Nvidia quietly opens 4K Netflix streaming on GeForce GTX 10-series graphics cards

No Kaby Lake processor, no problem.

A Kaby Lake processor is no longer the only way to get Netflix in 4K on a PC. Nvidia recently launched a preview version of Netflix streaming in 4K for its GeForce GTX 10-series graphics cards, which use the Pascal GPU architecture.

Nvidia’s GTX 10-series cards launched nearly a year ago with the GeForce GTX 1080. One of the items we noted in PCWorld’s GTX 1080 review was that it and other Pascal GPUs would be able to play 4K Netflix content, because Pascal was certified for Microsoft’s PlayReady 3.0 DRM that Netflix requires for 4K streams on Windows PCs.

But the promise of 4K Netflix for GeForce cards never materialized in the months following our review. Nvidia was then surpassed by Intel in November, when Intel’s new Kaby Lake processors became the first hardware capable of streaming 4K Netflix on a PC, using Windows 10’s Edge browser.

The requirements

The hardware and software needs for Nvidia’s version of 4K Netflix are a little more complicated than Intel’s for now, though you don’t need a cutting-edge processor to get it to work. The CPU doesn’t matter since the 4K decoding is happening on the discrete graphics card. Nvidia requires a GeForce GTX 1050 graphics card or higher with at least 3GB of RAM to stream 4K Netflix videos.

gtx 1080 ports Nvidia

Those HDCP 2.2-compatible ports are key.

That effectively means you need the GTX 1050 Ti or greater since, there’s only a 2GB version of the GTX 1050—unless Nvidia just inadvertently tipped its hand for a future product release. As this is an early preview, perhaps the 3GB requirement will change, because frankly that limitation really sucks for anyone who bought the GTX 1050 as an ideal discrete graphics card for a home theater PC.

Beyond the graphics card, you need an HDCP 2.2 capable monitor or television set, and an Internet connection around 25 megabytes per second or faster.

As for the software, 4K Netflix needs a Windows Insider preview version of Windows 10—presumably the more recent post-Creators Update releases. The reason being is that the required GeForce driver for 4K Netflix—381.74—is only available for Windows Insiders right now. As with Kaby Lake's 4K Netflix support, you’ll need to stream the content via Microsoft Edge or the Netflix app in the Windows Store. Other browsers will stream at lower resolutions.

Nvidia is also adding two very important caveats. 4K Netflix will only work if all your active monitors support HDCP 2.2. Anyone with a multi-monitor set-up will have to deactivate monitors with HDCP 1.x when streaming. SLI fans are also going to have problems. Currently, 4K streaming doesn’t work on PCs with multiple graphics cards, meaning you’ll have to unlink your GPUs.

The story behind the story: It’s not clear when Nvidia’s 4K Netflix streaming will go mainstream. AnandTech reports that the Creators Update added several new API calls for PlayReady, suggesting that the operating system may have been the hold-up in getting 4K Netflix on Pascal GPUs.

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Ian Paul

PC World (US online)
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