if you put Pay a monthly fee for a streaming service (or seven), then you probably want the best video quality your service offers. However, this is not always what you get by default.
Here, we’ll look at the different factors that affect the quality of streaming video — not just how fast Wi-Fi can reach your device, but also the type of device you’re watching on, and the specific plan you’re enrolled in.
When you go through this checklist, if your device supports it, you’ll enjoy shows and movies in crisp, razor-sharp 4K resolution. If not, at least you’ll know why.
Check your plan
Maybe it’s been a long time since you first signed up for your streaming plan (or plans), or maybe you’ve never considered the different plans each service offers. Regardless, it’s important to know that some platforms offer different levels of quality based on what you pay each month.
Netflix is perhaps the best example. On the cheapest $9.99 tier, you can’t even get true HD (high definition) — 720p or 720 horizontal lines per frame. 1080p HD costs $15.49 per month, and Ultra HD or 4K costs $19.99 per month. The highest resolution is 2160p, or 2,160 lines per frame, three times the quality of standard HD.
The good news is that most other platforms only offer a single option for resolutions up to 4K, but it’s worth double-checking which platform you’re registered with. HBO Max is another service that gives you a choice of plans, a cheap $9.99 per month option that introduces ad breaks and limits streaming resolutions to 720p HD. To get full quality and remove ads, you’ll need to pay $14.99 per month.
However, as is true for all streaming services, not all content will be available in crisp 4K resolution. Older shows and movies in particular may fall back to 720p HD, so this could be another reason why you’re seeing poor quality – it could be that whatever you’re watching isn’t available in the best possible format.
Check your device
In addition to checking your streaming plan, you also need to check the device you’re using. A smartphone or tablet with 1080p resolution (1,080 horizontal pixel lines) obviously cannot display 2160p 4K pictures as originally intended. A quick search on the web should be enough to determine if your streaming service of choice is available in 4K on your streaming device of choice.
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