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Netflix testing 4K 'UltraHD' video streaming

If you’re one of the early adopters who spent four figures on a new 4K TV, get ready to cheer: Netflix now has a number of of 4K video clips for you to watch on your state-of-the-art set.

Unfortunately they’re all the same clip. But who’s counting?

In January, Netflix launched what it called “Super HD,” first to ISP partners which used its dedicated network, Netflix Open Connect, followed by any ISP which could support it. The idea was to push the Netflix movies and TV shows at a bitrate that could deliver content at or near 1080p resolutions to take advantage of the latest HDTVs.

In January, however, TV manufacturers dumped their 3D TV experiment and began moving to what the industry called Ultra HD. That’s generally considered to be video at a 3840-by-2160 resolution (which defines video by the number of horizontal pixels, rather than the vertical pixels used by 1080p). Netflix appears to be preparing to shift to the next-gen technology, too, according to a GigaOm report.

Eventually this screen could be filled with 4K offerings.

It’s unclear how much bandwidth 4K will use. Super HD requires bandwidth between 5 Mbps and 7 Mbps. By next year, however, development of a new video codec called HEVC or H.265 should help immensely, as it reportedly halves the bitrate of H.264 video without a noticeable loss of image quality.

The clips that Netflix has put up for viewing aren’t movies, per se, but just test clips showing off a number of scenes. Note that if Netflix doesn’t think that your bandwidth connection will support it, you won’t receive the clips in their 4K goodness; our rather pedestrian office connection at IDG’s TechHive world headquarters generated video that was rather granular and ugly. With streaming video, it’s definitely a case of “your mileage may vary.”

On the other hand, cable companies are already prepping for a future where you’ll have up to 6 Gbps available for downloads. (Right now, Google Fiber and Cablevision’s cable service lead the way.) Sure, the DOCSIS 3.1 specification will take a few years to be deployed, but by then you might be able to pick out the wrinkles around the eyes of Robert Downey Jr. in Avengers 4.

YouTube also has its own list of 4K demonstration videos; you can also search within the YouTube site for more.

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