Does Watching Streamed Video Consume Less Data Than Downloading it? (Explained)

Does Watching Streamed Video Consume Less Data Than Downloading it?

A movie or music file that you find online can either be streamed live or downloaded locally and viewed/heard there.

If you have unlimited bandwidth, you probably don’t worry about it. However, if you pay for each usage of your internet service or you run a website with plenty of movies and music files, you may be curious about how many data is used when streaming online media than when downloading it directly.

Does Watching Streamed Video Consume Less Data Than Downloading it?

There is no much difference between streaming live and downloading a video. Both of them options use the same amount of data. Download the file if you intend to use it more than once. If the video or audio is important to you and you would like to watch it another time, then downloading it should be the best thing to do so that you can have it on your local storage. If you don’t mind the lower quality, then you can stream it.

1. Not much difference between streaming live and downloading a video.

What Are Streaming and Downloading, respectively?

Let’s first confirm that our understanding of what streaming and downloading are is mutual.

You copy a file onto your local device from the Internet when you download it. You have access to the entire file on a physical level. You are free to replay it as often as you wish.

You don’t physically have a file on your computer when you stream it. You are getting bits (or streams of data) of the file, which is someplace on a server, at a time.

When you stream, it’s quite similar to when you listen to the radio or watch TV in that you don’t need to download anything to view it or hear it, but after the song or movie is over, you don’t own it.

Another thing you should know is that, as long as the file is available with the same level of quality for both alternatives, the size of the file itself is frequently the same whether you stream it or download it. If a song’s MP3 file size is 3.5 MB, for instance, it makes no difference whether you download it or stream it.

However, depending on the quality that is offered, certain alternatives can be different. If you can download a video in 720p but only stream it in 480p, the 720p file will be larger than its 480p equivalent. This indicates that downloading the 720p file uses more data than streaming the 480p version.

Furthermore, some streaming services, such as Netflix, let you change the data use settings, enabling you to select a lower resolution option to conserve bandwidth.

2. Download the file if you intend to use it more than once.

You cannot claim that downloading is superior to streaming or vice versa. They have many benefits and drawbacks, as you can see from their justifications.

This indicates that it depends on your situation; in some cases, streaming is the better option, while in others, it isn’t.

It’s best to download the file if you plan to play it more than once. You only need to download it once to view it as often as you like.

Additionally, you don’t need an Internet connection to play it, which is quite useful if you’re on a plane or somewhere else with slow or no Internet access.

When using streaming, you nearly always need to upload the data each time you play it. I say nearly because you might be able to play a file without downloading it again if you stream it and it ends up in your browser’s cache, it doesn’t get overwritten from the cache, and you don’t close the browser between replays.

In this instance, you are technically replaying a download rather than streaming directly. Regardless of whether you specifically downloaded this file or not, it is still a download because it is located locally on your hard disk. (You do realize that the cache for your browser is on your hard drive, not a server?)

Additionally, if a file is particularly important to you, you should download it and store it safely. You can’t rely on streaming in this situation because the file could disappear at any moment.

Does Watching Streamed Video Consume Less Data Than Downloading it?

3. If you don’t mind the lower quality, stream it.

Streaming is preferable if the video or audio file you intend to watch or listen to isn’t important and downloading it locally and keeping it makes no sense.

Furthermore, you can stop it at any time if you decide that the information in the file is not to your taste. In this instance, you can play the first few seconds or minutes of the file without downloading the entire thing to decide it’s not what you prefer. By not downloading unnecessary content, you significantly reduce your broadband usage.

Compression and/or lower resolutions are another benefit of streaming in terms of bandwidth usage. Most websites only offer low-res versions of their content for streaming; downloads are rarely available.

Although a low-resolution version has a lesser quality, streaming is a preferable option if data usage is your only concern and you don’t mind seeing smaller or blurrier videos.

H.264 compression, for example, aids in file size reduction without necessarily sacrificing quality. By eliminating superfluous data, compression significantly reduces file size.

Although the codec occasionally discards vital information that it incorrectly deems redundant, this won’t affect you much if bandwidth is more important to you than quality.

Although streaming could use less data, a fast connection is still necessary. Prepare yourself for choppy video/audio with significant breaks in between scenes if it isn’t moving quickly enough.

Does streaming ultimately use more data than downloading? The quick answer is that they consume roughly the same amount of data when the file quality is comparable and there is no compression.

Use the streaming to conserve bandwidth if you just need to watch a compressed file once or if you don’t mind it being low-resolution (and time).

Similar principles apply to audio, however, because audio files are typically smaller than video files, data utilization is less of a concern.

Final thought

Now in the summary of what we have learned in our guide of today, there is not much difference between streaming live and downloading a video.

All options use the same amount of data. As we have said, if the video or audio is important to you and you would like to watch it another time, then I advise you to download it so that you can have it on your local storage. If you have no intention of watching/ listening to the audio or video, then no need for downloading it.

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