5 Easy Ways To Improve Netflix Streaming

Oct 7, 2012 apple, media streaming, netflix, 28 Comments
5 Easy Ways to Improve Your Netflix Streaming

Even after last year’s Netflix price-hike disaster, more and more people are jumping on the streaming movie train. In the month of June, 2012, the company streamed more than one billion hours of video, showing that 2011′s problems are quickly fading and the service has bounced back. But Netflix streaming is a game-changer, and people are downloading movies and TV shows in droves.

Netflix streaming now boasts over 23 million users (and potentially you too), which has reportedly taking up almost one-third of United States’ bandwidth traffic. Who wouldn’t want unlimited commercial-free movies and TV shows for only $7.99 a month? That’s what I thought. With every amazing deal, there are always a few bumps along the road to get the quality you want. Maybe your movies take 10 minutes to load or freeze every 5 seconds to re-buffer. That definitely ruins an otherwise great setup.

With a few quick, simple checks you can make sure you have the best Netflix streaming experience.

Choose The Right Interface

If you’re still window shopping for a Netflix device for your home there are a couple of things to consider. Whether you’re on a PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Roku, laptop, or smart phone, the user experience will be much different depending on the device. Some interfaces are ridiculously hard to maneuver (TiVo) while others offer a very user-friendly, pleasant experience, such as Apple TV or a Roku box.

Apple TV Netflix Interface - Netflix streaming

Pictured above is the brand new Apple TV Netflix interface. Not only is the updated program extremely easy to use, but it also lets you sign up for Netflix directly through your iTunes account and watch movies in 1080p with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. Apple TV is one of the best devices to own for video streaming, but if you already have a streaming device, chances are you can do a few things to enhance its performance.

Configure Your Router

The status of your Internet connection is one of the main things that affects your streaming experience. Netflix recommends having at least 5 mbps (megabits per second) of Internet service as a general speed guidance to give you the best viewing experience. In fact, they send their 720p HD content at 3.6 mbps but you need extra speed to make sure things work, adding up to the general recommendation of 5 mpbs.

Checking your Internet connection speed is simple, just go to the Digital Landing Internet Speed Test and run a test on your connection. Make sure nothing else is running on your home network while performing this test. This includes Netflix or any other tabs on your Internet browser. If you finish the test and your speed is under 5 mbps you should contact your service provider, there might be something else going on with your network!

If your service provider doesn’t help get things going, it might be time to start considering another option for your ISP.

Examine Your WiFi Connection

Many things can go wrong with WiFi. There are a few simple things you can check to make sure you’re getting the strongest WiFi connection available for your streaming experience. A lot of things can interfere with wireless connections such as a running microwave, cordless house phones, baby monitors, and security cameras. All of these devices usually work on the same frequency as your wireless Internet.

If these electronics in your home are causing interference with your Internet, but you do not want to shut them off, try bringing your wireless router closer to your Netflix device to make sure you get a stronger signal. Make sure there’s not too much stuff in between your router and your streaming device. For example, anything physically blocking the two devices, even the walls in your home, can degrade the WiFi signal.

Adjust Netflix Streaming Quality Settings To Save Bandwidth

Netflix uses a method called “smooth streaming” for its video service. This means when something is going wrong with the wireless network in your house, Netflix scales the picture quality down to adapt to the connection speed. Sometimes you may not even notice this beyond the short pause your show takes to re-buffer. Other times you may notice pixels and/or a blurred picture as a result of losing connection speed. To prevent this, don’t download big files, stream radio, or run programs behind the video player while using Netflix. Even automatic backup programs can affect your streaming rate if your computer is backing up big files.

Netflix Video Quality - Netflix Streaming

Another way to prevent slowing is to adjust the video quality on your account. If you have a slower internet connection this is your best option unless you want your movie freezing every five minutes. It’s also a good idea to change these settings if you’re watching Netflix from your mobile phone or tablet because the high data usage can easily go over whatever you have allotted on your cell phone plan.

When All Else Fails … Go Wired

If none of those suggestions work and you feel like you’re still not getting an ideal Netflix streaming experience, your best and easiest choice is to grab an Ethernet cable and plug your Netflix device directly into your router (most devices have an ethernet port on the back of them).

The pros of this option: You will then have a dedicated connection with no wireless interference possibilities at all. The cons: You have a big ugly cable running through your house. This one’s up to you.

When your Internet is up to par, it’s time to engulf yourself in the complete Netflix streaming experience. Stream HD movies flawlessly on your TV — just look for the ‘HD’ symbol while scrolling through your Netflix choices, or go on the website and find the HD group to see which movies are available to stream in high def.

Finally, I recommend using InstantWatcher.com. This website tells you exactly what movies are new to Netflix recently and lets you know which movies will be expiring soon so you can watch them before they’re gone. Happy Streaming!

Photo credit: Nautical9 via photo pin cc


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28 Comments

  • Kenneth Johnson

    My Sony Bravia is hard wired directly to my expensive modem and my movies are still freezing up, why?

    • Al Dunbar

      Our Sonies are doing the same thing. Software hasn’t updated in ages and there doesn’t seem to be a way to force them to. Netflix recommended trying the Konami code, which of course did not work.

    • Mike Aguilar

      Hi Kenneth. I’m here to see what I can do to help you. Have you run a speed test of your Internet connection? If so, what sort of speed is the test reporting; both upload and download? What speed does your provider give as the max for your plan? Lastly, does this stream-freezing occur all the time, or only at certain times or in certain movies/series?

      • Dave

        Wonder if problem is with Sony’s tv or my direct wired Sony Blu ray interface ? If it’s in the interface can I fix my Netflix download issues by going to Apple TV device instead of the Blu ray. If it’s the tv then that won’t solve issue. Thanks

  • Elizabeth

    My sony tv also freezes anytime after 3 pm when watching netflix it’s rather annoying… I wish I could use the above troubleshooting but mine is already hard wired through my blu-Ray player… Great job netflix!!

  • Red Buttler

    My tablet freezes only on some titles and plays fine others. Same titles play on my Samsung TV. Freezing started after an OS update, before that same tablet played Netflix fine. Netflix support couldn’t help at all.

    • Mike Aguilar

      Hi Red, may I ask what tablet you’re using and if you’re using the included browser or the Netflix mobile app? Additionally, what version of the tablet operating system is currently installed?

  • Gabbz

    Advice.

    3 hurdles could be slowing your connection.

    Routers:

    Do you have an older 10/100 router or the newer and faster 10/100/1000 gigabit router? The 10/100/1000 routers transfer data 100x faster, than the 10/100

    Wiring:

    Are you using cat5or cat6 cable? Cat6 wiring is faster and provides lower interference than cat5.

    Wired vs wireless:

    If wireless, is your cordless phone on same frequency as router?

    BEST SETUP FOR HD Netflix WITH NO LAG!!

    Isp speed – minimum 10mbs
    Modem hooked up to 10/100/1000 router
    Hardwire to tv, xbox, roku, apple tv etc.

    1080p alll day, no buffer, fkuk yay!

  • Hernan

    I ran a speed test on my network and it comes out even better than state average and all that, yet out of every so called “Super HD” movie, I only get to watch about 15 mins out of the entire movie in actual HD, the rest is just plain regular Wack D, and it’s not my samsung tv, because when I pay $8 to rent a movie in HDX on Vudu, it streams the entire movie in full hd, no blurs and real dolby digital 5.1, netflix is just lying to us they don’t even have real dolby digital unless you have a carrier like apple tv….netflix should be called netmissions

    • Mike Aguilar

      Hi Hernan,

      I can assure you that Netflix does offer full movies and shows in full 1080p HD. Have yo made any changes to your network settings or your router settings? Full HD takes about twice the bandwidth that regular 480i requires, since there’s more than twice the data to send. Additionally, Dolby Digital 5.1 surround almost doubles that bandwidth requirement again.

      When you’re trying to watch a full 1080p HD movie, is that the only traffic on your network, or is there someone else streaming YouTube or Pandora (or something similar) at the same time?

      You also say that you have run a speed test and that you test out at above the state average. Is that the state average for your provider, or overall? Have you run the speed test at different times during the day and from different testing sites and averaged out the results? Also, what is the max bandwidth available for your plan? Lastly, when running the speed tests, what sort of latency is being reported?

      Another test I would recommend is what’s known as a traceroute. It tests the latency of your connection, lists all the “hops” the signal has to take from Netflix to you, and how long each of those hops take. You can perform this test on a Windows computer by following these steps.
      Click Start. Prior to Vista click the Run option-in Vista and Win7 just look for the command entry box right above the Start button. Type the letters cmd and hit enter. A black window with text will open; this is a DOS prompt. Next, type tracert http://www.netflix.com.

      You will see something similar to this screenshot I just posted to Flickr.(http://www.flickr.com/photos/73153791@N06/11457361745/)

      You’ll notice that it say “Request Timed Out” quite often. That means that it took too long for my computer to receive a reply from the network device being queried-in this case one of Amazon’s many thousands of servers. There’s a dozen different things that could cause this but it is normally attributable to network congestion issues.

      Netflix is what’s known as a bi-directional service. As your movie is streamed to you, your system sends a signal back to Netflix which Netflix uses to determine whether the connection is able to handle the video load. When it can’t, Netflix automatically adjusts the content/stream quality so that you can continue to watch what you’re streaming, albeit at a lower quality of video and audio.

      Each of the “stops” your video stream makes along the way between you and Netflix is another possible congestion point that can cause a loss of audio and video quality.

      All that being said, yes, the problem MAY be on the Netflix side but it can also be anywhere between you and the Netflix server farm.

      I hope that helps.

  • Mike Aguilar

    Hi everyone, my name is Mike and I’m one of the tech writers here at Digital Landing. I’ve noticed that many of you are having issues with streaming on your Sony TVs. It seems that this is an issue that Sony is aware of. They have addressed the issue with a support forum posting, complete with a helpful video to troubleshoot the problem. You can find that discussion thread and the video here: https://blog.sony.com/2012/06/troubleshoot-buffering-messages-when-streaming-internet-content/

    For those that the discussion thread and accompanying video aren’t able to help, Sony has asked that you contact their technical support staff directly:
    http://esupport.sony.com/US/p/select-system.pl?DIRECTOR=CONTACT

  • mfholland

    I find it staggering that the problem is assumed to be at the customer end. After hours on the phone with Netflix tech support, starting, restarting, trying wireless and wired, trying computer and laptop, it’s clear to me that the problem is at the Netflix end. All my speed tests show me connected at no less than 10Mbps. I have set Netflix to the highest speed, and the problem persists. Amazon works brilliantly, and Amazon Prime is cheaper than Netflix.

    The assurances here that Netflix streams at 1080 are meaningless given the consistency of the poor picture I see on multiple devices, some connected at 30 Mbps.

  • Justin

    Excellent article! I work doing tech support and recommend any of my customers doing Netflix to read this. Thanks again!

    • David Gonos

      Great! Thanks Justin!

    • Netflix customer

      I second this comment. I have been fighting with this Netflix issue for months. I get fine streaming, in HD from Amazon Prime over my Roku 2. Stream on the same device from Netflix and it looks like some triple-dubbed VHS tape. I normally try to stream Netflix on my LG Blue Ray player, slightly better performance but same deal, even if a film starts out HD it quickly degrades to terrible quality and seldom recover.

      I have run traceroute to Netlfix, no obvious issues, no timeouts. A ping returns at time of 90 ns or so, not great but not awful. No timeouts.

      This simply has to be a Netflix problem and is compounded by the poor tools available from Netflix. These guys have been doing this for ages, how about some way to force HD or fail (this would help testing since it would not require subjective guessword about what is really being delivered? Or some indicator like a subtitle which can be turned on and off by the user. Or a speed test on their site so we verify connectivity in some objective manner? Hah.

      I spent some time on chat wioth them and basically got the same bs-runaround, must-be-your-router, your modem, your cat, your dog, your, your, your.

      I need another service.

  • Mr. V

    I too am encountering streaming issues. I am getting 15-20MBS+ consistent signal on my system however I cannot even stream 720P without HEAVY pixelation where the images are barely recognizable. I notice the picture degrades considerable as the movie goes on and by the end of the movie the picture is not even watchable. I even tried pausing the movie multiple times to let the buffering “catch up” and that does not help. I have no other devices interfering with the signal and I am able to stream movies from Amazon, Vudu, and my home server without any issues. I made sure my netflix streaming option is set to the highest option.

    I am on my 30 day free trial of Netflix, so unfortunately I will probably not be continuing on to paid membership if this is what I can expect.

  • David

    I have VUDU on my tv and it plays movies fine. Netflix does not. Definitely a problem with Netflix.

  • MichaelHaneline

    I have a fiber-optic Internet setup with consistent speeds of 70+ Mbps and no latency problems. It is rare for me to have speed issues with any other streaming service, yet on every device (any of our three high performance computers, our blu-ray player, iPhones, iPad, and Kindle) Netflix streams typically at 0.9 Mbps, even when plugged into the router instead of over WiFi.
    Yet Netflix insists the problem is somehow, magically, on my end.

  • Unhappy

    The article does not contain the obvious hurdle… Netflix itself. Attempt to watch HD video during “peak times” and you will not be able to. Watch the same HD video at off peak times and you will be able to without any “smooth streaming”.

    They can not handle the amount of bandwidth that is needed to run their service when everyone is watching. Even if you want to blame your own ISP for the bottleneck in the delivery of the Netflix service, it is still Netflix.

    They should spend less time making people jump through hoops in resetting everything, checking and rechecking settings, and just come out with the technical reason they are far behind in the digital streaming world.

    Check out Hulu and Amazon, their forums are not riddled with the amount of issues with poor video quality. They have their own issues, like Ads, but your not buffering video for 30 minutes to be able to watch 10 minutes of HD video and then another 30 minutes of buffering again.

  • Steve

    The problem is not my network. My wife and I have netflix, hulu plus, and Amazon prime. Latley when my wife cannot watch a show on netflix due to the speed dropping down to .2 to .8 mps we switch to one of the others at a consistant 4.0 to 4.8 mps. netflix has been slower and slower over the last 2 to 6 months. I got a new streaming bluray that we will try. If that doesnt work we will be dropping netflix and staying with the other better streaming options we have. it is to bad because we have had netflix for years and until just recently we have been happy with the service. Now it is a waste of our money if we cannot use it.

  • Tom Kirby

    FWIW, using the same router, same modem, same Netflix account, my Sony Bravia TV takes quite some time then it finally decides to stream a Netflix program in relatively low fidelity. At the same time, my Chromecast gets on Netflix immediately and streams the same content in full HD. The problem is Sony’s. The interweb rumor mill says Sony has inserted a proxy in line but that seems terribly impractical to me. At any rate, something’s going on that Sony knows about but they aren’t telling the whole truth to us consumers.

  • Pam

    I just tried watching a TV show on Netflix streaming and it kept “loading” over and over again. I switched to Amazon Prime for the same show and didn’t have a problem at all, absolutely not a single loading error. The same thing happened last night. I have just cancelled my Netflix Streaming service. Too bad they don’t ask you why you are cancelling. Do they care?

  • Douglas

    I am one of those that doesn’t believe that this is just a Sony issue. I am using an LG BD640 bluray and up until a month ago everything appeared to work fairly well but over the last few weeks it has degraded to the point that we get 5 to 10 minutes and then it freezes and we have to stop playing and then hit play again while it reloads. Also, it forces my bluray into 480P when I am setup online for HD and my bandwidth speed test showed over 5mb/sec. Netflix support had not solution and tried to make me run the gambit which I had already done to try to solve on my own.

  • Bruce Morris

    I have the same problem with Netflix on a hardwired Sony Blu Ray player with a brand new (last June) router. Currently watching a show buffer out on Netflix at 0.7Mbps while my internet connection tests out well over 10Mbps.

    The most insulting thing to me was when I tried to call Netflix customer “service” and they basically implied that I was under the impression that Netflix is my ISP or something. Kept telling me that I only buy content from Netflix and that I needed to call Verizon’s customer service if it was a speed related issue. It’s like they train the CSR’s to be studiously ignorant of how networking works; end users bloody well understand more about networking at this point and we don’t work for a company that streams video on network connections for a living.

    I’ve had Netflix on and off for years but I am for real done at this point. The content is less than half what I remember them having a couple years ago, there’s technical issues like never before, and the demeaning customer support was the last straw. My bank is changing my debit card number at the end of the month and Netflix is not getting updated to the new one.

  • Matt

    I have a Samsung smart tv and a Samsung blu-ray player. I have had the same problem with Netflix on both devices. It will sometimes stop during a movie or show to load. After reading some of the threads on here I pretty sure it is a problem with Netflix because I don’t seem to be having any problems streaming on Vudu.

  • John Dandrea

    I use ROKU for streaming and I have Amazon Prime as well as Netflix accounts. Like several have noted above, it’s been just in the past few months that I have had terrible performance with Netflix, that is not due to my system or my ISP. I have a dedicated 30 Mbps internet with an average 24 Mbps download rate (and I measure it frequently, both at off times as well as peak times).

    Netflix has become so obviously overburdened with users at peak times (i.e., 3pm and 9pm EST), that often I literally cannot watch an episode – every 3-5 seconds it’s buffering again! When this happens, I switch over to Amazon, pull up the exact show and episode, and I can watch it all night long without a single stoppage. So you can’t tell me it’s my TV, network, ISP, or WiFi setup.

    What I have not tried yet is a hard-wired ethernet connection to my router, and I’ll do that next – but I’m obviously less and less impressed with Netflix service. If I don’t see an improvement soon with this problem, I’ll be dropping it in favor of another secondary streaming service such as Hulu. Sorry, Netflix, I like your selection variety and your menu system best – but I’m tired of seeing the reload screen every few seconds. : -(

  • Kevin Hevin

    My problem has been that netflix on Al devices(roku streaming stick, rokuxd, tablet,) have all been much worse than through my new Sony Bravia, on which the Netflix looks amazing. amazon also looks excelent on all devices. It’s all on Netflix.

  • DBailey

    Mr. Dandria, don’t waste your time with the ethernet cable, it won’t matter. I use a hardwired Roku and just struggled through two hours of Netflix dropping in and out of HD. Pathetic.

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