SRT vs NDI streaming, should I care?

Perhaps you should. More so if you’re annoyed at the inconsistent latency of RTMP, dealing with packet loss over RTP/RTSP or tired of running long SDI or HDMI cables.

Although rather different, these 2 share common traits, possible reason they’re sometimes discussed together or confused among. They’re both designed for low latency video transmission, both came around in an attempt to fill a gap in existing technology, they’re free and widely adopted. And the similarities stop here. 

Internet vs LAN

By design, SRT is intended to transport video via the open internet and other unpredictable (i.e. prone to bandwidth jitter and packet loss) networks. In turn, NDI works at full potential over consistently fast (read Gigabit or better) internal networks that can guarantee extremely low transmission error and congestion rates. 


You know already, TCP is fully reliable while UDP is not. The former will retransmit lost packets until successfully delivered, the latter will just let them get lost and not retransmit anything. Retransmission introduces delays, and the frequency and length of these delays is unpredictable. 

SRT runs on top of UDP, NDI runs on top of TCP; NDI is arguably faster than SRT. Wait, what?


SRT allows you to set a fixed latency (120ms by default) for your video transmission. It will retransmit the packets that were lost over UDP only if not too late to stay within that latency margin. Depending on the speed and quality of the network between the 2 endpoints, setting a slightly higher latency may visibly reduce the amount of video and audio ‘glitches’ caused by undelivered packets. 

NDI advertises near-zero latency. It however demands a very fast and non-jittery network, or it’ll degrade ungracefully. Fact that it rides over TCP is therefore rather irrelevant as the low latency is only achievable if the packet loss and retransmission are minimal. 


SRT is allegedly codec and format agnostic and only takes care of transporting video payloads across the network. There’s room for debate but let’s just mention that most of the tried and true implements gracefully deal with AVC and HEVC wrapped in MPEG-TS.

NDI manages both encoding, transport and decoding, thus it takes and outputs raw video. Internally a subset of H264 is used, more often than not trying to take advantage of built-in hardware encoders and decoders on host devices. 

Video Quality

In the case of SRT, what you send is what you get. If it’s not well tuned with the network capabilities (or if these degrade beyond ordinary) you’ll see or hear the ‘jerks’ commonly associated with packet loss. 

NDI is so called ‘visually lossless’, meaning the encoding artifacts will be virtually unobservable by the naked eye. Surely at the expense of…

Bandwidth Consumption

For NDI, it’s huge; think 100-150Mbps for a full HD stream and at least double that much for 4K.

With SRT, it’s up to you, as you’d need to figure out how to encode and mux the video before sending it off to transport. Do take into account the overhead introduced by retransmissions, especially if your network is busy.

Can I play with it?

Sure can! Put together a simple low latency streaming platform proof of concept. Based on Nimble (hey, it’s still free, wowza more than tripled their price over the last few), featuring SRT ingress and SLDP egress, you can deploy it in a few clicks and test it in a few minutes. It’s a mere adapt/simplification of the earlier larger scalable low latency project.

Fine, I’m interested, which best suits my use case?

Let’s recap the differences, and this time bring our old friend RTMP into the mix, should help make an educated choice

Designed for Streaming over Internet Streaming over Internet Streaming in LAN
Transport TCP UDP TCP
Latency Higher, Unpredictable Low, Customizable Lowest
Signal Quality High Good Nearly Lossless
Deals with Transport Transport Encode and Transport
Bandwidth consumption Encoding Dependant Encoding Dependant High

Are they expensive?

They’re both free, although NDI is proprietary yet royalty free, while SRT is fully open. 

Are they secure?

SRT supports AES encryption. 

NDI has no built in encryption mechanism afaik, if that’s critical you can run it over a VPN of some kind.

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