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AV1 vs HEVC - Which is the Codec of the Future?

Now that the high, 4K, and even 8K ultra-high definition content is becoming a bit more mainstream, advanced video compression tools, aka video codecs are here to offer better video quality and lower bandwidth costs. The two most efficient codecs today are the High Efficiency Video Codec (HEVC) and AOMedia Video 1 (AV1) standards. So what are the differences between AV1 and HEVC? Read the AV1 vs HEVC comparison in file size, performance, and quality below.

If you don't want to bother with the detailed discussion, check the AV1 vs HEVC conclusion below:

  • AV1 is royalty-free while HEVC is royalty bearing.
  • AV1 can save up to 30% file size than HEVC for the same image.
  • AV1 required more powerful hardware to decode, and it takes much longer time to decode than HEVC.
  • HEVC is supported by GPU/CPU from AMD, Nvidia, Intel, Apple, Qualcomm, etc., but the support for AV1 is limit by now.

You may be also intertested in: AVI vs VVC, HEVC vs VVC

1. Royalty Fee

HEVC codec is the successor to AVC, developed by Moving Picture Experts Group (MPEG) and the Video Coding Experts Group (VCEG) for encoding and decoding video streams more efficiently and economically. HEVC has a very complicated and expensive royalty structure. Therefore, the joint shareholders from MPEG LA, HEVC Advance, and Velos Media - which including Ericsson, Panasonic, Qualcomm, Sharp, and Sony, all have different license fees on HEVC. The detailed royalty fees are listed below (Source: Wiki):

Codec

Licensor

Codec Royalties

Royalty Exemptions

Royalty Annual Cap

Content
Distribution Fee

HEVC

MPEG LA

 US$0.20 per unit

First 100k units each year

US$25 million

US$0

HEVC
Advance

Region 1:
▪ US$0.40 (mobile)
▪ US$1.20 (4K TV)
▪ US$0.20-0.80 (other)
Region 2:
▪ US$0.20 (mobile)
▪ US$0.60 (4K TV)
▪ US$0.20-0.40 (other)

▪ US$25,000 each year
▪ Most software HEVC implementations distributed to consumer devices after first sale

US$40 million

Physical distribution:
▪ $0.0225 per disc/title (Region 1)
▪ $0.01125 per disc/title (Region 2)
Non-physical distribution:
▪ US$0

Technicolor

tailor-made agreements

tailor-made agreements

tailor-made agreements

US$0

Velos Media

?

?

?

Presumed to charge royalty

others (AT&T, Microsoft ...)

?

?

?

?

AV1

Alliance for
Open Media

US$0

N/A

N/A

US$0

AOMedia Video 1 (AV1) is the successor to VP9, developed by the Alliance for Open Media, a consortium of the largest tech companies including Intel, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Mozilla, and Netflix (see all the members below). Due to the vague and expensive HEVC licensing structure, AOMedia decided to create a royalty-free standard that is able to provide better performance than HEVC.

2. Compression Efficiency

According to tests conducted by Moscow State University, AV1 can outperform AVI by about 28% in the encoding and decoding efficiency. As per the performance graph from the Graphics & Media Lab Video Group, MSU below, AV1 is able to provide the same quality as X264 at 55% of the avg. bitrate while the best HEVC encoder (x265 in three-pass Placebo mode) runs at 67% of the bitrate. In other words, with AV1, distributors can send streams faster and cheaper and we can enjoy higher-definitions via the same bandwidth.

hevc and AV1 comparison
MSU AV1 vs HEVC file size

3. Quality

While AV1 has better compression efficiency, is there any quality differences between AV1 and HEVC? As 4K video formats, both AV1 and HEVC has good quality. But small differences still exist. According to the quality chart among four codecs (namely AV1, X265, LibVPx, and X264) based on VMAF rating, drawn by Jan Ozer, a famous streaming and production professional, compared to X265, AV1 can provide better quality at even low bit rate. Overall, AV1 can maintain high quality from low to high data rate. This is also proven in other PSNR tests online.

hevc vs AV1 quality
AV1 vs HEVC - Quality

4. Speed

Based on earlier tests, AV1 requires 3x the encoding time of HEVC x265 and LibVPx. Also indicated in the MSU reports, AV1 encoding is about 2500~3000 times slower than competitors while X265 is about 10~15 times slower. Since AMD, Nvidia, Intel, Qualcomm and most hardware manufacturers already support HEVC, a hardware accelerated HEVC encoder can drive the HEVC encoding to about 5x times faster, which will also save more CPU and battery while providing high quality than software processing.

Compared to HEVC, AV1 is still quite new. That means limited hardware support. Therefore, there is a long way to go before AV1 become widespread for streaming (below is the decoding and encoding time of AV1, X265, and main competitors, video: 2k trailer, souce: texpion).

hevc and AV1 comparison
AV1 vs HEVC speed

Despise the dull hardware support of AV1 technology, in which end up the result that the AV1 playback & encoding will take longer time than it's competitor, the NVIDIA just released it's newest graphic card, RTX 3000 series, which was announced to give the full support to AV1 codec.

hevc and AV1 comparison
The new NVIDIA GPU will support AV1 decoding

As for ordinary consumer, that could be a strong signal for more tech giants get in & with their efforts to push forwards the application of AV1 in the internet video sharing. Considerably a brighter future will be promised with the joint of big company like NVIDIA.

5. Compatibility

iPhone, iPad, Samsung Galaxy S/Note, Googlpe Note/Pixel, Ximao, LG, HTC mobiles, and TVs from Sony, LG, Samsung, etc. all have builg-in ability to decode HEVC. Leading hardware manufacturers like Qualcomm, Intel, Nvidia,Microsoft, Apple, Broadcom, Ambarella, etc. all add support to HEVC codec. Most modern cameras, such as GoPro, DJI drones, Canon, and some other DSLR record videos using HEVC. HEVC is also supported by various software programs, like edtiors FCP X, Premiere Pro, DaVinci Resolve, and web browsers. However, sometimes error may occur like VLC can't play HEVC files, VLC won't support HVC1 codec, etc.

As of writing, AV1 codec is mainly used by web browers Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox.It's not compatible with Safari, Microsoft Edage, and Opera. Even VLC can't play AV1 very well. Don't expect support on hardware side either. The good news is that, Netflix mobile app for Android and iOS is already distributing AV1 streams.

Verdict

AV1 vs HEVC, which is the better codec for the future? When the 50%-more-efficient H.265 comes out, H.264 didn't become obsolete. Even though AV1 has 30% better performance, it's in early stage now. That means, most devices now support HEVC only. That said, we believe AV1 is more promising, especially for online streaming of large-resolution content.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

author-Kaley Torres

Kaley Torres

Kaley Torres is a self-motivated, creative editor with eight years of marketing and SEO experience, specializing in writing on DVD, video, audio, images, new digital contents etc. With a partiality DVD collection, Kaley also enjoys digitizing DVD and is keen to share her DVD video conversion solutions as well as video sharing tips on social media.

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