Network Streaming Players

Can Your Streaming Device Affect Video or Audio Quality?

Ones and zeros are ones and zeros. When you stream a show or movie, that’s all it is. So, if all things were equal, it wouldn’t matter what device you use for streaming, the quality of the audio and video would not be affected. But it isn’t. You know this because you’ve experienced it. Or maybe you’re worried about a purchase. Will one streaming device be better? They shouldn’t be. But they are. Why?

Restrictions on Formats

If you’ve bought a newer TV, it came (whether you liked it or not) with built-in streaming apps. You may have thought you’d use these instead of picking up a dedicated streaming device. Well, that turned out to have its own issues. Now you can’t see your AV receiver’s on-screen display. Plus, depending on the age of your receiver, you might not even get surround sound. But it is worse than that. Some TVs flat-out don’t support specific formats.

That’s right. Your streaming device (TV or standalone box) could have built-in deficiencies that affect the video and audio quality. Not because they couldn’t, but because of some weird decision from the manufacturer. LG doesn’t like DTS so they don’t support it. Samsung refuses to include Dolby Vision support for their TVs. Why? We don’t actually know.

Codec Compatibility

What if you care more about audio than video? Or, more likely, you have a perfectly fine TV that you don’t have the money to upgrade right now. But you’ve upgraded your speakers and receivers so that you can take advantage of the latest object-based audio formats. Dolby Atmos here you come!

Or maybe not.

Even though there is no technical reason for it, sometimes you’ll find that audio and video codecs are linked. We found this out with Dolby Atmos and 4k video. If your TV can’t accept a 4k signal, then the audio will be limited to 5.1 surround. Why? We don’t know. We did find that some devices would work while others wouldn’t. Your best bet is to pick up an Apple TV 4k.

Technical Limitations

In all of the above, there is no real reason for the limitations. At least none in the hardware. If the device can output Atmos, DTS, or Dolby Vision from one source, there is no reason why it couldn’t from another. But there is one technical limitation to consider: Download speed.

One technical issue that may affect video and audio quality is how fast your streaming device can access the Internet. A device that can be hardwired will nearly always be faster and more stable than one that is forced to use WiFi. Plus, not all WiFi speeds are the same. One device may have older and slower technology. Your best bet is to get something with a physical port and hardwire it.

Take Away

There still is no box or streaming solution that does everything perfectly. With all the different services out there, that isn’t surprising. The key is to figure out what you will actually use (audio and video codecs), what devices you have, and pick the one that does most of them the best. Oh, and hardwire that thing. Having your resolution drop to 240i because your kids started gaming online is never fun.

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