How much bandwidth does NetFlix streaming use? [DEFINITIVE ANSWER]

Q. Hello, I am in US and have netflix and want to stream movies but i also have a sucky monthly bandwidth cap of 12.5GB. I want to make sure I don’t go over my monthly limit. Can you tell me how much bandwidth netflix streaming takes like per hourly?! Thx in advance!!! -PaulT from MN

A. Great question Paul! Bandwidth caps are quite a bummer and you are wise to be aware of your usage. I can tell you the answer I found out from NetFlix  (Jan 21st, 2012)

Your quality settings determine bandwidth usage:

In the USA you have 3 video quality options: good quality, better quality, and best quality. Here is how much bandwidth they each use:

  • Good quality (up to 0.3 GB per hour)
  • Better quality (up to 0.7 GB per hour)
  • Best quality (up to 1 GB per hour, or up to 2.3 GB per hour for HD)

If you have a NetFlix account then you can adjust your quality settings here: https://account.netflix.com/HdToggle

So 300MB to 2.3GB per hour, what does that mean in the real world?

If we figure that movie length is in the range of 90 minutes to 110 minute, that means:

  • 450mb to 550mb to watch a movie at ‘good’ quality
  • 1.05GB to 1.28GB at ‘better’
  • a whopping 3.45GB to 4.22GB at ‘best HD’ quality.

Here are how the numbers breakdown with various bandwidth caps:

How much can I stream with a 5GB  data cap?

5GB  is what a lot of cell phone plans currently have…

  • w/5GB data cap:
    • Good quality: roughly 16 hours
    • Better quality: roughly 7 hours
    • Best quality: roughly 2 hours*

*yes, that’s right, with a lot of USA based cellular carriers you can watch about ONE high-definition movie before you use up your bandwidth quota for the month :-( So don’t turn on that wifi hotspot feature of your nice Android/iPhone and then try to watch an HD movie on your laptop or you’re likely to be out of data!

How much can I stream with a 12.5GB  data cap?

This was your specific question about a 12.5GB plan, and for folks that have a 125GB data cap just multiply these figures x 10

  • w/12.5GB data cap
    • Good quality: roughly 41 hours
    • Better quality: roughly 18 hours
    • Best quality: roughly 5 hours

Quality settings screenshot w/GB per hour from Netflix.com

The end for now…

I hope this info was helpful to you!

UPDATES: 2012.01.24 notified Google of infringing copy of this blog entry 2012.01.23 improved formatting and revised text 2012.01.22 added more movie length info and updated some figures.

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