Sign up ×
Super User is a question and answer site for computer enthusiasts and power users. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Title more or less says the question. I'm thinking about getting netflix, but want to make sure that our connect is fast enough to watch movies streamed.

So: what is the bandwidth used by netflix, both for HD and standard movies?

share|improve this question

10 Answers 10

up vote 6 down vote accepted

The most believable numbers I've found are 1.5Mbps for SD, 3Mbps for DVD quality, 5Mbps for HD quality and 8+ for 1080 on PS3. I don't see Netflix offering official numbers, but playing with and testing by adding bandwidth eaters like VPN connections until I saw the quality degrade.

share|improve this answer

For what it's worth, the company I work for was going to do a partnership with Netflix a little over a year ago (so these numbers represent that -- it could have changed since then). I helped produce our streaming video sites, so I was in contact with one of their techs. At the time, they were using multiple-bitrate WMVs. Basically, these are containers/streams that are served from Windows media servers that adapt based on your bandwidth. The high end (at the time) were 3Mb/s WMVs, with the lower side being in the 100's of kilobits per second (maybe ~700kb/s, but I honestly only distinctly remember the high side @ 3Mb/s). So, if you had enough bandwidth, they were 3Mb/s streams, but if you couldn't support that they would throttle down to one of the lower bitrates. All of this is to say that Netflix supports lower bandwidths, but the quality of the video is going to fluctuate accordingly. If you have a 3Mb or higher connection, you'll be able to watch everything at the best quality they offer. If your connecting is 1Mb, your video is going to be more compressed.

share|improve this answer
Note that what you pay for with broadband ISP's isn't always what you get in terms of sustained throughput. If you want 3Mbps sustained, you should probably consider paying for 6Mbps or more. –  Joel Coehoorn Feb 7 '12 at 18:12
so 1080p HD was 3 Mb/s? –  rogerdpack Oct 11 '12 at 16:04

While I couldn't find any hard numbers on Netflix's site, it seems the consensus is that as long as you have a decent DSL connection 1.5 Mbs, you should be able to stream successfully (there might be a decent amount of buffering though).Source

I would suggest signing up for a free trial with Netflix and trying out the streaming. That way, if your connection is too slow, you don't lose any money over it.

share|improve this answer
I presume these aren't HD streams? :) –  rogerdpack Oct 11 '12 at 16:05

I do not personally have Netflix, but my aunt does (the standard definition version through a Wii) and she has no problem watching movies with connection speed that hovers between 700 Kbps and 900 Kbps (tested at I was actually surprised that video playback didn't lag with speeds that low, but there it is.

share|improve this answer
The Wii streaming works more reliably for me than streaming on my laptop, which would bear this out. The Wii only doing SD and never trying to get better, while the laptop stream would probably try and get into the HD res if it thought the connection could handle it. –  music2myear Feb 7 '12 at 17:39

A blog posting by Ken Florance, Director of Content Delivery at Netflix ( says “Currently, our top HD streams are about 4800 kilobits per second.” This was on 27 January 2011; a few months before that, I tried NetFlix streaming on a 6 Mb/s connection, and the quality seemed markedly worse than iTunes non-streaming HD.

share|improve this answer weren't watching HD you think? –  rogerdpack Oct 11 '12 at 16:05
It’s hard to be sure, especially since one way to reduce bandwidth is to make the video jerkier, rather than low resolution. FWIW, the quality seems somewhat better now, but our building’s bandwidth rationing has also gotten better, and I believe there are rumors that NetFlix is doing better compression. –  Flash Sheridan Oct 15 '12 at 15:25

We have a 1.5/10 Mb connection and see neflix eat as much bandwith as it can get. Not uncommon for it to be using 9mb on HD programs over our xbox 360. However if there is anyother machines online it will kick back to less and change the quality of the stream...

share|improve this answer

A dual-layer DVD is 5 times the bit rate of what NF calls SD. A dual-layer Bluray is a 50gb format that uses on average 3 times more bitrate just for the sound than NF uses for what it calls HD.

share|improve this answer
They don't stream in the same format that on discs... The disc formats know they have bits to waste and do so liberally. –  Chris S Aug 29 '12 at 18:45

From Netflix Lowers Data Usage By 2/3 For Members In Canada:

This is Neil Hunt, Chief Product Officer, to tell our members in Canada that starting today, watching movies and TV shows streaming from Netflix will use 2/3 less data on average, with minimal impact to video quality.

Now Canadians can watch 30 hours of streaming from Netflix in a month that will consume only 9 GBytes of data, well below most data caps.


We've created three settings:

  • "Good" - The default setting with good picture quality and lowest data use per hour (about 0.3 GBytes/hour)
  • "Better" - Better picture quality and medium data use per hour (about 0.7 GBytes/hour)
  • "Best" - Best picture quality and highest date use per hour (generally about 1.0 GBytes/hour - or up to 2.3 GBytes/hour when streaming HD content)
share|improve this answer
Welcome to Super User! When copy-pasting content from other sites, please keep it to a minimum, and always include the source. Don't forget to quote the passages as well. –  slhck Apr 30 '13 at 19:21

We've created three settings:

"Good" - The default setting with good picture quality and lowest data use per hour (about 0.3 GBytes/hour) "Better" - Better picture quality and medium data use per hour (about 0.7 GBytes/hour) "Best" - Best picture quality and highest date use per hour (generally about 1.0 GBytes/hour - or up to 2.3 GBytes/hour when streaming HD content)

Can you change these settings?

share|improve this answer

For what it's worth, I just did a little test:

I ran the Activity Monitor app on my MacBook Pro while simultaneously streaming Netflix on 4 devices on my home wifi (my MacBook Pro, an iPhone 5, an iPhone 4 and a smart TV upstairs). The total data rate never got higher than 709 kbps (less than 1 Mbps) and on average it stayed around 200-300 kbps. All devices were streaming flawlessly. I even called Comcast on my VOIP phone and the bandwidth usage stayed the same.

To my knowledge, the Activity Monitor shows bandwidth used by the wifi network as a whole (which was what I was interested in), not the individual devices. You see, I am using Comcast "High-speed Internet." How fast is that? They don't say, but apparently I am also getting their Blast service which gives me "up to" 50 Mbps. Wow, right? Except why do I need that kind of speed? Or more to the point: why do I need to PAY for that speed? Or even more to the point: do I ever actually get that speed? I'm not a gamer, though I wonder if I was, would I still need that kind of bandwidth?

Comcast just jacked up my bill, and I'd rather chew my own arm off than give them any more money, so I did this little experiment to see what was the minimum plan I could get without sacrificing performance. Apparently, 1 Mbps should do it…but there's that nasty little disclaimer: actual speeds vary and are not guaranteed. So, I can pay every month for 50 Mbps and if (or WHEN) I never get/need/use that speed, I can pay anyway.

Embrace the new normal.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.