Netflix is finally offering a 4K streaming service. But Netflix 4K streaming isn’t for everyone. You must have a PC that satisfies both the hardware and the software requirements.
Let’s have a look into them and see if either the Surface Pro 4 or the Surface Book can handle them.
Netflix 4K Streaming – Software Requirements
The first interesting requirement is the browser requirement. Netscape asks you to use Microsoft’s Edge browser and nothing else! Not even their own Netflix’s Windows app!
At the moment, Edge is the only browser to support Windows 10’s PlayReady 3.0 (Content Protection DRM) and Protection Media Path. Netflix wants this, because they, as the owner of the contents, wants to prevent viewers from capturing and distributing contents illegally.
Other popular browsers may support PlayReady 3.0 in the future but none of them have made any announcements as of yet.
This also automatically means that you will need to use Windows 10.
Netflix 4K Streaming – Hardware Requirements
This is unfortunately where all Surface devices of today fail terribly. Netflix wants you to use a PC that uses the latest generation processor from Intel – the Kaby Lake processors. Note that the desktop version of that generation isn’t even out yet. Only a selected few laptops from specific vendors can claim they have Kaby Lake processors as of today.
So why this (harsh?) requirement?
It’s all about the 4K decoding. This is a very processor hungry operation that requires some help from the hardware. To make it worse (or better, depending on your perspective), Netflix 4K streaming is 10-bit. You can get away with 8-bit streaming, but then you will see banding and lower color details. What’s the point of having super high resolution but less than desirable color grading, right?
A generic processor will have a hard time decoding full 10-bit 4K streams in real time. The Kaby Lake series was designed to handle such tasks. There are some arguments that today’s high-end processors can decode this in real-time, including the Surface Pro 4 and the Surface Book that uses Core i7-6700K (a Skylake model). But for now, Netflix has decided not to go there. Why? My guess is that they don’t want to deal with support issues. They will want to reduce the number of different variations of supported platform until they build more confidence on the reliability side.
Of course, many of the video cards sold today can easily handle this kind of 10-bit 4K decoding, at least in theory but….
But may be….?
Any video cards powerful enough can be certified for PlayReady 3.0. Could this be enough? Perhaps this is only the first round of testing phase where Netflix wants to limit number of users to iron out potential issues? Both Nvidia’s Pascal series GPUs and AMD’s Polaris series support PlayReady 3.0. You can buy these video cards today and they are not all insanely priced.
But then there’s the connectivity issues. If you are using a desktop machines (or a laptop connected to a display), you will need to use HDCP 2.2. This has only became more popular recently. The chances are that if your setup is not based on the latest generation technology, you don’t have it.
The Surface Pro 4 will probably never be able to play such streams. The first gen Surface Book probably won’t either – it’s dGPU is just not powerful enough. The second gen Surface Book with more powerful dGPU might be able to get there.
But for most of us, we will probably have to wait for Microsoft to release the next generation Surface devices – Surface Pro 5 and the Surface Book. With the Kaby Lake processors, you are in good hands. Well, at least for the Netflix 4K fans.
Oh and Microsoft’s latest creation – Surface Studio won’t be able to handle Netflix 4K streaming. What a bummer.
Netflix 4K Streaming – Do I really need it?
If you are watching movies on your tiny 12/13-inch screens, is it really worth going up to Netflix 4K streaming? After all, that requires not just more hardware but also consumes more data, faster, meaning higher internet bills.
In reality, the answer is probably yes if you are a die hard fan. 4K streaming doesn’t just offer better resolution. In fact, many view higher resolution as one of the less important quality the 4K streaming brings. It is the additional color and dynamic range that adds to the overall enhanced experience.
Also, higher resolution means you can sit closer to the screen. We currently sit pretty close to our 65-inch 4K TV. (Yes, people visiting our place laugh at us). When we watch a good 4K YouTube videos, they are amazing. But only if you sit close enough.
And finally, here are the movies Netflix currently streams in 4K:
Kaby Lake is the latest generation processor from Intel. This is supposed to be the next greatest from Intel. This will power the next generation Surface devices from Microsoft. Does it perform what is hyped up to be?
Since this is based on the same generation manufacturing technology as the current generation processors, we are not expecting a huge jump in terms of performance. It is possible to derive a theoretical number based on the architectural improvements but that’s only an educated guess.
Nevertheless, this is an interesting topic for us since it is expected to power both the new Surface Pro 5 and the Surface Book 2. Up to now, no one has managed to compare the real life performance between the Kaby Lake and the Skylake (current generation) processors. All that has changed, however.
Recently, there has been a leak from Geekbench site on the Kaby Lake processors. The fastest model in this line-up, called ‘Core i7-7700K’ clocked at 4.2GHz, is expected to outperform the current speed champ, ‘Core i7-6700K’ clocked at 4.0GHz. This is to be expected even just going by the clock speed alone. But that only accounts for 5% speed improvement.
The Geekbench measures performance for both single-core and multiple-core use cases. Keep in mind that not all applications today can utilize all available cores at the same time. This holds true even when multi-core friendly OS such as Windows 10 is used. Obviously, these benchmarks are designed to stress all available cores, so it may not realistically reflect everyday usage by typical users. For gamers on the other hand, is another story…
So what was the find from this site? Here are the numbers for the Kaby Lake:
And here are the numbers for the Skylake (current generation) processor. I had to pick an average one because there were thousands of submitted results using this processor.
As you can see, the Kaby Lake uses same number of cores and same number of threads.
In the single-core test, the Kaby Lake performed 10.5% better, while in the multi-core test, the Kaby Lake performed 11% better. Since 5% bump in clock speed accounts for part of this increase, the actual IPC (Instructions Per Cycle) improvement is only around 5 – 6%.
This is about what I was expecting out of this generation update. Without any major architecture refresh, you shouldn’t be expecting a huge bump in performance. But you do get other small improvements, especially in the area of video and power consumption (to be confirmed).
This article focuses on how to take care of your battery so that you can enjoy longer lasting battery even after many years of Surface use. This is not an article to talk about how to make your Surface battery life last longer on each charge – there are plenty of articles written on that topic.
Battery Life Cycle
Every type of rechargeable battery invented by human has a restricted number of life cycles. Each life cycle is defined as 100% of full capacity. So if you drained your battery 50% then fully charged twice, that’s one full cycle. Typical modern lithium batteries can last 500 to 1000 life cycles although some claim over 2000! This of course, depends on your usage habit. As long as your usage pattern isn’t very harmful for the battery, your device should last well past the lifespan of your device.
Here’s how you can find out how many life cycles you have consumed so far:
Press <Windows> + R
Type ‘CMD‘ then <Enter>
Type ‘powercfg /batteryreport‘ within the Command Prompt window then <Enter>.
This will create a file called ‘battery-report.html’ at some location that you need to note down in the Command Prompt.
Use the file explorer to navigate through to the report file.
When you open it, you will see the report with lots of information on the battery usage. You will also find the number of life cycles you have consumed on your Surface (see – ‘CYCLE COUNT’ field).
There are couple of things you should be aware that negatively impact the Surface battery life. Here are couple of them:
Heat – high temperature is very bad for batteries in general. Many cell phones damage batteries when it is used under load (such as playing games) while charging. I use a laptop cooler when I use y Surface Pro 4 extensively.
When you are using the device on battery, try not to go lower than 40%. Then charge back to 100%. This will pretty much ensure you will get at least 1000 life cycles. Most modern devices have some kind of built-in protection – they tend to report conservatively at the low end to discourage people from draining too low. Going down to 0% is bad but in reality, the controller will likely have stopped discharging well before the actual level dropped to 0%.
You shall do
Use ‘hibernate’ instead of ‘sleep’ mode. Yes, it is a bit slower but when your device is in hibernation mode, it discharges at far slower rate than when it is in ‘sleep’ mode. The problem with the sleep mode is that sometimes people forget that their device is set to sleep mode and leave them for a long time. This gradually brings the battery level to 0%.
Microsoft recommends to completely drain then fully charge about once a month. This is to recalibrate the battery monitor for the maximum accuracy. Remember, under a normal circumstance, this is considered bad but it needs to be done at least once a month, at least according to Microsoft.
Try to use as little battery as you can before charging. More frequently you charge, the better without going deep discharge.
Getting the best Surface battery life isn’t really that hard. Here’s what the Surface Team said on their batteries:
“The batteries on our Surface products are designed with some of the highest charge cycles for consumer electronic devices. This means that the battery can get charged daily (5 days a week) for over 4.5 years and still maintain 80% capacity.”
This is probably good enough for just about anyone.
Might be interesting to see how your device compares to others. Please post the age of your Surface and your life cycle consumed below.
This is my first official post at LoveMySurface and I’ll start with some rumor on the Microsoft Surface Pro 5 and Surface Book 2.
Microsoft does not typically give us any ideas on when their next model is likely to be released. They haven’t even been consistent with the release dates of the new generation models year to year. Here’s how Microsoft released their past Surface Pro models:
Surface Pro: June 18, 2012
Surface Pro 2: October 22, 2013
Surface Pro 3: May 20, 2014
Surface Pro 4 / Surface Book: October 6, 2015
Surface Pro 5: ?
Your guess is as good as mine, but the history says it will be announced either within the next 2 months or it will be in October. However, there is an important factor that will affect the release date. There is a good chance that Microsoft will wait for the new generation of CPUs to be released by Intel, which is currently code named ‘Kaby Lake’. Their original plan was to release this CPU mid 2016 but they’ve decided to delay this to late 2016. This lines up with Oct 2016 time frame quite well, so I would bet my money on this date. But if they choose to release the next gen models with the current generation processors, they may be able to release them by this June.
Modern electronic gadgets don’t change much as far as introductory prices go. As new versions are released, older versions come down in price. It would only go up significantly if the upgrades are substantial. Typical screen, CPU, memory, battery and storage updates will not push the new version’s price much if at all. The Surface Pro 4 was introduced at $899US or £749. Expect similar prices for the new models.
Back in January, a patent by Microsoft was leaked which hints towards a rechargeable Surface pen and a dock. The “dock” will likely be attached to the side of the Surface unit with appropriate contact points to provide charging capability. You will find much more details in this article by Patently Mobile.
New Processor (CPU)
Assuming the Surface Pro 5 will be released towards the end of this year, the new processor from Intel, code named Kaby Lake, will power the new generation lineup. Kaby Lake will use the same manufacturing process (14nm) as the current generation processors, so this could be taken as a minor update. Without going into great amount of details, you can expect the processor to offer the following improvements:
Faster maximum speed
Lower power consumption (at equivalent processing speeds)
Native USB 3.1 support – currently only USB 3.0 is offered. The USB 3.1 will offer roughly twice the speed of the USB 3.0.
New integrated graphics unit that offers better 3D graphics and 4K video playback capability.
None of these are confirmed but they are my educated guesses:
4K display – The current generation devices feature 2736 x 1824 pixel screens. 4K display demands at least 3840 pixels horizontally and this is the standard for high resolution displays today. Slightly bigger screen would be nice as well.
USB-C – gradually, USB C will replace all other USB types including those found in the phones and laptops. USB-C supports many standards such as DisplayPort, HDMI, power, older USB, and even VGA standards (but no Thunderbolt). It can handle over 100w of power, so you won’t need proprietary power cables for each laptops. This is the future!
Lower fan noise.
Better trackpad – it doesn’t always register my finger movements.
Better soft keyboard – just look at any of the keyboards available on the phones! The standard keyboard in Windows 10 simply blows big time! Swype type of keyboard would be super nice!
Fingerprint reader on the body rather than on the Type Cover keyboard pad so that everyone can have access to biometrics authentication.
Would you like to see any other features/changes on the upcoming devices? Please comment below.