MacBooks have a big new problem with Netflix

(Image credit: Chesnot/Getty Images)

Apple’s upcoming macOS Big Sur update will let people stream 4K HDR content through Netflix. It’s something streaming fans have been requesting for some time — and it’s a feature that won’t be available to older Macs.

Specifically, only machines from 2018 or later with Apple's T2 security chip will be able to support 4K HDR streaming via Netflix. That’s according to Apple Terminal, citing a Netflix support document that confirms as much.

Netflix’s document says streaming its 4K HDR content on a Mac requires not only the right version of macOS, but also a compatible Mac model. And the Apple documentation that Netflix links to says those machines include  the 2020 iMac, iMac Pro, 2019 iMac Pro, 2018 Mac mini, and the MacBook Air or MacBook Pro from 2018 or later. 

You can find out whether your system includes the T2 security chip by going to the System Information men and checking the "Controller or iBridge" tab to see if "Apple T2 chip" is listed within. If so, your particular device is ready for 4K HDR content. 

Though it's simple to discern whether or not a particular Mac is capable of playing back 4K Netflix streams, what's baffling is that only select models will technically be allowed to do so. It isn't that older Macs are incapable of performing. Neither Netflix nor Apple has  released any sort of comment clarifying why the T2 security chip is needed for users to feast on high-fidelity visual content.

The T2 chip may not be the only roadblock for some users, however. Anyone looking to enjoy that type of content on their machine will have to ensure they're subscribed to the $15.99 monthly premium Netflix plan. Mac users will be locked to using Safari for in-browser viewing, just like Windows users will have to utilize Windows 10, Microsoft Edge, or the Netflix app with capable hardware to back it up.

As far as Big Sur goes for macOS users, it's bringing a host of interface changes with brighter, bolder color as well as alterations to its overall UI vibe. Big refreshes to features like the Messages app with pinned messages, widgets, and more have finally arrived. There are also tweaks to the Control Center and Safari.

macOS Big Sur is currently available as a public beta, if you're interested in testing out how Netflix 4K content runs for you. There are a wide variety of changes being introduced with the new update, and automatic device switching while viewing 4K streaming programs could end up being a boon for users who like to take their favorite TV shows and movies on the go with them.

Brittany Vincent

Brittany Vincent has been covering video games and tech for over 13 years for publications including Tom's Guide, MTV, Rolling Stone, CNN, Popular Science, Playboy, IGN, GamesRadar, Polygon, Kotaku, Maxim, and more. She's also appeared as a panelist at video game conventions like PAX East and PAX West and has coordinated social media for companies like CNET. When she's not writing or gaming, she's looking for the next great visual novel in the vein of Saya no Uta. You can follow her on Twitter @MolotovCupcake.