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Best streaming quality? PCs get lowest average bitrate, TVs get highest

16 Dec 2021 | Rasmus Larsen |

If you want the best streaming picture quality you should abandon the PC and use a Smart TV or a media player. PCs get served to lowest bitrate by far, according to a report by Conviva.

Picture quality improvements

Conviva measures over 180 billion streams per year and every quarter it releases a report to give the world a glimpse into the state of streaming. In Q3 2021, streaming quality across all devices and regions improved 10% year-over-year to 6.97 Mbps, as measured in average bitrate. However, there are significant differences in streaming picture quality depending on which device you are using. PCs (with web browsers) on average get served even lower bitrates than small mobile screens. - "Picture quality also improved across the board with gaming consoles up the most at 16% but at 7.89 Mbps bitrate, they came in second to smart TVs which averaged 8.80 Mbps. Desktop made the least gains, up just 3%, and had the worst picture quality of any device at 2.95 Mbps," said Conviva.

Streaming bitrates

Streaming quality, buffering & other parameters measured across platforms. Source: Conviva

Be aware of limitations

Why is that? PCs are 'open' in the sense that it is easy to make a 1:1 copy and many PCs or web browser lack the latest copy protection schemes. For these reasons and others, services like Disney+ and Netflix in general limit streaming quality to PCs to 720p or 1080p at low bitrate. Also be aware that media players running mobile Android (often imported from China) are typically detected by streaming servers as mobile screens, which is why they get served a low-quality streaming signal. Devices running Google TV / Android TV (Google's official TV operating system), like Nvidia Shield and the new Chromecast, on the other hand identify as TV devices. Conviva noted that TV devices (Smart TVs, media players and gaming consoles) hold a 73% share of global viewing time, followed by PCs at 11% and mobile phones also at 11%. And higher picture quality actually leads to increased user engangement – go tell your favorite streaming service. - "Similarly, higher picture quality was correlated with higher engagement, as viewers averaged more than 20 minutes at bitrate above 3.5 Mbps in Q3. Conversely, engagement declined as bitrates dropped."

TV devices share

- Source: Conviva

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