YouTube has confirmed that it is experimenting with a higher quality 1080p option for Premium subscribers after some Reddit users noticed a new “1080p Premium” option in the quality settings menu. The option is currently available to “a small group of YouTube Premium subscribers,” according to Paul Pennington, a spokesman for the company.
“1080p Premium is an enhanced bitrate version of 1080p that provides more information per pixel resulting in a higher quality viewing experience,” Pennington said, adding that “there are no changes to existing quality offerings for 1080p (HD) resolution on YouTube. ” There they have been worried that YouTube is tweaking the standard 1080p mode to make the Premium version more appealing, but the statement implies that the company hasn’t made any changes.
While 1080p describes a video’s resolution, or the number of pixels that make up the image, there are more factors that go into overall video quality. Bitrate and color depth are also important factors and can even make good 1080p video look better than bad 4K footage. Bit rate is often used to describe the amount of data used to transfer each second of video.
For example, a 1080p Blu-ray can give you a maximum of 40 Mbps, which provides a fairly sharp image. Meanwhile, YouTube’s standard 1080p bitrate is between 8 and 10 Mbps and can be noticeably more blocky than Blu-rays or original exports. It also depends on the codec the video is compressed with, as some are more efficient than others and can produce better results with less data, often at cost elsewhere; it can be quite complicated. (Also, bitrate isn’t completely separate from resolution; the number of pixels in a video will influence how much data you need to stream it at acceptable quality. If you’d like to dig deeper, check out here is a very good explanation.)
However, it’s generally correct to say that video encoded with the same codec but at a higher bitrate will look better. That seems to be what YouTube is doing: a Reddit user with access to the feature posted a screenshot from the company’s “Stats for Nerds” tool, which shows that the Premium 1080p option ran at around 13 Mbps versus 8 Mbps in standard mode for the same video. However, it’s worth noting that YouTube generally uses variable bitrate encoding, which means the amount of data it uses will fluctuate quite a bit depending on what’s displayed on your screen.
The premium version could increase the bitrate by around 50 percent
The company did not immediately respond to the edgerequest for feedback on what the average premium bitrate would be.
The reason YouTube doesn’t just show you the original video file at its maximum bitrate is that doing so would be expensive, both for them and potentially for you, depending on your speed and data cap. The lower the bitrate of a video, and therefore the lower its quality, the less bandwidth it will take up traveling from YouTube’s servers to your screen. The 1080p Premium trial indicates that YouTube might be willing to let people access higher quality as long as they pay for the service.
This isn’t the first time YouTube has experimented with putting higher-quality videos behind the Premium paywall. Last year, the company ran a test that meant some people couldn’t access 4K streaming unless they were subscribers, a move that drew a lot of backlash from the community. However, a lot of that was due to the fact that people were missing out on something they previously had access to for free. If YouTube really does maintain the same quality for the regular 1080p option, then the experiment just adds an advantage for paying customers.