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How to Change Your Netflix Streaming Quality



You’d be surprised how quickly Netflix can chew through data, especially if you’re addicted to Netflix’s 4K streaming mode, and that’s an issue if you’re saddled with a cellular or home data limit.

Just watching standard definition video on Netflix consumes a gigabyte of data every hour. If you increase your video quality to HD, that number triples to about 3 GB per hour. And if you’re going all year round with Netflix’s Ultra HD (aka 4K) offering, be prepared for Netflix to consume a whopping 7GB per hour.

If you̵

7;re lucky enough to have an internet service provider that offers unlimited data, who cares, right? Go ahead and stream those 4K Netflix videos to your heart’s content.

But many internet providers To do impose data limits, and Netflix can take a big chunk out of your monthly allocation, even if your service provider allows one terabyte per month. Watch via the mobile connection of your phone? If you’re not on an unlimited plan, you’ll blow your (much more limited) monthly limit even faster.

The good news is, it’s easy to keep Netflix data usage under control, and if you adjust the right settings, you can squeeze hours of Netflix streaming from every gigabyte.

There is, of course, a trade-off for lowering your Netflix data usage – your video quality will suffer. That means you have to settle for a blurrier image to store data, and if you’re paying extra for a Netflix plan that offers 4K or even HD video quality and you really need to lower Netflix’s data usage, you’ll probably want to you reconsider your subscription level.

netflix basic video quality Ben Patterson / IDG

The downside to lowering Netflix’s data usage settings is that your picture quality will suffer. For instance, Taylor Swift: Reputation Tour looked blurry and spotty on the “Low” setting, although the original video is offered in “Ultra HD” 4K quality.

How to Change Your Netflix Streaming Quality

  • Go to Netflix in a web browser, select your profile, click your profile icon in the top right corner of the page and select Account.
  • Then scroll down to it Profile and parental controls section, click the down arrow next to your profile, and then click Change next Playback settings. Note: Playback settings are separate for each profile, so if you want everyone in your household to cool it down with the Netflix data, make sure to change the setting for all profiles in your account.
  • Now it’s time to choose a data usage setting, and you have four options:
    • Car: This allows Netflix to choose a data usage setting based on your current connection. You don’t want to choose this option if you need to slow down your Netflix data usage.
    • Low: Delivers “basic” video and audio quality and consumes only 0.3 GB of data per hour. Best if you really want to keep your Netflix data usage to a minimum, but expect blurry, spotty video quality. It’s not great, but it’s viewable (well, barely).
    • Medium: Brings your video and audio quality to standard definition levels by using up to 0.7 GB of data per hour. In fact, we’re talking about DVD quality here, which looks decent on a phone, but less so on (say) your 65-inch 4K TV. Still, the average quality is a noticeable step higher than Low.
    • High: If you want to burn data, the High setting provides the best video quality while burning up to 3 GB per hour for HD video or 7 GB for 4K (or “Ultra HD”) video. Looks good, but if you have a home or mobile data limit, beware.
  • That is it! Your new Netflix video quality settings will apply to all the devices you stream Netflix from, including computers, streaming devices, smart TVs, and phones.

How to Change Your Netflix Streaming Quality on a Phone

As we just mentioned, your settings also apply to using Netflix on a phone if you’ve lowered your Netflix data usage on the internet.

However, if you are not concerned about Netflix data usage at home, but are concerned about streaming Netflix via mobile, you can leave your default Netflix usage set to Auto or High and then set the data usage specifically for your phone, as follows:

  • Open the Netflix mobile app, choose your profile, tap your profile icon in the top right corner, then tap App settings.
  • Press Play video setting, choose an option: Vending machine (up to four hours of streaming per GB), Wifi only, Saving data (up to six hours of streaming per GB), or Maximum data (up to 1 GB per 20 minutes, so only choose this if you have an unlimited data plan).
  • If you plan on downloading Netflix videos, you should get it Downloads section as well. We recommend using the Wifi only choice.

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