Decrease your Roku resolution to save bandwidth

Last Updated on September 14, 2018 by Dave Farquhar

From time to time when I’m watching baseball on my Roku, I’ll get a lot of buffering and, in extreme cases, a message stating that I may have insufficient bandwidth. If you have the same problem, the best fix for this to to decrease your Roku’s playback resolution. Or if you’re subject to a data cap, decreasing your resolution helps you stay under that too. Here’s how to change your Roku resolution.

The picture will suffer, but I’d rather watch a lower quality picture than none at all. You may also need to resize your Internet connection, but you can do this trick immediately, and for free.

Change Roku resolution
From this screen you can select Display Type to adjust your Roku resolution to improve playback.

This trick will also work for Netflix or any other type of streaming video on a Roku.

From the Roku’s home screen, navigate to “Settings,” then to “Display Type.” Your options are 4:3 standard, 16:9 widescreen, 720p HDTV, and 1080p HDTV, in increasing order of demand. Since I have my Roku connected to a 720p HDTV, that’s what I normally choose. But if you step down to 16:9 widescreen, the stream uses a bit less of your Internet connection, and depending on your TV, stepping down can have a limited effect on the picture quality anyway.

Internet video tends to be compressed to a high enough degree that you never get full 720p quality anyway, let alone 1080p, and most TVs do a pretty good job of upscaling. So this workaround may provide some benefit to you. If you step down from 1080p to 720p you may not notice at all. If I step down from 720p to 16:9, I notice slightly. I wouldn’t want to step down to 4:3 unless my connection just couldn’t handle 16:9. But if the alternative is no video at all, 4:3 is certainly better than that. I found a slightly fuzzier picture that was still moving and playing audio beat a jerky, sharper picture.

So that’s how you decrease your Roku resolution for playback.

One more thing to try

If you’re having buffering issues, sometimes it’s not a bandwidth problem so much as a heat problem. Here are some simple solutions for Roku heat issues. Standalone Roku devices don’t have an indicator on them to tell you they’re overheating, but they can have heat issues like streaming sticks do, especially models that are a few years old.

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