Netflix offers settings to lower data consumption: Account-specific bitrate/quality reduction applies to all streaming devices

Netflix Data Consumption
Lower data consumption by tweaking streaming quality. Pic credit: Tomasi/Pixabay

Netflix is by far one of the biggest streaming platforms, and its popularity keeps growing. Strangely, the platform does not offer a quick setting to lower data or bandwidth consumption.

There’s little doubt that streaming content on Netflix is a very data-intensive task. Although there are no straightforward settings, the platform does allow lowering the amount of data each film or episode user consumes, with a single setting.

Streaming HD or 4K content on Netflix can consume as much as 7GB per hour:

Netflix offers a variety of video streaming qualities that subscribers can access. However, the company doesn’t allow to easily switch between the various choices.

Netflix’s top-end video quality is Ultra HD or 4K. Streaming in this quality can consume up to 7 GB for every hour.

The Standard Definition or SD quality videos on Netflix can consume a gigabyte of data every hour. Viewing in HD quality triples the data consumed to about 3GB per hour.

Netflix users on truly unlimited data plans and an internet connection with blazing fast speeds could be automatically bumped up to 4K. However, such plans are rather expensive. Moreover, the situation becomes concerning if mobile data is used to stream.

How to lower Netflix data consumption and still view shows and movies:

Slightly tweaking some settings deep inside Netflix can have a significant impact on the amount of data the service uses. Interestingly, instead of per-video, like in YouTube, Netflix offers per-account settings.

This means, tweaking the setting for a single Netflix account will have an impact on all the devices on which the account is used. This could be a convenience as viewers need not keep on changing video quality every time a new video begins.

To change the data usage settings in Netflix, simply access the website of the service and log in. Thereafter, click on the Profile icon in the top-right corner of the page, and select Account.

Scroll down to the Profile & Parental Controls section, click the down-arrow next to the Profile, then click Change next to Playback settings. Below are the options that Netflix offers:

  • Auto: Allows Netflix to pick a data usage setting based on the internet connection. (Don’t select this option if lowering data consumption is the primary aim.)
  • Low: Delivers “basic” video and audio quality. Watching content at this setting consumes just 300MB or 0.3GB of data an hour. This setting could be OK for smartphones but videos would look terrible on TVs.
  • Medium: Brings Netflix video and audio quality up to Standard Definition (SD) levels. Watching content at this setting burns about 0.7GB (700MB) of data per hour. This setting is similar to DVD quality, and needless to add could be an ideal option to strike a balance between video quality and data consumption.
  • High: As the name suggests, the High setting serves up the best video quality. However, it can eat as much as 3GB an hour for HD video or 7GB for 4K (or “Ultra HD”) video.

How to lower the streaming quality on a smartphone:

There are ways to lower the amount of data Netflix consumes on a smartphone as well. Interestingly, even though the obvious tradeoff is picture quality, viewers might not notice anything on the small screen.

As mentioned above, the changes made to the streaming quality in the Profile page impact all devices. Hence, there’s no need to make any changes specifically on smartphones.

Still, several Netflix users prefer to consume content primarily on smartphones. Such users can head over to the Netflix mobile app, select the desired Profile, and tap App Settings.

Tapping the Video Playback setting gives three options:  Automatic (up to four hours of streaming per GB), Wi-Fi OnlySave Data (up to six hours of streaming per GB), or Maximum Data (up to 1GB per 20 minutes)

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