Internet Speed Requirements for Video Streaming

Minimum speed requirements for Hulu, Netflix, Vudu, and more

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Vudu internet speed test. Vudu

There's a minimum recommended internet speed for streaming video from websites and services, such as Netflix, Hulu, Vudu, and Amazon. Some users may not need to worry about their available bandwidth because they can easily stream high-def content, but others should be aware.

The last thing you want when watching a movie is to not have it load. If this happens every minute or two, you might not have a fast enough connection to stream movies like that.

Minimum Speed Recommendations for Streaming Movies

In order to have smooth standard definition video, it's usually recommended to have a connection that is more than 2 Mb/s. For HD, 3D, or 4K, that speed is much higher. It's also different depending on the service that's dishing out the videos.

Netflix:

  • 1 Mb/s for viewing standard definition on a laptop computer. While you can stream Netflix at speeds of 1 Mb/s, the quality will be grainy on a large screen, much like watching an old VHS movie
  • 2 Mb/s for viewing standard definition video (480p) on a TV
  • 4 Mb/s for viewing high-def video (720p, 1080p)
  • 5 Mb/s or more for the best audio and video experience
  • 15 Mb/s for 4K streaming (but 25mb/s is preferred). Also recommended is a 4K Ultra TV with an HEVC decoder

When streaming from Netflix, the service will automatically adjust the quality of video to its assessment of your internet speed. If Netflix determines that you have a slower speed, it will not stream high definition quality video to you, even if the movie or TV show is available in HD.

As a result, you don't experience interruptions and buffering of the video but the picture quality will surely suffer.

Vudu:

  • 1.0-2.3 Mb/s for standard definition video
  • 2.3-4.5 Mb/s for 720p, high-def video 4.5-9 Mb/s for full high definition 1080p resolution video and high definition audio
  • 9 Mb/s or more for 3-D HD movies

Vudu lets you run a test to see if the higher quality video will play on your media streamer. If a video halts and buffers repeatedly while you are watching it, a message will appear asking if you would rather stream a lower quality version.

Hulu:

  • 1.5 Mb/s to stream standard definition content
  • 3 Mb/s for 720p high-def videos
  • 6 Mb/s to stream 1080p HD content
  • 13 Mb/s for 4K Ultra HD videos

Amazon Video:

  • 1 Mb/s to stream standard definition content
  • 3.5 Mb/s to stream HD content (720p/1080p)
  • 15 Mb/s for 4K Ultra HD videos

iTunes Video

  • 2.5 Mb/s to stream standard defintion (480p) content.
  • 6 Mb/s to stream 720p HD content.
  • 8 Mb/s to stream 1080p HD content.
  • 25 Mb/s to stream 4k Ultra HD content.

YouTube

  • 2.5 Mb/s to stream 720p HD content.
  • 4 Mb/s to stream 1080p HD content.
  • 15 Mb/s to stream 4K Ultra HD content.

What Internet Speeds Are Available?

While there are many rural communities that cannot even reach 2 Mb/s, more of the larger cities, suburbs, and urban areas have speeds available of 10 Mb/s and above.

It is not limited to broadband/cable internet. In some cases, internet speeds nearing 20 Mb/s from a DSL internet connection may be available.

Some providers offer DSL speeds of 24 Mb/s and above, while some cable providers offer 30 Mb/s or higher. Google Fiber serves 1 Gb/s (one gigabit per second) speeds. These ultra-high speed connections can handle just about any video we have available now, and much more.

Other Gigabit services include Cox Gigablast, AT&T Fiber, and Xfinity.

How Fast Is My Internet?

You can quickly check your internet speed using one of these internet speed test websites. However, be aware that these tests might not be accurate if there are other factors contributing to a slow network. There's more on that in the next section below.

Netflix even has its own speed test at Fast.com that lets you test the speed of your network and Netflix. This is the best test to take if you're planning to subscribe to Netflix because it actually tests how well you can download content from their servers, which is precisely what you'll be doing when you stream Netflix videos.

Things That Affect Network Speed

While it's true that your internet speed caps out at what you're paying for, other things can affect that speed too, such as the devices you're using. If you have an old, hardly-working router or modem, or laptop or phone, it's harder to actually utilize all the bandwidth you're given from your ISP.

If you're having issues streaming online videos to your laptop, for example, you can try to boost the strength your network's WiFi signal, or disconnect from Wi-Fi and use a physical Ethernet connection instead. It's possible that the Wi-Fi signals are weak in that particular place in the building, or that the device is being interfered with by other wireless signals.

Something else to consider is that your network bandwidth is shared between every other device on your network. Say you have an 8 Mb/s internet speed and four other devices, like some desktops and laptops, and a gaming console. If every one of those devices is using the internet at once, each of them can essentially only download at 2 Mb/s, which is hardly enough for SD content from Hulu.

With that being said, if you're still having trouble with buffering and videos neglecting to fully load and boosting your WiFi signal or the Ethernet connection option doesn't solve the problem, stop using your other devices - you are probably just putting to much demand on your home network.

To put it in real-world terms, if you are having video streaming issues, don't be downloading things on your laptop and be on Facebook on your phone while you stream videos from your Xbox. It's just not going to work out very well.

The Bottom Line

If video streaming is the main way you access TV and movie programming and the rest of the household  also needs to access the internet at the same time, the best way to avoid annoying problems with low quality, slow loading, and buffering, as well as ensuring you meet all the speed requirements of the services you want access to, is to make the financial commitment to secure the fastest internet speed available in your area that you can afford.

Disclaimer: The core content of this article was originally written by Barb Gonzalez, but has been edited, reformatted, and updated by Robert Silva and Lifewire Staff.

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