SmartByte Gives Videos More Bandwidth, Tells Windows Update to Take a Seat

Isn't it the worst when you want to conduct a Skype call or watch a Netflix movie, but your computer often has other priorities? While you stare in disbelief at a grainy, low-res video feed or wait impatiently for buffering, Windows Update and Dropbox could be slurping bandwidth through an extra-wide straw. Enter SmartByte, a new software utility that will come preloaded on select Dell laptops and control which applications get priority connections and which ones can wait patiently for leftovers.

Developed by Rivet Networks, the company behind the powerful Killer Networking Wi-Fi cards that appear in several Dell and Alienware laptops, SmartByte automatically detects when you're streaming video and gives that feed most of the available Internet connection.

The utility, which is enabled by default, works with both Intel and Realtek wireless chips. Systems with Killer Networking cards don't need SmartByte, because they already have network prioritization built-in, along with better reception overall.

Rivet Networks claims that in its lab tests, a laptop with a 10 Mbps Internet connection initially took 3 minutes and 59 seconds to play a 2-minute and 13-second movie trailer, because Windows Update was hogging so much bandwidth that the stream froze eight times. With SmartByte enabled, the video didn't freeze even once. 

In another test, the company says that a Skype video played at 320 x 180 resolution with SmartByte disabled and a much-higher, 960 x 540 with the utility turned on. The video call also went from having 13.6% of its data packets dropped to a near-zero error rate.

If you want SmartByte, you'll have to buy a new Dell system such as the Inspiron 27 7000, which comes with it preloaded. For now at least, Rivet Networks has no plans to make it available as a standalone utility.

Windows 10 Security and Networking

Avram Piltch
Online Editorial Director
The official Geeks Geek, as his weekly column is titled, Avram Piltch has guided the editorial and production of since 2007. With his technical knowledge and passion for testing, Avram programmed several of LAPTOP's real-world benchmarks, including the LAPTOP Battery Test. He holds a master's degree in English from NYU.