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iTunes doesn’t offer fine-grained video quality options on Apple TV. If you watch a lot of iTunes content and it takes forever to load, consider lowering the video quality to 720p. If you have a medium-sized flat screen TV (40″), you won’t be able to tell the difference between 720p and 1080p. You will notice a difference in download times and streaming stability. For more information on changing iTunes video quality, please read this article.
Netflix is one of the few services that allows users to throttle bandwidth. The main purpose is so that mobile users won’t burn through too much data. It also works with Apple TV. Simply go to the account management pages on the Netflix website to make this change. For more information, please read “Netflix Tips for Apple TV“. We can only hope that more content providers follow suit and allow users to adjust bandwidth.
The PBS Channel on Apple TV seems to work well with low bandwidth. Consider watching PBS if nothing else works. They actually have a lot of great content, and it’s all free.
Check Your Internet Connection
If turning off subtitles and decreasing video quality doesn’t work, your Internet connection might be too slow. It’s common for Internet speeds to fluctuate. When people are home, during weeknights or the weekend, just about every Internet connection slows down. Sometimes a major event, such as a new TV show or sporting event, can cause the Internet to slow down. This is beyond your ISP. Data hop between many different servers to provide your Apple TV stream. When the Internet is busy, you may see “An error occurred loading this content”.
You can check your Internet speed using Ookla Speedtest. The company offers a website and mobile apps. Simply use a computer or mobile device to verify your Internet speed. If it is below 3 Mbps, streaming video will be compromised. I’ve been able to stream video at 1.5 Mbps, but this required scaling down video quality and turning off subtitles, as previously mentioned.
Apple TV has its own built-in network test (Settings > General > Network > Test Network). In typical Apple fashion, the test is vague. It asks what speed you expect from your Internet connection, but does not display any results for the test. Sometimes Apple keeps it too simple. I wouldn’t even bother with this test. Just use Ookla Speedtest.
Check WiFi Signal Strength
Apple TV is a set-top box designed to be in proximity to your television. People often place their Apple TV inside an entertainment console. This can interfere with WiFi reception. You can check the WiFi signal strength on your Apple TV by selecting Settings > General > Network. Ideally, you should see five bars. If you have a weak WiFi signal, consider moving your Apple TV or connecting it to your modem or router with an ethernet cable. Placing the Apple TV higher up will often improve the WiFi signal. You may also consider a WiFi extender device, such as an Apple AirPort Express. It may also be time to replace your WiFi router with a newer model, which offers both greater range and speed. The new AirPort Extreme and other WiFi routers are a major improvement over past technologies. (continue…)