Streaming videos has reached new heights with the popularity of 4K TVs .
However, not everyone is keen on investing in a 4K TV. As expected, enjoying the stunning and theater-like quality of 4K content comes at a price. Your internet speed and data plan might not be up to par as well.
Standard Definition (SD) videos at 480p resolution consume 700 MB per hour of streaming. High-definition (HD) videos consume between 0.9 to 1.5 GB per hour. A 2K content will use up to three gigabytes per hour.
Compared to lower resolution videos, 4K video uses significantly more data at seven to ten gigabytes of data per hour.
In this article, we’ll go in-depth into how much data 4K TVs actually use. We’ll also help you assess what kind of data plan you need, depending on how many 4K movies you plan to stream in a month.
How Much Internet Does a 4K TV Use?
To get 4K content on your TV, you won’t just need a high data cap, you’ll also need high internet speeds compared to if you were streaming standard definition or high definition videos.
Streaming services have a suggested minimum bandwidth for streaming videos at varying resolutions. Otherwise, you’ll be greeted with the buffering icon and experience frustrating drops in video quality.
Do 4K TVs Use More Internet?
The quick answer is yes. To give you an idea, here are the suggested minimum internet speeds by streaming services:
|Streaming Platform||SD (480p)||HD (1080p)||4K UHD (2160p)|
|Netflix||3 Mbps||5 Mbps||25 Mbps|
|Amazon Prime||1 Mbps||5 Mbps||25 Mbps|
|Apple TV+||2.5 Mbps||8 Mbps||25-41 Mbps|
|Youtube||1.1 Mbps||5 Mbps||20 Mbps|
As you can see from the table, 4K is more demanding when it comes to internet speed. Because 4K can deliver high-resolution images, streaming platforms require more bandwidth to deliver content smoothly.
On average, streaming SD content will require three Mbps, while HD videos will require between five to eight Mbps. Most 4K content will require a minimum of 25 Mbps.
However, if you’d like to guarantee smooth 4K streaming across any platform, the recommended is 50 Mbps.
Does 4K Take Up More Data?
Yes, just as 4K TVs need more bandwidth, streaming or playing 4K content will also use more data per hour compared to lower resolutions.
If you’re streaming videos, bandwidth and network connection are the biggest factors in determining the resolution your 4K TV will play in.
Usually, streaming services and apps have features to allow video streaming that is compatible with your available internet speeds. These compression settings will usually start up automatically to prevent any frustrating buffering.
However, if you specifically choose 4K video, expect your 4K TV to use as much as 7 to 10GB per hour.
To give you an idea of how much data 4K UHD takes up compared to lower resolutions, check out this table:
|Video Quality||Video Resolution||Data Used Per Hour|
|Low Quality||240p to 320p||0.3 GB or 300 MB|
|Standard-definition (SD)||480p||0.7 GB or 700 MB|
|High-definition (HD)||720p||0.9 GB or 900 MB|
|High-definition (HD)||1080p||1.5 GB|
The values on the table are estimates. Remember that the amount of data you consume will depend on compression and the variable quality of your network connection.
What we can see is that 4K content uses significantly more data compared to SD, HD, and 2K resolutions.
Do I Have Enough Data for a 4K TV?
With the large appetite of 4K TVs, you might be surprised how fast you reach your data cap.
If you have a 4K TV at home and you plan on maximizing its capabilities by streaming 4K videos, we recommend signing up with a WiFi plan.
Aside from being free from a data cap, you also get more solid signals from a WiFi router compared to a wireless carrier. This means you’ll get less compression on your 4K content.
If you’re going for a data plan, keep in mind that most services will have a data cap between 250 GB to two terabytes. Most carriers will charge a monthly overage cost should you go over the data cap.
Most users will settle with a one terabyte data plan, but keep in mind that streaming 4K content isn’t the only thing that will eat up your data. Surfing the web, sending emails, and listening to music with your data plan will reduce the amount of time you can stream 4K content.
To give you an idea of how many hours of 4K content you can enjoy on a one terabyte data plan, check out this comparison:
|Resolution||Speed required||Hours to reach 1TB data cap|
|720p||10 Mbps||~222.2 hours|
|1080p||20 Mbps||~111.1 hours|
|4K||35 Mbps||~63.5 hours|
If you’d like to stream more shows on your 4K TV, consider streaming in lower resolutions.
4K Video Streaming
To make the most out of your 4K TV, you should go with an unlimited data plan if you can afford it. However, not many people can afford the luxury of being free from data caps.
Check out this chart to give you an idea of how many hours of 4K streaming you can enjoy with a data plan:
|Data cap||Hours of 4K streaming|
Aside from requiring higher internet speeds to play content smoothly, 4K movies also eat up more data than the same video at a lower resolution.
4K TVs consume an average of seven to ten gigabytes of data per hour of streaming, this is more than double the data consumed of 2K content at 3GB per hour. Streaming at 1080p, on the other hand, will consume only 1.5GB per hour.
Because of the heavy data demands of streaming on a 4K TV, it’s critical that you carefully choose a sufficient data plan with high bandwidths and a generous data cap.
Vance is a dad, former software engineer, and tech lover. Knowing how a computer works becomes handy when he builds Pointer Clicker. His quest is to make tech more accessible for non-techie users. When not working with his team, you can find him caring for his son and gaming.