Streaming movies and TV shows is a great alternative to cable. Why pay for hundreds of channels you never watch, when you can pick and choose the services and programs you like most? But while video streaming is good, it often requires a bit of tech know-how to work optimally. Here are some handy tips.
Get Up to Speed
Video demands a lot of bandwidth, so a slow Internet connection won’t cut it. Streaming high-definition programs requires a 5 Mbps (megabits per second) or faster connection, according to Netflix. Hulu Plus and Amazon Prime, two other popular streaming services, recommend a minimum of 3 Mbps or 3.5 Mbps for HD, respectively. To stream 4K or Ultra HD video — four times the resolution of good ol’ HD — you’ll want at least a 25 Mbps connection. If your broadband is too slow, chances are you’ll experience a lot of buffering; the video feed keeps pausing, waiting for more bits to download. The moral? Bargain “broadband” plans are often too poky for video streaming, so be sure to read the fine print when you sign up with an Internet service provider (ISP).
Test Your Internet Connection
So you have plenty of bandwidth for HD video — say, 15 Mbps — but buffering is still a problem? You might not be getting the speed your ISP promised. An easy way to find out is to run broadband speed tests. Visit Speedtest.net and click the Begin Test button to see how fast your download and upload speeds really are. Do they match or surpass the bandwidth you’re paying for? If not, let your ISP know.
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Does your home’s wireless signal seem slower than it used to be? Is reception spotty in some rooms? Well, do something about it! Believe it or not, you don’t need an engineering degree to boost the range and speed of your wireless router.
1. Run a test. Before tinkering with the router, make sure the problem isn’t your Internet connection. The Web has plenty of free utilities that test broadband speeds, and they’re easy to run. Ookla Speedtest (speedtest.net) is known for delivering accurate results, or you could run a speed test from your Internet service provider. How fast should your connection be? If your provider promises download speeds of 10 Mbps (megabits per second), the speed test should prove it. If you use video streaming services like Netflix or Hulu Plus to watch HD-quality shows, you’ll want download speeds of at least 5 Mbps. Power users who stream HD video, play online games, and have four or more devices online at the same time will need a 15 Mbps or faster connection.