Q&A – Can I use Wi-Fi to watch movies on my notebook?
Wireless networking is often made out to be this miracle solution to do away with cables. It’s not.
While it might sound as if you can get transfer speed to burn using Wi-Fi, the reality is quite a bit different.
There are three main wireless standards for consumers – 802.11b (12 megabits per second – 12Mbps), 802.11g (54Mbps) and 802.11n (150 or 300Mbps depending on the device).
Now the problem with these speed figures are that they are all theoretical. You might as well say they are what you can get under laboratory conditions – because you certainly can’t get anywhere near those figures in the typical home.
Walls, furniture, distance – they all affect data transfer speeds over wireless and not for the better.
The 802.11b standard is good for about 2.5Mbps provided the distance is fairly minimal. Move up to 802.11g and you’re good for around 10Mbps, possibly 15Mbps with a tailwind going downhill.
These figures are important because if you’re going to watch movies over a wireless network, you’ll need decent speed (that’s if you’re not going to simply transfer the movie file to your PC/notebook to begin with).
Most DVD movies have a bit rate of around 5-6Mbps; YouTube videos are much less – they’re no more than about 3Mbps for 1080p (1920×1080-pixel) resolution; even less for smaller video frame sizes.
The key is the video bitrate needs to be considerably less than the maximum data transfer speed of your wireless connection, otherwise, you won’t have enough bandwidth and you’ll start seeing the video break up.
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