Netflix subscribers get free hidden upgrade that enhances TV and movie streaming

The Netflix logo appears on a mobile below a laptop showing its streaming platform (image: Getty Images)

Netflix has secretly introduced a major update to its TV and film streaming service that may have already greatly improved your viewing experience.

The platform has upgraded its library of 4K HDR titles – the cream of the crop when it comes to picture quality. It means top tier subscribers with 4K TVs will now be getting even crisper images at no extra cost, with mobile and tablet streamers also likely to notice an improvement in the vibrancy of what they’re watching.

It comes after Netflix hiked the prices of its premium and standard ad-free tiers in October. While the streamer doesn’t offer free trials or much in the way of deals, we have found some ways to save money on its service. We have also rounded up all the latest deals in our guide to the best streaming services.

What has Netflix changed?

Netflix has improved picture quality, primarily for 4K TVs. It quietly announced the update in a post on its technical blog at the end of November, which was then picked up by our sister site TechRadar.

Netflix has teamed up with Dolby – the picture quality specialists employed by Hollywood film studios to make sure the latest films look crystal clear in cinemas. Together, they have updated the streamer’s high dynamic range, more commonly known as HDR, which is the range of light and dark tones you see on a screen.

They have gone from fixed bitrate encoding to dynamically optimised (DO) encodes. Put simply, the picture tone will be optimised to meet the requirements for each scene in a TV show or movie.

In practice, it means your viewing experience will improve in several key ways. Chief among them is that 4K TVs will now offer even sharper picture quality. But Netflix subscribers will also find that mobiles and tablets will burn through less data when they stream content on the go. There will also be less of a delay when you play and less variation in picture quality.

Who has got the Netflix upgrade?

The upgrade to Netflix’s service will only be available to premium subscribers. Top tier viewers are already guaranteed the highest streaming quality, with standard tiers showing in full HD (1080p) and the old universal tier offering basic HD (720p).

While its premium tier subscription is very expensive at £17.99 a month (£215.88 a year), the changes Netflix has made mean it now offers an unrivalled package when it comes to streaming quality. The only rub is that you’ll need a 4K TV to get the full experience.

Of course, the ability of your TV to show the best streaming quality will also depend on your internet speed. Netflix recommends a fast broadband connection of at least 15Mbps to get proper 4K definition. Use our speed test tool to see what speeds you’re getting and then check out our best broadband deals guide to find the best speeds for high quality streaming.

For all the latest on the top TV deals, visit our best streaming services guide. It’s also worth checking out our Netflix tips and tricks piece to find ways to save on your subscription.