Computer Requirements for Streaming Video

What are the Recommended Computer Specifications for Streaming Video?

This is another really popular question, and is very similar to the question of recommended download speeds for streaming video.  In that Learn article on download speeds we mention that other factors also influence how well you can stream video over the web.  One of the most significant factors, besides download speed, is your computer.  The specifications of your computer, such as CPU speed, can have a pretty big impact on your ability to stream video.

The combination of connection speed (e.g. download speed) and computer hardware specification is perhaps the most significant influence on your ability to view streaming video over the web.  In general, the faster your connection speed, the more likely you are to be able to stream video online.  However, the faster your connection speed, the higher your computer requirements will be to stream the video.  Why is this?  Because the computer must be able to handle the increased throughput from the fast connection.  A fast connection will not be much help to a person running an original Pentium if they want to watch Hulu in HD!

Comcast does a really good job of showing the link to the connection speed and the computer requirements for their customers that would like to watch video content via their XFinity service.  These recommendations form the foundation of our computer requirements for streaming video online.

In the above table, speeds are broken out into four categories:  Up to 20Mbit, Up to 30Mbit, Up to 50Mbit, and 100Mbit+.  As you can see, when the speeds (e.g. data rate) is increased, the requirements for the computer also go up.  This is most noticeable in the CPU speed requirements.  Another important thing to note are software requirements.  A general best practice for a good quality experience when streaming video is to use an updated browser, such as a newer version of IE, Firefox

In general, these requirements should be considered minimums, and not necessarily “recommended”.  Your best bet is always to exceed these minimums, particularly in the CPU speed area.  So what does all this mean?  We have speed requirements and computer requirements, and we know they must work together.  For a quality VPN to allow you to stream video from around the globe you must have both the connection and your hardware operating above these thresholds.  If either the connection speed or the computer is lacking, then it is likely that you will experience some problems when streaming video.  These problems could come in the form of continuous buffering,  stuttering in the video, or a completely inability to stream high definition video.