Bandwidth Conclusions

A couple of weeks ago, I posted some updated discoveries regarding bandwidth usage when streaming content.  My totals are, unfortunately, not much higher than they were when I posted that update.  I say “unfortunately” because the recent flooding in Houston really disrupted things for a while.

In any event, what did I learn?  Well, first of all, one should never expect constant throughput at maximum speeds.  For example, my DSL connection is through AT&T, and it is the “Elite” level, which is touted as having speeds “up to 6.0 Mbps.”  “Up to” is key here, as I have never once achieved that speed when testing it through tools like  Usually it’s in the mid-fours.  And often much slower than that. And latency in Houston is usually absolutely terrible.  (I suppose it’s fortuitous, then, that I’m not really into on-line gaming, preferring the solitary experience…)

Second, I think there’s a limit to the speed levels offered by ISPs, and what my computer can actually handle.  I have no slouchy desktop machine; it’s got an AMD triple-core processor (64-bit), 4 Gigs of RAM, and even half a Gig of dedicated video memory.  I mean, it’s not a Falcon Northwest Mach 5 or anything like that (I don’t know if it’ll run Crysis, but I’m thinking probably not at full resolution), but it also didn’t cost 2100 bucks, either.  Anyway, I monitored throughput while downloading some Linux distros, and I noticed that as the throughput went above 500 KBps, my machine got sluggish.  I’m not certain why this is, but there you go.  (Also, this forum thread explains the whole “I have 6 Mbps service, why do I only get 500KBps?” question.  Hint:  capitalization matters.)

Third, streaming movies via Netflix does indeed gobble up bandwidth.  A month ago, I asked the question “Is that right?  Really? You could blow through even your Comcast bandwidth in less than 20 hours?  That doesn’t seem right…”  The answer is: Yes.  Sort of.  Netflix movies that stream with pretty good video quality do eat up about 1.5 Gigs of bandwidth per hour.  But my math was off by a power of ten.  (20 x 1.5 = 30, not 300!)

So, there you go.  As ISPs implement bandwidth caps, stream judicisously!