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Apple’s latest MacOS Big Sur beta brings 4K YouTube to Safari

If you’re a fan of the Safari web browser on your Mac, Apple just gave YouTube video playback a major upgrade in its latest macOS beta release. Now available for download, developers on the macOS Big Sur beta 4 can finally playback YouTube videos in 4K UHD resolution using Apple’s Safari browser.

Apple published details about the feature change in its Big Sur beta 4 documentation, noting that the software brings “support for 4K HDR playback of YouTube videos” in Safari and Webkit.

Prior to today’s release, YouTube video was capped at just 1080p FHD resolution when using Safari. This meant that if you wanted to play YouTube videos at resolutions greater than FHD, you had to choose an alternate browser, like Google’s Chrome. If all goes well during Apple’s beta testing period, Big Sur is expected to be released this fall for all consumers.

This change is especially notable given Apple’s push for higher resolution displays in recent years with Retina Displays appearing on smartphones, tablets, and the Mac. This means that if you own Apple’s iMac with Retina 4K Display, iMac with Retina 5K Display, iMac Pro with Retina 5K Display,  or Apple’s studio-grade Pro Display XDR panel with a Retina 6K Display, you can edit and playback YouTube videos in resolutions up to 4K.

Apple MacOS Big Sur Safari
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Initially announced earlier this summer at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference event, macOS Big Sur introduced a number of new features, including new icons, an updated menu bar, redesigned sheets, and a refreshed Notification Center — changes that will helps to unify Apple’s desktop macOS operating system with its mobile iOS and iPad OS platforms. In fact, Apple views the changes introduced with Big Sur significant enough to warrant a numerical jump to its macOS platform, moving from macOS 10 for desktops — which was initially introduced in 2001 — to macOS 11.

Big Sur is also the first operating system that kicks off Apple’s support for its own custom in-house silicon as Apple moves away from Intel. As Apple transitions to ARM-based processors for its Mac, we can likely expect to see Apple port over more features from its mobile platforms.

If you want to give Big Sur a spin ahead of its commercial release, you can begin by enrolling your Mac in Apple’s software preview program. However, before you do that, be sure to read Apple’s documentation for the latest beta release to see what problems or issues you may encounter during testing. Although Apple announced that Big Sur will be coming to supported Macs this fall, the company did not give a specific launch date.

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Chuong Nguyen
Silicon Valley-based technology reporter and Giants baseball fan who splits his time between Northern California and Southern…
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