[Editor Update: Based on tests performed by Digital Trends, it appears the six 4K test videos referenced below are not available at resolutions higher than 1080p to Netflix subscribers, even to those with Ultra HD televisions and computers outfitted with high-performance video cards and high-resolution monitors. Video footage will be delivered at a maximum of 1080p resolution. Netflix has since confirmed with Digital Trends that the footage is, indeed, intended for internal testing purposes only and is not available in Ultra HD resolution to its subscribers.]
Rolling out out a series of six test videos this week without much fanfare, Netflix has started testing 4K resolution through the Netflix Instant streaming video platform. Anyone with access to a 4K television and a Netflix Instant subscription should be able to access the video. Titled El Fuente, each of the six videos contain the same 8-minutes of footage, but recorded at different fps rates. The six videos have been recorded at 24, 25, 29.97, 30, 50 and 59.94 frames per second. The 4K videos can also be viewed on standard high definition televisions, but likely down-scaled to 1080p or 720p resolution.
With the addition of 4K test video on Netflix Instant, it’s clear that company management is looking forward to a potential future in which 4K televisions are commonplace in homes around the world. Last month, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings told investors that the company wanted to become “one of the big suppliers of 4K” content during 2014. It’s likely that Netflix will start to provide access to more television shows and movies in the 4K format in the coming months.
However, it’s also likely that Netflix customers seeking 4K content will need an premium bandwidth package from their Internet provider in order to access 4K shows and movies without significant buffering issues. Super HD 1080p content, for instance, requires a minimum of 5 Mbps of bandwidth for proper streaming. In fact, Netflix recommends 7 Mbps of bandwidth for optimal results. 3D content is even more taxing as Netflix recommends 12 Mbps of bandwidth to access those streams without any major issues.
Regarding the current 4K content on Netflix Instant, some desktop computer users may be able to take advantage of the higher resolution if they are operating on monitors over 1080p resolution. In addition, MacBook Pro laptops with the Retina display would also be useful when playing content at resolutions above 1080p.