PC users who have entered the 4K age for gaming may still have to purchase expensive hardware upgrades in order to stream Netflix at Ultra HD resolution.
Microsoft announced this week that Netflix's 4K streaming, previously limited to 4K TVs and compatible Ultra HD Blu-ray players, is coming to PCs at long last. But the hardware and software requirements listed will ensure most users won't be able to streaming in 4K, as it force users to use a browser almost nobody users, and the latest Intel CPU only launched in August. Hollywood's insistence on DRM, unfortunately, is to blame.
Netflix 4K on Windows PCs require the DRM platform PlayReady 3.0. This straight away limits users to use Windows 10, as PlayReady 3.0 was just introduced in to the OS in the recent Anniversary Update. This also forces users to use Microsoft's little used Edge browser, as it's the only browser that supports PlayReady 3.0 at the moment (Netflix's own Windows app doesn't work either).
PlayReady 3.0 is also a hardware based DRM, meaning that only hardware that supports the new DRM standard will work with Netflix 4K. This then limits users to latest Intel 'Kaby Lake' processors, the only Intel processors to currently support PlayReady 3.0. Nvidia's latest 10-series graphics cards support PlayReady 3.0, but is currently not compatible with Netflix/Microsoft's implementation (this may change with a software update in the future).
PCs that don't meet all of these requirements will be prevented from playing Netflix in 4K, even if the hardware is powerful enough to do so.
It's also worth noting that it's not Netflix that's putting these requirements into play, but rather rights-holders such as Hollywood studios that force Netflix to adopt these hardline requirements on DRM.
Apart from DRM requirements, there is also a performance advantage of using the latest 'Kaby Lake' processors for Netflix 4K. These latest CPUs are the only ones capable of providing hardware accelerated decoding support for 10-bit HEVC, the video encoding format that Netflix 4K uses. The previous generation Intel CPUs only support accelerated 8-bit decoding.
Users not keen on jumping through these DRM hoops are advised to use a $99 Chromecast Ultra device with their 4K monitor to get your Netflix 4K fix.