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Netflix aims to one-up competitors with 'Ultra-HD' 4K video streams

Netflix is testing out 4K video streaming, posting a handful of short videos intended to demonstrate ultra high-definition capabilities.

As first noted by GigaOm, Netflix's "Watch Instantly" library currently lists several versions of a clip titled "El Fuente," which the description says are "an example of 4K."

The seven, eight minute videos are focused on Mexico, but appear to be made specifically for the 4K testing; ("El fuente" translates into "the source.")

"El Fuente: 24 MP," for example, is described as "an example of 4K at 24 frames per second." But there are also entries for 5994 MP, 50 MP, 30 MP, 2997 MP, and 25 MP.

But while you can watch the videos in question on any Netflix-enabled devices, you'll only be able to watch it in 4K if you have a 4K device. There are 4K TVs and monitors on the market, but they're not exactly cheap. As Asus 4K monitor went up for pre-sale this summer for $3,500 (£2192), while 4K TV sets from manufacturers like LG and Samsung can set you back tens of thousands of pounds.

Still, it seems Netflix wants to get out ahead of the crowd. During a recent earnings call, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings said Netflix wants to be "one of the big suppliers of 4K content next year."

As The Verge noted earlier this year, Netflix's House of Cards was shot in 4K. "It's being mastered in full HD, but the raw footage, or a good chunk of it, was shot in 4K, and we hope to have some House of Cards 4K encodes later this year," Netflix told the blog.

Available content is not the only issue, though. Just like high-definition streaming eats up more bandwidth than standard-definition streaming, 4K is an even bigger bandwidth hog.

Netflix acknowledged to The Verge the 4K will require a lot of work "with the compression and decode capability."

Every month, Netflix publishes an "ISP Index," which lists what it says are the IPSs that provide the best Netflix streaming experience. Not surprisingly, the gigabit Google Fiber has consistently topped that list, most recently with an average speed of 3.41 Mbps.

Earlier this year, Netflix started offering Super HD, which is the highest quality video format officially offered by Netflix, boosting picture on 1080p HDTVs. But it is only open to those who signed on for Netflix's Open Connect program, which serves as the video provider's very own content delivery system. As a result, ISPs that have avoided the Open Connect Program have accused Netflix of penalising them.

The move comes after news that Netflix investor, Carl Icahn, netted a tidy £495.8 million profit after selling part of his stakes in the company.