SD vs. HD Video Resolutions: What's The Difference?

family watching video with HD video resolution

Your enjoyment of streaming services depends heavily on your choice of video resolution. Ideally, you want maximum picture quality without the frustration of buffering, frozen screens, and choppy playback.  

Satellite internet users typically stream videos in SD or HD resolution. So, what is the difference between HD and SD, and how do you tell which resolution gives you the best viewing experience? Here, we’ll explain everything you need to know about HD and SD resolution. 

What is SD?

SD stands for Standard Definition. As the name implies, Standard Definition is the baseline for streaming video, with a resolution of 480p. 480p refers to a progressive scan of an image with a 480-pixel height (a pixel is the smallest possible image element on the screen)

SD is the minimum recommended resolution required for streaming without constant buffering or lag. SD picture quality lacks the crispness of higher resolutions but provides reliable streaming without buffering, even with a poor internet connection (or an internet connection shared by multiple devices). 


What is HD?

HD, or High Definition, has a much higher resolution than Standard Definition. HD includes 720p and 1080p resolutions. You may hear 720p referred to as Standard HD, and 1080p, referred to as Full HD. 720p is often used for live streaming or as the default setting for streaming video sites like YouTube. 1080p is a popular choice for streaming higher-quality video through Netflix, Hulu, and similar services. 

HD resolution provides a crisper image with more accurate color reproduction and smoother video thanks to faster frame rates. On the downside, HD requires higher internet speeds to avoid buffering and lag. 


What Is The Difference Between HD And SD?

The difference between SD and HD comes down to three things: video quality, bandwidth consumption, and video file size: 

Video Quality

SD resolution provides a reasonable viewing experience with a screen ratio of 4:3, but your picture will be less crisp and the colors more muted than at higher resolutions. 

In contrast, HD 720p and 1080p support a 16:9 widescreen video aspect ratio. HD offers more clarity, better colors, smoother frame rates, and better definition than SD. If video quality alone determined which resolution to use, HD would win hands down. 


Bandwidth Consumption

SD streaming demands less bandwidth than HD. While HD requires an internet speed of 25 Mbps or more for uninterrupted streaming, SD only needs 10 Mbps, making it the better choice for slower internet connections and when multiple devices are sharing the available bandwidth.


Video File Size

HD’s higher resolution comes at the cost of bigger file sizes, roughly four times that of the SD. The larger size requires more storage capacity and higher processing power, which can overwhelm the capacity of older devices or devices without the latest updates. 

SD or HD: Which is better for me?

As noted above, if video quality were the only consideration, everyone would stream at 720p or higher. If you have high-speed internet and a large screen, HD provides the best viewing experience. If, however, your internet has a lower speed and connectivity issues, or if multiple devices limit bandwidth availability, SD strikes a balance between picture quality and reliable streamed video.

The new Hughesnet® offers home internet plans that support HD video streaming, so you can enjoy your favorite shows or movies. Hughesnet was named the Best Satellite Internet Service Provider of 2024 and one of the Best Internet Service Providers for Rural Areas of 2024 by U.S. News & World Report. So make some popcorn, settle into your favorite chair, and get ready for an HD movie night!