Web browsers and bandwidth feel the pinch as online video formats get better and better (and bigger and bigger, too). SpeedBit's Free Video Accelerator for YouTube is designed to work with your Web browser to improve how it downloads and plays online video, especially high-quality formats streamed over broadband connections. It buffers and smooths audio and video playback and reduces or eliminates freezing, crashing, dropouts, and distortion. It's freeware, though a premium upgrade adds HD playback, iTunes acceleration, and automatic setup.
SpeedBit's setup wizard lets you choose between installing the freeware and the shareware version, which includes automatic setup. We actually prefer to configure things like video accelerators manually, but the process proved quite simple in any case, with a Settings sheet we could open via the Options menu. It offered Proxy Settings and general options such as load on startup but not much more. SpeedBit's simple user interface basically displays its status, with Normal and HQ acceleration enabled and the option to enable HD and iTunes. Clicking a link labeled Supported Video Sites opened a Web page in IE (not our default browser) that listed the many sites SpeedBit is compatible with as well as which version of the software plays different video formats on each site.
Finding high-quality video to play with SpeedBit installed was no problem; we turned up plenty on YouTube and other sites, too. SpeedBit's developers take smooth, error-free video playback in your browser as evidence the software is working, and we can't argue with that, based on our experience and playback from our system's decent but inexpensive video card. But it's actually easy to see if SpeedBit is working: play the same online video with the program enabled and disabled. If you see glitches with SpeedBit turned off but not on, you need it. Of course, a lot depends on factors like your Internet connection, but the more problems, the greater the need for tools like SpeedBit. We think the free version of SpeedBit Free Video Accelerator for YouTube will suit many users' needs, but if you need more, it's not a costly upgrade.