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Many older Macs won’t be able to watch 4K Netflix this fall due to a missing chip

macOS Big Sur, Apple’s upcoming release of its Mac operating system, will finally allow you to watch Netflix 4K HDR 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 document. Netflix support (through Apple terminal).

This means that the full 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)

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

Sadly, older iMacs and pre-2018 Mac laptops that could theoretically play 4K Netflix content, either on their built-in displays or via an external 4K or 5K monitor, won’t be able to. It’s unclear why the T2 security chip is required – Netflix didn’t have an immediate response for us, and Apple didn’t respond to a request for comment.

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

We’re not sure Netflix uses HEVC for these high-resolution streams, but if it does, perhaps the T2 chip is the key to helping Netflix 4K run smoothly on Macs.

Image: Apple’s October 2018 event video (YouTube)

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

Mac users aren’t the only ones with specific requirements to watch Netflix 4K, however: on Windows, you must be on Windows 10, using Microsoft Edge or the Netflix app, with a 4K-compatible display, and a machine with a fairly powerful CPU or GPU.

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