The likes of Sky and Netflix now offer 4K video streaming in your living room, but how good does your internet connection and WiFi setup have to be to watch 4K UHD movies and TV shows? Here’s our guide to getting a good enough broadband connection to stream 4K video at home.
4K Ultra HD video delivers four times the number of pixels as 1080p Full HD. It therefore stands to reason that streaming 4K media over a broadband connection requires more bandwidth. You’ll also need a compatible 4K TV as well, although thankfully they’re getting cheaper all the time. Check out our guide to the best budget 4K TVs for some inspiration.
If you’re thinking about buying a 4K TV for home streaming, check out our guide below to make sure your internet connection and WiFi setup is strong enough first. And for more info on streaming Ultra HD content at home, check out our Netflix 4K guide.
What are the minimum bandwidth requirements for streaming 4K Ultra HD video on Netflix and the rest?
Netflix CEO Reed Hastings has said that you’ll need a spare 15-20Mbps of bandwidth to enjoy a smooth 4K stream at home.
That’s 15-20Mbps spare bandwidth, bear in mind. In other words, your broadband service needs to be good enough to consistently deliver this kind of performance. If you’re just about getting 15Mbps and someone else comes home from work and starts streaming on another device, or indulging in some online gaming, you can probably kiss that 4K stream goodbye.
In order to provide a reliable 4K experience, with none of that buffering nonsense, Netflix recommends that you’ve got a spare 25Mbps free.
Given that superfast broadband, as per the UK’s various BDUK (Broadband Delivery for the UK) schemes, is defined as at least 24Mbps, you might not be able to get Netflix in 4K, depending on your distance from your street cabinet.
You can check if your current broadband package is 4K ready using our broadband speed test tool, just to be one hundred percent certain.
Is my WiFi network good enough for 4K streaming?
Even if your home broadband connection is good enough for streaming Ultra HD 4K video, you might still be struggling to consistently get a smooth streaming experience.
The main culprit is likely your WiFi setup. For a start, you need to make sure that other devices aren’t hogging all of that lovely bandwidth. You might need to politely ask other household members to avoid downloading lots of stuff while you’re trying to kick back with a 4K movie.
Of course, your router may also not be up to snuff. Most WiFi routers that you get direct from your ISP are basic at best, and not suited to demanding tasks like video streaming in Ultra HD. Try our above broadband speed test tool out in different parts of your household, to see if you get decent speeds in whichever room will be the hub for streaming 4K video.
Some routers such as the ZyXEL Armor Z2 are intelligent enough to work out what your connected devices are doing, and dish out the necessary bandwidth to the most demanding gadgets. They’re not cheap, but they’re perfect if you’re regularly streaming high-res content.
Another common WiFi problem is a router that’s shoved away in a corner of your home, well away from your TV. If you can’t reposition your router, try a solution such as the Netgear Orbi. This secondary router can be posiitoned anywhere in your house and pumps out a clear signal to all of your devices.