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Which is best for streaming of online video between Ultra HD 4K and 1080p/Full HD?

Posted on 2016-08-28
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Last Modified: 2016-10-02
I tried a laptop yesterday in the store, and I intend to use this laptop only for streaming online video. This was the first laptop that worked on a specific video site (I've tried several others, but so far only this laptop has worked, and it worked excellent; it is a gaming laptop with 16 GB RAM and SSD etc.).

I am thinking of ordering this model with even higher specs than the model I tried had. But I am hesitating regarding whether to have a version with Ultra HD 4K (for super sharp videos) or 1080p/Full HD. It's not that important to get super sharp videos, much more important is no interruptions during playback, which is approximately 2-3 minutes for each video. The model I tried in the store had 1080p/Full HD, and there were almost no interruptions at all.

Furthermore, the model I tried in the store had Thunderbolt 3 (8x faster), and 15.6" Full HD screen (1920 x 1080). I'm not sure this higher specs model (17") has Thunderbolt 3; would that make streaming videos less effective with more interruptions if it lacks Thunderbolt 3?

I think the frame rate will be much lower for Ultra HD 4K compared to 1080p/Full HD. Wouldn't that make streaming of online videos going slower for Ultra HD 4K compared to 1080p/Full HD? This website with online videos (the videos can't be downloaded, they are constantly buffered from the website) has receveived numerous complaints about interruptions during playback of the videos (the playbacked video interrupts in the middle of the video, or several times during the playback, to buffer more contents), and for me this has also been the case: many interruptions during the playback on my current low-spec laptop (although with 8 GB RAM and i7) when the video is buffering. With this gaming laptop I just tried this did not occur, almost no buffering at all, very smooth playback of the whole video.

I found now also a third alternative with double amount of video RAM and FHD display (instead of Ultra HD 4K). Would this third alternative be even better?

When playing online video, which is most important of video RAM and processor performance? I read now that this third alternative has a processor that doesn't get up to full performance because of the high spec screen (although I could change it to FHD instead of Ultra HD 4K), so it might not help that the video RAM is double the size of the other two options I choose between.
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Question by:hermesalpha
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rindi earned 250 total points (awarded by participants)
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I doubt there will be much content online where you can stream 4k videos. For that you would need a big bandwidth to and from the Internet. Your main problem won't be the laptop's performance, but rather your Internet connection. Probably the shop where you tried it at happened to have a very good internet connection, and so the videos streamed smoothly, and when you try it at home chances are that you will have similar issues like you had with your old hardware. As long as your PC's hardware surpasses the minimal requirements, your Internet speed and reliability is much more important.
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Actually, in the store, I tried this gaming laptop I want to buy and 2 other laptops: HP Spectre (i7 processor) and Microsoft Surface Pro (i5 processor). With these two other laptops I had the same trouble as I have with my current laptop (and that I have had with other laptops/computers I have tried also with). But this gaming laptop is the first one that the problems with constant interruptions didn't occur.

I tried several times on the same internet connection in that store, and even tried first HP Spectre, then this gaming laptop, then Microsoft Surface Pro, then going back to the gaming laptop and then back to the HP Spectre. Always the same result: excellent, smooth playback without interruptions on this gaming laptop, always interruptions on these two other laptops.

I read a review now of this gaming laptop, and it says it has fast wi-fi as a plus. Could that be the main reason it worked so well for the streaming of videos (the connection was wi-fi)?
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by:rindi
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The wifi could certainly be the issue. Use ethernet rather than wifi to test the laptops.
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by:hermesalpha
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I will have to go on this wi-fi test because in the store I can only connect to the galleria's public wi-fi. The shop assistant wasn't very keen on that I even connected to internet, told me all the time there is no internet to connect to.
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by:rindi
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Then you can't test it properly. You need an ethernet connection to test the laptops and properly compare them. Find another shop that has ethernet.
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by:hermesalpha
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If I buy the laptop with Ultra HD 4K and it, for some reason, turns out to not work very well, would it then be possible to change the screen only on this laptop to a screen with 1080p/Full HD?
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by:rindi
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I doubt you can change anything after you bought it. But there should be no reason for it work less well. It just won't be any advantage for online streaming, and it will probably also cost substantially more.
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by:Brian B
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For the most part, a more expensive video card isn't really going to help anyway. Generally those cards are built for handling 3D graphics workloads in games. Streamed video isn't really that hard on the system.

In my own experience, if streaming video is the primary thing you are planning on doing, you would do just as well with a good quality tablet.

My second piece of advice would be if you want to test the quality, is go to a small computer store where they will let you hook up to their own internet connection and see the video quality there. Public wifi in the mall most likely has QoS and/or other restrictions that will limit or block streaming videos. Not only that, but a small store might (ask first) be willing to let you try or exchange one model of laptop for another.
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by:hermesalpha
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This gaming laptop I found is the first one (I've tried several other, smaller regular, laptops) that worked excellent for streaming. And probably the reason for that is that the wi-fi is fast on it (it says that in the reivews of this gaming laptop).

Because I travel a lot I almost always use wi-fi, so it seems that the most important factor for me to be able to stream videos from this website is fast wi-fi capabilities in the computer.
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by:rindi
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The speed of the WIFI adapter inside the laptop won't help if your access points to which you connect to aren't compatible with the features of the adapter. Most of those special features depend on whether that feature is supported by the AP, and that is unlikely to be the case with most of them. So it runs down to pure luck if one of them has those features.

Besides that wireless always depends on the distance you are from the AP, as well as how many others connect to it etc, so the speed on AP's will be irregular and often pretty low unless everything runs optimally.

You really must test the laptops on the LAN, and then additionally on wireless. But if you test them on wireless, you must make sure the laptops are all connected to the same access point, and that they are tested in the same location in the shop. Otherwise you just can't compare things.

I also don't think the people at the shop really know much of what they are doing. They would otherwise know that it is easy to add languages to Windows 10. Look for another, better shop, and insist that you need to test the laptops when connected to the internet via ethernet.
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by:Brian B
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I agree with what Rindi is telling you. But I also want to clarify what we are saying. The problem with focusing on a specific feature on a laptop is you usually can't mix and match features like you would with a desktop. Laptops with really good network cards are (as you have said) most likely gaming laptops. Therefore you are paying for other premium features that you don't need.

For example: I stream videos at home with my old MS Surface RT and they work fine. The quality of the stream has less to do with the hardware you use and more to do with the quality of the connection you are getting. This is mostly comprised of the internet connection, the access point and everything else the signal goes through between you computer and the source of the stream.

I also travel a lot, so I would also like to add that many times hotel wifi, like the shopping centre connection, is restricted. So things like streaming video is pretty bad or doesn't work at all. You could spend a lot of money for certain features and find you can never use their full potential.

I don't think you mentioned what site you are using as the sources of these video streams. But a better choice may be to look into how you can download the videos you want to see ahead of time and store them directly on your laptop. Then you don't have to depend on your internet connection to watch them.

(Note: Depending on your location and the source of the videos, downloading videos vs streaming may not be legal in your jurisdiction.)
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by:hermesalpha
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It the main reason is speed of wi-fi, would this wi-fi powerline extender help anything?:

http://www.pcadvisor.co.uk/review/powerline-adapters/tp-link-300mbps-av500-wifi-powerline-extender-review-3491664/

Would it be worth trying it out?
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by:rindi
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I have never used any of those and don't know them. But basically if you are already close to the Access Point and you get bad performance out if, then no other device will improve that performance. sometimes checking the settings on the AP, and maybe using another channel helps, or get a better AP.
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by:rindi
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Any news hermesalpha?
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I just want to add that it doesn't matter if I need to pay for other premium features that I will not use if the wi-fi works so well on this gaming laptop. Because I've tried to many other computers, and this is the first that works with this site for streaming of videos. That has the highest priority for me: that it works without interruptions to play videos via wi-fi from this site. The site is this:

www.atg.se

I can't download the videos, only possible to play them online.

However, this gaming laptop is heavy, so if I could find a lightweight tablet with a good network card for the wi-fi connection (as I almost always use wi-fi and not fixed line) that would certainly be the best option. But so far, I haven't found any other alternative to this gaming laptop.
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A tablet like an iPAD or and Android Tablet shouldn't have any problems with streaming Videos. Most of them come with built-in WiFi.
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