With the release of OS X Yosemite for Mac, you can now enjoy Netflix in the browser without using Silverlight. That also means that you can enjoy it in 1080p and get several extra hours of playback on a battery charge.
No more Silverlight
For years, the slow Silverlight plugin has been required to play video from most streaming services, including Netflix. Silverlight did not allow you to go over 720p resolution and 3 Mb/s bitrate while watching Netflix. This is starting to change, which means several things.
Using Safari 8 in OS X Yosemite, you can now play movies from Netflix.com without Silverlight. Instead, Safari 8 is using HTML5 with some of the new DRM web initiatives - no plugins required. This gives faster playback, 1080p resolution at 5.8 Mb/s bitrate, several hours of extra battery life, and generally just a much better viewing experience.
To check if you are watching 1080p you can press shift+ctrl+alt+D to get the stats as in the photo above. Notice 1920x1080 in line 13 of the code. You can also force Netflix to go to 1080p by pressing shift+ctrl+alt+S and select 5800 bitrate.
This is the first time it has been possible to playback Netflix in 1080p on a Mac. This is potentially big news for those who use a Mac Mini as a TV media center.
Some people have noticed that the latest version of Chrome will also let you stream in HTML5 on Mac, but unfortunately it will not go over 720p resolution, and therefore offers no picture quality improvement. The Chrome browser also consumes considerably more power on a MacBook.
Netflix also recently started allowing HTML5 playback and 1080p resolution on Windows 8.1 with Internet Explorer 11.
However, it is still not possible to enjoy Netflix in 4K on a PC or Mac. To enjoy Netflix in 4K you need an Ultra HD Smart TV with HEVC. Here is a guide on how to watch Netflix in 4K.