Live TV Streaming Services: Tech Specs
For the most part, the video quality across the providers is not noticeably different.
However, the video quality of streaming services is less than HD broadcasts from cable and satellite providers, but all the services are more than good enough that it shouldn’t stop you from cutting the cord.
Most of the services stream in 720p HD resolution. While DIRECTV NOW streams most channels in 1080p HD, the difference is not readily noticeable.
fuboTV is the only service that offers select sporting events on FOX, FS1, NBC, and NBCSN in 4K.
There is a bigger difference in video frame rate between the services, but this feature really only impacts the clarity of sport streams because it minimizes motion blur.
Video frame rate is how many individual images make up video sequence, measured in frames per second (fps).
A high frame rate helps minimize motion blur, especially during sports programs.
If you are considering subscribing to these services, you should assume that you need at least a 25 Mbps internet connection. While most of the requirements say “10 Mbps,” we suggest a faster connection. Most of our testing is on a 50 Mbps connection and an LTE mobile data connection.
None of these services are perfectly stable in our connection testing. Each service has some hiccups, but PlayStation Vue, Hulu Live TV, and YouTube TV are by far the most stable. These three services rarely have issues starting a video or switching between channels.
To reduce playback interruptions, all of the services will adapt the stream quality to match your network connection. This “adaptive streaming” feature gracefully degrades the video quality if your connection becomes worse.
Historically, DIRECTV NOW had issues with stream stability. While we still receive some errors, the live TV streams are generally very stable. (The on demand streams are less reliable though.)
fuboTV has a few small hiccups on newer devices (like Apple TV and iPad), but has major issues on some less powerful devices.
Sling TV is very hit or miss. During some tests the, stream work perfectly, but there are times where we have to relaunch the app to get video streams to work. Generally though, once a Sling TV stream starts we don’t have problems.
On Demand Reliability
DIRECTV NOW frequently had issues trying to play on demand content.
Most of the services have stereo sound on their streaming channels. DIRECTV NOW has added Dolby Digital 5.1 on many live channels and DVR recording on select devices like Apple TV 4K and Fire TV.
One of the annoying aspects of streaming video—especially for live events—is that it lags behind cable and satellite TV. Nothing is worse than watching a sports event and hearing your neighbors scream when your favorite team scores a touchdown—before you even know what happened.
On average, the streaming services are about 30 seconds delayed compared to traditional live TV. fuboTV has the shortest delay (about 15 seconds), while Sling TV has the longest delay (about 60 seconds).
Shorter is better.
|AT&T NOW||20 sec|
None of the services offer true channel surfing experience like traditional television. This issue is mostly because it takes few seconds for streams to load.
DIRECTV NOW has a feature that simulates channel surfing: just swipe left or right to switch between channels, but it still takes about 2.5 seconds for the channels to load.
Shorter is better.
|AT&T NOW||2.5 sec|