If you’re using Chrome or Firefox to stream Netflix on Windows or macOS, you are probably missing out on higher-quality streams and HDR content. Here’s why Netflix limits the quality of video on these browsers and what to use instead.
Chrome and Firefox Don’t Use Hardware-Level DRM
Netflix only allows higher-quality playback on Apple Safari and Microsoft Edge since the platform can make use of hardware-level Download Rights Management (DRM) on these browsers. Microsoft uses a technology called PlayReady while Apple uses a similar technology called FairPlay. These technologies better protect content delivered via the HTTP Live Streaming (HLS) protocol.
On Chrome and Firefox, software-level DRM is easier to circumvent. Netflix sees this as a potential risk, citing users attempting to capture and share content. Newer Chromebooks running ChromeOS do slightly better at 1080p, but they still miss out on Ultra HD and HDR.
Use Edge or Safari Instead
The good news is that you can get the most out of your Netflix connection if you switch to using Microsoft Edge on Windows or Safari on macOS. Both of these browsers support 4K resolution and Dolby Vision or HDR10 playback on their respective platforms.
Windows users can also use the Netflix Windows app, but no native app exists on macOS (yet). You’ll also need to make sure that you have the Ultra HD streaming plan, that your display supports HDR output, and that any external displays are using the HDCP 2.2 standard.
On a Mac you’ll need to be using an Apple Silicon processor or a recent Mac with Apple’s T2 security chip, macOS Big Sur 11.0 or later, and the latest version of Safari installed. Both Mac and Windows users should have a fast and stable internet connection of around 25 megabits or faster.
RELATED: What Internet Speed Do I Need for Streaming Services?
Aspect Ratio Bugging Out? You’re Not Alone
There’s one caveat to using Edge (or the native Windows app) and Safari for higher quality Netflix streams, and that’s a pesky aspect ratio bug that hasn’t been fixed for over a year (at the time of writing, anyway).
Users on both Windows and macOS have reported the issue, which is caused by the stream in question switching between resolutions. This causes the aspect ratio to change and for black bars to randomly appear on the top and bottom of the screen. Moving the mouse cursor normally fixes it, but there’s little else that can be done by the user.
This isn’t a huge issue if you have a stable internet connection since you you’ll be locked to a single high-quality stream. If you have a less stable connection (or share a connection with other people who may impact stream quality) then you can always switch to Chrome or Firefox for a lower-resolution but more stable 720p experience.
Got the right browser and expecting Netflix in 4K but not seeing it? Check out our Netflix 4K troubleshooting guide.
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