Three hidden tricks to improve Netflix streaming quality

on September 17, 2015, 3:40pm

As a self-described Netflix obsessive, there’s nothing I hate more than, when during my third binge-watch of BoJack Horseman Season Two, the streaming quality suddenly goes down the crapper and all my favorite talking animals become totally fuzzy, pixelated blurs. (Of course, a whole other kind of rage settles in when the show stops entirely, frozen in some kind of pause purgatory.)

My WiFi is hardly swift and efficient, it’s Time Warner Cable junk after all, but surely there must be something else that can be done to fix this bug? Something that’ll allow me to seamlessly fly through these episodes without developing mini ulcers every five minutes. I want to hear and see this cartoon horse be miserable and stumble/botch every opportunity for happiness. That’s what I’m paying for.

Cue: This three-point guide of “hidden Netflix tricks” that should improve your overall streaming experience, courtesy of the fine folks at BGR.

Things to keep in mind, however, the below instructions apply only to desktop/laptop devices and they’re not exactly 100% foolproof (i.e. if it’s a darn busy time on the network, don’t expect any miracles). Still, the weekend’s almost here, Narcos has been patiently waiting in my queue, and Portlandia Season 5 was just added — these tips are probably worth a go-around.

1. Control+alt+shift+D: Using this command will open up a panel that will describe your current settings and tell you how those settings are impacting your viewing. Among other things, the panel will tell you your current bitrate for both streaming and buffering, your framerate and your latency.

2. Control+alt+shift+S: This will let you raise and lower the bitrate of your stream and also change the CDN that’s sending you video traffic. Obviously you’ll want a higher bitrate to improve the quality of the picture most of the time, but during periods of network congestion you may want to lower your bitrate to get a full stream without frequent pauses.

3. Control+alt+shift+L: So let’s say you’ve fiddled with your bitrate and switched CDNs and your stream is suddenly even worse. What should you do? Well by using the Control+alt+shift+L command, you’ll get a log of all the changes you’ve made so you can easily switch back to your original settings.

In an accompanying Reddit section, some helpful commenters have offered up a few additional pieces of wisdom:

— You should note that Internet Explorer can achieve higher bitrates than Chrome (not so sure about Firefox).

— Like a lot of the other comments are pointing out, if you’re using a PC, use Internet Explorer or the Netflix “app” from the windows store (windows 8 and 10).

— If you’re on an apple TV or xbox, It should just play the best possible stream, I doubt there’s any way to check on those devices though. Those let you get the highest bitrate streams that Netflix has.

Bonus! For those of you tired of being offered movies and shows you’ve already watched too many times to count, listen up: “You need flix plus. Plugin for chrome. It lets you hide shows you have rated or seen, hide duplicates, shows rotten tomatoes and imdb reviews, links to youtube trailers, adds a random episode button and tons of other stuff. It is amazing.”