If you’re using Chrome or Firefox to stream Netflix on Windows or macOS, you’re probably missing higher quality HDR streams and content. Here’s why Netflix limits video quality on these browsers and what to use instead.
Chrome and Firefox do not use DRM at the hardware level
Netflix only allows higher quality playback on Apple Safari and Microsoft Edge, as the platform can use hardware-based 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 trying to capture and share content. Newer Chromebooks running ChromeOS do slightly better at 1080p, but they still lack 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 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 will also need to ensure that you have the Ultra HD streaming plan, that your display supports HDR output, and that any external displays use the HDCP 2.2 standard.
On a Mac, you’ll need to use 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. Mac and Windows users should have a fast and stable internet connection of around 25 megabits or higher.
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Aspect ratio bugging out? You’re not alone
There’s a caveat to using Edge (or the native Windows app) and Safari for higher quality Netflix streams, and it’s a pesky aspect ratio bug that hasn’t been fixed for over a decade. a year (at the time of writing, anyway).
Windows and macOS users have reported the issue, which is caused by the stream in question switching between resolutions. This causes the aspect ratio to change and random black bars to appear at the top and bottom of the screen. Moving the mouse cursor solves it normally, but there is nothing else the user can do.
This isn’t a big deal if you have a stable internet connection, as you’ll be locked into a single high-quality stream. If you have a less stable connection (or share a connection with others who may impact stream quality), 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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