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A drop in Netflix picture quality - where is X-high HD
Have you noticed a drop in Netflix picture quality?

10 Dec 2012 | Rasmus Larsen |

Over the last two weeks users have started talking about a drop in Netflix’s picture quality. PlayStation 3 owners have noticed how the X-High HD level has disappeared. Netflix has published an official response saying that they have implemented a more efficient compression technology. Have you experienced a drop in picture quality?

Netflix picture quality – where is my X-high?

Full HD takes up a lot of data so it has to be compressed before it reaches your TV. Netflix uses the so-called adaptive streaming technology that adjusts picture quality to your internet speed and if your connection is fast enough you automatically get best possible picture quality.

But a few weeks ago people started noticing that the X-High level – the highest picture quality level – went missing. PS3 owners, for example, are able to see which stream they are receiving by pressing the Select button.

FlatpanelsHD became aware of this at the end of November and has since investigated the situation. We tried to get an official response which we received today (see below). The change appears to affect all of Netflix’s markets, including Europe. Some users have reported a visible drop in picture quality but also 20 % lower bandwidth requirements.

Netflix removes the X-High level
The X-High picture quality level has disappeared but Netflix still promises better picture quality, picture credit:

Netflix responds

FlatpanelsHD has received a response from Netflix regarding the matter. Netflix explains that they are currently implementing a new compression format developed by EyeIO that can maintain the same level of picture quality but cut data usage in half (for a 720p stream).

Netflix says that they still stream in 1080p (Full HD) quality but the better compression actually enables them to improve picture quality in “textures, shadows, skies, and particularly faces”. X-High has been removed – at least right now – but the new High HD level that previously was a 720p stream is now a 1080p stream. However, users seem to disagree with Netflix on the matter of better picture quality.

But some questions remain open. Netflix does not mention if they intend to bring back the X-High HD level or if it has been phased out entirely. If they intend to bring it back we could see improved picture quality in the near future. If not, it seems that Netflix has just reduced the detail level of their 1080p streams.

What about you? Have you experienced a drop in Netflix picture quality during the last two weeks?

Below is the official response that we have just received from Netflix

”We are rolling out better encoding for the TV shows and movies on Netflix.
That means that we can get a better picture quality at a lower bitrate.
The savings in bits let people on slower connections get 1080p and there is also additional detail in the textures, shadows, skies, and particularly faces. Because we are introducing better encoding, what used to be X-high / HD is now labeled a tier lower. We are continuing to work on higher quality encodes, so stay tuned!”

- Source: AVS Forum, Netflix USA, picture from Engadget

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