The Netflix video quality that streams are delivered in depends on a number of factors. There is the customer's Internet line which may affect it but also the device, operating system and program used to stream Netflix videos.
On Windows PCs, for instance, 4K playback is only available if you use Microsoft Edge or the Netflix Windows Store app. If you use Chrome, Firefox, or any other browser, all you get is 720p streams by default with seemingly no option to improve the quality of the stream.
In fact, the only browsers that support 1080p playback on Netflix officially are Safari on Mac OS X, Internet Explorer on Windows, and Google Chrome on Chrome OS. That's bad news if you don't use any of the operating systems or prefer to use a different browser.
The extension enables support for 1080p on Netflix in the browsers. Netflix customers can use Chrome or Firefox, on any supported operating system, to watch streams in 1080p using those browsers.
This overrides Netflix's -- seemingly artifical -- streaming quality limitation. The extension is especially useful for Linux users as it unlocks 1080p video streams on Netflix on Linux machines since that is not supported officially by Netflix.
As you can see on the screenshot above, the Test Patterns video reveals that the video plays in a resolution of 1920x1080 in Google Chrome. Just search for Test Patterns and play the video to test the stream quality after installing the add-on in your browser.
You can switch bitrates with the shortcut Ctrl-Shift-Alt-S on Netflix. Select 4300 Kbps or 5800 Kbps for 1920x1080 (the values may be different depending on the video, usually a bit lower).
The developer of the Netflix 1080p extension explains how the extension works on the project's GitHub page. Basically, what it does is add the 1080p playback profile to the browser while on Netflix so that it becomes available.
The developer compared Netflix playback in Chrome on Chrome OS with Chrome on PCs and noticed that Netflix tests the user agent to append the 1080p profile to the list of supported playback profiles.
Netflix 1080p worked fine during tests for the most part. Some videos don't support 1080p playback, however, and there is nothing that you can do about that unfortunately.
Now You: Which browser/device do you use to play Netflix or other Internet video streams?
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Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.