How to get the best streaming quality

If you put plunk down money every month for a streaming service (or seven), then you probably want the best possible video quality your service provides. However, this won’t always be what you get by default.

Here, we’ll cover the various factors that affect the quality of video streaming – not just the speed at which Wi-Fi reaches your device, but also the type of device you’re watching on and the specific plan you’ve signed up for.

By the time you’ve completed this checklist, you’ll be enjoying your shows and movies in crisp, sharp 4K resolution, if your devices support it. If not, at least you’ll know why.

Check your plan

You can only watch Netflix in 4K on the most expensive plan.

Netflix via David Nield

Maybe it’s been a while since you first signed up for your streaming plan (or plans), or maybe you’ve never thought about the different plans each service offers. In any case, it’s important to know that some platforms offer different levels of quality depending on how much you pay each month.

Netflix is ​​perhaps the best example of this. At the cheapest $9.99 level, you don’t even get true HD (High Definition)—720p, or 720 horizontal lines in each frame. You need to pay $15.49 per month for 1080p HD, and you need to pay $19.99 per month for Ultra HD or 4K. That top resolution is 2160p, or 2,160 lines in each frame, three times more than standard HD.

The good news is that most other platforms only offer one option with resolutions up to 4K, although it’s worth double-checking with those you’ve signed up for. HBO Max is another service that gives you a choice of plans, with a cheaper $9.99 per month option introducing commercial breaks and limiting streaming resolution to 720p HD. To get full quality and remove ads, you have to pay $14.99 per month.

However, the thing about all streaming services is that not everything will be available in crisp 4K resolution. Older shows and movies in particular can be returned to 720p HD, so that could be another reason why the picture quality you’re seeing isn’t great—it could be that what you’re watching just isn’t available in the best format.

Check your device

Most streaming apps have video quality settings.

Disney Plus via David Nield

Along with checking your streaming plan, you also need to check the device you’re using. A smartphone or tablet with a resolution of 1080p (1080 horizontal lines of pixels) will obviously not be able to display a 2160p 4K image as originally intended. A quick web search should be enough to determine if your chosen streaming service is available in 4K on your streaming device of choice.

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