Many people just want an internet service that is good enough to surf the web, check email and enjoy a seamless streaming experience. Let us explore what you need to get exactly that.
SD, HD and UHD
SD stands for standard definition and is also known as 720p. HD stands for high definition. There was a time when we distinguished between HD, which is a 1280p or 1080i, and Full-HD, which is 1080p, but nowadays, that distinction is largely irrelevant for the average viewer. There is also UHD, which is ultra high definition or 3840 by 2160; 4K, which is 4096 by 2160; and 8K, which is 7680 by 4320.
What you should watch depends a lot on your television. If you stream movies on a 720p TV set, then SD is perfectly fine. On a 4K TV set, SD may look awful depending on how well that set scales. At any rate, the point here is less about what resolution you should watch and more about what you do.
Pixels and Bandwidth
The higher the resolution you watch, the more pixels you need to receive. Consider that each frame of SD content is made up of more than 400,000 pixels whereas each frame of 4K content is made up of almost nine million pixels. That requires a lot more bandwidth.
Most Americans have access to broadband wireless internet, which is currently defined as at least 25 Mbps download. That is more than ample for SD content, which can require as little as 3 Mbps, and ample for HD TV streaming content, which generally tops out at about 18 Mbps. For 4K content, the rule of thumb is that you want at least 50 Mbps, and for 8K content, you want at least 100 Mbps.
Be mindful that these estimates are per stream or screen. If you have a household of four and the potential exists that you may all be watching 4K content at the same time, then you are going to need at least 200 Mbps to ensure a good experience, and that is before factoring in other devices.
The current estimate is that the average American home will have 17 connected devices in 2022. While many of those devices are actively communicating online, the good news is that most of them require less than 1 Mbps. But in our earlier example, a household is likely to want at least 300 Mbps in order to ensure that everyone and all devices can use the Internet however they like without interruption.
Upgrade Your Internet Plan
Consider your preferred resolution. Factor in the number of people and screens in your household. Account for all of the other connected devices as well. You now have an estimate for what bandwidth you need. If you are currently below that mark, it is time to upgrade. You will either need to upgrade to a better plan with your current internet service provider or shop around for another ISP.
Upgrade Your Equipment
Be mindful that you can have enough bandwidth and still experience streaming issues. This is often due to equipment either because it is old or simply too low quality for the task. Outdated and inexpensive routers and Wi-Fi adapters are notorious for causing streaming problems. It is also a good idea to keep firmware and software up to date and to power cycle these devices every once in a while.