Fun fact that not everybody knows: Data isn’t free. And video uses a lot of data. Therefore, Netflix uses a lot of data. How much? More than a third of all internet traffic in North America back in 2015, and those numbers are sure to have increased since then.
Another fun fact: Your internet service provider is in the business of making money. And that means there’s a decent chance that there’s a cap on how much data you’re allowed to use every month — and possible extra charges if and when you go over your set amount.
So, that leads us to the following question: How much data does Netflix use?
The short answer is “it depends.” It depends on the length of the show you’re watching, of course. The longer a movie or show is, the more data it’ll end up using.
But it also depends on the resolution in which it’s being shown.
Think of it like this (which is extremely oversimplified): You have a 1-square-foot box of a single color. That’s easy, and won’t take up much data. Split that box into four equal pieces, all of different colors, and it’ll take more data. Split that again into 16 equal pieces, all with even more colors — that means even more data.
That (again, oversimplified) is what’s going on when you’re watching video. Something streamed at a standard-definition 480p — that’s 480 lines of light on the screen on the short edge — inherently uses less data than something streamed at 720p with, you guessed it, 720 lines of light crammed in there. High-definition video brings in 1920×1080 resolution — or some 2 million individual pixels, and the newer UHD (or 4K) resolution weighs in at 3840×2160 resolution.
More pixels means more data. A lot more data. But it also means a much clearer picture.
So. How much data does Netflix use? Again, it depends. But here’s the sort of ballpark we’re in, according to Netflix:
- On a low-bandwidth setting, Netflix uses around 0.3 gigabytes (or 300 megabytes, more or less) of data per hour.
- On a medium-bandwidth setting, standard-definition video uses 0.7 gigabytes per hour.
- On the high-bandwidth setting, you’ll be using up to 3 gigabytes per hour for HD video, and 7 gigabytes per hour for Ultra HD video.
How to control how much data Netflix uses:
You can adjust these settings individually for each Netflix profile. So you can get that sweet UHD action for yourself, and leave the kids to suffer with lower resolutions. Or not. Your call.
- Sign in to your Netflix account.
- Choose the profile you want to adjust the settings on.
- Now go into your Playback Settings. (Also available under the account settings.)
- Choose Low, Medium, High, or Auto.
- Hit save.
And that’s it.