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Streaming HD video can challenge the capabilities of even the most powerful cutting-edge computer. If you're seeing stuttering and buffering issues when attempting to play a video stream, one or more parts of your system is being pushed too hard and you may find that your CPU usage is extremely high. Before you replace your processor, take a look at how streaming works and why a new CPU may not be the answer.

Network Slowdowns

·         One of the most crucial elements comes into play before the stream even reaches your local PC. It takes a robust network to transfer high definition video data in real time, and unfortunately a bottleneck can occur in many places. The video stream may be experiencing slowdowns before it even gets to your home, courtesy of heavy traffic or inefficient servers and network infrastructure. Your Internet connection may lack the bandwidth to support HD streaming, especially during "peak hours" on a shared connection such as a cable ISP. For example, Netflix recommends a minimum of 5 Mbps for streaming HD quality video.

 

Residential Issues

 

·         Your home is likewise full of ways to thwart the free flow of video streaming data. Long cable runs, junctions and damaged wiring can introduce interference that intermittently slows down your connection, especially in older homes and multifamily dwellings. Wireless networks are prone to structural interference from walls and ceilings, and Wi-Fi bandwidth can easily be bogged down by simultaneous connections. In all these cases, you may have plenty of free bandwidth for most Internet activities, but watching streaming HD video pushes your connection to the point where minor inefficiencies become more obvious.

 

PC Housecleaning

·         Assuming that your network is optimized for streaming video, your computer itself may be improperly optimized. There are a number of simple fixes that you can try to relieve your CPU and other system resources, such as closing down applications and browser windows, stopping unnecessary background tasks and services, and making sure that your operating system and hardware drivers are all up to date. Anything that will cause your PC to run slightly slower during normal use will have a drastic impact on demanding tasks such as HD video streaming.

 

Video Card Demands

 

·         All video tasks on your PC will depend greatly on the performance of your graphics hardware. If your system sports a cutting-edge PCI Express 3.0 video card with plenty of onboard memory and a GPU that handles multimedia subroutines, you don't need to worry. However, if your graphics card or onboard video is a few years past its prime, much of the video processing will be passed along to the system CPU and RAM.

 

Memory is Essential

 

·         The importance of RAM in streaming video cannot be understated; if you have a low amount of RAM or an older memory interface, you may be expecting too much from your system. Hulu Plus recommends at least 128 MB of RAM, but your performance will benefit from upgrading to 4 GB or more of DDR3. If you see significant CPU usage, your memory may actually be the weak link -- your processor manages system memory, especially virtual memory, and when the RAM capacity or bandwidth is stressed, much of the "overflow" burden falls on the CPU.

 

CPU Transcoding

 

·         The CPU is also crucial for applications that utilize transcoding tasks (turning one video format into another) in real time, which can put a serious strain on available processing power. Like many video streaming providers, Amazon Instant Video uses Adobe Flash or Microsoft Silverlight, both of which access the CPU during streaming. Amazon recommends a Pentium 4 2.33GHz processor for PCs, and an Intel Core Duo 1.33 GHz as an absolute minimum, but the amount of data required by full-length HD video will likely require something much more powerful.

 

 

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