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What is the Bitrate? Bit rate

Surely we have heard the word bitrate countless times when an expert user refers to some video or audio in digital format, and we have come to know that it is the element that defines the data flow. But what exactly is bitrate? The doubt arises because this parameter is not only used in these fields.

Like the resolution and the final format of the digital video or audio, another of the determining factors to obtain an excellent quality in an image or sound is, without a doubt, the bitrate, a parameter that perhaps is not always fully taken into account. And that not only applies to the field of audio or video. For this reason, in this article we will find a lot of information to fully understand what bitrate is.

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Bitrate: Why it is so important in our digital life

Electronic devices  have reached operating speeds that were unthinkable  just a few years ago, and that is why today we expect our device, be it a smartphone or tablet, a computer or a hard drive, to respond to us instantly and without hesitation. Many and varied factors have to do with it, but one of the most important is the bit rate at which it can exchange or process information.

The term  bit rate , used in computing and telecommunications systems, basically refers  to the amount of bits that can be transmitted in a given unit of time through a transmission system or between two digital devices . Depending on the context in which the term is used, the bitrate, or  bitrate  in English, is measured in Kbit / s or Mbps, kilobits per second or megabits per second, respectively.

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Regardless of the unit of measurement used to define the  bitrate , higher numbers always mean better and higher quality values,  although we must not forget that low bitrate values ​​can also mean less signal processing by the hardware,  very convenient in equipment such as smartphones, tablets or netbooks.

Bit rate on the Internet

In the case of  the bit rate applicable to the Internet,  the higher the bit rate is the better, since the content we receive from the network arrives faster. In other words, the higher the bitrate we get from our ISP, the better the connection will be and we will be able to work much more comfortably.

A  higher bitrate on an Internet connection  means streaming movies and HD video, play online with nothing really late and download large files without problems and in a few seconds.

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In the event that we want to  know exactly what the bitrate of our connection is,  we can do it easily and comfortably by accessing with our browser a site that is in charge of performing this test.

Bit rate in audio and video

If we talk about audio and video, the meaning of the term bit rate differs a bit from what we use for the Internet. In this context,  bit rate refers to the amount of data stored for every second of data that it reproduces.  To take an example, an MP3 file of  a song at 320 kbps offers a much higher quality than the same file encoded at 128 kbps,  obviously as long as both files were created from the same source.

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But we must always remember that if the source from which we obtained the files was of poor quality, then the copy will also be of poor quality, whether it has been encoded at 128 kbps or 320 kbps. 

This is also the case with videos,  a much higher bit rate will offer a much better display quality  than video with the same resolution but at a lower bit rate.

The bit rate could be expected to increase  each time the resolution increases as more data is being processed.  This means that while high bitrate rates can deliver excellent display quality, they  also require significantly more processing effort on the part of the hardware, forcing it, especially on modest and older hardware, to produce pauses and clipping.

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Another aspect that we must also take into account since it is very important is that video file formats use different sets of compression algorithms, which could also be able to offer high quality with a more discrete bit rate. However,  the extra processing load for these types of videos can also complicate the processor  and systems involved in decoding.

Transfer bit rate on hard drives and SSD drives

Although most users do not pay attention to this parameter  when talking about hard drives or SSDs,  the truth is that it is one of the most important factors, more important even than its storage capacity or its rotation speed.

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The bit rate in this context  determines the reading and writing speed of these storage devices,  the most delicate parameter to take into account, since this affects the performance that we will obtain from it. If we have a low transfer rate, it will slow down all the storage and reading processes,  which will affect the times used to save large files and the overall performance of applications and games.

Traditional hard drives  generally all offer the same reading or writing speed,  the only difference between them is their capacity and rotation speed: 5,400, 7,200 or 10,000 RPM.

In contrast, SSD storage disk technology does not base its read and write speed on the RPM at which its motors or platters turn,  since they use chips that control it.  In this sense, it is very important to know the bit rates at which these SSDs are capable of operating: for a device of this type of mid-range,  the normal thing is that they have reading speeds of 500 Mbps and 200 Mbps for writing.

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In the case of high-end SSDs, these are capable of reaching speeds of 500 Mbps both for writing and reading.

At this point,  the bit rate at which a disk can operate should be as high as possible,  as this is a critical value for proper performance. Even with a good computer in our possession, with a powerful processor, fast memory and a good video card, we can still find ourselves in trouble if we get a poor response from our storage units.

Digital video What is bitrate?

As we have been mentioning, the bitrate refers to the amount of information when playing a video file that our computer is capable of reading for every second. For this reason, in the same way that it happens with the image size, the greater the data flow, the higher the quality of the material.

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Even, BitRate can we become more decisive than the size of the image to define its quality, because in viewing a video that has a large but both its data stream is scarce, we face a material of very poor quality.

In this sense, we can cite as an example the DVDs of 720 x 576 resolution and approximately 8 Mb / s, in comparison with a Bluray of 3840 × 2160 and 50 Mb / s, where without any doubt the second example will give us a much higher image quality, but with a greater effort on the part of the computer to reproduce it.

Let us bear in mind that in the case cited for comparison, although in one of them the screen size is larger, the truth is that its bandwidth is scarce, since these data store the information related to luminance and color. of the video. For this reason, when the data flow is poor, the computer must group a large number of pixels that contain the same information, generating redundancy that directly affects the quality of the video.

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As a side note, it is important to mention that we should not distinguish between KByte (KB) and Kbit (Kb), since every 8 bits we have one byte. We recommend: What is a Byte?


As we could see in the article,  the bit rate or bitrate affects practically all the tasks that we undertake with our PC, tablet, smartphone or any other device,  and we hope that it has been useful to understand a little better the wonderful world of the computing.

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