These days, people have many ways to watch movies, series, and virtually any digital content in the comfort of their homes.
Streaming giants like Netflix, Disney Plus, Hulu, and Prime Video boast massive libraries of new and old shows in HD and 4K quality. Families can watch on something as small as a smartphone to as enormous as a 97-inch OLED TV.
Yet, no matter the device or app used, many viewers are all too familiar with videos that intermittently buffer or dip in quality to no end. These mildly infuriating issues can ruin one’s immersion and overall enjoyment of a show.
So, how can households elevate their viewing experience at home? Check out the following suggestions:
1. Adjust App and Device Settings
Streaming the latest blockbuster film on a gigantic smart TV screen is something to behold. However, not everyone takes full advantage of the latest tech developments in home entertainment systems. Adjusting the settings on both apps and devices can ensure the best possible video quality.
Smart and digital TVs alike offer a selection of picture settings to suit the content on screen. These are usually standard mode, game mode, and movie mode. Some TV models have multiple movie modes to account for the room lighting. Users are also free to change brightness, contrast, and motion settings.
Likewise, streaming apps have video quality settings. Users with fast and stable internet can choose the highest level (Ultra HD on Netflix, for example) that their device can handle.
If the connection is slow or inconsistent, people can opt for a lower video quality or the auto setting. The latter option prevents buffering since it enables the app to adjust its streaming quality when the internet connection fluctuates.
2. Get a High-Speed Internet Connection
Better video quality requires better internet speeds, which is a mix of speed and consistency. Households stuck with the same broadband plan for years should check if their ISP has newer, faster, and more competitively priced plans.
Users should always choose internet speeds that exceed the required Mbps (megabits per second) of their desired streaming quality.
For example, Netflix recommends a minimum speed of 15Mbps for 4K streaming. The average speed in the U.S. is well over 200 Mbps. Yet even this can be insufficient for big households using the internet for high-quality gaming, video streaming, and live-streaming across multiple devices.
Families living in spacious residences should consider installing a mesh Wi-Fi system. This guarantees that every nook and cranny has the same stable connection.
Otherwise, a wired or Ethernet connection is another popular and reliable option for uninterrupted video streaming. Ethernet adapters are relatively cheap, while some streaming devices have built-in Ethernet ports.
3. Invest in a VPN to Combat Throttling
Whether wired or wireless, a high-speed internet connection can grind to a halt without warning. This can ultimately ruin the viewing experience, especially when the show is at its climax. In many cases, the culprit is ISPs throttling user bandwidth.
Simply put, throttling is a legal activity conducted by ISPs that’s (understandably) largely frowned upon by subscribers. It happens for a variety of reasons:
- ISP’s uneven bandwidth allocation among similar services
- Limiting access to banned or bandwidth-heavy processes
- Preventing data networks from reaching their limit
- User exceeds their monthly data limit
Even so-called unlimited internet plans aren’t excluded from bandwidth throttling. As more households stream content regularly in HD and UHD, ISPs are forced to throttle more subscribers to impede network congestion.
Households can work around this by tracking their monthly data usage, switching ISPs, or streaming only when bandwidth use in a network isn’t at its peak.
But there’s a quick and effective remedy:
Connecting to a VPN (virtual private network) conceals your real IP address and online activities. This renders ISPs unable to properly identify how and where users are using their data.
Households can then stream their Disney Plus shows without lag, even if their ISP favors other streaming services to consume bandwidth.
VPNs are also practical options because of their price and convenience. People can pick among many premium subscriptions (some companies offer free plans) — and VPNs are compatible with various devices. Users can have VPNs anywhere they stream films and series: smartphones, iPads, desktop PCs, and smart TVs. In fact, they can install a VPN for Fire Stick and routers.
4. Check the Wi-Fi Router and Its Location
Households cannot maximize their wireless high-speed internet if there are multiple dead spots or areas with existent yet unstable connections. This is inconvenient for anyone who watches their shows not just in the living room but also in other parts of the house.
Mesh Wi-Fi systems and Wi-Fi extenders can solve this dilemma, but only with optimal placement of the main router.
Both conventional and mesh-type routers should be positioned at the center to successfully distribute Wi-Fi signals around the residence. If the modem is at one end of the house, the router can still be kept in the approximate middle area with an Ethernet extension cable.
A router should not stay on or near the ground. Dense obstructions like shelves and cabinets surrounding the device can hamper wireless connectivity.
Furthermore, upgrading the router can result in a significantly better internet connection. Wi-Fi routers that ISPs send to their customers are typically subpar.
The 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequencies have their fair share of pros and cons regarding speed and stability, so getting a dual-band router with the latest Wi-Fi standard is the way to go.
5. Clear the Cache and Install Updates
For the most part, data caching benefits internet users since it helps devices launch websites and applications quickly.
However, caches can take chunks of computer memory and affect the performance of apps and devices. Thankfully, clearing the cache—and cookies and browsing history—on smartphones, PCs, and smart TVs only takes a few clicks or taps.
Updating streaming apps and devices is also important. Some add new features and provide bug fixes to improve the UI or video playback, while others are major security updates. Users can manually check for available updates, but opting for automatic updates is ideal.
Overall, maintaining and investing in quality apps, devices, and services can contribute to seamless video streaming. Both software and hardware are essential to reproducing the cinematic experience at home.