Netflix Opens 1080P Floodgates

October 21, 2011
By

In October 2010, the Playstation 3 was the first Netflix-enabled device that could access 1080P HD video. Out of the hundreds of Netflix-ready devices, the PS3 stood alone in this respect for many months. Last summer, that changed with the Roku 2 XS and XD also gaining access to 1080P video. Recently, the new WD Live TV streaming box also joined the 1080P club. Other HD-enabled Netflix players have been limited to 720P.

It now appears that Netflix is ready to open up the 1080P floodgates. Up until recently, Netflix would only confirm that the PS3 and Roku could play 1080P. When I most recently asked Netflix what other devices could stream at 1080P, the official response was,

“As consumer electronics manufacturers adopt the latest software from Netflix for their devices, an increasing number of devices on the market will support streaming movies and TV series from Netflix in quality up to 1080P. We initially released the software that can support up to that resolution in 2010 and expanded availability to consumer electronics partners in summer of 2011”

There’s over 200 Netflix-enabled devices that currently have the hardware specs to play 1080P video (by definition, most Blu-ray players fit in this category). Given the change, the question we’re left with is: when are consumer electronics manufacturers going to enable 1080P on their respective boxes? We’ve tested several devices and they are still streaming at 720P.

According to a recent presentation by Netflix, consumer electronics manufacturers implement a Device Porting Interface (DPI) to work with the supplied Netflix software development kit. While Netflix’s HTML5 user interface allows them to quickly deploy changes to the look and feel of the Netflix application, enabling 1080P probably will require a firmware update or an upgraded Netflix app on most devices. We’ve reached out to several manufacturers to find out more.

The move to give wider access to 1080P video puts Netflix on par with VUDU for audio and video quality. Both Netflix and VUDU already use Dolby Digital Plus for surround sound (VUDU just announced the availability of 7.1 audio titles). The other services out there such as Amazon and iTunes stream at 720P.

The toughest part for the consumer is distinguishing the differences between all of the Netflix enabled TVs, Blu-ray players and streaming boxes at retail stores. All of them have the same Netflix logo on them. So, you can’t tell which Netflix boxes support 1080P, surround sound and subtitles. Sounds like we need to put together another matrix at Tech of the Hub.

Revision: Netflix updated their original statement to us, clarifying the software available to enable 1080P became available this past summer for CE companies, not in 2010 as originally stated. The story has been updated to reflect the clarification.

Update: See our list of which devices already have or will be getting Netflix 1080P.

PS3 Netflix app streaming at 1080P
It’s getting crowded out there! (Netflix PS3 app streaming at 1080P)

Related Posts:
Roku 2: The Best Netflix Player?
Best 2011 Blu-ray Player for Netflix
In search of 24 FPS on Netflix

Tags: HDTV, Netflix, Playstation3, PS3, Roku, streaming

8 Responses to Netflix Opens 1080P Floodgates

  1. SephirothNP on October 24, 2011 at 3:43 pm

    Gabe-  I think that this is one of the most critical and disruptive technologies out there (i.e. streaming 1080p and 5.1 channel surround), as it essentially renders piracy unnecessary, as well as competes nearly directly with blu-ray.  I refer to your website nearly daily for updates on this front, and you are the ONLY person carrying the torch on this topic, which boggles my mind (i.e. I am amazed that other bloggers/outlets don't watch this on a minute-by-minute basis).  Absolute kudos, and please, please, keep up the great work for those of us in the trenches!!

  2. BillShepp on October 25, 2011 at 4:13 pm

    Sephiroth, I disagree.  Without sufficient bandwidth 1080p streaming will look worse than 720p due to compression artifacts, and the number of homes which can reliably stream at a rate which does 1080p justice is still relatively small.  And don't forget how quickly 1080p streaming will consume the monthly data allotment most of our ISP's have now imposed…

    • RickL on January 11, 2012 at 6:34 pm

      If you have a cable connection like with Comcast, you’ll get a 250GB/month limit. That is enough for streaming more than two 1080P movies every day for a month. So, if you have Cable – it should be more than sufficient bandwidth for most users.

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