This strict T2 security chip requirement limits Netflix 4K support to recently released macOS devices. Here's a good rule of thumb: If your macOS device is older than 2018, you will not be able to enjoy 4K Netflix content.
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macOS devices that can stream Netflix in 4K
This fall, Apple is poised to release Big Sur — the next major macOS update — that will finally allow Mac users to watch 4K HDR Netflix videos. Previously, according to The Verge, 4K Netflix streaming required a Windows operating system using the Microsoft Edge browser. There was a workaround solution — Mac users could watch 4K Netflix content on Windows via the Boot Camp utility. However, with this new macOS Big Sur update, users will be able to enjoy 4K Netflix by simply loading up Safari.
There is one problem, though. As I mentioned earlier, owners of outdated macOS devices (2018 and earlier) will not be able to feast their eyes on 4K Netflix content. According to The Verge, as of this writing, only the following devices will be able to stream Netflix in 4K:
- MacBook Air (2018 or later)
- MacBook Pro (2018 or later)
- Mac mini (2018)
- Mac Pro (2019)
- iMac Pro
- iMac (2020)
Big Sur isn't the only requirement for streaming 4K Netflix on Safari. Your device will need to be equipped with HDR support and you'll need to subscribe to Netflix's Premium Ultra-HD plan, which costs $15.99 per month.
Although Netflix did not divulge why a T2 chip is required, fans of the streaming service are baffled. As pointed out by 9to5Mac, one Reddit poster asked, "Windows machines don’t have any kind of T2 alternative and are still able to stream 4K via Edge. Their only requirement is a 7th-Gen Intel CPU or a dedicated graphics card. Does anyone know why that is?”
A recurring theory among Reddit posters is that while many T2-absent Macs can stream 4K just fine, Hollywood is gung-ho on pushing Digital Rights Management (DRM) protections against content infringement.
"This is not a choice by Apple," one Reddit poster theorized. "The video providers (Netflix, Amazon Prime, etc.) don’t allow the videos to be played without DRM, and DRM is built into the T2.” Another Redditor supported that conjecture, adding that Windows users, too, cannot watch 4K content without a supported processor (Kaby Lake and newer) that features DRM technology embedded into the hardware.
It's fascinating to see how big-name studios have had such an influential impact on PC technology. The highly anticipated macOS Big Sur is expected to make its debut in the coming weeks.