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Many older Macs will not be able to watch 4K Netflix this fall due to a lack of chips

MacOS Big Sur, Apple’s upcoming release of the Mac operating system, will finally let you watch 4K HDR Netflix content, but it turns out that it will only work on Macs 2018 or later with Apple’s T2 security chip, according to a new Netflix supporting document (via Apple Terminal).

This means that the entire list of Macs that can watch 4K content on Netflix, at least for now, is as follows:

  • iMac (2020)
  • iMac Pro
  • Mac Pro (2019)
  • Mac mini (2018)
  • MacBook Air (201
    8 or later)
  • MacBook Pro (2018 or later)

This is an easy way to check if your Mac has a T2 chip, as Apple points out on the website.

Disappointingly, older iMacs and pre-2018 Mac laptops that could theoretically play Netflix 4K content, either on their built-in monitors or via an external 4K or 5K monitor, will not be able to do so. It is not clear why the T2 security chip is required: Netflix did not have an immediate response for us, and Apple did not respond to a request for comment.

But if we had to guess, that T2 chip might be better at handling 4K content because it acts as a processor. The T2 chip has built-in video processing power including support for the popular HEVC codec, according to a marketing image from Apple’s October 2018 event. On the website of the latest iMac, Apple says that the T2 chip “makes HEVC video encoding up to twice as fast as the previous generation.”

We’re not sure if Netflix uses HEVC for these high-definition streams, but if it does, the T2 chip may be the key to helping 4K Netflix play smoothly on Macs.

Photo: Apple Video from October 2018 (YouTube)

If you want to watch 4K Netflix and have a compatible Mac when macOS Big Sur comes out this fall, you also need to subscribe to Netflix’s Premium plan of $ 15.99 per month. And you can only watch 4K Netflix content using Safari, not other browsers, according to the Netflix support document.

Mac users are not the only ones with specific requirements to watch 4K Netflix, but on Windows you must be on Windows 10, using Microsoft Edge or the Netflix app, with a 4K-compatible screen and a machine with a powerful enough CPU or GPU.

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