SD vs HD: The Ultimate Comparison Guide

The differences between SD and HD are subtle, but they can make a huge difference in the quality of your video. Learn about the difference between SD vs HD and why you should care.
SD vs HD: The Ultimate Comparison Guide

There’s one thing that should unite all streamers —high-quality video. Blurry video, lagging audio, and overall poor video quality can send viewers away in search of better-quality streams. There’s a lot of different factors that can affect the quality of your stream.

One of the most important factors is video resolution. In fact, 67% of viewers say that video quality is the most important thing they consider when watching a live stream.

Video resolution used to be very limited in terms of what could be displayed. Now, however, there’s a lot of variation in the type of resolution due to technology upgrades.

Modern streamers —and modern viewers— have moved past the era of watching only in standard resolution to embrace clear, high-quality video across all platforms. Whether streaming on Twitch, social media, or even a streaming platform like Streampal!

Read on to learn all about resolution, especially the difference between SD and HD resolution, plus which one is better for your streams!

What is SD and HD?

SD stands for “standard definition” while HD stands for “high definition.” Both terms measure video quality through pixels. The more pixels in a video, the better the quality image is displayed. Therefore, all content creators and streamers should aim to have a higher pixel count in order to provide better video quality to viewers.

More on pixels: each pixel is a little dot of color that makes up the video. More pixels mean more information captured in a single shot, making a richer image quality. Resolution measures the number of pixels per square inch in an image. Generally, resolution can be measured by the number of pixels in a row by the number of pixels in a column.

SD, or standard definition, provides videos that are 720 x 480 p. Normal HD has a measurement of 1280 x 720. Full HD offers viewers 1920 x 1080 p.

As you can see, the difference between standard and high definition video resolution is highly noticeable. A lot more information and details can be captured in the high-definition resolutions.

But that’s not the limit of resolution.

Modern technology has boosted resolution capabilities to even include 4k resolution, delivering remarkably clear video quality to viewers everywhere. 4k resolution captures a whopping 3480 x 2160 p, improving on even the quality of HD videos.

The Basics of SD

To put it simply, SD was once considered the baseline for TV and other forms of broadcasting. While offering lower resolution and less clarity than compared to HD, SD still has value. Even for streamers.

Because it has less information, it requires less bandwidth. For live streaming, this option may be best for those who don’t have the most advanced, high-speed internet connection.

Watching live streams in SD is also suitable. Since the resolution is impacted by the size of the screen, watching lower resolution on a smaller screen still can feel high-quality.

Now, let’s take a closer look at HD!

The Basics of HD

Compared to SD, which was more suited for TV broadcasts, HD is the standard for internet streaming. It’s easily the best option for streamers uploading from different social media platforms. HD requires more bandwidth than SD but can deliver a clearer image.

An upload speed of at least 2.5 Mbps is recommended for 720p resolution —and the minimum required speed only increases as the resolution does!

For a vast majority of streamers, 720p is enough to satisfy fans. However, if you’re truly looking to put out professional-looking streams, then 1080p might be the right resolution for you!

SD and HD When Streaming

For streamers, while aiming for high video resolution is great, it’s important to consider the drawbacks of streaming in high video quality. Higher resolutions video contains more information and therefore takes longer to download.

Viewing SD video requires less bandwidth. For live streaming especially, lag and interruptions in streaming can be a big distraction to viewers. Therefore, finding a compromise between video quality and streaming speed is essential.

So, how can you decide whether SD or HD is a good fit for you and your streams?

There’s no one size fits all solution. However, by taking a careful look at your own internet set-up, it’s simple to make an informed decision. Analyze factors such as your network availability, amount of internet users in your household, amount of viewers to your stream, and your internet bandwidth.

All of these separate elements can affect the quality of your streams.

Don’t forget: more than 50% of viewers will leave a stream in under 2 minutes if the quality doesn’t meet their standards. That’s why it’s so important to take a careful look at the quality of your own streams!

So, before starting your next stream, take some time to determine your internet speed and video quality. There are countless ways to check streaming upload speeds. If you’re looking for an in-depth explanation of optimal internet settings for streaming, check out this guide.

Or, stay right on this page. We’ll go over the basic essentials here.

The minimum live-streaming upload speed is 1.6 Mbps. However, that only gives the absolute lowest HD resolution at 30 FPS. To produce higher-quality videos, a minimum speed of 3-3.4 Mbps is recommended.

If you’re using a platform like Twitch to stream, the company recommends streamers to upload at 6 Mbps —that’s a huge difference in speed and quality.

Check out your internet’s current speed by taking a simple online speed test. If your internet speed is fast, then it’s easier to deliver higher-resolution video.

However, if your internet speed simply isn’t making the cut, don’t worry! There are a few speedy tricks you can try out to improve speed and quality.

Close all unused applications, ask people in your house to avoid using the internet while you stream, or even invest in fiber-optic internet if available in your area. See how much your network can truly handle before making your decision to upload streams.


When it comes to image clarity, HD will always outperform SD. If your internet can handle uploading streams in HD without lagging, always select HD to ensure higher-quality streams for your viewers.

If your internet capabilities are not up to speed, don’t stress. SD is still a good choice for streamers with a slow connection. You can still provide a stable stream to viewers without using up bandwidth.

However, if you’ve got the choice, HD (and above) is clearly the best choice for providing all of your viewers with top-class streams!

If you’re looking for other great resources that can totally elevate the way you stream, check out the other resources provided on the Streampal blog. Take control over your own streams, monetize your content exactly how you like, and develop the best quality streaming content using a streaming platform.

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