How to improve TV streaming quality on Netflix, Hulu and more

How to improve TV streaming quality on Netflix, Hulu and more

Is Netflix stopping and stuttering? Is Disney+ taking forever to load? Is the picture quality on Amazon Prime Video so bad that it’s hard to tell the elves from the orcs? These problems with streaming video are quite common and are usually caused by the home internet. If you have a lot of people streaming on different devices, you have Zoom meetings and games online, it can make the problem worse.

If you have cut the cord you may not need to go back to cable/satellite. Try these simple solutions instead. They will help you ensure that your devices have the fastest possible internet connection, and many are free of charge. Getting faster internet to your smart TV or streaming device will mean fewer problems and better picture quality.

Our tips work regardless of whether you stream on one Xbox, PlayStation, iPad, Roku, Fire TV, Apple TV or the apps in your smart TV. For more, here settings to change the streaming device and how to cancel streaming services strategically to save money.

Upgrade your internet speed for better streaming

This is certainly the most obvious, but when was the last time you asked your supplier how fast the quotes are now? If it’s been a few years, it probably has new services (perhaps even fiber) that can greatly increase your download speeds.

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You need at least 15 Mbps download speeds for 4K streaming, but really you want a lot more than that. It is also possible that there are new suppliers or services from other companies in your area. When I moved into my house, the phone company had the best option: a pretty fast DSL that was much better than the local cable provider. Now said cable company has six times the speed at 60% of the price. I was able to save money and increase my internet speed quite dramatically.

This is definitely the first place to start. If you live with the same provider, they will usually be able to flip the proverbial switch without sending a technician to visit your home. Afterwards you will have faster internet. If you change supplier, for example from cable to fibre, the new supplier will probably have to send someone to your home to install it.

read more: Best Internet Providers in 2022

Upgrade your Wi-Fi streaming hardware

The Wi-Fi router you get for free from your ISP is probably terrible. I upgraded my router the day before my new internet service was installed and I got a 20% speed increase just from that. Many providers even charge for their basic routers, so if your provider allows it, you can save money in the long run by buying a good one directly and reduce the bill a little each month.

You will also likely get better range and a better signal throughout your home with an upgraded router. So if you’ve always had a bad connection at the back of the house, for example, a better router can help with that.

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A new or different router may also allow you to connect via the 5GHz range (“normal” Wi-Fi is 2.4GHz). 5GHz is generally faster and has less chance of interference from other devices. However, it doesn’t go through walls either. Our favorite all-round budget option is the TP-Link Archer AX21.

Read more: Best Wi-Fi routers for 2022

If your house is particularly large, or the walls appear to be lined with lead, it’s worth considering one mesh Wi-Fi system. These use multiple devices scattered around your home instead of a single device. CNET’s favorite mesh system is TP-Link Deco W7200.

Read more: Best mesh routers for 2022

Switch to wired Ethernet

Although convenient, Wi-Fi can be quite slow on some networks, especially if several people are streaming at the same time. Wired internet, also known as Ethernet, is much faster and doesn’t have the problems of walls, interference or distance (well, not in a house, anyway). Although running wires can be annoying, it provides the most reliable connection and may at least be worth doing on your main TV.

A side view of the Roku Ultra.

The Roku Ultra is one of our favorite streamers with Ethernet built in.

Sarah Tew/CNET

If you want to use a cord, check your device. Most streamers lack the Ethernet port required for a wired connection, but cheap $15 USB adapters are available for Chromecast with Google TV and Amazon’s Fire TV sticks. Most Roku devices do not work with Ethernet, unfortunately. The exceptions are Roku Ultrawhich has a built-in Ethernet port, and the Roku Express 4K, Roku Express 4K PlusStreambar and Smart Soundbar Pro, all of which work with an optional Ethernet adapter.

Streamers with Ethernet built in, no adapter needed, are generally more expensive, but they may be worth it if you want a simpler connection or prefer Roku’s system. Our favorite streamers with built-in Ethernet are Roku Ultra and Apple TV 4K.

Other options include Roku Ultra LTthe standard Apple TV and Nvidia Shield TV. Most smart TVs and games consoles also have Ethernet.

Move the router

Just changing the location of your Wi-Fi router can help a lot. If it’s on or near the ground, or in a closet or at the far end of your house, you can limit your signal and speed without even realizing it. Wi-Fi can go through walls, but being up high and with fewer walls between your router and streamer will make a difference. If the router has antennas, it can also help to place them correctly (one vertical and one horizontal).

The same applies at the other end. If you have the streamer in a closet, that doesn’t help either. In a perfect world, the streamer would have a direct line of sight to the router. Of course, this isn’t necessary, but anything you place between the two reduces the signal and potentially slows down the speed.

An alternative version of this would be to get a Wi-Fi booster, or run the Ethernet to a second Wi-Fi router (or the mesh option listed above). If your house is long or large, there are many options beyond the scope of this guide.

Limit the number of people on Wi-Fi

Think of your internet connection as a pipe full of water. There is only so much water to go around. If you’re trying to stream in the living room, but the rest of the family is also trying to stream in other rooms, there might not be enough “water” to go around. Everyone wants problems.

In that case, I leave it up to you who gets priority. No way I’m touching it.

That said, moving some devices to wired instead of wireless can help that aspect of overall home network performance. You can also try downloading your favorite shows and movies to devices such as telephones and pills to look around the house when a crappy internet connection rules out streaming.

Test the flow rate results

An internet speed tests like Speedtest or Netflix’s Fast.com can give you an idea of ​​what you’re dealing with now. If you use Android or iOS version, make sure to place your phone or tablet near the streaming device to get the most accurate result. With each change you make, retest and see how it affected the signal.

Many streaming issues can be resolved with these steps I’ve outlined. The key is to get the device the fastest possible internet, by any means necessary.

For more, check out Roku tips and tricks to up your streaming game and How to get rid of your old TV.


In addition to covering TV and other screen technology, Geoff does photo tours of cool museums and locations around the world, including nuclear submarines, massive aircraft carriers, medieval castles, epic 10,000 mile road trips and more. Check out Tech Treks for all his travels and adventures.

He wrote a best-selling sci-fi novel about city-sized submarines, along with a sequel. You can follow his adventures on Instagram and his YouTube channel.

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