Complete guide to 4K Netflix: How to get Ultra HD in your living room

The tech, the subs and common problems solved

​How to watch 4K Netflix

There’s precious little ultra high definition content out there for us 4K smart TV owners to watch – which makes Netflix one of the key destinations for top quality TV or ultra HD projector. But for those looking to watch 4K Netflix on their TV or PC, it's hard to know where to start,

That’s why we’ve put together this handy guide, explaining everything from the key basics you need to get started, to the fine little details that can stop the process working altogether.

There’s a growing selection of 4K content on Netflix, but don’t be fooled into thinking everything on the platform is viewable in Ultra HD. In fact, it’s still minimal. All the Netflix originals are available, but even films are still found in good old fashioned HD. It’s actually a little underwhelming, but if you’re a fan of watching the latest series like Mindhunter, Better Call Saul and Ozark, you’ll be satisfied.

Netflix 4K plan and cost (UK and US)

You're going to need is a premium level Netflix 4K subscription. To get access to all that juicy Ultra HD content you need to pay more – and subs start at $13.99 per month.

In terms of video quality, Netflix streams 4K at 2160p, which is good news. There's no lesser term when it comes to 4K, or UHD, as there was with some providers of HD video who only broadcast in upscaled 720p at 1080i.

How to watch 4K Netflix

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You need a 4K TV... obviously

The first thing you’re going to need is a 4K TV – that’s pretty much obvious. 4K TVs are generally 2160p – which means a resolution of 3840 x 2160 pixels. 8K TVs with 7680 x 4320 are also starting to hit the market, but that really is overkill... for now, at least.

Time for an upgrade: The best smart TV platforms

There's a long list of TVs that support Netflix 4K, but just because you have a 4K Ultra HD TV doesn't mean it will work. That's because you also need a set that's HDCP 2.2-compliant (which is 4K copy protection) and, if you're using an external device, supports HDMI 2.0.

This is particularly shaky with older sets (especially those pre-2014), so make sure yours supports these standards before going any further. For more info on HDMI, check out our HDMI explainer, which dispels some of the myths and untangles the jargon.

We should also point out that every year Netflix picks out a list of specific "recommended" models, which can be a useful guide if you're in the market for a new TV set. For 2018 it's recommending LG's OLED and 4K UHD TVs with webOS and Sony's 2018 line of Android TVs. You can see the list of specific models here.

Check your broadband package

Now, if you’re going to be streaming 4K content, you’re going to need to have a pretty dandy internet connection. Remember everyone used to say that 4K wouldn’t go anywhere because our connections weren’t fast enough? Well, in the era of fibre that’s not a problem. Netflix recommends a connection of at least 25Mbps.

The average US broadband speed is 61Mbps so most people should be good to go – but it might mean a little bit of an upgrade is needed in UK households where the average is a much lower 16Mbps.

Oh, and it goes without saying: you don't want to be doing this if you have a data cap in your broadband plan.

Apple TV 4K
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How to watch 4K Netflix

How to stream 4K Netflix

Now, finally, you’re going to need a 4K streaming device. If you have a 4K television then the chances are it will be a smart TV which will have a Netflix app. Provided you have all of the requirements above, this should suffice.

We’ve tested the Netflix app on our Philips 4K Android TV and 4K content was found and played absolutely fine. So if you have a 4K smart TV, this could be a money saver. However, there’s little consistency across smart TV platforms yet.

Essential guide: Everything you need to know about Amazon Fire TV

Often, however, an external device will give you the best experience. Netflix has a full list of its website, but some notable mentions include:

  • Apple TV 4K
  • Android TV app
  • Xbox One X
  • PS 4 Pro
  • Now TV 4K Smart Box
  • Nvidia Shield
  • Amazon Fire TV
  • Comcast
  • Virgin
  • Chromecast Ultra

How to watch 4K Netflix on PC and Mac

You can watch 4K Netflix on PCs only, as long as they have Windows 10. Furthermore, you'll need to stream via the Edge browser, so don't get any ideas about Firefox or Chrome. But things are also quite fiddly when it comes to hardware too – what did you expect? Your PC will need PlayReady 3.0, so make sure Windows 10 is fully up to date.

Your PC's hardware will also need 10-bit HEVC encoding support – so you'll need a seventh generation Intel Kaby Lake processor or later. Basically, if your machine is dated before 2017, you might be in dodgy territory. Alternatively, an Nvidia’s 10-series graphics card can handle it instead. If you're suddenly thinking an Amazon Fire TV stick is a decent idea, you can buy one below.

You'll need a 4K display which supports HCDP 2.2 and runs at 60Hz, so take care to ensure that your screen is compliant. Once that's sorted and you have the correct level of Netflix subscription, you're good to go.

There are hacks out there for Mac, but it means installing Windows 10, which probably isn't worth the effort.

Amazon Fire TV 4K
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How to watch 4K Netflix

How do I know if it’s working?

Now this may sound ridiculous, but with Ultra HD it’s actually a common question. You might find yourself wanting to check if you’re actually streaming in 4K.

Netflix will automatically provide you with access to the 4K streams if you’re fulfilling the criteria above, e.g. 4K TV, full subscription, supporting app or streaming device. We’ve found Apple TV 4K to be a great experience. You can tell if the content is available by going to a show (preferably a Netflix original) and looking under the title. It should say “Ultra HD 4K” and not “HD”.

Ensure your 4K device is plugged into a HDCP 2.2 compliant HDMI port and not the nonsense ones some TV makers add around the sides. This is going to get more difficult as we add more 4K devices to our living rooms (games console, cable box, Apple TV, etc).

If you’re still paranoid that you’re not getting the resolution you’re paying for, you can use your TVs OSD to check the incoming resolution, often by pushing the 'i' button. That actually differs massively between TV brands, and won’t be that useful on all models, so you’ll have to figure that one out for yourself.


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