Hands-on: Netflix 4K streaming on a Windows 10 PC

Earlier this week Microsoft announced that Netflix content could be watched on a Windows 10 PCs in the 4K. Together with the announcement also system requirements were revealed, a 7th generation Intel CPU and Microsoft’s Edge browser.

German website Heise tested several hardware configurations for 4K streaming and found that modern graphics cards such as the GeForce GTX 1000 and Radeon RX 400 series can’t display Netflix’s 4K content.

myce-netflix-4k-windows-10-gillmore-girls(Image Credit: Heise)

As expected, the video service only switched to the 4K resolution when an Intel CPU of the 7th generation (Kaby Lake) is available.

The GeForce GTX 1000 and Radeon RX 400 graphic cards likely don’t work with 4K streaming because the drivers don’t support the required PlayReady 3.0 copy protection yet. Nevertheless, the hardware should be compatible for both the required PlayReady 3.0 SL3000 and HDCP 2.2 copy protections.

Streaming of 4K content is limited to Microsoft’s Edge browser on Windows 10, it  can’t even be watched with the official Windows 10 Netflix app. That should change in the future, the streaming service is reportedly working on an update for the app that adds 4K streaming.

Heise also tested 4K streaming on a Mini PC Asrock Beebox-S that is powered by a laptop class Core i3-7100U (with an integrated Intel HD Graphics 620 video chip). After a while Netflix switched to the 4K resolution as indicated by the A/V stats which can be revealed by pressing CTRL+ALT+SHIFT + D. During playback of the 4K-compatible re-release of the Gilmore Girls,  “res” displayed with the value of “3840 × 2160″.

The Beebox has an additional chip for HDMI 2.0; To HDCP 2.2. The Kaby Lake generation CPUs are generally also compatible with its predecessors. Netflix 4K streaming also worked in a test with a Kaby Lake desktop processor. The used mainboard had no additional HDMI 2.0 chip and therefore only HDMI 1.4 was supported. Netflix requires a complete HDCP-2.2 copy protection chain for 4K streaming, but doesn’t require HDMI 2.0 but 4K displays via HDMI 1.4 are limited to a maximum refresh rate of 30 Hz.

Heise concludes the story with, ” it’s astonishing that modern AMD-Polaris and Nvidia-Pascal graphics cards are not supported, although they support HDMI 2.0b and HDCP 2.2″. As stated before, the website thinks that is because the drives are not compatible with the required PlayReady 3.0 copy protection. It’s expected support will be added in the (near) future, AMD previously told Heise that Polaris should get PlayReady 3.0 support through a driver update.