How to adjust video quality on YouTube

Whether you’d like YouTube itself to choose the best video quality for your given network conditions or prefer to set the streaming quality manually by yourself, Google gives you choice.

Things to know about YouTube video quality

The following factors determine the video quality on YouTube:

  • The speed of your internet connection
  • Your device’s screen size and resolution
  • Quality of the uploaded video

Google notes that higher-quality videos “generally play better on larger screens.”

Your chosen video quality will apply to that particular device, which shouldn’t be a big deal. As a matter of fact, this is by design. For instance, you may want to set the mobile YouTube app to use lower picture quality on mobile networks to avoid wasting your cellular bandwidth.

Conversely, you don’t need to worry about manually adjusting streaming quality on a computer connected to your home’s presumably fast broadband. In that scenario, telling YouTube to use the maximum available bandwidth when using your computer is probably a good idea.

Requirements for high-quality YouTube videos

A support document on Google’s website says YouTube videos are available in many formats and qualities. However, some browsers don’t support newer video formats or quality options. Due to this restriction, these browsers may only have one or two video formats to choose from.

The following browsers and operating systems support YouTube’s high-quality video formats:

  • Google Chrome (all operating systems)
  • Microsoft Edge
  • Safari on Mac OS X Yosemite 10.10 or newer
  • Firefox on Windows 7 or newer and on Mac OS X Yosemite 10.10 or newer

Video resolutions beyond 1080p require support for the VP9 video compression technology which may not be available for all devices and operating systems.

It’s worth reminding you that some qualities could be temporarily unavailable on newly uploaded videos, but that’s only until YouTube has finished processing them, as Google explains. Needless to say, any videos recorded in standard definition won’t be automagically available in high definition unless their owner re-uploads them in high definition.

How to change the YouTube video quality

You can change the quality of YouTube video streams in the mobile YouTube app for iOS and Android, as well as on compatible TVs and the web interface available at YouTube.com.

Adjusting YouTube streaming quality in the mobile app

You can set your preferred video quality for all videos streamed through the mobile YouTube app or change your streaming quality on the fly for each video separately.

For the currently watched video

Follow these steps to change the streaming quality of the video you’re watching in the app:

  1. Start watching any video in the YouTube app on your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch.
  2. Touch the three dots in the video’s top-right corner, then choose “Quality” from the menu.
  3. Choose your preferred video quality.

You have the following video quality presets at your disposal:

  • Auto: Changes dynamically to give you the best experience for your conditions.
  • Higher picture quality: This setting uses more data to improve picture quality, but videos may take longer to start or may buffer more often.
  • Data saver: Lower picture quality, but videos may start faster.
  • Advanced: Set a specific quality resolution.

Some people may dislike YouTube’s new way of changing streaming resolution.

A screenshot showing the video resolution selector in the mobile YouTube app

YouTube’s resolution selector previously let you select the streaming quality right after opening the Quality menu. Unfortunately, people who understand video resolution are now required to take extra steps to select precisely the resolution they want.

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In other words, if the video is playing in 1080p and you want to enjoy it in full 4K resolution, you’ll need to first open the quality selector and choose Advanced-an extra step. To reiterate, this setting applies to the video you’re currently watching. Any other videos will honor your global quality setting chosen in the preferences of the YouTube app.

For all videos

Do this to change the video quality for all videos you watch in the mobile YouTube app:

  1. Touch your profile picture in the YouTube app, then choose the option labeled “Settings.”
  2. Now choose “Video quality preferences” from the root list.
  3. Select your preferred video quality separately for mobile networks and Wi-Fi connections.

Here’s how adjusting the streaming quality on mobile networks looks like.

An iPhone screenshot showing setting vide resolution for all videos streamed in the mobile YouTube app

You can choose between the following video quality settings:

  • Auto: Changes your streaming quality dynamically to give you the best experience depending on your bandwidth.
  • Higher picture quality: This setting uses more data to improve picture quality, but videos may take longer to start or may buffer more often.
  • Data saver: Lower picture quality, but videos may start faster.

Now all videos you watch through the app will play at your specific resolution by default.

Adjusting YouTube streaming quality on your computer

Like with the mobile YouTube app, adjusting the video quality on your computer requires interacting with the quality selector when using the video player at YouTube.com.

  1. Start watching a video at YouTube.com in a compatible web browser on your computer.
  2. Click the Settings cogwheel icon near the video player’s bottom-right corner.
  3. Choose the option labeled “Quality.”
  4. Now select your preferred streaming quality for YouTube.com.

The web interface lacks the option to set the streaming quality for all videos by default.

Adjusting YouTube streaming quality on your TV

Follow these steps to adjust the streaming quality for YouTube on your TV:

  1. Start watching a video in the YouTube app on your TV.
  2. Choose the three dots in the video player.
  3. Select the option labeled “Quality.”
  4. And finally, select your preferred video quality.

YouTube on TVs lacks a global setting for adjusting the streaming quality for all videos.