Netflix data usage test – 4K vs Full HD

Can you really see the difference between 4K and full HD when watching content on a TV and are sitting several metres away?

I would argue yes, but I own a 4K TV and don’t want to think I have wasted my money.

Those with a full HD display might argue no, and that any resolution higher on a TV is a waste.

What can’t be disputed, however, is the amount of data media streaming uses at either resolution.

To see what effect this has on Netflix viewing, we put the resolutions to the test.

4K vs Full HD

It would be a safe (and accurate) guess to say that streaming 4K content on Netflix uses more data that full HD content.

4K – also known as UHD – displays content at a resolution of 3,840 x 2,160.

Full HD – also called 1080p – displays content at 1,920 x 1,080.

The additional pixels in a 4K display need to be filled, and the data required to fill them is the reason the content uses more bandwidth.

Many of Netflix’s new shows are available in 4K, and those with a 4K display can watch them at the top setting. Users with a full HD TV cannot.

Users also have the option to set the maximum streaming quality in their Netflix account, preventing content from playing in 4K if they choose.

Test

For the Netflix test, we used a Samsung 55-inch UHD TV (UA55JS7200).

The TV was connected via Wi-Fi to a 100Mbps Openserve fibre line, running a capped ISP account.

The pre-installed Netflix app on the Samsung TV was used, several shows were watched, and their bandwidth usage – as detailed by accessing the “Info” overlay while streaming – was noted.

The 4K content used:

  • Fastest Car at 2160p – 15.26Mbps
  • Jessica Jones at 2160p – 15.26Mbps
  • The Outsider at 2160p – 15.26Mbps

The full HD content used:

  • Brooklyn Nine-Nine at 1080p – 7.15Mbps
  • Fargo at 1080p – 7.15Mbps
  • Great British Menu at 1080p – 7.15Mbps

The shows were all allowed to play for several minutes, and the bandwidth rate quickly settled and remained at the figures noted above.

Total usage

Using the figures above, the test shows that Netflix uses the following amount of data when playing content.

4K vs FHD
Time Full HD 4K
Per minute 53MB 114MB
Per hour 3.2GB 6.8GB
Per season (10 shows at 45 mins) 24GB 51.3GB

As the data shows, watching Netflix in 4K used over twice as much data than full HD content in our tests.

These figures are unique to the content and devices used in our test, but provide a good overall picture of what Netflix users can expect when using the service.

Now read: The best 4K TVs for gamers in South Africa

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Netflix data usage test – 4K vs Full HD