You’ve probably noticed that YouTube won’t render 4K videos in the Safari browser even though modern Macs support native display resolutions higher than 1080p and have the processing power required for smooth 4K video playback.

VP9 vs. H.265

That’s because Google uses the VP9 codec to encode YouTube clips in resolutions higher than 1080p. For videos up to 1080p, Google uses the ubiquitous H.264 codec that works on most devices. Anything higher than 1080p gets encoded using the VP9 codec. Apple two years ago adopted the High Efficiency Video Codec (also know as H.265) in iOS 11 and across its other platforms, but Google doesn’t support it.

For those reasons, Mac fans who prefer Safari over Chrome tend to keep Google’s browser installed on their system for those times when they’d like to enjoy 4K videos on YouTube. Even checking out if a video is available in 4K resolution requires you to click the gear icon in YouTube’s video player in Safari  and select the Quality sub-menu.

YouTube’s Quality menu in Chrome showing the 4K resolution selected.

Wait, scratch that – on Safari, YouTube’s Quality menu won’t even list any resolutions higher than 1080p, even if the video is available in 4K. In other words, you’ll have to use a non-Apple browser to play YouTube videos in 1440p, 2160p (4K) or higher quality on your Mac

Developer Maxim Ananov has made a cool Safari extension that helps with that.

Enter 4Ktube for Safari

It shows a “4K” badge in the Safari toolbar when a YouTube video has quality higher than 1080p available. With a single click, you can then watch the 4K version in Chrome instead.

Best of all?

The extension also works for opening any page in Chrome—great when you stumble upon a website that doesn’t work well in Safari! With a click of the toolbar button, the problematic page is sent to Chrome.

How to send 4K videos from Safari to Chrome

It couldn’t be simpler, just follow the steps below.

1) Download 4Ktube via Mac App Store for two bucks.

2) Launch 4Ktube on your Mac.

3) In the 4Ktube window, click Show in Safari Preferences.

4) Now launch Safari and choose Preferences from the Safari menu.

5) Click Extensions in the toolbar and enable the 4Ktube extension in the sidebar.

Don’t forget to enable the extension in Safari preferences.

You can now load any YouTube video in Safari.

If the video has 4K quality available, you’ll see a “4K” badge on the 4Ktube’s toolbar icon.

This YouTube video has 4K quality available.

Simply look out for that badge in the toolbar when browsing YouTube in Safari, then click the button any time you’d like to watch the video in 4K resolution in Chrome.

The same video opened in Chrome in 4K resolution.

By shift-clicking the toolbar icon, the page will automatically close in Safari when you open it in Chrome (this can be set as the default behavior in the 4Ktube preferences).

To learn more about this extension, visit the official website.

Ananov’s other apps

Ananov is behind other cool apps, some of which we’ve featured on the site.

TouchSwitcher, for example, makes it a cinch for MacBook Pro owners to switch between the recently-used apps right from the Touch Bar. Ananov is perhaps best-known for his work on HazeOver, a versatile Mac app that turns various distractions in macOS down so you can focus on the task at hand.

HazeOver has many uses, one of them involving reducing background contrast on websites that don’t come with light and dark styles to match Mojave’s Light and Dark modes.

What’s your preferred solution for watching 4K YouTube videos on your Mac?

Let us know in the comments!