If you use Chrome or Firefox to stream Netflix on Windows or macOS, you’re likely to miss higher quality streams and HDR content. Here’s why Netflix limits the quality of video in these browsers and what to use instead.
Chrome and Firefox Do not use hardware-level DRM
Netflix only allows higher quality playback on Apple Safari and Microsoft Edge, as 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 through the HTTP Live Streaming (HLS) protocol.
On Chrome and Firefox, software-level DRM is easier to work around. Netflix sees this as a potential risk and cites users trying to capture and share content. Newer Chromebooks running ChromeOS do a little 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 there is no built-in app on macOS (yet). You also need to make sure you have the Ultra HD streaming plan, that your monitor supports HDR output, and that any external monitors use the HDCP 2.2 standard.
On a Mac, you need an Apple Silicon processor or a newer 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 need to have a fast and stable internet connection of around 25 megabits or faster.
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Is the image format wrong? You are not alone
There’s a warning to use Edge (or the original Windows app) and Safari for higher quality Netflix streams, and it’s an annoying image format error that has not been fixed in over a year (at least at the time of writing) .
Users on both Windows and macOS have reported the issue due to that stream switching between resolutions. This causes the aspect ratio to change, and black bars appear randomly at the top and bottom of the screen. Moving the mouse cursor usually resolves this, but there is not much else that can be done by the user.
This is not a big deal if you have a stable internet connection as you will be locked into a single high quality stream. If you have a less stable connection (or share a connection with other people that can affect stream quality), you can always switch to Chrome or Firefox for a lower resolution but more stable 720p experience.
Have the right browser and expect Netflix in 4K, but can’t see it? Check out our Netflix 4K Troubleshooting Guide.
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