Tested: Microsoft Edge is the only browser to run Netflix in 4K

But if you absolutely positively refuse to run Edge, yes, there is another option.

IDG

IDG

In 2016, Microsoft made headlines by boasting that Microsoft Edge was the only major browser to run Netflix in 1080p. As part of the Windows 10 Creators Update, Edge has now made the jump to 4K, and it’s the first major PC browser to do so.

To test the feature, we fired up Netflix within Chrome, Opera, Firefox, and Edge. Edge—as well as the Windows 10 Netflix app that you can download from the Microsoft Store—appears to be the only way to run 4K Netflix content on your PC.

Still, there’s a catch: Besides the fact that you’ll need either an external 4K monitor or native laptop display, your PC or laptop will need to have an Intel Kaby Lake CPU. Fortunately, we have such a laptop: the lovely HP Spectre x360 15, with a Core i7-7500U chip inside and a true 3840x2160 display.

netflix 4k in edge edit Windows 10 Creators Update IDG / Mark Hachman

Using the diagnostic tools within Netflix, we can see that Edge is streaming in 4K. (Unfortunately, it seems that DRM or other technical limitations block screenshots, so we used a camera instead.) Click the picture to zoom in.

When properly configured, Netflix will fill that display with some truly beautiful pixels. Just make sure you’ve upgraded your Netflix account to a plan capable of 4K, which costs $11.99 per month instead of the usual $8.99/mo. You’ll also need a high-speed data plan from your ISP—if you enlarge the graphics accompanying this story, you’ll see that Netflix was pushing a whopping 269Mbps of video data in our test. That’s about the limit of Comcast’s Extreme 250 internet plan, which costs around $70 per month in the San Francisco Bay Area.

And if you choose not to run Edge? Well, then it’s back to a lowly 720p experience for you, sorry to say. In our tests, using the hidden menu options within Netflix, I was able to confirm that Chrome, Opera, and Firefox all rendered Netflix, but only at a maximum resolution of 1280x720. 

opera in 720p in Netflix IDG / Mark Hachman

Though Netflix is still feeding the browser 4K levels of throughput, Opera, Chrome, and Firefox are only able to output Netflix at 720p.

Edge skeptics should note, however, that Microsoft's browser has continued to improve. I've personally gone from being critical of Edge to now seeing it as a competent-to-good browser. (See more about my Edge assessment in our Windows 10 Creators Update review.) Fortunately, you don’t have to do a single thing to get Microsoft Edge—if you own Windows 10, you automatically own the browser.

Why this matters: Microsoft has worked hard to convince users that Edge’s early performance problems were an anomaly. Microsoft Rewards will “pay” you for using Edge, Cortana’s baked right in to the browser, and Edge now supports e-reading EPUB books, too. Providing 4K Netflix support is just the latest way Microsoft hopes to convince you to switch browsers. Sure, Chrome, Firefox, and Opera have their own advantages. But these sorts of “exclusives” probably help Edge’s reputation the most.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags MicrosoftWindows 10Microsoft Edge

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Mark Hachman

PC World (US online)
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?