TV's Answer Man
Streaming Video: How Good Is the Picture?
Washington, D.C. (December 23, 2012) --
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
I'm thinking of
buying a Blu-ray player that has Netflix and video streaming.
But how is the picture quality on the streaming videos? Is it as
good as DIRECTV? My DVD discs? My Blu-ray discs? -- Sandy
Streaming video from services such as Netflix,
Amazon, Hulu or Vudu
comes in both High-Definition and Standard-Definition. As for
the SD video, let's just say it ranks at the bottom of the totem
pole. Even with a fast Internet connection, you'll find that the
colors are somewhat muted and the detail somewhat mushy. I
wouldn't recommend watching any show or movie in
standard-definition streaming unless there's no other option and
if you really want to watch that program. It's not even
as good as a DVD.
Now let's examine High-Definition streaming. If you have a fast
Internet service, the picture quality on HD videos from Netflix
Net TV services is very good, comparable with a 720p HD
video. That means the colors are realistic and the detail is
sharp...well, sharp enough.
I say 'sharp enough,' because even a high-def streaming video
falls far short of the picture quality on a
disc. With a Blu-ray disc, the colors are vivid and lifelike and
the detail can be so precise that you sometimes feel like you
can reach up and touch the object or person on screen. The
picture is not only far superior to a streaming HD video, but
far superior to anything you'll see on your cable, telco or
And as to your question regarding whether a streaming video is
as good as your DIRECTV picture. It can be, but it depends again
on your Internet Service Provider. If your Internet speed is
so-so, you'll find that the picture quality suffers and so does
its reliability. (The picture will sometimes break up or stop
altogether, which is known as 'buffering.') But if your Internet
service is moderately fast, you'll find that your streaming
picture will hold up well, delivering just as good a picture as
you would get from your cable or satellite provider.)
By the way, if you want to test your ISP's Internet speed, go to
Toast.net where you can measure it. The test will tell you how
your ISP compares to other Internet services.