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Bitrate vs. Resolution: What’s the difference?

7 min read
Bitrate vs Resolution

There are various factors that can affect the quality of video streaming, including bandwidth, frame rate, file size, bitrate, video codec, and resolution. So before starting your streaming journey, it’s essential to understand these technical aspects and how they affect the viewing experience.

Bitrate and resolution are two of the most important factors regarding streaming quality. Bitrate refers to the amount of data that can be transferred or processed over time. It is measured in bits per second (bps). On the other hand, Resolution is measured by the width and height of the video in pixels.

In this blog, we will discuss the differences between bitrate and resolution and how they affect video streaming.

Bitrate vs. Resolution: Comparison Table

Bitrate Resolution
Definition The amount of data transferred per unit of time The number of pixels on the screen
Impact on Quality Affects video quality by determining how much data is used to represent each frame Affects video quality by determining the level of detail and sharpness of the image
Relation to Bandwidth Higher bitrates require more bandwidth to deliver the same quality video Higher resolutions require more bandwidth to deliver the same quality video
Encoding Formats Bitrates can vary depending on the encoding format used Resolutions are fixed and defined by the video source
Applicability Important for live streaming and optimizing video for online delivery Important for choosing the right display or device for video playback

What is Bitrate?

Video bitrate or bitrate is the rate at which data is transferred from one point to another over a given period. It is measured in the:

  • Kilobytes per second (Kbps)
  • Megabits per second (Mbps)
  • Gigabit per second (Gbps)

Reducing the size of raw video files and producing high-quality video content requires selecting the proper bitrate. Lower bitrates are used for low-definition videos, while higher bitrates are used for high-definition videos. But depending on the devices used to view the videos, different bitrates can be used.

Types of Video Bitrate

Depending on the streaming platform, videos with higher bitrates can take longer to process. This can cause buffering issues, which might affect the viewing experience. That’s why multiple bitrates are used to accommodate different network speeds. The most used video bitrates are:

  • CBR (Constant Bitrate):

CBR, or Constant Bitrate, is a video encoding technique often used in video streaming technology. It is characterized by maintaining a constant bitrate throughout the encoded video, providing viewers with a consistent and reliable data stream. This makes it an ideal choice for live streaming and streaming services requiring exacting quality standards.

Compared to variable bitrate (VBR) encoding, the main advantage of Constant Bitrate Encoding lies in its simplicity. CBR only requires one pass during the encoding process, meaning it can be completed quickly and efficiently. In contrast, VBR requires two passes, making it more complex and time-consuming.

In addition to its simplicity and speed, CBR offers superior quality compared to VBR at the same bitrate. This makes it ideal for streaming services that need to maintain a minimum level of video quality without sacrificing too much bandwidth.

Overall, CBR is an excellent choice for video streaming services that need to prioritize speed and reliability over image quality. It ensures a consistent stream of data while still providing adequate quality levels.

  • VBR (Variable Bitrate)

Variable Bitrate (VBR) is a type of encoding used for video streaming technology. It allows the encoder to adjust the video’s bitrate depending on the scene’s complexity. Variable bitrate encoding offers superior quality and higher bitrates than Constant Bit Rates (CBR). This allows for higher-quality video streaming, especially when there are significant changes in scene complexity.

VBR is often used for on-demand services such as Netflix, Hulu, or YouTube. This encoding gives viewers a better experience since it allows for more flexibility in terms of bitrates and quality. By adjusting the bitrate based on the scene’s complexity, VBR helps ensure that viewers don’t experience buffering or choppy playback due to too much data being sent at once.

VBR is also suitable for live-streaming events such as sports or concerts. It can help reduce latency and ensure that viewers get consistent quality throughout the stream. VBR also helps reduce bandwidth usage, making it ideal for streaming services with limited bandwidth available.

Overall, Variable Bitrate is a vital part of modern video streaming technologies. It helps ensure viewers get the best viewing experience while reducing bandwidth usage and latency issues.

  • ABR (Adaptive Bitrate)

Adaptive bitrate streaming, or ABR, automatically adjusts the video stream quality based on the available bandwidth and device capacity of the user’s connection. This multi-bitrate streaming allows for a seamless viewing experience regardless of what device you’re using to watch.

ABR helps ensure that your digital video files will always be delivered at an optimal level of quality. This allows for minimal buffering and no disruptions due to slow internet connections. In addition, this technology can help reduce bandwidth costs as it only delivers the necessary data required to maintain an optimal playback experience. ABR, therefore, provides a cost-effective solution for live video streaming high-quality video files across multiple platforms and devices.

Does Bitrate Affect Video Quality?

Yes, the bitrate of a video file affects its quality. A higher bitrate means more data is used, which results in a better-quality video. At the beginning of our blog, we mentioned that multiple factors determine streaming video quality. Bitrate is one such factor. It affects the visual appearance and audio clarity of a video stream.

However, it is essential to note that other factors impact video quality, such as resolution, frame rate, and codecs. Generally, a video with a higher bitrate will appear better quality, but it may take up more storage and load slower. The key to successful video encoding is finding the correct bitrate that balances the size of video files with quality.

Is Higher Bitrate better for Streaming?

The answer is yes. A higher bitrate is usually better for streaming. A higher bitrate allows for a higher-quality video and audio output. With a higher bitrate, data is sent faster, accommodating more image and audio quality. This means that viewers can experience more visuals, such as sharper edges, less color distortion, and clear sound, without sacrificing video quality because of too much compression. High bitrate also allows visual effects artists to eliminate colors more precisely, ensuring the best quality of the video.

But remember, a higher bitrate also requires a faster connection speed, and it will produce a bigger file size. The video quality will suffer if the viewer’s device or internet connection is not fast enough to accommodate the higher bitrate.

What is Resolution?

Video resolution refers to the size of a video, measured in pixels. Video resolution is expressed as width x height, and it determines how many pixels appear on the screen. It measures the width and height of a video in pixels and determines the quality of the video. The higher the resolution, the better the quality. As such, choosing the proper resolution for your needs is important to get the best possible viewing experience.


For streaming videos, 360p has usually considered the lowest quality resolution that’s commonly used. This resolution can be seen on websites like YouTube or Vimeo. Higher resolutions such as 480p, 720p, 1080p, 2K, 4K, and even 8K are also available and are typically used for higher-quality streaming experiences.

When choosing a video resolution for streaming, it’s important to consider factors such as aspect ratio, frame rate, and video size. These elements should be taken into consideration along with the capabilities of the device being used to stream. For example, a 1080p resolution would require more bandwidth than a 720p stream and might not work properly if the device used has limited capabilities.

Bitrate or Resolution – Which Is More Important?

Bitrate and Resolution play a critical role in determining the video quality of your streaming content. Having the right balance between bitrate and resolution is essential to get the best streaming experience. Generally, higher bitrates can improve video quality but require more bandwidth. When it comes to choosing between bitrate and resolution, it depends on what type of streaming content you are creating. If you’re looking to stream a live event over the internet, then an adaptive bitrate will be key to providing your viewers with the best experience possible.

On the other hand, if you create an on-demand video that can be downloaded and watched at any time, higher resolution and bitrate can ensure the best viewing experience. Ultimately, it depends on your streaming goals and the viewers you are targeting. Finding the right balance between bitrate and resolution is essential to create successful streaming content.

Ultimately, it is important to understand the needs of your streaming project and the capabilities of your viewers’ devices to find the right balance between bitrate and resolution. This will ensure that everyone gets an enjoyable streaming experience without compromising video quality.

Wrapping Up

Bitrate and resolution are two key elements of encoding settings determining the quality of streaming video content. Choosing between bitrate and resolution depends on the type of streaming content you are creating and your viewers’ device capabilities. Finding the right balance between bitrate and resolution is essential to create successful streaming content.

It’s important to understand both bitrate and resolution for the right combination to ensure your viewers get an enjoyable streaming experience without compromising on video quality. With the right combination of bitrate and resolution, you can create high-quality streaming content that meets your viewers’ needs.

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