Way back in May of 2016 when NVIDIA launched the Pascal architecture powered GeForce GTX 10 series, one of the notable features they announced for the product family was support for Netflix’s newly launched 4K streaming option. At the time no PCs could access the service; due to the tighter DRM requirements imposed by Netflix and its content providers, PCs that wanted to stream 4K Netflix would need to support HDCP 2.2 and Microsoft’s PlayReady 3.0 DRM. Pascal in turn was the first GPU that was released to support the new DRM standards, and while NVIDIA didn’t know exactly when support would launch, the expectation was that it would be sooner than later.

However as the months have ticked by, we never did see any further progress from NVIDIA and Netflix on enabling 4K support. And rather unexpectedly, NVIDIA even ended up being surpassed in the PC space by Intel, who became the first vendor to actually launch 4K Netflix support when it was enabled on their Kaby Lake CPUs back in November.

Now just shy of a year later, NVIDIA and Netflix have finally taken the next step towards launching 4K Netflix support on Pascal. In an article posted on NVIDIA’s customer support portal, the company has (quietly) announced a 4K Netflix technology preview, allowing customers with the right hardware and software configurations to access Netflix’s 4K streams via both Microsoft Edge and the Netflix app.

While the article itself doesn’t offer any real explanation for the delay, the system requirements end up giving us a pretty good hint about what’s going on. Along with the expected hardware requirements – a Pascal-based video card and an HDCP 2.2 monitor – the Netflix preview also requires that users are on a Windows Insider build of Windows 10. The NVIDIA article notes in particular that receiving Insider builds is necessary to get the specific NVIDIA driver version supported – 381.74 – as it’s only being distributed as part of the Insider program.

NVIDIA doesn’t make much mention of the OS itself, but the situation is especially interesting since this comes just weeks after Microsoft launched the Windows 10 Creators Update, their latest major update to the OS. According to Microsoft’s API documentation, several new calls were added to PlayReady in this update. This strongly hints that Windows 10 itself was the piece of the puzzle holding back 4K Netflix support.

Further complicating matters however, with the release of the Creators Update, the Windows Insider program is now in early testing of features that will be going into the next version of Windows 10, codenamed “Redstone 3”. So it’s not clear whether the recently-released Creators Update is even enough, or if support hinges on additional functionality intended for Redstone 3.

In any case, for the moment NVIDIA is calling this a preview, presumably due to the Insider OS requirements. Despite this qualifier, 4K Netflix support should fully work on all Pascal GPUs with 3GB or more of VRAM, though this means that 2GB GTX 1050 cards are oddly excluded. NVIDIA does note however that support isn’t currently working with SLI configurations, and in that scenario the video cards need to be unlinked first. NVIDIA has also posted a helpful chart on HDCP 2.2 compliance, noting that 4K support is only available when all active displays support HDCP 2.2; any active HDCP 1.x displays will limit the stream quality to 1080p.

Source: NVIDIA

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  • philehidiot - Saturday, April 29, 2017 - link

    I'd say it's actually worse than that - it's not just inefficient and a pain for the consumer, it actually gives potential customers damned good reasons to go and pirate the thing because it works better!
  • Exodite - Saturday, April 29, 2017 - link

    Man, I remember the whole Starforce debacle with the old UFO: Aftermath/Afterlight games,

    While I had already played through Aftermath at the time I decided to try the noCD/Starforce-removal crack and it sped up loading and turn processing by a factor of 3!

    The gaming industry has partially woken up to it but we're not all the way there. I'm never buying an Ubisoft game again as long as UPlay is a thing. Same with Origin. Those publishers went from draconian DRM to draconian service packages, not much of an improvement.

    Luckily GOG and, to an extent, Steam is there to save the day.

    As for bluray I've had a friend go through similar issues with the PC and endlessly moving goalposts, to the point that I'd recommend sticking with dedicated players for that content and skip PC playback entirely. I don't know what copyright law looks like on your end but speaking for myself and any media I already own I'd just rip it or download an existing rip from <your favorite torrent site> if I need it to play on PC.

    As long as I already own a license (the bluray disc in this case) that's perfectly legal over here.
  • philehidiot - Saturday, April 29, 2017 - link

    I was half way through a reply and my phone crapped out. I HATE uplay and origin with a passion. My issue is that my TV is worth less than the sound card in my PC. The PC monitor is 27" of IPS goodness whereas the TV is frankly shit. Because it's used to watch shit. I resent being told how I can watch the content for which I have paid. The idea of hacking the neighbour's WiFi, going through a VPN and downloading all the stuff I already have has crossed my mind but frankly it's far too much effort and the download stats would make the arseholes think more people want their content. I'd rather vote with my feet, forego batman begins and buy from services (interestingly auto correct turned "services" into "weevles" - Freudian?) which make life easier rather than harder.

    If they're gonna make buying their stuff a pain in the arse then I will show zero interest. They're behaving like petrol companies who have inelastic demand. Theirs is very fucking elastic and I don't need their stuff.... Grump grump.
  • Meteor2 - Saturday, April 29, 2017 - link

    I would say the primary reason for the use of illegal media is simplicity and choice. Anything you can think of is available for download; once downloaded, you can probably play it anywhere you want -- big TV to phone. Simples.

    In my own experience Amazon is good but has a limited catalogue; Netflix has much more content but subscription options are a PITA.

    If they make their catalogues broad and pricing options flat like music providers do (Spotify, Play etc.) they'll be much more successful.
  • Lord of the Bored - Sunday, April 30, 2017 - link

    Seriously. I remember when DVD was new. We threw a DVD-ROM drive in our PC and BAM, good to go. None of this "approved video card, processor, motherboard, and monitor" nonsense. And it would've been years before we got any DVDs if we'd had to match a compatibility list.
    Well, okay, we also threw in a decoder card because MPEG2 decoding was quite taxing on processors of the time. Creative DXR2, I believe it was. Had a VGA passthrough, just like a Voodoo 2.
  • Jumangi - Sunday, April 30, 2017 - link

    There's no complication except on a PC where only a fraction access 4K content like this. 99+% are just going to use a box like a Roku or Fire TV.
  • ET - Monday, May 1, 2017 - link

    As long as sales grow regardless of DRM, nobody will learn this (likely totally erroneous fact).
  • Gich - Saturday, April 29, 2017 - link

    "This strongly hints that Windows 10 itself was the piece of the puzzle holding back 4K Netflix support."
    How come if it works with Kaby Lake since november?
  • Ryan Smith - Saturday, April 29, 2017 - link

    Kaby Lake has an on-die GPU and Intel's SGX. It's a small distinction, but depending on how the DRM works, it may very well be that developing/validating PlayReady for a dGPU required additional work.
  • LordSojar - Saturday, April 29, 2017 - link

    Meh... have 4K Netflix on my Smart 4K TV, and don't really care about it on PC so much. By the time I build a brand new HTPC to run the house media content (currently using Plex on my main tower, via WiFi + Chromecast), this issue will be moot.

    Netflix is a company that is out to make money. Unlike Amazon, their revenue comes from streaming packages, and Amazon gets $99.99/year for mostly free shipping. Their content is far more limited than Netflix. Having both is a win though. Plus... Netflix can be shared with family or friends that you trust, and you could have family or friends give you a few bucks each month for access, which is a win/win for everyone involved.

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