Why Retina iMacs can’t stream 4K Netflix


Watch out Netflix, Apple might start making shows too.
You can watch 4K video on your TV, but not your Retina iMac. Why? Photo: Netflix
Photo: Netflix

Yesterday, Amazon announced that they would begin streaming Amazon Prime movies in 4K Ultra HD, free of charge. This follows an announcement by Netflix in March that they would allow subscribers to stream 4K shows in Ultra HD for a small additional charge every month.

Of course, neither the iPhone, iPad, or the Apple TV support 4K video… but the new iMacs with Retina Display do. Yet despite this, Netflix and Amazon don’t actually stream 4K video to the Retina iMac. The best you can get is plain old 1080p.

What’s the deal? The same as it ever is. DRM.

Over at Macworld, writer Gordon Mah Ung spoke to Richard Doherty, research director at the technology-assessment and marketing-analysis firm Envisioneering, who told them that Netflix and Amazon can’t play 4K video on the Mac or any other PC because of DRM.

“It’s not anything against either platform or the processor,” Doherty told them. “It’s the matter of the security of the platform. The TV is secure and has no output to it. I and your readers on a PC or Mac could intercept the 4K [content] and therefore transmit it to a country that doesn’t have the rights.”

Ultra HD televisions, on the other hand, often have built-in DRM hardware that prevents the signal from being jacked on certain types of transmissions. Eventually, of course, the Mac will also get this hardware, or some equivalent software DRM backed right into OS X, but until then, those of us with Retina iMacs will continue to be S-O-L when we want to get our 4K on.

Source: Macworld

  • chelsea vader

    I’m confused though, couldn’t you do the same thing with 1080p streams or is there like some special drm handling needed to be done to 4K streams?

  • bIg hIlL

    Bring back Piratebay.org

    • andyring

      It never went away… It’s still out there and easily available.

      • bIg hIlL

        That’s funny, I read a report saying Swedish police had raided a server room in Stockholm and ever since – about 4 days now – I can’t access it.

  • AAPL_@_$101_Is_A_Done_Deal_:)

    First they take down ThePirateBay.com and now this. What’s a fella to do to get some freebies.

    • JimGramze


  • J Stewart

    DRM is a real PITA. SOP for the HMFIC like ABC, NBC, CBS.

  • flowney

    Actually, the Mac already has DRM built into its display systems. Check out HDCP and DPCP in Wikipedia. I purchased a 1080p movie from the iTunes Store that won’t play on my old 30″ Cinema Display because it doesn’t support DPCP but will play on my newer and smaller display connected via Apple’s Display Port. Both displays are connected to the same computer.

  • Bitter Health

    iPhone 6 and iPad Air 2 both support 4k. Apple did not say this, but developers have found that those devices do play 4k video. It’s most likely to have been included for a future Apple TV.

    • PMB01

      Which does no good currently since neither has a display even close to 4K.

      • JimGramze


      • PMB01

        No AirPlay receiver supports 4K either.