If you’re streaming Netflix on your laptop with Chrome you’re doing it wrong

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If you’re one of the roughly 209 million people that have a Netflix account and you use a laptop or PC to stream your movies and series, then you should know that you only really have two choices if you want to get the most out of it.

If you want the best experience out of your Netflix and chill sessions, you’ll need a premium subscription. That allows you to stream 4K HDR content on up to four devices simultaneously — provided your internet connection is fast enough.

There are a few other considerations to keep in mind if you plan to watch 4K HDR. The most obvious one is a 4K monitor, like this one for example. Netflix also says you’ll need at least a 25 Mbps internet connection for 4K streaming. But something less obvious is the browser you use.

If you’re on a Windows device you’ve got two options. You could download the Netflix app from the Microsoft Store or you can use Microsoft’s Edge browser. Using any other browser, even the ever-popular Chrome will only allow you to stream up to 720p. Apple device owners will need to use Safari to allow 4K streaming.

How Netflix tries to guard against piracy

The reason for this isn’t because Netflix is in cohorts with Microsoft and Apple and wants to force you to use their browsers, it’s actually looking out for you, in a roundabout way. Netflix uses something called digital rights management (DRM) to protect the content on its site. This makes it a lot harder for people to download, copy or record content from their site and distribute it outside of their network.

Browsers like Chrome and Firefox use a software-based system to implement DRM called Widevine. While this is better than nothing, it’s still possible to use screen-capture software to record your screen and whatever you’re streaming from Netflix.

The content rights holders (usually the producers of the movie or show) aren’t big fans of this. Because if you didn’t know, they don’t like it when people don’t pay to watch their stuff. Microsoft Edge and Safari use hardware-based which are much harder to crack, so Netflix rewards them with full bandwidth and a gold star. 

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I've been interested in tech for as long as I can remember. A few facts about me; I learnt how to code when I was 5, I helped Mark Shuttleworth develop Ubuntu when I was 9 and now I write for a tech publication. Only one of those facts is true. I also have a drama degree, hence the writing.

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