Your PC Can’t Watch Netflix In 4K Without A New CPU

Your PC Can’t Watch Netflix In 4K Without A New CPU
Image: Microsoft Blog
To sign up for our daily newsletter covering the latest news, features and reviews, head HERE. For a running feed of all our stories, follow us on Twitter HERE. Or you can bookmark the Kotaku Australia homepage to visit whenever you need a news fix.

Later this week, Netflix is airing a four part Gilmore Girls special. I have no shame in admitting that, at some point, I’ll be supremely keen on watching it.

And with good reason: it’s a good show. But if you were hoping to watch it in 4K, since Netflix does that sort of thing now, Microsoft has some crappy news for you.

In a post on the Microsoft blog, the maker of Windows announced that “4K content from Netflix is now available exclusively for Windows 10 PCs” and that users would need a “7th Gen Intel Core Processor” to view the content:

There’s just one small problem: Intel’s 7th generation of CPUs, termed Kaby Lake, were only just released. Hardcore overclockers might have a few Kaby Lake CPUs lying around, but most people’s laptops and PCs will still be using Skylake, or the older Broadwell and Haswell, processors. And given that most people don’t upgrade their computer just for Netflix, chances are you’ll be stuck with regular HD Netflix for a while. (Unless you use a console.)

Microsoft also added that Microsoft Edge was “the only browser that supports Netflix 4K content”, which is another annoyance if you live on Firefox or Chrome like the majority of web users. You’ll need to make sure your monitor or TV is HDCP 2.2 compliant as well, although if it supports 4K then chances are you’re fine on that front.

Way to rain on everyone’s reunion parade.


  • This is presumably because there isn’t any Hardware decoding for H.265 in a lot of earlier generations of CPU. That being said if you have a dedicated GPU odds are the client will probably use that.

    • Without having researched it, I’d be more inclined to think that it’s because these CPUs have DRM capabilities to prevent people from recording and distributing the 4K streams.

      EDIT: Yep. :
      In an effort to placate the studios, Microsoft introduced “PlayReady 3.0” with the Windows 10 Anniversary update. PlayReady 3.0 is a hardware-based DRM (digital rights management) system that requires dedicated decoding hardware, either on the CPU or on the graphics card, preventing the video stream from being captured in software or via an external capture device.

      and :
      Intel officials say the engine can actually decode 4K-resolution video at 60fps with a bit-rate up to 120Mbps. Kaby Lake also includes support for Microsoft’s PlayReady 3.0 and HDCP 2.2 DRM, so, in theory, if Netflix and Amazon decide to stream 4K to a PC, the pieces are now all in place for that to happen.

      So it is partly because of hardware decoding, but that’s not the real story – it’s that Netflix can’t/won’t stream 4K without the PlayReady and HDCP DRM features of these processors.

      • Either that, or it is a marketing thing. On Android, Netflix was limiting 1080p streaming to specific devices rather than basing it on actual device capability.

    • the hardware needs to support 10bit HEVC and PlayReady DRM, currently only 3 cards on the market support both and they’re not listed as compatible.
      You also need Edge because it’s the only browser that supports PlayReady.

    • My PC is on an Ivy Bridge core i5 which is even older and my main GPU is GTX 970 + 4k 28″ monitor, I can watch HEVC 4k videos using KMPlayer with no frame drops but all other video players just get messy (VLC, mpc, etc).
      My guess is that it’s a DRM thing, they basically don’t want people recording vids and putting them online and that’s why they are limiting it in hardware and software.

  • Most of us wouldn’t be able to stream it anyway since our internet isn’t fast enough. I can barely stream 720p as it is…

  • There’s some hope that Nvidias latest cards will be compatible, as they support the DRM and Video encoding that’s the driving force behind all this.

  • Oh no! How will I enjoy Netflix without my unnecessary extra pixels?! Oh well, better watch Game Of Thrones in regular old 1080p like a filthy peasant!

  • “4K content from Netflix is now available exclusively for Windows 10 PCs”

    Does this mean that 4k TV’s can’t stream it natively with the app, consoles such as the PS4 Pro can’t stream it and Mac’s can’t stream it? Or just Window’s users who aren’t running Win10 with a new generation processor can’t?

    Doesn’t really affect me as my TV is only 1080p anyway, but I’m curious.

    • Netflix are for net neutrality so this wouldn’t be a deal between them and Microsoft to only allow 4k on windows 10 devices. It’s actually just Microsoft saying if you want to watch 4K on your PC you need windows 10 and a brand new processor

      • Locking a product to a certain software platform doesn’t have anything to do with net neutrality, though.

        Net neutrality is about the data which flows over networks, and that ISPs and low-tier network carriers shouldn’t throttle or manipulate said traffic based on the type of content that flows over them. All data should be treated equally.

        This is just an exclusivity deal for a new feature netflix is releasing.

        • My point is that it feeds into net neutrality because not everyone has a windows 10 PC, so saying you can only view our content from a specific platform is a net neutrality issue. To put it another way Netflix wants whoever pays them for 4K to be able to watch 4K on whatever device is capable of playing 4K footage. I don’t know the details but I’m guessing it isn’t an exclusivity deal just a badly worded bit of PR by Microsoft.

          I only think this because shortly after making a deal with Optus and Co, to allow unmetered netflix usage on those networks, Netflix suggested they wouldn’t be making deals like that as it goes against net neutrality.

          • That’s not net neutrality though. Your last example is, having exclusivity deals with the networks.

            But exclusivity deals with software vendors has nothing to do with the underlying network.

          • I see what you’re saying and agree a little but if a deal with a software vendor stops me accessing content delivered via a network(in this case because I don’t have a windows 10 PC) then the network is no longer neutral, I can’t watch the content. If the content wasn’t delivered via a network I would agree with you that software exclusivity doesn’t impact net neutrality.

          • I support everything you said, as I am in the same boat.
            I only run open source operating systems, and open source software on my hardware, so that means I do not run windows either.
            I absolutely believe that all software should be free [not gratis, but free], and I am against any DRM which locks down services to one platform. I experience the same issue with games which are only locked down to Windows or steam.

            That said, this is an issue of computing freedom. Just because a network is involved doesn’t make it a net neutrality issue.

            For example, EA only released Mass Effect on Windows and distributed it on it’s Origin platform. I cannot play it on Linux [natively], and I cannot get it DRM free. But thats clearly not anything to do with network providers placing priority on any traffic I am sending/receiving.

            I’m not disagreeing with what you are saying, I’m just clarifying what net neutrality is [and is not].

          • If it’s anything like the previous resolution restrictions it won’t be MS’s doing. Pretty sure how it’s gone is basically the license holders stipulating to Netflix that they’ll only let them stream HD with certain DRM involved and Chrome+Firefox refusing to include that DRM due to various issues it contains/philosophical stances they’ve taken on the issue.

            So you end up with only Edge/native apps being able to run HD on a lot of shows/movies and now with harder to circumvent DRM baked into newer CPU’s they’ve got an extra option on top. So blame likely lies with the license holders if you’re looking for a direction to point the torches 😉

      • I’ll necro post a bit here since apparently, this article is making the rounds again:

        Your statement is not entirely true. What this article fails to point out is the need for a Kabylake (7k series) CPU’s was if you didn’t have a dedicated GPU to do the H.265 encoding. Most modern gpus both entry level and high end have supported H265 encoding for some time. For instance, I am still on a Ivy Bridge CPU (3770k) and I stream Netflix 4K just fine. Though every now and then my internet struggles to keep up if others in my house are gaming etc.

        This problem is for people using low to mid end OEM laptops/desktops (most of the consumer market) which dont ship with dedicated GPU’s and instead rely on the CPU’s integrated gpu to render video/graphics. If you bought a laptop with a dedicated GPU you’re fine. If you have a desktop without one, that’s a cheap and easy fix with no need to upgrade your CPU

  • Lol unless you are extremely lucky to have good internet this is a non issue for most Netflix customers as 4K requires such a good connection that hardly anyone will be able to view it.

  • We use edge specifically for Netflix. Its the home page and only page ever visited from edge, except when used to download Mozilla and Chrome when we first built the pc. Not that my CPU will support the content.

  • The CPU bit is frustrating (not that I have a 4K display) but the browser restriction is nothing new. I already have to use either the app or edge on my laptop to watch a bunch of things in HD on Netflix 🙁

    Kinda hilarious how they think that might stop piracy, but that’s weird DRM restrictions for you 😛

  • Not a huge deal for most 4k tv users – i seriously doubt there are many 4k tvs without a native netflix app built into the “smart tv” that you couldn’t use instead, sucks for those that want to watch on their 4k pc monitor i suppose – but i doubt you would really see much difference on those smaller screens

    • They put measures in to stop piracy and your answer is to pirate instead. You don’t try to be a good person. If you can’t afford the equipment. Tough. Welcome to the real world where you don’t always get what you want. Go ahead pirate more and make it harder for the people that do the right thing. We wouldn’t have DRM if it wasn’t for piracy so there’s no one to blame but yourself.

      • man I can get any media in as little as a minute and with as little as 5 clicks

        if you want to be difficult about it then its your own silly fault

        ease of access is something that has to be provided for people to actually use it…. otherwise there is no point

        and before you go on about being a pirate and torrents again, I do like to pay for Media and updates wherever nessasary for that quality/ease/updates/production

    • I doubt you’ll find too many 4k torrents of Netflix content out there, not saying they don’t exist but they certainly aren’t commonplace – most are 720p with a few 1080’s. So not really a valid argument.

Show more comments

Comments are closed.

Log in to comment on this story!