Q. I subscribe to a 25 Mbps Internet service, which would seem to be fast enough for Netflix and Hulu. But I often get buffering and other picture issues when I watch. Is there anything I can do to fix this? I use a WiFi network and a Roku. — Claire, Buffalo, New York.
Claire, the wireless home network is a great way to use the Internet in more than one place in the house. But the strength of the original signal will decline if you use a wireless network, particularly if several people in the house are on the network at the same time. That’s a fact.
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That’s not to say that the wireless network won’t deliver a consistent and top-quality picture. If you are subscribing to a high-speed Internet service, such as 50 Mbps or 100 Mbps, the wireless signal should still be strong enough to produce a strong streaming picture. But 25 Mbps may not do the trick. The quality of an Internet signal can vary so the higher the speed to begin with, the better your chances of maintaining a consistent picture.
So if you can’t afford to upgrade your service, and you notice the streaming picture has frequent hiccups, you might want to try connecting your Internet cable directly into your Roku, or whatever device you’re using to stream to your television. (Note: This will limit your service to the device where the Internet cable is connected. So if you have more than one person using the Internet in your house, this trick may not be for you unless you are going to use it while the others, such as the kids, are asleep or out of the house.)
You can do that by running an Ethernet cable from your Internet modem to the streaming device, in this case, the Roku. The direct connection will help ensure that you are getting the maximum speed you paid for from your Internet provider because the signal is not being diluted by a WiFi network, which could be bogged down by several other people.
How can you tell if the signal is stronger with the direct Ethernet connection? Most streaming devices have a feature that allow you to test the speed of your Internet connection.
Go to the player’s Menu and look for a Internet Speed Test feature. Try it a few times with the wireless connection and then a few times with the direct, Ethernet connection. The higher the number, the faster the signal.
If there’s a dramatic difference in speed between the two, the direct connection may be the way to go, particularly if you notice that your Netflix or Hulu picture seems more consistent. I won’t guarantee that it will end buffering for good, but the faster speed will certainly keep those annoying interruptions at a minimum.
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— Phillip Swann