Watching video is one of the primary ways that people eat through their allowance. So it makes sense to know how much data does streaming video use.
After all, for many people in the United States and beyond, internet data caps are a reality. Worse still, your internet service provider (ISP) can charge you an exorbitant amount of money per gigabyte if and when you go over your cap.
Knowing how much data streaming video uses should help to prevent any nasty surprises when you receive your next bill.
Let’s start with YouTube. We’ve already covered how much data YouTube uses in a previous article. To sum up, we discovered that the service uses 562.5MB of data/hour if you stream at 480p resolution (standard definition).
If you want to watch higher resolutions at 60 frames-per-second, the figure jumps to 1.86GB/hour for 720p, 3.04GB/hour at 1080p, and a mammoth 15.98GB/hour if you want to watch videos in 4K.
Thankfully, we included some tips to help you reduce the amount of data YouTube uses in the same article.
Netflix is the world’s most popular streaming service by some distance. It has more than 130 million subscribers, many of whom don’t necessarily have high-speed internet.
Therefore, like YouTube, there are a number of different quality options available on the app.
According to Netflix’s own information, an hour of streaming video in standard definition will use approximately 1GB of data. Watching high definition video sees that number rise to 3GB. Ultra-high definition will use 7GB of data/hour.
By default, your account is set to automatically choose which resolution is most appropriate for your connection. However, if you’d like to save data while watching Netflix, you can override the setting. Go to Account > My Profile > Playback Settings to make your selection. Hit Save when you’re ready.
3. Amazon Prime Video
Amazon Prime is just one of many Amazon services. It went live in 2006 but only became a streaming service in 2011. Nonetheless, in just half a decade, it’s grown to become Netflix’s biggest competitor.
The service offers three resolutions to desktop users. They are Good, Better, and Best. Good streams videos at 480p standard definition and uses 800MB of data/hour. Better streams in HD and requires 2GB of data/hour. The ultra-high definition 4K option (Best) will consume 6GB of data/hour.
Mobile users also have a further Data Saver option.
Note: Watching Amazon Prime Video on the mobile app uses slightly less data than watching the same video via the desktop app.
Hulu is arguably the third member of the video streaming triumvirate. Just like its rivals, Hulu offers some unmissable TV shows.
Hulu’s data usage while streaming video is slightly lower than Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, making it the most economical of the three.
On the standard definition option, you can expect to use 680MB/hour. The 720p high definition setting increases the figure to 1.3GB/hour, and the 1080p resolution increases the usage yet further to 2.7GB/hour.
If you sign up to Hulu’s $39.99/month plan, you can also stream live TV. Hulu only offers its live channels in 720p HD quality, so mobile users on capped plans should steer clear.
Spotify is most well-known as a music streaming service. However, since mid-2016, it’s also offered a video service in selected markets.
Unfortunately, the company is not very forthcoming about how much data its video service uses. On its website, Spotify merely says “Videos use more data than music due to larger file sizes. But our data usage is comparable to other popular video channels.”
Most of the videos on the service are in high definition, so if we take Spotify’s claims at face value, we can assume an hour of streaming will use between 1.5GB and 3GB of data (based off data from Netflix et al.).
If you’d like to learn about how much data Spotify uses while streaming music, check out our previous article.
Like Spotify, Vimeo does not offer any official data usage guidance on its website. However, in third-party testing, one user found that standard definition content used 353MB of data/hour and HD videos used 2.75GB/hour.
Stan is only available in Australia and offers a mix of on-demand movies and TV shows.
The app offers four tiers of quality. The lowest standard definition setting only uses 570MB of data/hour, making it comparable with Netflix. The medium standard definition uses 1.13GB/hour, and the HD and 4K use 2.89GB/hour and 7GB/hour, respectively.
DirecTV is yet another company that doesn’t offer clear bandwidth usage information on its website.
Its guidelines simply say, “If your provider caps your bandwidth or data, change your video quality settings to low or medium.”
It’s safe to assume DirecTV’s data usage is in line with the other platforms we have discussed.
9. PlayStation Vue
PlayStation Vue’s guidelines are much clearer. It uses 500MB/hour on Low Quality, 1GB/hour on Medium Quality, and 2GB/hour on High Quality.
Since 2017, the service has also offered a native bandwidth cap. You can set it to your preferred limit and streaming will automatically cut off when the limit is hit.
10. Sling TV
For Sling TV, we once again need to turn to third-party research. According to Cord Cutters News, Sling TV’s highest quality streaming will use 1.66GB/hour. That drops to 540MB/hour on medium and 360MB/hour on low.
See our comparison of Sling TV and Philo for some more info on the services.
Keep an Eye on Your Monthly Data Cap
Going over your data cap could be disastrous for your bank account. If you’re lucky, your ISP will only throttle your speed. If you’re unlucky, it might charge you a sizable fee for every extra gigabyte over your limit you use.
We think it’s a shame that out of all the services we’ve discussed, only PlayStation Vue comes with a built-in bandwidth monitor. It should be something that all video streaming services offer as standard.
Thankfully, other companies are cottoning on to the need to help people keep an eye on their data usage. Learn more about how to monitor your data usage on Windows 10.