I watch a lot of online video. I'd assume that for example videos on Youtube in 720p use less power than the same videos in 1080p. I think this might be because:

  • more power is used by sending network to read more data and then send it
  • more power is used by intermediate network (internet) to transfer more data
  • more power is used on my end to recieve data
  • more power is used on my end to actually render the video

However, I have nothing to back up my theory. I've heard the most likely incorrect rumour that one Google search uses the equivalent of boiling one litre of water, so I'm guessing it might be significant.

Is there a difference? How much?


1 Answer 1


The Natural Resources Defense Council commissioned a study in late 2015 to understand the energy consumption from 4K TVs, titled The Big Picture: Ultra High-Definition Televisions Could Add $1 Billion to Viewers' Annual Electric Bills. While this doesn't exactly answer your question as regards the resolution of You-Tube videos, it gives some solid clues.

First of all, the study finds that "UHD televisions use an average of 30 percent more power than HD televisions of a similar size." This finding is illustrated in Figure 9 from the report:

So this means that if you have an HD or UHD capable screen, you are likely using more power than a screen which is not capable of showing higher resolution video.

Next, the authors compared energy consumption on the same TVs for HD vs 4K content: "Feeding a 4K television, a higher-resolution (4K) version of HD video material did tend to increase energy use by an average of 10 percent, but there were large differences between models." Figure 16 illustrates this:

Thus, it seems that when you are viewing higher resolution video you will indeed be consuming more energy, but the exact difference varies significantly by model.

Finally, the authors find a bit of a silver lining: "Meanwhile, streaming higher-resolution content via the Internet instead of playing it from a disc did not make a significant difference in energy use, which is good news as people increasingly stream content over the Internet."

  • Thanks! Very good answer, but I'll keep this as open for a while if anyone manages to find any kind of equivalent data from the platform or infrastructure side and also information specifically about computers and computer monitors. Commented Jan 11, 2018 at 10:28

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