Tips and Guide for HD Video Streaming with Apple TV

Diana Joan

Mar 27, 2015 01:15 am / Posted by Diana Joan

Apple TV can be a fickle bastard. Some days it’s your best friend, and other times its a horrible hockey puck whose sole purpose in life is causing you grief. Chances are you bought the thing so you could effortlessly stream movies to your huge TV, and since you sprung for the ultra high-definition LED display, watching anything in standard-def would be downright blasphemous at this point.

Stream HD with Apple TV

It might sounds like easy to stream HD content to Apple’s little black box – and Apple tries its best to make it so – but it can be a pain in the ass if you don’t do things right. To preserve all the pixels of the HD video you for pay when streaming them to Apple TV, take the following tips into consideration:

720p or 1080p

As you’re probably well aware, there are different standards of HD. Some people might not care about the difference between 720p and 1080p, but we’re willing to bet that if you’re here reading this you probably care. The quality of HD you get depends on two things: the generation of your Apple TV, and the device you use to download/rent your movies.

The generation of your Apple TV

Apple has released three different generations of Apple TV, and each one has different abilities/limitations when it comes to streaming HD video. Here’s a quick rundown of their maximum resolutions:

Generation 1: 720p

Generation 2: 720p

Generation 3: 1080p

The device you use

When you download a movie from iTunes, Apple gives you the option of doing it in SD or HD, but doesn’t let you choose between HD standards. Whether you get 720p or 1080p depends entirely on the device you’re using.

To get movies in 720p, download on one of these devices

To get movies in 1080p, download on one of these devices

  • iPhone 4 or later
  • iPod touch (4th generation or later)
  • iPad (any generation)
  • Apple TV
  • Your computer (see system requirements)
  • iPhone 5/6/6 plus
  • iPod touch (5th generation)
  • iPad (3rd generation)
  • Apple TV (3rd generation)
  • Your computer (see system requirements)

Check your iTunes

Depending on what version of iTunes you’re using, the default playback settings could be limiting your video quality. iTunes 10.6 is by default set to purchase, download, and playback HD content in 720p. In order to change this, simply head to the iTunes Preferences panel, click the Playback tab at the top, and change the Preferred Video Version to 1080p. If you’re running iTunes 11/12, this setting should already be on by default, but it never hurts to check.

iTunes setting

Check your network

When you’re streaming HD video to your Apple TV from the web, you’ll want to make sure your Internet connection is fast enough to handle all the data. Apple recommends a sustained 6Mbit/s or faster Internet connection for viewing High Definition movies and TV shows, but that’s only for movies in 720p. For streaming movies in 1080p, we recommend a sustained 8Mbit/s connection or faster.

If you’re beaming HD video to your Apple TV from another Apple device, you’ll need a strong wireless network in your home. In order to effectively stream such a large amount of data, we suggest using a wireless router that complies with the latest 802.11n standard. Routers that use the 802.11 a/b/g standard simply wont be capable of handing such large data streams.

Guide of streaming HD video with Apple TV

If you don’t know how to turn on home sharing on your computer, please read here.

1. Drag and drop your video into iTunes. (They usually wind up in the home movies section.)

Drag videos into iTunes

2. Fire up your TV and your Apple TV. Select the Computer channel.

Apple TV home screen

3. Go to the home video section.

Computer menu screen

4. Select the particular video you’re after. Enjoy the game in full HD.

home videos

5. Use the Apple remote to control playback.

Apple TV remote


For optimal playback when you’re beaming video around your house, try to make sure that your Apple TV, wireless router, and the device you’re playing video from are all relatively close to each other.

For more Apple TV related topics such as Apple TV supported file formats, Apple TV related hot issues, Apple TV video/audio playback solution, please visit our Apple TV page.