specific browser on a specific OS and even that they have to upgrade hardware - basically for no real reason other than the companies involved like the idea of having customers tied to their respective products. And frankly it's a bad idea, at least for Netflix. Because there are plenty of alternatives to Netflix these days, and something like this can only serve to drive people away.

        • Anovoca
        • 3 years ago

        Or, you know, I could hold to a reasonable expectation that my 6 month old $2000 Xeon system would be allowed to perform the task it was built for and stay relevant for more than 2 quarters.

    • djayjp
    • 3 years ago

    “These chips pack hardware support for the 10-bit HEVC encoding scheme Netflix uses for 4K content, unlike past iGPUs.”

    Surely that should read as *decoding*.

      • morphine
      • 3 years ago

      Support for the encoding scheme.

      Not support for the encoding action. 🙂

        • willmore
        • 3 years ago

        In that useage, the proper phrase would be ‘coding scheme’. Adding ‘en-‘ or ‘de-‘ prefixed implies a direction to the coding scheme.

      • DataMeister
      • 3 years ago

      They were saying the chips on the consumer side need to decode the HEVC encoded content. Reads fine to me.

    • Chrispy_
    • 3 years ago

    DRM is the force that drives piracy, so I am glad that this will renew efforts to bring me region-locked content.

    Legal implications aside, some stuff is just unavailable in my region and that plain sucks, regardless of whether I am willing to pay for it or not.

    Steam’s low pricing and ridiculously-easy international distribution model has probably reduced piracy significantly over the last decade where it has dominated PC gaming. When will the stupid networks realise that people will pay if you don’t rip them off:

    Lots of happy customers recommending you to their social network is better than fewer unhappy customers moaning about you to their social network. Perhaps the RIAA and MPAA dinosaurs deserve to go extinct….

      • GrimDanfango
      • 3 years ago

      Amen. Steam is the ultimate example case to show that if you don’t constantly nickel-and-dime people, and specifically disadvantage your paying customers, the vast majority will take buying something over pirating it any day.

        • douglar
        • 3 years ago

        To quote the Gabe—

        “One thing that we have learned is that piracy is not a pricing issue. It’s a service issue,” explained Newell during his time on stage at the Washington Technology Industry Association’s (WTIA) Tech NW conference. “The easiest way to stop piracy is not by putting antipiracy technology to work. It’s by giving those people a service that’s better than what they’re receiving from the pirates.”

          • Chrispy_
          • 3 years ago

          100% this. A single cinema ticket costs less than multiple months of Netflix subscription. People will pay for an enjoyable experience with just as much fervor as they’ll fight an unrewarding experience.

    • Andrew Lauritzen
    • 3 years ago

    > Second, high-resolution Netflix will require playback through Microsoft’s Edge browser running on the Windows 10 Anniversary Update, something that could limit market appeal, to say the least.

    I’m gonna assume it also will work in the Netflix app… otherwise what is the point in the app.

      • Eldar
      • 3 years ago

      Exactly. I’m guessing most people with a Windows 10 HTPC use the app for Netflix.

        • Waco
        • 3 years ago

        I don’t, but perhaps I’m not “most people”. I find the full web interface far more usable.

          • Eldar
          • 3 years ago

          Perhaps some people do. The interface in the app isn’t perfect, but it’s simple and clean for big screen use, and I appreciate the support for surround sound (is that available via a browser yet?)

    • Waco
    • 3 years ago

    This is such an idiotic game of forcing certain stacks. 4K rips are up hours after being available regardless of the lack of PC access.

    This is only making me consider dropping Netflix due to the stupidity of all involved. Requiring hardware decode only makes it worse.

      • SecretMaster
      • 3 years ago

      Some of wish to watch our content through legal means 😉

        • CuttinHobo
        • 3 years ago

        I believe his point is that the restrictions are pointless. 🙂

        Typical of DRM, Netflix is really only inconveniencing the law-abiding folk.

          • Waco
          • 3 years ago

          Exactly, yes.

          • travbrad
          • 3 years ago

          Yeah at the end of the day any audio/video DRM is so easily defeated that it is completely ineffective at preventing or even delaying piracy, so it can only be a bad thing overall.

          I don’t like game/software DRM either, but at least for that there are a few DRM solutions that can take awhile to crack and possibly prevent a small amount of piracy. The end still doesn’t justify the means, but at least there is an “end” to begin with.

      • Andrew Lauritzen
      • 3 years ago

      I doubt the hardware decode is the issue so much as the DRM… which we can all agree is stupidity but hardly news.

        • techguy
        • 3 years ago

        I disagree. 4k HEVC decode can be a beast. Basically requires a modern quad core.

          • xeridea
          • 3 years ago

          Or take your pick of dozens of GPUs, phones, SoCs, set top boxes, smart tvs. Yes, ASICs, are much more efficient, but they are everywhere, and there is no technical reason to limit to Edge, on Win10 Anniversary, with one hardware vendor.

          The only reason is the MPAA is deadset on their futile effort to prevent piracy. All their efforts do basically nothing but cost everyone playing fair, or buying hardware extra money. Every movie shows up on torrents, often within hours of release. I have had to resort to stripping DRM from blurays just to play on my computer because their DRM breaks many software players, yet it can be cracked in seconds.

            • techguy
            • 3 years ago

            You’re talking about dedicated hardware when you bring up the various SoCs powering the devices you mentioned. It wasn’t until Kaby Lake that Intel added the same capabilities in hardware to their own CPUs. Hence the requirement.

            • xeridea
            • 3 years ago

            You are missing the point. Kaby Lake is not the only PC hardware on the planet that supports accelerated decoding the HEVC content. It can also be done if you choose on CPU, though a lot less efficient. There has been support to play HEVC as far back as 2012. It is clear, the only reason for limitation is futile DRM.

            Basically they are saying you can only play it on your laptop, which is highly unlikely to have 4k screen anyway, all in the name of silly DRM.

            [url<]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High_Efficiency_Video_Coding_implementations_and_products[/url<]

            • cynan
            • 3 years ago

            The main reason for restricting 4k stream access has been on be Netflix server bandwidth… Not DRM?

            • xeridea
            • 3 years ago

            There are millions of PCs that would support the same 4k streaming codec that they are using, minus the sillly DRM scheme. Also, 4k streaming plans cost more, so it’s not the bandwidth. It is the MPAA looming over them forcing them to bow down and play their game. The DRM encourages pirates, because it is not possible for them to watch what they want legally, without jumping through a bunch of hoops.

            • shank15217
            • 3 years ago

            You do realize the MPAA cant touch netflix. Its their own content that’s usually 4K.

            • brucethemoose
            • 3 years ago

            It’s funny how cracking Blu-rays is easier and more reliable (and looks better) than playing them with DRM.

            It’s as if the MPAA is trying to [i<]encourage[/i<] piracy.

            • BurntMyBacon
            • 3 years ago

            [quote<]It's as if the MPAA is trying to encourage piracy.[/quote<] They appear to have succeeded.

          • Waco
          • 3 years ago

          So give me a good reason they can’t allow streaming of 4K content via Chrome, or anything non-Kaby, or Windows 10 AE, or or or…

          Right – it’s a DRM play. My point was that the DRM is useless, since the content is available for pirates within hours of airing. Yet, with my 2600k and GTX 780 in my HTPC, I can’t watch 4K content through Netflix…

            • brucethemoose
            • 3 years ago

            To be fair, your GTX 780 doesn’t make any difference with HEVC. It mind as well be a Matrox C420.

            • Waco
            • 3 years ago

            I was just making a point. I don’t care that it doesn’t do hardware decode. It’s fully capable, yet locked out due to stupid DRM rules.

          • BurntMyBacon
          • 3 years ago

          [quote=”techguy”<]I disagree. 4k HEVC decode can be a beast. Basically requires a modern quad core.[/quote<] If a "modern quad core" is the requirement, then hardware isn't really the issue now is it. After all, while certainly not ubiquitous, there are many "modern quad cores" available in desktops, laptops, and even phones (though the horsepower here is clearly different). The point is, you don't need a Kaby Lake to do 4k HEVC decode. You need Kaby Lake to meet their DRM requirements.

      • albundy
      • 3 years ago

      we will need teh gigabit internets and 100TB HDDs first.

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