Netflix has unveiled a new Ultra package in South Africa, which is priced at R239 per month.
The Ultra package supports a new “highest quality audio” option in Netflix. It also includes the same attributes as the Premium option, including UHD streaming and support for four screens at once.
Netflix told MyBroadband that the Ultra package is part of a test of different price points to better understand “how consumers value Netflix”.
“Not everyone will see the test, and we may not ever offer the specific price points or features beyond this test,” said Netflix.
It added that the highest quality audio option will deliver a “significantly higher bitrate” to supported devices. This will produce crisper, more immersive sound if network conditions allow.
“Those who selected the Ultra plan will have access to enhanced audio capabilities that deliver more crisp, better quality sound on supported devices.”
Netflix said that most new TVs, streaming sticks, and gaming consoles with 5.1 audio capabilities will be supported.
Members who sign up for the Ultra plan will also be able to keep the enhanced audio capabilities beyond the test.
Netflix Ultra tested
To see what the Netflix Ultra package has to offer, MyBroadband signed up for the package.
The Ultra option was not visible to everyone in the office when tested, and different browsers on the same PC gave different package options.
For example, using Chrome on a MacBook Pro allowed us to sign up for the Ultra package. Using Safari on the same MacBook Pro did not present the Ultra package on the sign-up screen.
Once we had signed up for the Ultra package, Netflix confirmed that our first month would be free and after that we would pay R239 per month.
It also stated that we would get UHD streams, be able to watch on four screens at the same time, and have access to the highest quality audio available.
The two screenshots below show the attributes of the Ultra package and how it compares against the existing Basic, Standard, and Premium packages.
Once we had signed up for the Ultra package, we noticed that along with “Ultra HD” support there was a new “HiFi” line item as part of the plan details.
This is in reference to the “highest quality audio” option which the package supports.
The only new element in the Ultra package compared to the Premium package is the addition of the highest quality audio option.
UHD streaming is the maximum resolution for the Ultra package, which Premium already supports.
Our test of the Ultra package would therefore focus on whether there was a difference in the sound quality between content on the two packages.
To find out, we opened Netflix in a Chrome browser window and in a Safari browser window on the same PC.
In Chrome, a Premium Netflix account was logged into, while in Safari we used an Ultra package.
The browsers were running on a new 15-inch MacBook Pro which was connected to a fibre line via Wi-Fi. This gave us download speeds of over 70Mbps and upload speeds of nearly 80Mbps.
A scene from the new Netflix original Outlaw King with a high range – including strong bass and high treble – was selected and lined up in both browsers.
We then connected a pair of Sennheiser HD 380 Pro professional monitoring headphones to the MacBook Pro and had three MyBroadband staff members listen to the two scenes.
They were not told in what order the “Premium” or “Ultra” versions of the scene were played, and were asked to give feedback on which clip sounded better.
In all three cases, the individuals could not tell the difference between sound quality – and when asked to give an answer on which scene was from the Ultra package, made the wrong selection.
It must be noted, however, that while the HD 380 Pro headphones feature a wide frequency range, the hardware may not have been able to fully support the highest quality audio features.
It was also not stated in Outlaw King’s information page if it offered the best audio option – but as a new Netflix original feature film, we predicted it had the best chance of supporting the feature.
Netflix did state that new “TVs, streaming sticks, and gaming consoles with 5.1 audio capabilities” will support the audio option, and the headphones and MacBook Pro may have simply fallen short.
That, or MyBroadband staff have no appreciation for good-quality sound.
If you do have a high-end sound system, please let us know if you notice a sound difference in the comments section or forum.