Is there a difference between sd and hd netflix?
The biggest difference between the three is picture quality. You'll only get 640 x 480 pixels on the Basic plan — roughly half the number of HD (1,280 x 720) and a fifth of 4K Ultra HD quality (3,840 x 2,160).
To see how we calculated these scores, you can find a full explanation of our methodology here.
From the moment Netflix launched the streaming arm of its DVD-rental-by-mail business, it’s been the face of streaming services. No service has more subscribers, spends more on its library or wins more awards. It’s been a part of most people’s lives for so long that we hardly question whether the cost is still worth it.
Amazon and Disney+ are tough competitors in this field, though.
The result of our Netflix review? It’s still the best streaming service for most people, even if it is a bit more expensive than others.
Netflix is one of the most popular streaming services for a reason: It has a great mix of original and licensed content, and its technology is in a class of its own.
Netflix has four plans to choose from, three of which come without commercials. The difference between the plans is picture quality. You’ll only get SD 1080 pixels on the Standard and the Standard with Ads plans, but only 720 pixels with the Basic plan. Premium comes with 4K + HDR.
For comparison, Prime Video includes 4K streaming at no extra charge, while Hulu and HBO NOW don’t have any 4K content yet. If you’ve recently purchased a new 4K TV, it might be worth upgrading to Netflix’s top plan to take advantage of its extensive 4K library.
Unfortunately, Netflix doesn’t currently offer any discounts for students. If you’re a full-time student looking to save some money, we collected some of our favorite student discounts here.
Yes, you can still get DVDs and Blu-rays in the mail from Netflix. The Standard DVD plan costs $9.99/mo. and lets you take out one DVD or Blu-ray at a time. The two other plans are $14.99/mo. for two discs and $19.99/mo. for three discs. Netflix mails you the disc, and you get to keep it as long as you want, with no limit on how many you can take out every month.
Unfortunately, the Netflix streaming service isn’t included in the DVD plan. If you want to stream Netflix, you’ll have to sign up separately. On the plus side, Netflix’s DVD library is much larger than what it has streaming. If you’re into more obscure movies, you’ll be able to find just about anything.
To gauge Netflix’s library compared to other major TV streaming services, we broke our evaluation into two categories: licensed content and original programming. For the shows and movies Netflix purchases instead of producing themselves, we focused on the total number available and how much people actually like them. For that, we used IMDb’s lists of the top 250 TV shows and movies, which combine user ratings and popularity to determine its rankings. We counted how many titles each streaming service had in both lists.
For original content, we collected a handful of metrics for every original title produced by Netflix, Hulu, Prime Video, MAX, Disney+, SHOWTIME, STARZ and Apple TV+.
We collected audience reviews from IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes and critic ratings from Rotten Tomatoes, then looked at how many nominations and wins each service has from the Emmys, Golden Globes and Oscars. This gave us a good idea of the overall quality of each service’s originals.
For a more in-depth explanation of how we evaluated streaming services, you can read our full streaming review methodology
*According to data from JustWatch.com (05/05/23)
Netflix has one of the largest libraries of any streaming service, with more than 5,000 combined TV shows and movies. That’s still only about 20% the size of Prime Video’s library, but evidence suggests that Netflix actually has more of the stuff that people want to watch.
Of IMDb’s top 250 movies, Netflix has 26 movies in its collection — more than any of the other major services.
Data accurate as of 04/27/20
When it comes to original content, Netflix produces a lot more than its competitors, but it isn’t always of the highest quality. It has nearly 1,200 original titles, while second-place HBO NOW has only 521 — and it has about a 20-year head start on Netflix.
Netflix clearly prescribes to the “throw everything at the wall and see what sticks” approach. That means the average critic and audience reactions to their shows tend to be a little more negative than they are to other services.
That said, because Netflix produces so much content overall, it does have a lot of hits. Titles like Tiger King, The Crown and The Irishman have all been enormously popular with viewers and critics alike. Netflix’s originals have earned more awards recognition than any streaming service other than HBO NOW, which isn’t really a pure streaming service.
The HBO channel has twice as many Emmys as Netflix, but it’s a bit of an apples-to-oranges comparison. HBO has always been a premium network first. That said, if prestige television is your top priority, you’ll probably be happier with a subscription to Max (formerly HBO Max).
While it has a few frustrating quirks, we think Netflix is as intuitive and easy-to-use as any streaming service out there. Its layout is intuitive to navigate, you can pick up where you left off with a couple clicks and saving titles to your watch list is a breeze.
That said, there are a few annoyances. Netflix auto plays trailers for all of its original shows and movies, so you can’t rest your remote on a title without being bombarded by sound. It can make browsing Netflix sometimes feel like a game of streaming hot potato.
Netflix also has a habit of showing you the same categories and movies over and over again. There’s probably a good reason for that — these are the titles you are probably most interested in — but it can make finding something outside the box a little challenging.
Overall, though, we found Netflix’s user experience to be more positive than Prime Video, Hulu and MAX. Netflix also offers a one-month free trial, so you’ll have plenty of time to get used to it before committing to a monthly subscription.
As the most popular streaming service in the world, Netflix is compatible with every major streaming device, smart TV and gaming console around, including Roku, Amazon Fire TV Sticks, Google Chromecast, Apple TV, Xbox and PlayStation. The only major devices it’s not currently available on are Nintendo Switch and Amazon Echo Show.
You can watch Netflix on one screen at a time if you subscribe to the $9.99/mo. basic plan, two screens with the $6.99/mo. ad plan and four with both the $15.49 and $19.99/mo. plans. If you go over this limit, one of the screens will get an error message saying you have too many streams. For more troubleshooting steps, you can see Netflix’s guide here.
Netflix only makes some of its shows and movies available for download, but that list includes all of its originals. You can only download titles on a smartphone or tablet, and you’ll need to look for the small download icon next to the title. For TV shows, the icon appears next to each episode. When you first open the mobile app, a message will pop up, directing you to everything available to download. You can also access this list by clicking the downloads tab at the bottom of your screen.
Netflix recommends 3 Mbps of download speed for SD streaming, 5 Mbps for HD and 25 Mbps for 4K Ultra HD. If you’re not sure whether you’re getting these speeds already, you can take our speed test below to find out. Keep in mind, the more devices that connect to your internet at once, the higher speed you’ll need. So you may still experience buffering issues even if your speed test clears Netflix’s recommendations.
Streaming video generally consumes a lot of data, and Netflix is no exception. You’ll go through around 1 GB of data in 20 minutes if you’re streaming in HD, compared to every 667 hours for typical internet browsing. For more information on streaming with a data cap, you can check out our full guide here.
In case you haven’t heard by now, back in January, Netflix announced it was upping the prices on all its plans here in the US and Canada — except for Canada’s Basic Plan.
With this most recent jump, monthly pricing for Netflix plans have jumped anywhere from 11 to 25 percent since 2020, depending on the plan in question. And, that got me wondering:
Could I save a decent amount by downgrading to a cheaper Netflix plan?
And, perhaps, just as importantly:
Could I tolerate the lower video quality and more limited features?
So, in February, I opted to downgrade to the cheapest of Netflix’s plans, the aptly named “Basic” option that tops out at sub-HD video resolution. And now, after several rounds of pixel peeping, penny pinching, and soul searching, I’m back with my verdict.
Netflix’s Basic Plan is… just fine for our household, but your mileage may definitely vary. Let’s dive in!
(Editor’s Note: This article is based on our recent video exploring the Netflix Basic Plan. To find out more, click on the video embedded below.)
Here in the US, Netflix subscribers can choose among three distinct tiers — each with its own features and capabilities.
The top-end Premium plan currently runs for $19.99 per month. That plan gets you 4K or Ultra HD streams for supported content. Plus, you can also watch on up to four different screens at the same time.
One rung is the Standard plan, which caps out at 1080p, or HD video quality. Here, you can watch on up two screens at any one time.
And then there’s the bottom-tier Basic plan that limits video quality to sub-HD resolution and only one screen at a time.
And according to the Test Pattern series on Netflix, which offers videos to calibrate your gear, the Basic Plan tops out at 960 x 540 resolution, otherwise known as qHD. That resolution features precisely one-quarter the pixels of Full HD, or 1920 x 1080, which obviously affects overall video quality.
As someone who’s stuck with the middle-of-the-road Standard plan for ages, the recent price hike offered an opportunity to explore other options. I wondered whether dropping to the Basic option would be worth it in terms of overall cost savings, as well as our enjoyment of the service’s content.
At its current pricing, the move from the Standard to Basic plans represents an extra $5.50 per month, or $66 per year.
Downgrading from the Premium plan all the way to the Basic option would save you $10 a month or $120 per year.
While that may not seem like a huge sum on its own, it certainly adds up if it’s just part of your overall cost-savings strategy.
When you’re signing up for a streaming service or considering a change in plans, a good starting point is to take stock of where, exactly, you intend to watch your content. In our household, we rarely (if ever) need more than one Netflix stream at any given time, so the multi-screen support of the Standard and Premium plans isn’t all that attractive to us.
And while we do watch some content on smaller TVs in an office or bedroom, the lion’s share of our Netflix viewing occurs on our 55-inch LG OLED 4K TV.
So that begs the question: How does non-HD content look on a large 4K screen?
The basic answer is: Definitely not as sharp and detailed, but perhaps not as bad as you’d expect.
Normally, we sit roughly 8-10 feet away from our 55-inch TV. And from that distance, the difference is noticeable if we’re actively thinking about it, but it’s not so distracting that we don’t enjoy what we’re watching.
Whenever we moved closer, we started to notice the lack of edge detail and blurry text much more. There’s a recliner in our living room just a couple feet away and if you’re watching from there, the resolution loss at 960 x 540 is difficult not to notice.
Despite the deficit, many 1080p and 4K TVs offer some level of upscaling support, so if you do opt for the non-HD plan, it’s worth exploring your set’s respective features to get the most out of those sub-HD videos.
If you want a very rough example of what it might look like on your given display, you can try out the quality settings on YouTube. Pick out a high-quality video, head into the quality settings, and then select 480p.
Video codecs and exact resolutions may vary, of course, but that should give you a fair approximation of what to expect, before making the plan change.
I’ve also tried out the Basic plan on secondary, 1080p TVs, mobile gear, and on laptops and the quality difference is less noticeable on smaller screens, especially if you’re not watching up close.
NVIDIA’s Shield TV line has been a popular streaming option for years, and it boasts some interesting capabilities that might come in handy for anyone viewing lower-quality video.
The Shield’s built-in AI-Based Upscaling feature aims to intelligently sharpen and enhance low-res video to improve quality. We published an earlier video exploring the topic and since we had a Shield TV Pro in house, we thought we’d give it a try.
The upscaling feature offers three different strength levels, and we settled on the Low strength as it offered a noticeable improvement over the basic upscaling, without looking too overprocessed and oversharpened. Your preferences may differ, of course, but if you have access to a Shield TV device, it’s definitely worth a try!
For some, the Basic plan might just be too limited, and that’s totally fine. But there certainly are use cases where this could be a passable, even enjoyable, option.
The most obvious use case is for subscribers who only view Netflix on one screen at a time, as opposed to, say, a house full of streamers.
And if a major portion of your viewing is done via mobile devices, or on your desktop or laptop, the Basic plan’s video resolution limit might not be that big a deal.
Conversely, multi-user homes, and those who place more value on HD and 4K streams probably aren’t the right folks for the Basic plan. Though, if you’re on that 4K Premium plan and you’re looking to save a little money now that it costs $20 per month, the drop down to Standard isn’t all that steep in terms of video quality.
Your mileage may vary, but 1080p video on a 4K screen can still look pretty sharp. And so long as you don’t need support for more than two screens at one time, the Standard plan could be a solid middle ground.
In the end, I learned that there is a noticeable drop in video quality not just from 4K down to sub-HD, but also from 1080p down to sub-HD. What really matters, though, is whether or not that difference is worth the extra monthly cost in your particular situation.
For us, we’re OK with the drop in quality since it helps save a few bucks each month.
As for your situation, if you weigh the pros and cons, and you come out thinking you can get by with the Basic level of Netflix’s plans, then definitely give it a shot.
We’ve come a long way from Netflix’s early days, when there was a single pricing plan for all of its users. Subscriber counts soared in 2020 during the pandemic, from 140 million paying subscribers using the TV streaming service in 2019 to roughly 209 million global paid memberships in Q2 2021. Netflix upped the prices for all but the cheapest plan in late 2019, which didn't seem to impact subscriber growth for the juggernaut at all. Bit it does mean the right plan for you might not be what it was a few years ago.
If you just want the cheapest entry point to Netflix – or don’t have the internet connection for high-resolution streaming – you won’t want to be paying the same as someone going all out on fancy 4K content. On the other hand, while you get access to the same library of titles for the cheapest plan, there are plenty of perks to upgrading to a more advanced subscription.
In this guide, we'll take you through the differences between Netflix's Basic, Standard and Premium plans – looking at how much each plan costs, the image quality on offer, and the number of screens you can stream to at once.
You can’t go wrong with the Basic plan. At only £5.99 / $8.99 / AU$9.99 a month, it’s a steal for access to thousands of titles through the Netflix platform. You get unlimited access to the same Netflix movies, Netflix shows and the like as with the other plans – just with a few restrictions.
You don’t get HD or Ultra HD resolution on this plan, meaning that your laptop, phone or television won’t stream any higher than SD (standard definition). The most you’ll get is 640 x 480 pixels, which is about half the quality of HD (1,280 x 720) or a fifth of Ultra HD quality (3,840 x 2,160).
A fair amount of Netflix content was filmed in SD – especially older titles like The Office (and Friends, before it left Netflix for good!). But HD is considered the standard for most new television produced today, so you will miss out on some of the final details and textures. Less of a problem on a smartphone or tablet, though you may see some fuzzy pixels when blown up to a 55-inch TV.
Basic also only lets you use stream to one screen at a time, though you can still make multiple user profiles on the one account.
The Standard plan is a solid compromise between the three plans, and costs a sightly higher £9.99 / $13.99 / AU$15.99 per month, following a price hike in October of 2020. Neither too expensive, nor with too few perks, Standard plan is just right.
You can now watch titles in HD, which will be 720p for some titles (the minimum HD standard) and 1080p for others. Most titles on Netflix will benefit from HD viewing, though you’ll need a decent internet connection to run consistently in HD.
You can also stream to two screens at any one time, meaning your flatmate in the other room doesn’t have to pause The OA so you can catch up on Orange is the New Black.
The Premium plan is the most expensive of the three, at £13.99 / $17.99 / AU$19.99 per month., and like Standard, it's about 2 dollars more per month following October 2020's price hike. Premium is a small increase over Standard per month, though it will add up over the course of a year.
The main draw here is Ultra HD streaming, meaning you can watch all the 4K-ready content on Netflix the way it was meant to be seen. Naturally if you don’t have a 4K TV or 4K monitor, this will be somewhat wasted on you, so make sure you have devices that are able to play the resolution of the plan you’re going for.
This plan also allows you to stream to a total four screens simultaneously: perfect for large families or crammed flat-shares, regardless of whether you can stream in 4K or not.
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