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Streaming Video Speed

Many of you are interested in streaming video to your television, tablets or notebook computers, but have no idea how fast your WiFi connection needs to be or how to test it. I will explain both.

The misleading information

  • Often you see bars on mobile devices that are supposed to measure signal strength. There is very little relationship between the bars and reality. Do not pay much attention to them.
  • Often WiFi routers will tell you they have speeds of 150 Mbps or 300 Mbps. This is nice. Normally bigger numbers are better. But, this gives you no information about what speed you will actually get from some particular location at your home or office.

What Speed do you need?

In order to get normally smooth streaming without much or any buffering, you need at least:
  • For Standard Definition: 2 Mbps is fine.
  • For High Def 720p: 4 Mbps. This is the best Netflix offers.
  • For High Def 1080p with high quality audio: 8 Mbps
  • For 3D high Def: 10 Mbps

So, you can see that talk of 150 Mbps or 300 Mbps is not relevant to this discussion.

How do you test your signal?

The best source I've found for testing, is Speedtest.net. You can go directly there with your browser. This is sufficient for a notebook or PC. However, there are excellent apps that make it easier to test with your phone or tablet.

There are new smart TVs, but if you have an older TV and HDMI input, I think one of the simplest, cheapest and easiest ways to go is a Roku Box. It will let you stream Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu Plus, Pandora, HBO and about 200 other free and paid channels.

Date: October 2012

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