Netflix begins 4K streaming in US

The streaming video service now has limited Ultra HD content for the 2014 range of 4K TVs.

It may be true that 4K panels are now here, but the greatest complaint about the new resolution standard has been the lack of content.

(Credit: Netflix)

In the US, Sony was selling proprietary 4K material but, other than some YouTube clips, that was the only consumer 4K content and it only worked with Sony TVs. It wasn't available in Australia.

Well, neither is the Netflix content, but at least it's a step forward for non-proprietary 4K movies and shows that people may want to watch.

We first saw Netflix experimenting with 4K streaming back at CES 2013 . Now the company has its original series House of Cards along with "some nature documentaries" available in the Ultra HD format. The streaming bitrate is 15.6Mbps and the video is encoded using HEVC.

Reports say that Netflix's 4K streams are only viewable on 2014 4K TVs that include a built-in H.265/HEVC decoder. That includes most of the major-brand 4K sets announced at CES, the earliest of which are starting to ship in the US now.

According to our US colleagues, the majority of 2013 TVs will not be able to decode the HEVC streams, with the exception of the Samsung UNF9000 for people who've bought and installed the SEK-2500V evolution upgrade kit.

UK-site HDTVTest has done a test of the Netflix stream using a 2014 Samsung UHH8500. The site says that the show still showed signs of compression but that, overall, "House of Cards S2 in 4K Ultra HD was by far and away the best-looking title we’ve seen among Netflix’s catalogue of movies and television series, making the company’s previous highest-quality streams seem blurry in comparison."

Meanwhile, back in Australia, it looks like we'll be buying the Blu-ray boxsets for our high def TV fixes for the foreseeable future.

 

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