YouTube Premium just got a huge quality upgrade

YouTube's big bitrate boost for Premium subscribers is rolling out on the web right now

YouTube redesign 2022
(Image credit: Google)

Earlier this year we reported that YouTube Premium was testing a huge upgrade for Premium subscribers, initially on iPhones and Apple TVs and then on Android and Google TV. The feature was a new, higher quality tier that delivered enhanced 1080p HD streaming, and Google took it out of beta for Apple devices in April. And now, the same high quality tier is rolling out to every Premium subscriber who uses YouTube Premium on the web.

According to The Verge, the enhanced quality option is now available to Premium subscribers worldwide. You'll find it in the quality menu just above the normal 1080p option, and if you're not already subscribing to the Premium service then clicking on that option will give you the option to sign up for it.

So what's the difference between 1080p and better 1080p? It's all about the bit rate.

What's the diffence between YouTube 1080p and YouTube Premium 1080p HD?

There are two components to the video quality of a streaming video. The first is the resolution, which is how many pixels make up the final images. With 1080p that means there are 1,920 pixels across and 1,080 pixels vertically.

The other component is the bit rate. This is a measure of how much data is transmitted per second, and the bigger the number the higher the quality. As with music, a very low bit rate means heavily compressed, lossy media; you still have the same resolution, but the quality of your stream isn't so good. The most obvious differences tend to be in the form of stuttering playback and unwanted visual artefacts such as blocky-looking pixels and very obvious gradients instead of smooth contrast.

What YouTube is offering here is the same number of pixels but at a higher bit rate. As Google puts it, that "provides more information per pixel that results in a higher quality viewing experience." That should deliver a better video quality than standard 1080p streaming – and potentially it can do that without needing you to upgrade to 4K, which has much higher resolution and therefore needs to stream much more data to get the best viewing quality.

If you're wondering whether Premium is worth paying for just for this feature, it's not the only reason to consider a paid YouTube subscription: it also gets rid of the adverts and enables you to download video for viewing offline.

Carrie Marshall

Writer, musician and broadcaster Carrie Marshall has been covering technology since 1998 and is particularly interested in how tech can help us live our best lives. Her CV is a who’s who of magazines, newspapers, websites and radio programmes ranging from T3, Techradar and MacFormat to the BBC, Sunday Post and People’s Friend. Carrie has written more than a dozen books, ghost-wrote two more and co-wrote seven more books and a Radio 2 documentary series. When she’s not scribbling, she’s the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR (