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Streaming vs. downloading: Which is better?

Watching our favorite television shows or movies have been are getting easier as the platforms we watch them on are evolving. Gone are the days of the VHS, DVD and almost the Blu-Ray as we’ve entered the entirely digital era of programming.

The current methods for viewing your favorite programs are through streaming and downloading. Although both are entirely digital, they’re actually two different methods of tuning in.

So the real questions are, what are the differences and which one is better for you? That’s what we hope to break down for you here in this easy to understand guide.

What’s the difference in the process?

These two terms often get mixed up by individuals and even organizations that don’t really understand the methodology whether it be with video on demand or podcasts. So what is really the difference between them and what do they mean?


Streaming is the process and technology used to carries content between computers and mobile devices through the internet. As it transmits this data, which is typically audio and video, it transfers with a constant flow and allows the user on the other end to watch or listen virtually instantaneously.


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This entertainment data is delivered by a provider to you, the viewer or listener. The verb “stream” states that it is to transfer digital data, such as audio or video material in a continuous stream, especially for immediate processing or playback.


Downloading is the process of transmitting a file from one computer to another. The verb “download” states to transfer data from a distant to a nearby computer, from a larger to a smaller computer, or from a computer to a peripheral device.

Or in plainer terms, you download a file which requests it from another computer or website somewhere on the internet and then receives it on your end. The best part here is that when you’ve downloaded it, the data is on your device and you no longer have to worry if there’s an internet connection or not.


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Cases where downloading would come in handy is downloading a movie or television show from your streaming service, downloading a podcast, or music playlist to your device for driving to work or working out.

Which is better, streaming or downloading?

There are actually benefits to each of these different data transfer configurations. Streaming gives you content on demand but at the cost of your internet connection speeds and whether it’s online or not. Downloading gives you that nice portability for on-the-go digital consumption without the tether of being online. So which is better?

Let’s break it down for the streaming side of things on the benefits and pitfalls.

  • Determined based on your internet provider’s bandwidth and data caps
    • This can be good or bad depending on whether you watch your content in SD, HD or 4K
  • Provides your device with the freedom of not having to store the data on the device
  • More programs are available on the streaming service as opposed to downloading
  • You’re unable to stream if the streaming service or internet connection goes offline

Now that we’ve seen what streaming has to offer, let’s see the download benefits and pitfalls.

  • With downloading, you have the perks of offline viewing
  • Being able to watch the content whenever and wherever you want
  • Need to have sufficient storage space on the device
  • Can choose between Standard Definition (SD) or High Definition (HD) video quality
    • Again this depends on the amount of space on the device
  • Fewer programs are available for downloading
  • Some providers such as Hulu don’t even offer to download for their programming

The best way to watch your shows and movies

Regardless of your choice, the battery will be the main contender for how long you get to actually absorb the content unless you’re plugged in. This also really depends on your preferred methods of watching or where you’re at whether it makes sense.

If you’re more into the quality of the video, want a larger selection, and have a great internet connection, then streaming may be your preferred method of viewing. However, if you’re on the go without an internet connection and just want a handful of programs to watch where quality isn’t really a concern for you, then downloading would be your best bet.

My personal preferences lie with streaming because I’m almost always connected, but when I’m not, I own the digital copy too so I have that option. Either direction you decide to go, there really are plenty of options for you and your devices.

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