How Well Does Ultra HD Work On Netflix?

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How Well Does Ultra HD Work On Netflix?

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netflicks.jpgUltra HD has officially arrived on Netflix. Okay, technically Netflix has been streaming Ultra HD content since early April; but, to find that content, you already had to know what you were looking for and navigate directly to it. Well, a recent update to the Netflix interface has added a dedicated "UltraHD 4K" section where you can see everything the company offers at the higher resolution, provided you've got a compatible Ultra HD TV. As I type this in mid-July, that list includes House of Cards (season two), Breaking Bad, The Smurfs 2, Ghostbusters, Philadelphia, Hitch, and several short nature vides titled Oceans, Forests, Flowers, and Deserts.

I first tried out the Netflix 4K streaming experience about a month ago during my evaluation of the Samsung UN65HU8550 UHD TV. At the time, the new interface had not been introduced, and House of Cards was the only Ultra HD content at my disposal. So, even though the above list of titles is still small, Netflix is obviously in full ramp-up mode.

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What do you need to watch this content, you ask? Well, first you need a "smart" (i.e., networkable) Ultra HD TV with the Netflix app and a built-in HEVC decoder. High Efficiency Video Coding (aka HEVC or H.265) is the compression scheme that Netflix uses for its Ultra HD content. Pretty much every smart UHD TV introduced this year by a major manufacturer includes HEVC decoding, but most of the earlier-generation UHD TVs did not.

Second, you need a broadband Internet connection with some real juice. Netflix recommends a speed of at least 25 Mbps. I'm fortunate to live in an area of Colorado where Comcast can deliver that kind of speed for a reasonable price. During my initial testing with the Samsung TV, in the morning hours, Speedtest.net clocked my download speed around 28 Mbps, which is commonly what I get when I run that test. When I did additional testing on a Saturday night at 8:30 p.m., my speed was around 20 Mbps, but the Netflix info banner indicated that I was still getting the Ultra HD feed.

You also need to make sure, in your Netflix Playback Settings menu, that your streaming quality is set to high. Netflix allows users to dictate a lower quality setting to limit how much data the service uses, for those who are subject to data caps and usage charges from their ISP. But you can't have those limits in place if you want to stream Ultra HD. Netflix estimates that Ultra HD video streaming can use up to seven gigabytes per hour, versus three GB for HD.

If you log in to Netflix on your smart UHD TV and do not see the UltraHD 4K menu option, then your model is not compatible with Netflix's 4K streaming service (for a list of current compatible TVs that contain the HEVC decoder, click here. As for the vast majority of consumers who own a 720p or 1080p HDTV, your Netflix menu also won't include the 4K option, and Super HD will be listed as the maximum available resolution for titles like House of Cards and Breaking Bad.

Click on to Page 2 to find out the answer to the million-dollar question- how does it look . . . ?


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