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How to Fix Choppy Video Playback of 4K/1080p HD on PC/Mac?

Does choppy video playback happen every so often especially when playing 1080p HD and 4K videos? From the video itself to the video playback environment, there are a list of reasons you should consider. So, here is an overall guide with details for you to find what causes your video not playing smoothly issue and then get the right solutions. Just check them out one by one or simply jump to the part you need.

Part 1. Why Is My Video Playback Choppy, Stuttering or Jerky?

After ransacking the Internet, I found that choppy/stuttering/jerky video playback happens often when playing videos on Windows 10/7 or Mac, when streaming 4K/HD videos on YouTube, Twitch, Plex, etc., when processing HD/4K videos with Adobe Premiere Pro or iMovie, when transferring GoPro, iPhone, DJI, etc. 4K videos to PC, and so on. Whatever the situation, incapable media player and low-performance computer are the key factors being to blame, and other possible reasons should also be thought of.

For offline choppy video playback especially 4K choppy playback, reasons boil down to outdated or incompetent video player, poor configurations of computer, quite large file size, audio/video codec issue and non-supported video file format. For online lagging video streaming, the network condition and outdated browser are the main reasons.

Choppy Video Playback
Choppy Video Playback

Part 2. How to Solve Choppy Video Playback on Windows 10/7/Mac?

According to the above the explanations, you can update your current media player or switch to a more powerful media player, download proper video codec for your PC, convert the non-supported video format, compress large-sized 4K video, get higher configurations of your computer, upgrade your network and update your browser.

Solution 1. Update or replace your current video player

For who uses Windows Media Player to play videos, someone suggests you can check the "drop frames to keep audio and video in sync" option if your choppy playback error is video and audio out of sync. However, dropping frames means losing details. So, we won’t advise you to do this. If possible, you can update your Windows Media Player to the newest version by opening your Windows Media Player > right click on the WMP window and click Help > find Update Check and proceed with the update. For Mac users who use native QuickTime Player to play videos can try to turn off the option for "Use High Quality Video Setting When Available" in Preferences to see changes.

However, the above remedies usually work for SD (480p) and HD (720p) video stuttering. If your video is HD 1080p or even up to 4K, you’d better switch to another video player. Why? Windows Media Player doesn’t provide a 4K resolution to play a 4K video even though Windows 10 has added support for HEVC codec to enable Windows Media Player to open 4K videos. And QuickTime Player totally can’t recognize 4K, HD, SD, etc. videos in MKV. To save time, you are suggested to directly choose a more powerful and smoother 4K video player to help you play 4K/1080p HD videos on PC smoothly. Out the market, VLC media player and 5KPlayer are the two best choices you can pick. Although 5KPlayer and VLC 4K video stuttering, choppy or lagging playback issue is also a headache you can’t avoid, the number of times the error occurs is much less than that from other media players.

Solution 2. Check your computer’s configurations

The outdated video drivers may lead to your choppy, stuttering or jerky video playback especially on Windows 7/8/10 computer. Trying to update or reinstall the video driver may help you out. Simply go to "device manager" and click on the "display adaptor", right click on the driver related to your display and choose "Update Drive Software" to update your video driver or choose "Uninstall" to uninstall and then reinstall the driver.

If that doesn’t work, you should check if your computer has meet the minimum system requirements for large-sized 1080p HD or 4K UHD video playback. A low-performance computer equipped with poor CPU, GPU and RAM will lead to not only choppy video playback errors, but also ghosting, low frame rates, low-quality sound, and jumpy or skipping images. To have the best viewing experience, you should let your computer have the most proper hardware and OS especially for playing high-definition 4K 30/60fps videos smoothly. And here we will give some examples:

  • 4K AVC/HEVC playback on Windows: CPU (7th Generation Intel Core i7 processor equivalent or better), GPU (NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 equivalent or better), RAM (8 GB or more), OS (Windows 7 or later)
  • 4K AVC video playback on Mac: Hardware (MacBook 2013 or newer)
  • 4K HEVC video playback on Mac: Hardware (27-inch iMac late 2015, MacBook – early 2016 or newer, or MacBook Pro – 2016 or newer)
  • Videos in 1080p@60fps or higher: at least 3.0-3.7 GHz of processors, at least 6GB RAM with video card (GeForce GT 650M), Windows 7 64-bit or higher.
  • Videos in 720p@30fps: CPU-Intel core i3-2100T@2.5GHz/AMD FX 6100 or better, GPU- NVIDIA GeForce GTX 650Ti 2GB or AMD Radeon HD 7750 2GB, at least 6GB RAM, Windows 7 64-bit or higher

Note: For HDR video playback with 100% HDR effect, besides the true HDR video, you also need to prepare HDR monitor, computer supporting HDR at the OS level, and HDR-capable HDMI cable.

If you have no plan to upgrade your computer’s hardware like GPU, you may have to tolerate the choppy, stuttering or jerky video playback. Or alternatively, just reduce your file size and compress the large video to one with lower resolution, frame rate and bitrate.

Solution 3. Compress the large 4K videos – recommended

A stronger processor and graphics card can improve your system performance to handle HD and 4K UHD video playback. However, upgrading computer’s hardware is not a budget-friendly option to most of you. If there is a way to make the video smaller or downscale 4K to 1080p without sacrificing too much quality, it would be better.

Actually, a variety of tools out the market can help change the video size and among them WinX HD Video Converter shines. It is an excellent 4K video converter with media compressing ability to help turn large-sized videos into small videos for smooth playback on any devices. Simply add your video to it and choose the preferred output video frame rate, bit rate and resolution, and then it will do the rest job for you.

Downscale 4K to 1080p
Downscale 4K to 1080p

Solution 4. Convert the video format and use the right codec

If your media player totally can’t support a media format, or if the media codec is wrong or missing, chances are that you totally can’t play the video, or play video but no audio or only audio but no video. As you really can play the video but get a choppy video playback, you probably don’t need this solution. But, we list it here in case you encounter this problem in some day.

Accordingly, if your media file format is strange, you’d better convert it to a more common one like MP4, MKV, AVI, WMV, MOV, etc with tool like WinX HD Video Converter Deluxe. Most of the time, the videos we download from online or record with a camera are often MP4, MKV or MOV files. So, there is a background knowledge you should know. MP4, MKV or MOV are container formats that can contain diverse video and audio codecs which a media player really plays. That being said, two MP4 files can have different codecs therein and your MP4 player can only play one of them. So far, there is seldom problems with common MP4, MKV or MOV video playback. The video not playing errors often occur when your video is encoded with new codec like VP9, HEVC and AV1. As such new codecs are supported by limited media player software, hardware and streaming platforms as of now, converting the video codec format, such as HEVC to H.264, AV1 to MPEG-4 is the best solution as of now.

Solution 5. Check your network and browser’s conditions

If you meet choppy, stuttering or jerky video playback when streaming online videos, you should check if your network is strong enough. Streaming Full HD, UHD and 4K videos is a data-consuming task that your bandwidth needs to reach a scale.

  • 2-4Mbps for standard-definition video playback
  • 5-10Mbps for high definition video playback
  • 25Mbps minimum for 4K video playback

Also, there are variations between online video streaming services:

  • Netflix: Broadband connection (1.5Mbps), SD (3Mbps), HD (5Mbps), 4K/UHD (25Mbps).
  • YouTube: SD 360p (0.7Mbps), SD 480p (1.1Mbps), HD 720p (2.5Mbps), HD 1080p (5Mbps), 4K (20Mbps)
  • Amazon Prime Video: SD (1Mbps), HD (5Mbps), 4K (15Mbps)

After checking your Internet condition, you are also suggested to update your Chrome, Firefox or Microsoft Edge browser to the newest version. If possible clear the browser’s cache and cookies.

  • Chrome: Click the "three-dot" icon and choose "Settings" > scroll down to "Privacy and security" > "Clear browsing data" > "Browsing history", "Cookies and other site data" and "Cached images and files" > click "Clear data" button > close and restart your Chrome browser again.
  • Firefox: Click Firefox History > Clear history > "Everything" range of "Browsing & Download History/Form & Search History/Cookies/Cache/Offline Website Data"; or click Tools > Options > Advanced > "Clear Now" for Cached Web Content and Offline Web Content and User Data.
  • IE: Tap on the icon of "Settings" on the top right corner > choose "Safety" > choose "Delete Browsing History" > check "Temporary Internet Files", "Cookies" and "History" > click on "Delete" to delete the data.
  • Edge: Open Microsoft Edge, select "Menu" (3 dots icon on top right corner of the browser) > "Settings" > choose "Privacy & services" > under "Clear browsing data", select "Choose what to clear" > select "Cached images and files" and "Cookies and other site data" to delete caches and cookies.
  • Opera: Press "Ctrl+H" to open your history page > select "Clear browsing data" in the top-right corner > select what you want to delete > click "Clear data".

All in all, we have list all the possible reasons causing choppy, stuttering, jerky, glitching, jumpy, skipping or lagging video playback of HD 1080p and 4K. Hope these methods could help you play 4K/HD 1080p videos on PC smoothly.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Why is my video playback choppy?

There are many reasons causing the error. When you play videos on Mac/Windows PC with chokes or lags, reasons can be outdated or incapable video player, low-performance computer, quite large video size, audio/video codec issue, or incompatible video file format. As for online choppy video streaming, the poor network condition and outdated browser are the main reasons.

2. How fix choppy/lagging/stuttering video playback?

For offline video playback, you are suggested to update or replace your current video player, update your computer’s video drivers, upgrade the GPU, convert the video format, change the video codec and compress the large 4K videos. For online video streaming, increasing bandwidth, updating browser and clearing caches and cookies are suggested.

3. How to play 4K videos on Windows 10 PC smoothly?

If your 4K video is encoded with HEVC or AV1 codec, the official suggestion ask you to download HEVC Video Extensions and AV1 Video Extension to help media player apps play HEVC 4K videos and AV1 4K videos respectively. However, you probably can’t download or install them. Besides, HEVC Video Extensions requires payment of $0.99. So, the best way to play such 4K videos is to make use of a HEVC- and AV1-supported video player like 5KPlayer and VLC. Alternatively, compressing 4K to 1080p HD is highly suggested for smoother playback if you have a quite low-performance computer.


author - Kaley Torres

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Kaley Torres is a self-motivated, creative editor with eight years of marketing and SEO experience, specializing in writing on DVD, video, audio, images, new digital contents etc. With a partiality DVD collection, Kaley also enjoys digitizing DVD and is keen to share her DVD video conversion solutions as well as video sharing tips on social media.

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