Why Video Quality of Streaming Services Look Better than Cable TV in 2024?

For most of us, 480p, 1080i or 1080p are merely numbers. A layman does understand the fact that a higher number refers to a better video quality which is quite true. But there is more to it that we need to know. The HD video refers to a resolution of 1080p and has been a major leap from 480p that is referred to as SD or DVD quality. We hear cable TV providers claiming they offer the best video quality and channel line-up at the most affordable prices. But only if we know about the image and video quality metrics, we will be able to better comprehend the offerings of various cable providers.

Therefore, just like cost, reliability, channel line-up, another equally significant factor is the video quality. For instance, anyone planning to subscribe to Spectrum must know that it offers an incredible channel line-up at pocket-friendly pricing along with HD cable boxes to ensure high picture quality. So its cable TV plans and bundle deals are a win-win offer! However, before finalizing your TV provider and subscription, you should look into the video quality aspect too. It is quite simple-the more the pixels the higher the quality. Similarly the better the resolution the greater the video quality.

It is also a personal preference because some people still prefer watching traditional cable on their TV screens just because of habit or convenience. Whereas the millennials and boomers prefer watching online streaming services on their phones or iPhones while on the go over anything else. Moreover, cord-cutters also prefer watching online streaming services as compared to watching cable TV which is why they are gradually but permanently switching to streaming services. But the primary reason behind them switching to streaming services is assumed to be cutting the monthly cost of bills. Though, in order to make an online streaming service function, you also require an internet connection that is steady and with good data – which is an additional cost on top of the streaming service subscription’s bill.

Video Quality Formats-Streaming Services vs Cable TV

Source: zdnet.com

For those who have been using online streaming services along with a cable TV subscription, they must have noticed a difference in video quality. If you are a perfectionist when it comes to picture quality, then you must have seen that video streaming seems to look sharper as compared to cable TV. What is interesting to know is that you might be watching both in the same resolution apparently. Still, there is a considerable difference in the video quality of both, cable TV and any online streaming service like Netflix or Hulu.

The catch here is that most of the cable TV boxes provide a resolution of 1080i where I mean interlaced scanning. While in the case of online streaming services, they make use of devices like Roku or Google Chromecast that usually offer a resolution of 1080p, where p means progressive scanning. So the display is more or less the same, which is 1920 x 1080 resolution. However, the cable TV resolution might be fuzzier as compared to Netflix, Hulu, or any other streaming service. This is usually because 1080i uses alternating frames for displaying the video.

Why Cable TV with 1080i format looks Fuzzy?

In the case of cable TV channels with 1080i resolution, you are normally watching around sixty frames in one second, while each frame does not have the whole picture. Each frame flashing between odd and even pixel rows as the video progresses from frame to frame, might cause the fuzziness because of a lot of motion going on. Each frame is usually at millisecond gaps or even less. Thus you experience a slightly blurry effect.

However, this is not the case with online streaming services. They deliver 1080p video quality that transmits each row of pixels in one frame. In other words, there is now minimal or no chance of frames running out of order or missing the sync with each other. Thus the outcome is that we notice a clearer and sharper video quality.

Why Do Cable Companies Still Stick to 1080i Format?

Source: aarp.org

The main reason most of the cable TV providers stick to the 1080i format is the bandwidth. Since they do not seem to have enough bandwidth to bear a 1080p signal with every frame. So if you are a freak when it comes to video quality, you might want to prefer a suitable online streaming service instead of a cable TV subscription.

Wrapping Up,

The aforementioned discussion clearly gives a comparative analysis of video quality between online streaming services and cable TV services. In terms of better video quality, the streaming services are a clear winner here. Though we also keep hearing that cable companies are pushing for 4K video signals. For now, if you want to enjoy clearer and crisper video quality, you might prefer any online streaming service with a 1080p format. At the end of the day, it all depends on the user and other various factors which involves their budget, personal and household’s preference, availability of the cable service in their area, their desired channels, number of channels they would like to have and internet connection which is stable enough to carry online streaming services without causing any trouble.

You might prefer watching better quality content which is yet available on streaming services only, but unless you ensure an internet connection with reliable speed and data coverage, streaming services won’t be of any use to you. Similarly, you might even prefer cable TV but there still are areas in the country where cable services are not available. Therefore, preferences here depend on the circumstances and accessibility of services where you reside. Furthermore, any sports fanatic will always prefer cable TV service because not all streaming services give coverage of live matches and some dimply don’t have sports channels which is why even those who prefer streaming services have a basic package of cable TV so they can enjoy their long awaited live matches and favourite sports.

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