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Image Formats for the Web: AVIF vs HEIC

Finally, Apple adds AVIF support for its Safari browser starting from iOS 16 and macOS Ventura when HEIC has been its default photo format since iOS 11 and macOS High Sierra. Both of the two are image formats developed based on video codecs with higher compression and better quality, and the main purpose of them is to replace JPEG for better web delivery and more.

Both AVIF and HEIC use HEIF container format. AVIF is AV1 in HEIF and HEIC is HEVC in HEIF. Obviously, they come from efficient and advanced video codecs that can highly compress a file while assure highest quality. Also, AVIF and HEIC supports features like overlays, depth maps, high bit depth support, animated images, HDR, etc.

Though they have many similarities, what’s the difference between AVIF and HEIC? Is AVIF is better than HEIC as AVIF’s developers believe AVIF will overtake HEIC and JPEG? Here are AVIF vs HEIC comparisons.

AVIF vs HEIC

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Part 1. AVIF vs HEIC: Definition

What is AVIF Format?

Based on the AV1 video codec, AVIF is the AV1 Image File Format developed by the Alliance for Open Media in 2019 to replace WebP and compete with HEIC. It is an open and royalty-free image format which has a better compression efficiency and detail preservation that WebP, JPEG and PNG image formats. It is believed that AVIF will overtake JPEG and HEIC as the dominant image format for web delivery. But, it is too new to be accepted by all web browsers, applications, operating systems, websites, etc.

What is HEIC Format?

Most used to store photos on iOS devices, HEIC (High Efficiency Image File Format) is also a new image format for web delivery. Apple had adopted it as the default photo format for iPhone in 2017 with the release of iOS 11 and macOS High Sierra. Also, some Cannon cameras, Sony cameras, and Android smart phones can capture HEIC images. Compared to AVIF image format, it has more supporters. However, only macOS High Sierra or later can open HEIC photos on Mac, extra HEIF Image Extensions is needed to view HEIC images on Windows 10/11, not all image editors support HEIC files, etc.

Part 2. AVIF vs HEIC: Compression

Both of the two formats are derived from video codecs, say AV1 and HEVC respectively. Both AV1 and HEVC are high efficiency video coding formats that can reduce files with a smaller size, helping reduce the amount of space on memory cards or mobile devices.

HEIC photos can take up about half the space of an equivalent JPEG file, meaning that the same quality pictures can be 130KB (HEIC) and 217 KB (JPG) respectively when using the two different compression formats.

As for AVIF, it is better than HEIC in file size efficiency. It can compress images and make them 10 times smaller than a normal JPEG image but without losing quality and details. AVIF is as of now the youngest, but most efficient and advanced codec for image compression.

Part 3. AVIF vs HEIC: Quality

HEIC format is great for Live photos because it can contain an image sequence, so that you can store twice as many pictures in the HEIC format as in JPEG in the same size and quality. HEIC has a maximum bit depth of 10, and it relies entirely on Chroma subsampling. The default limit of AVIF is 8K. AVIF has a maximum bit depth of 12, and can do 4:4:4 in lossy compression.

Both AVIF and HEIC formats support Standard Dynamic Range (SDR) images, High Dynamic Range (HDR) and Wide Color Gamut (WCG) like Rec. 709. And the two formats also support a maximum of 5 channels, and maximum image dimensions of 65536 x 65536 pixels. Both formats are unsuitable for ultra-high resolution photos, say photos with bit depth of 24. In spite of that, a 12-bit color is precisely enough for image delivery.

Part 4. AVIF vs HEIC: Compatibility

Starting with iOS 11 and macOS High Sierra in 2017, Apple added HEIC support to its product lineup. So in macOS and iOS, you can open and view HEIC photos in Apple Photos and Apple Preview. In 2018, Google also joined the family by adding HEIF support to Android, and Microsoft added HEIF support to Windows by releasing HEIF Image Extensions and HEVC Video Extensions packages. Not limited to the listed names, there are also many other applications and platforms support HEIC image format.

Programs that open or reference HEIC files:

  • Windows: File Viewer Plus, Gimp, Adobe Premiere Rush, Microsoft Photos (with HEIF Image Extensions and HEVC Video Extensions packages installed), TunesBro HEIC Converter, XnViewMP, Adobe Photoshop Elements, WinX MediaTrans, DearMob iPhone Manager.
  • Mac: Apple Preview, Apple Photos, Adobe Photoshop 2022, Adobe Photo Elements, Adobe Premiere Rush, Gimp, iMazing HEIC Converter, TunesBro HEIC Converter, XnViewMP, MacX MediaTrans, DearMob iPhone Manager.
  • Linux: Gimp, XnViewMP.
  • Web: Dropbox, Google Photos, Google Drive, HEIC Image Viewer Decoder.
  • iOS: Apple Photos, Dropbox, Google Drive, Google Photos, Adobe Premiere Rush.
  • Android: File Viewer for Android, Dropbox, Simple Soft Alliance Luma: HEIF Viewer and Converter, Adobe Premiere Rush, Google Photos.
  • Chrome OS: HEIC Image Viewer Decoder, Google Photos.

AVIF has a much broader level of browser support as an open and royalty-free format. AVIF image format drew people’s attention when Apple said it would add the AVIF support to Safari with the release of iOS 16 and macOS Ventura. So far, Chrome, Firefox, Opera and Safari web browsers have full supports for this new image format that you can directly open it online. Because it’s royalty-free and small in size, Netflix also praises it and adopt it widely to encode its images. To just name a few, there are already browsers, images editors, operating systems, websites, etc. supporting AVIF image format.

AVIF supporters:

  • Web browsers: Google Chrome, Firefox, Safari.
  • Image viewers: XnView, gThumb, Eye of GNOME, Loupe, ImageMagick, IrfanView (read only), Gwenview, digiKam 7.7.0.
  • Image editors: Paint.net, Colorist, Darktable, GIMP, Krita, Adobe Illustrator.
  • Image libraries: libavif, libheif, SAIL, FFMpeg.
  • Operating systems: Windows 10, Android 12, Linux, macOS Ventura.
  • Websites: Netflix, Cloudflare, Vimeo.

Part 5. AVIF vs HEIC: Others

Both AVIF and HEIF support animation, and support alpha transparency which is another critical advantage over the aging JPEG format. Also, both formats support overlays which make it easy to add crisp text and graphics layers to a compressed photographic background. The depth map support enables users to apply effects to the foreground and background.

Designed for better web delivery, both HEIC and AVIF are promising image formats that will be applied widely. However, currently we need to convert HEIC to JPG or AVIF to JPG for viewing, uploading, editing, etc.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Estrella H.

Estrella H. twitter icon

Estrella H. is a senior editor at Digiarty covering all the latest tech in mobile industry for the better part of the first four years, from iPhone, Samsung to other innovative gadgets. And now she's been dived into data backup and management to keep data safe on mobile devices in the recent three years. Outside the tech, she is a songwriter and loves hip-hop.

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