27 October 2020
Apple macOS Big Sur is releasing later this year and it will unlock some new features for the Mac users. One of them is the ability to stream Netflix in 4K HDR, provided your Mac fulfills some prerequisites. Yes, your device must have a 4K-capable display but that’s not the only specification requirement, according to a support document spotted by Apple Terminal.
The support page discloses that to stream in Ultra HD, you will need to select a 2018 or later Mac computer with an Apple T2 Security Chip. This is one of the requirements posted on the support page among others. This is clear that only the recent Macs are eligible to stream 4K HDR content from Netflix. To be specific these models are supported - 2018 or later MacBook Pro, 2018 or later MacBook Air, 2018 Mac mini, 2019 Mac Pro, iMac Pro, and 2020 iMac. You can also use System Information to learn whether your Mac has the T2 chip.
Netflix’s support page, of course, does not go in-depth to give you the reason behind it. But as The Verge points out, it is something to do with the T2 chip’s ability to process HEVC encoded videos. The T2 chip is a co-processor and has built-in video processing power including the support for the popular HEVC codec.
Apple doesn’t really advertise the improved video rendering times but on its website for the latest iMac, Apple says that the T2 chip “makes transcoding HEVC video up to twice as fast as the previous generation.” Also, experts have experienced better rendering speeds on the Macs with the T2 chip. In a practical demonstration by Apple Insider, it was found that iMac that lacks a T2 chip took around twice as long to render a video compared to the one that has it.
Currently, with scarce knowledge on the same, we can’t tell if Netflix uses HEVC for these high-res streams, but if it does, the T2 chip has to be the main thing here helping in streaming in 4K.
There are some other specifications requirements, of course, that Netflix supports page notes, and one of them a good broadband speed of 25Mbps or better.