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Netflix: Is There a Way to Tell Your Resolution?
By Swanni

Washington, D.C. (December 23, 2013) - Editor's Note: TV's Answer Man, aka Swanni, takes your questions regarding how to best use the latest products and services in TV technology. If you have a question about TV technology, ask TV's Answer Man by sending an e-mail to

Q.  My streaming picture on Netflix is generally pretty good. But sometimes it varies, gets a little worse. Is there any way to determine what resolution/speed I'm getting on Netflix from my Internet service? -- Roger, Fairfax, Virginia.

Roger, you have a common concern. Many Netflix streamers report that their picture looks just dandy most of the time, but then all of a sudden, the High-Definition picture quality seems to morph into standard-definition.  It may not last very long, but when it does, it sometimes requires you to re-start your movie or TV show to get the picture back to normal.

There's a obvious reason for this problem. Your Internet service's speed varies and sometimes it will dip below the minimum requirement for a HD picture. When this occurs, Netflix may post an on-screen message asking if you want to change the HD setting to SD. Most of the time, you should refrain from doing this; better to re-start the program to see if that will improve the speed. (And when I say, re-start, I mean just begin the show from the point where you stopped watching. You can do this by hitting Stop and then returning to the Menu and hit the Resume button. This will take you back to the scene you were watching.)

Now to your specific question, there are two things you can do to check the speed and resolution of your Netflix picture. First, you can go to and do a test of your ISP's speed. For more information on the minimum speed you need to watch HD streaming on Netflix, click here.

But there's another trick you can do to monitor your picture's resolution. Netflix has a title in its catalog called, 'Example Short.23.976.' The short video features random shots of a building, structures and people on what looks like a college campus. In the left hand corner of the screen, the picture's resolution and bitrate count will appear. The numbers will change depending upon the speed of your Internet Service Provider's data stream.

When I watched it, the resolution jumped from 720p (1280 x 720) to 1080p (1920 x 1080) and then briefly back to below 720p at one point.

It's a good way to monitor the reliability and speed of your service. Give it a try. You can find the title by searching in your Netflix's library.

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Phillip Swann is president and publisher of He has been quoted in dozens of publications and broadcast outlets, including CNN, Fox News, Inside Edition, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, The Financial Times, The Associated Press and The Hollywood Reporter. He can be reached at or at 703-505-3064.

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