How to get the best picture quality on every streaming service

Let’s start with TV

Let’s start with the most basic. Each TV or screen that we use to watch movies and series has a specific resolution. This is given by the factory and what it tells us is the total number of pixels the panel has. When we talk about a Full HD screen, we are talking about the standard of 1920 by 1080 pixels. And when we say 4K, we’re really talking about a screen that has around 4 million pixels, because 4K isn’t really a standard as such, oddly enough.

If your television is in Full HD (also called 1080p), it is not that you see your streaming badly, on the contrary. You are paying for a resolution that you cannot use. By the same token, if you don’t share your account, run out of devices, and pay extra to achieve this solution, you’re wasting some of your budget.

On the other hand, we also usually talk about HDR. This does not refer to pixels, but rather to the dynamic range of tones that the panel can deliver. This parameter is standardized and only a few streaming services offer content for this type of display.

Each streaming service has its plan

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We come to one of the most important points. There are currently two types of subscription services:

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They offer a simple and homogeneous membership for all users. This is the case with Disney+ and Apple TV+. Whether you have a 4K TV or not, the only plan you can rent entitles you to access content in that resolution.

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Most platforms have chosen this type of subscription. Basic plans offer more limited resolutions at cheaper prices. Since we want more simultaneous screens or better image quality, we have to pay a little more.

In this section, each service is a world. Even the same company can offer different plans depending on the country you’re in. Netflix is ​​the most controversial case of all. Their most basic plan doesn’t even offer HD resolution. The dual-screen plan only allows Full HD resolution, and only the premium plan supports 4K content.

Playback device is important

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It is not the same to see the content on your Smart TV than on the mobile phone. There are many streaming services that limit the quality of the content depending on the device we use:

Limitations by device type and operating system

For example, if you have a mobile phone with a QHD resolution, some streaming services such as HBO Max (which has a unique package in France) will not give you the maximum. The same will happen if you have a mobile with 4K resolution, although they are not very common. Others have device limitations. Amazon Prime Video offers 4K resolution on Android phones, but not on iPhone or iPad. If you have the option, it’s best to watch Prime Video content on Android instead of iOS.

Browser limits

In the rare cases where a streaming service offers 4K support in the browser, such as Netflix, this often does not apply to all browsers. Continuing the example, Netflix offers 4K for Microsoft Edge, Safari, and the Netflix app on Windows. The compatibility list may change, but it gives us an idea of ​​where the shots are going. If you watch Netflix in Chrome, Firefox or Brave, you won’t get 4K resolution.

Internet connection can play an important role

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In many video services we use on the Internet, such as YouTube, we can choose the resolution manually. If at any point we have poor coverage, we can lower the resolution to prevent the playback from dropping. However, in recent years this technology has improved and the quality reduction is applied automatically. With streaming services, exactly the same thing happens, but silently.

If your internet speed is good and stable – you have your TV near the router or directly connected by Ethernet cable – you will rarely notice a sudden drop in quality. But if the environment is saturated, you have a bad connection, or your router is one of those that has blackouts, the video you consume will be affected.

Each service recommends certain settings depending on the encoding it provides for its content and the selected resolution. For 4K, Netflix recommends a connection of at least 15 megabits per second. HBO Max requires a better connection as they will ask you for at least a 25 Mbps connection (although they recommend 50 megabits per second to avoid problems).

Regardless of the internet plan you have at home, whether or not that bandwidth reaches your TV or playback device will depend on the coverage. If your router is too far away or there are thick walls between the router and your TV, the quality will drop and no one will tell you about it.

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