Originally Posted by Brian Conrad
Lower bitrates are usually HEVC even for 1080p and possibly 720p and even 480p if the device supports HEVC. And even VP9 which they announced using on mobile devices but could be used on devices that haven't licensed HEVC. Otherwise it's h264 with the old ladders. And I wouldn't depend on Netflix to keep doing things the way "they've announced". No company does that.
House of Cards, S1 E1 has a high bit rate of 1400 Kbps, 1080p (110, 140, 200, 300, 400, 560, 790, 1100, 1400). The debug display (CTRL-SHIFT-ALT-D) says that it's AVC. This is on Windows 10--the app and the web player running in Edge show the same thing. Of course, the debug display could be wrong. The embedded players concur about the bit rate, though their debug displays express 1400 Kbps as 1.34 Mbps
(1,400,000 / 2 ^ 20 is 1.335). I don't have anything which immediately falls to hand that I know is absolutely, positively incapable of HEVC decoding; I've got a Roku 3 somewhere but I moved a few months ago and lord only knows what still packed box it's in. Chromecast can't, but it can't be made to display the debug overlay. Xbox 360 cannot, but its restricted to 720p; it is, however, reporting that the 720p encode it's playing is 1100 Kbps. My actively used streamers are Roku Premiere+, Xbox One S (rarely) and TiVo Bolt; all these and the TV's internal app are HEVC capable.
I strongly believe that those bit rates are for AVC.