These days, streaming video is ubiquitous, from video game consoles to smart phones to tablets, laptops to set-top devices like Roku and Apple TV, to blu-ray devices to smart tvs. It’s not uncommon to be streaming different content from different sources on different devices all under one roof. And nothing is worse than when you settle in to catch up on your favorite show, only to run into the wall of buffering.
Nothing takes away from the immersion like constant stops and downgrades in quality. What is the point of HD content and HD screens if the delivery is barely worthy of YouTube? Those digital artifacts, the lag time and the buffering are all symptoms of a network stressing its data load. There are many things you can do to optimize your video streaming and get the best from the experience.
First and foremost is to check your speed. Use speedtest.net (or your cable company or ISP may have a recommended speed test) and see what your download speed is in reality. Then check your preferred services for recommended download speeds for the best viewing experience. For example, Netflix recommends 5.0 Megabits per second for HD, while Hulu recommends at least a 3 Mbps connection for HD quality. If you don’t meet these basic requirements, you may need to downgrade the quality or look at a better plan if you view a lot of streaming video.
With that in mind, here are 5 tips to help you get the most out of your streaming experience:
- Get Wired. The best streaming will be a direct Ethernet connection to your device. Keep in mind that even the cable affects the signal so make sure you are using Cat 5 or even Cat 6 cabling. Understandably, that may not always be possible or desirable. In that case, do the best you can to be physically near the router and eliminate things (if possible) that produce “noise” in the signal (microwave oven usage, wireless phones, etc.).
- Check your router. Make sure it is up to date. Most ISPs will have a list or you can ask support to make sure your router is capable of delivering the best signal. In any case, if you plan on doing a lot of streaming in your household, consider a dual band router. This will give you a band for net surfing and phone/tablets and a 5Ghz band for streaming video.
- Downgrade the quality of your viewing experience. Not always an option depending on your service, and certainly not the preferable one, but in the case of a bad signal, downgrading the quality of the stream will help to eliminate buffering.
- Limit the devices downloading at once. If you are getting clogged up, stop other browsing activity and limit the number of devices accessing wirelessly and this should help.
- If you are using Wi-Fi® , as mentioned earlier, physical proximity matters. Be close to the router or look into a booster to help move the signal through your home.