Dropbox is a useful service that lets you share pretty much any kind of file. This includes uploading and sharing videos. However, many people may be worried about the quality of the videos they share via Dropbox and wonder if it drops video quality.
Dropbox doesn’t drop video quality when you download the complete file. However, it’ll do so when you watch the video online, and the preview quality depends on your Internet connection’s quality. The streaming video limit is 15 minutes, 1 hour, or 4 hours, depending on which account you have.
But why does Dropbox compress the video? This article will explain everything you need to know before uploading your next video to Dropbox.
Why Does Dropbox Drop Video Quality When Watching Online?
Dropbox drops video quality when you watch it through the service because of bandwidth limitations. The app can’t stream full-quality videos because of current Internet speed limitations. Additionally, your Internet connection likely isn’t fast enough for full quality either.
Dropbox isn’t the only service that compresses its videos. In fact, virtually every video you watch online has been compressed at some point.
When videos get compressed, some quality loss is expected, and the file size shrinks drastically. YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and every other platform compresses their videos.
But Dropbox is unique. You can still download the complete file if you wish to do so. So, they only reduce lower quality because of limited bandwidth.
It’s important to keep in mind that not all compression on Dropbox is equal. The app transcodes multiple versions with varying levels of video quality.
The video quality you get depends on how good your Internet is. They do this because they want to present a lag-free video to you.
What Is Dropbox Streaming Video Limit?
Dropbox limits the video streaming to 15 minutes, 1 hour, or 4 hours. The video preview limitation is based on which Dropbox account you have. If you want to watch a full video that’s longer than 4 hours, you’ll have to download the file to your device.
Keep in mind that the video quality will drop regardless of your account type. You can only watch the complete video in full resolution if you download it.
Here’s how much of the video you can stream in preview mode:
- 15 minutes for Dropbox Basic users.
- 1 hour for Dropbox Plus, Professional, and Family users.
- 4 hours for Dropbox Business users.
As a side note, this limitation applies both to video and audio files.
However, the limitation is only for streaming and not for downloading shared files.
How Can I Watch a Dropbox Video in Full Quality?
The only way to watch a Dropbox video in full quality is by downloading it. You can’t stream the video in full quality because of bandwidth limitations, and Dropbox compresses the video before it streams it to you.
Dropbox lets you send videos of unlimited size, provided you have enough space on your cloud.
You can only send up to 50 GB through the web browser, 100 GB through Dropbox Transfer, or 250 GB with Creative Tools.
I understand that having to download a complete video can be inconvenient, especially when it’s something long, like an uncompressed 20 GB video. Longer videos can take forever to download – and that’s without taking into account the actual time you’ll spend watching it!
If you don’t mind a minor drop in quality, you can instead choose to watch the video directly from Dropbox without waiting for ages.
Here are some ways to improve your Dropbox video streaming:
- Use a Dropbox Business account. This type of account lets you watch up to 4 hours of video, so there’s a lower chance you’ll have to download a shared file.
- Use an Ethernet cable. Streaming videos online requires a fast and stable connection, and Ethernet is one of the best options. So, plug the cable into your laptop or desktop computer.
- Turn off other devices on your network. The more devices linked to a network, the lower the bandwidth available to each device.
- Don’t download anything while streaming. Downloading files eats up all of your bandwidth.
- Upgrade your Internet. If you stream multiple Dropbox videos a week, consider whether it’s worth your while to invest in a better Internet connection.
However, the only way to watch it in the native resolution, completely uncompressed, is by downloading it.
If you can, let the video download overnight. Contrary to popular belief, there’s no harm in leaving your PC running all the time.
You’ll only need to turn it off occasionally because of bugs, which probably won’t be an issue for a single night.
Should You Compress a Video Before Uploading It to Dropbox?
You don’t have to compress a video before uploading it to Dropbox. However, it’s still a good idea to do so because compressing a video reduces file size. Keep in mind that, depending on the type of compression you use, doing so could impact the video quality.
If you think that you won’t save much space through compression, think again. You can reduce the file size by up to 90%.
So, instead of a 40 GB video, you’ll only upload a 4-10 GB file instead. Upload speeds for home users are much slower than download speeds.
Here’s my point:
Even if your upload speed were 1 Gbps, it’d still take 6+ hours to upload a 40 GB file. Reduce the file size to 4 GB, and you cut that down to just 30 minutes.
Usually, there will only be a marginal loss in quality when you compress the video, and unless you have the eyes of a hawk, you won’t be able to tell the difference.
Dropbox has a built-in file compressor, but I don’t recommend it for videos.
Use a dedicated video compressor instead. VLC is a good, free option.
Here’s a YouTube video by GizBot demonstrating how to compress videos with VLC:
Dropbox won’t reduce the video quality on the file. When you download the video, it’ll look exactly like it’s supposed to. However, when you stream it through Dropbox, the video quality drops dramatically.
The less bandwidth you have, the worse it looks. Additionally, you’re limited to only 15 minutes of streaming time if you’re a Basic user. If you want the best viewing experience when watching a shared video file, it’s always best to download it to your device instead of streaming over Dropbox.
My Current Video Editing Setup and Favorite Products
Apple MacBook Air M1 512gb Ram (Waiting for the new 16in Pro)
LG 27MK400H-B Full HD Monitor with FreeSync 27″ (I literally have 4 of these 😅 )
Razer Holiday Bundle Cynosa Chroma Gaming Keyboard, Abyssus Gaming Mouse, Goliathus Chroma Mousepad
KTRIO Large Gaming Mouse Pad with Stitched Edges
Panasonic LUMIX G7 Digital Camera – Great Entry Camera for Shooting and Streaming
Neewer Ring Light Kit — A Must Have
Emart Green Screen Backdrop with Stand Kit – Affordable and Lots of Uses!
Elgato Stream Deck Mini – I only need the 6 keys
- Harmonic: Video Encoding & Compression: Why Storage & Quality Matter
- Dropbox Forum: Why does Dropbox compress videos and reduce video quality when previewing?
- Dropbox Help: How to play video and audio files on Dropbox
- Dropbox: Send long videos to anyone – from just about anywhere
- Make Use Of: Leaving Your Computer on All the Time: The Pros and Cons
- Quora: How much storage space does video compression save?
- Dropbox: The fast, simple alternative to ZIP compression