You're settled comfortably on the couch for a family movie night or a marathon session of your favorite TV series.
Without warning, your relaxing night turns into a nightmare as the streaming internet video keeps pausing to buffer, or the image keeps alternating between clear and blurry. It's almost enough to make you go running back to cable.
Of course, you don't want to do that. With cable, you end up paying a fortune each month for a bunch of channels and shows you never watch. Plus, you can't watch what you want on demand.
Fortunately, I can help you fix your video streaming problems so cable can stay a distant memory.
1. Check your Wi-Fi
The majority of streaming video gadgets, smart TVs, tablets and laptops connect to the internet via your Wi-Fi network. That's great for avoiding cables cluttering up your living room, but Wi-Fi isn't always the most reliable connection.
Signal interference and too much traffic on the network can slow it down. That leaves your streaming gadget unable to give you full-video quality, which leads to buffering or a lousy picture. Find out how to speed up your Wi-Fi for faster downloads and smoother video.
While you're thinking about your router, you should also think about the last time you bought a new one. An old 802.11g router, and even an early single-band (2.4Ghz) 802.11n router, is going to struggle with video.
If you're constantly losing your wireless signal, experiencing slow streaming video with constant buffering, or have to wait longer than usual for webpages to load, there's a good chance your router is having trouble keeping up with your networking demands.
It may be time to upgrade your router that's compatible with the newer standards.
Newer Wi-Fi standards mean better features. "AC" routers are a step up from the older "B" and "G" models and even "N" models. They have more features and offer better performance. If you’re shopping for a new router, that’s what you want to look for. Click here for the best wireless routers that can boost your speeds and performance.
You should also check to see if your router has a system to prioritize network traffic you can turn on. Some routers call this QoS (Quality of Service). With this feature, you could set time-sensitive activties like streaming media to have higher priority over other types of activity.
If you have a limited internet connection, and a number of people using it, this prioritization can mean the difference between solid video quality and flinging the remote in frustration.
2. Ditch the Wi-Fi
Not every Wi-Fi problem can be solved with an upgrade. Maybe you can't do away with interference between the router and your streaming gadget. Perhaps you have a lot of people in the house, and the Wi-Fi is always in heavy use. Maybe your streaming gadget is older and doesn't support the latest Wi-Fi standards.
If you really want to clear things up, connect your streaming gadget directly to your router with an Ethernet cable. This removes any possible environmental interference, and gives you consistent speed.
The only downside is running the cable long distances around your house. Fortunately, even a 50-foot Cat 6 networking cable should set you back less than $20.
Of course, not every gadget is going to have an Ethernet port. For example, tablets don't, streaming sticks don't and neither do the cheaper Roku models. However, higher-end streaming units, video game consoles and most Smart TVs will.
3. Talk to your ISP
What happens if you upgrade your Wi-Fi, or plug your streaming gadget into your router, and your video streaming quality hasn't improved? It's time to talk to your internet service provider.
Even if you're paying for fast internet, you might not be getting it. Fire up a site Netflix's own free tool and see what kind of speed you're really getting.
You might discover there's a problem with your connection. Maybe you need to get a new cable modem that takes advantage of your ISP's latest network upgrades. Find out if your cable modem is the fastest money can buy.
Some ISPs also don't stream video that well, or even throttle video to reduce the load on the network. Netflix, being one of the largest video streaming services in existence, keeps close tabs on how well ISPs stream its video. Visit Netflix's ISP Speed Index site to see how your ISP's Netflix speeds fare against other providers.
Thankfully, it looks like ISPs are ramping up their Netflix sppeds. Anything below 3Mbps isn't going to give you full video quality. And even these are averages, so you could see less with any of these services.
Talk to your provider and see what's up. You might find the problem "magically" solved once you bring it to its attention. Or maybe there really is a problem with your connection that can be fixed. It never hurts to ask.