Internet Speed Requirements for Video Streaming

Hulu, Netflix, Vudu and More - Movie Viewing

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Vudu Internet Speed Test. Image provided by Vudu

The Need For Speed

When you stream movies on a media streamer, Smart TV, or Networked Blu-ray Disc player from online sites like Netflix, Hulu or Vudu, you don't want to have to wait while the movie loads, or buffers. You certainly don't want the movie to stop every few minutes to load again. In order to have smooth standard definition video, you need a connection that is more than 2 Mb/s. For HD, 3D, or 4K you need higher speeds.

You Need Fast Internet Speeds for Streaming Video

When streaming from your Netflix Instant Que, the Netflix service will 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.

Other video streaming services, such as Vudu, let 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. 

What Internet Speeds Are Available?

While there are many rural communities that cannot even reach the 2 Mb/s speed, 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 mpbs or higher. Google Fiber (if you are lucky to live in a community that has access to it) offers 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 Gigbit services include Cox Gigablast, ATT Gigapower, and Comcast Xfinity. If you have a different internet provider, check to see if they offer Gigabit services.

How Fast Must Your Internet Be To Stream Video?

Many internet providers charge a premium for faster speeds. To get an idea of your internet speed plan, look at your internet provider bill or check under internet speeds on your cable or phone bill.

You can also test your current internet online videos, consider opting for a faster internet package.

What Internet Speed Should You Choose To Watch Movies?

With Netflix, while you can stream at internet speeds of 1 Mb/s, the quality will be grainy on a large screen TV — as if you were watching a VHS movie. 

Here are the following minimum internet speeds for Netflix:

1 Mb/s for viewing on a laptop computer

2 Mb/s for viewing standard definition video (480p) on a TV

4 Mb/s for viewing High Definition video (720p, 1080p)

5 Mb/s or more for the best audio and video experience 

In addition, 15 Mb/s is the minimum necessary for 4K streaming (25mb/s is preferred). Also, a 4K Ultra TV with HEVC decoder also required to access the 4K portion of the Netflix streaming service.

The Netflix streaming service can determine the speed that a video is streaming and will adjust the video quality to match that speed.

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

Vudu Suggested Streaming Speed 

 

When you rent a movie from Vudu, you are able to choose the quality of your video. Vudu's better quality audio and video "HDX" format costs more to rent than HD or standard definition videos.

To be sure the video will play smoothly, you can watch a two-minute preview test before making your final rental quality decision.

When you click on a movie, you can find a speed requirement chart under the "more info" menu tab. This chart will give you an idea how fast you need for each quality of video.

1.0 - 2.3 Mb/s for SD — Standard definition video

2.3 Mb/s - 4.5 Mbs for HD — High definition 720p resolution video 

4.5 Mb/s - 9 Mb/s for HDX — Full high definition 1080p resolution video and high definition audio 

9 Mb/s, or more, for 3-D HD movies

11Mbs or more for 4K Streaming - includes access to Dolby Vision HDR.

Hulu and Hulu Plus Suggested Streaming Requirements

1.5 Mbp/s for SD content 

3 Mbp/s for HD content.

However, there are other requirements for accessing Hulu and HuluPlus, depending on the device you are using. For more details, refer to the Hulu Subscription Requirements Page.

4K Streaming

With the introduction of 4K Ultra HD TVs, you are beginning to see 4K reslution content become available via internet streaming. As listed above Netflix is streaming some content in 4K, but there are additional requirements with regards to both required internet speed and TV or media streamer hardware/software requirements.

How You Connect Your Internet Streaming Devices  to Your Home Network Can Also Affect Speed

Remember that the speeds are measured at the device.  This means that if you test your speed at the device and it is significantly lower than your internet speed plan, the problem could be in how you connect from the device to your home network routher. 

Connecting to your home network wirelessly (Wifi) can often be slower than connecting using a powerline adapter.  Directly connecting your streaming device (Smart TV, Network Media Player/Media Streamer, Streaming Blu-ray Disc Player) to your router using an ethernet cable is your best choice. 

Updated 06/01/2016 By Robert Silva

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