What is Data Rate?

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  • Written By: Keith Koons
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 08 October 2019
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Data rate is a technical term that describes how quickly information can be exchanged between electronic devices. In many cases, this term is used to describe Internet connection speeds and how quickly a consumer can upload or download files. Hardware components like hard drives, memory, and video cards also deal with data rate since they process information, but so do electronic items like televisions, video games, and radios. By using a calculation for this rate, manufacturers are also able to measure the efficiency of their products and classify them into categories.

Internet connections are measured in terms of data rate. A 56k dial-up modem, for example, can receive a maximum of 56 kilobits per second when it is properly installed. Information is sent in small chunks of data called packets, and since it may travel thousands of miles or kilometers through various telephone lines, there is never a 100-percent optimization. When the speeds increase in the case of a cable or a digital subscriber line (DSL) modem, the packet losses are even greater. While a term like 3 gigabytes (3G) would refer to the maximum possible speed, data rate refers to the actual performance rates.


Almost every aspect of the Internet deals with data-related rates in one form or another. Website builders optimize web layouts so that the pages can load quickly when a consumer clicks on a link, and larger websites require almost constant attention. For example, if a person was the only one visiting a web address, then the page may load instantly. When thousands of people click that particular link, then the rate of incoming data must be optimized for it. This helps businesses decide what kind of graphics to use online, how to host their websites, and the amount of bandwidth that needs to be allocated.

Computers and electronics also measure data rates in other ways. A computer hard drive can normally send information to the processor in milliseconds, but other programs running in the background could drastically reduce the response time. Graphic cards are also heavily dependent on data rate in order to deliver the proper images in games and movies. In many cases, hundreds of frames per second (FPS) are delivered to the monitor and when the rate drops, the image becomes blurred or distorted. Memory cards also have a large factor on a computer's overall data rate since they deliver information from one hardware item to another.


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Post 2

@nony - Yeah, I love USB drives myself. They are very fast.

My only wish is that the Bluetooth data rate was faster. I hook up a Bluetooth transmitter to my computer to wirelessly transfer files to and from my phone.

It works, but it’s certainly not blazing speed and it’s not without the occasional hiccups. I think the data transfer rate is something less than 1 Megabyte per second. A lot depends on how much data you want to transfer and how close you are to the device. I try to stay within ten feet at the most.

Post 1

I love the USB drives and the flash drives. I understand that the USB data rate is something on the order of 12 megabits per second, and I believe it. It’s a whole lot faster transferring files to my USB drive than it ever was to transfer them to floppy disk, CD or DVD. I guess because it uses flash memory or something like that, I don’t know.

What I especially like is that I can get these USB flash drives in large storage sizes. I currently have one for 8 Gigabytes but I’m going to get a 32 Gigabyte USB flash drive. That’s huge storage and I plan to use it as a backup for my important files and documents and even for some of the pictures on my hard drive as well.

It’s a lot more convenient than using DVD, since these drives provide read/write capability at fast speeds.

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