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HandBrake GPU Acceleration - 6 Frequently Asked Questions

News: GPU acceleration of Nvidia NVENC and AMD VCE has been added to HandBrake 1.2.0

Video transcoding used to be a CPU intensive and time-consuming process. Now because of the dramatic increase of generic compute blocks and the improvement of discrete GPU video codec SDK, hardware based video encoding is possible, faster than ever.

HandBrake also adds GPU acceleration support little by little, which however leads to a few questions that continue to puzzle some of you, like No NVENC in HandBrake, how to enable HandBrake GPU acceleration, etc. We sort out those frequently asked questions about HandBrake GPU accelerated (x265) video encoding and list the answers for you here.

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Q1. No NVENC or CUDA in HandBrake?

"Does HandBrake use GPU acceleration? Why are there no NVENC and CUDA hardware-accelerated encoding options in HandBrake?"

Answers:
1. You are using an old version HandBrake. Upgrading to HandBrake 1.2.0 or above may solve the problem. HandBrake 1.1.2 and before only supports Intel QSV. The latest version 1.2.0, released in Dec. 22, 2018, now supports GPU video encoding with Intel QuickSync, Nvidia NVEnc, and AMD VCE. Check Handbrake tutorial here >>

Note: It is reported that Google Chrome will slow down the low-level VideoToolBox framework (Quick Sync Video acceleration tech). This has caused 30% speed loss using Handbrake with Chrome running in the background compared to Safari. If you see the slow downs, you can: 1, close Chrome, 2, disable Handbrake QuickSync, 3, try another free GPU accelerated video encoder like WinX DVD Ripper.

Handbrake NVENC Option
Handbrake NVENC Option

2. Check if your Nvidia GPU supports NVENC or not.

• Go to the List of Nvidia graphics processing units Wikipedia page.
• Ctrl + F and put in your graphics card exact name.
• Then get the corresponding Code name. GPUs in code name staring with GK, GM and GP support NVENC technology, while others do not.

Check Nvidia GPU Codename
Check Nvidia GPU Codename

3. Install, reinstall or update your Nvidia graphics card driver.

4. Suppose that you are running, for example an MSI GTX 1070 Gaming X GPU, NVENC should be available. And other programs such as DVDFab or WinX DVD Ripper do allow GPU accelerated video encoding, but HandBrake still doesn't have the option. Try to reboot your computer, download a new setup file from HandBrake official website, and then uninstall and reinstall the freeware to give it one last shot.

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Q2. Can HandBrake GPU acceleration Be Applied in macOS, Windows or Linux?

"I am uncertain if I can use handbrake on Mac to rip Blu-ray disks to drop into my iTunes library while capitalizing on my GPU."

Answers:
1. HandBrake can be running on Linux, Mac and Windows using GPU acceleration, but there are system requirements. Processor needs to be Intel Core 2 Duo, AMD Athlon X2 or better. To be specific:

• Ubuntu: LTS versions are supported.
• Mac: macOS 10.10 Yosemite and later is required (64-bit only).
• Windows: Windows 7 SP 1 or later is required (64-bit only).
Check the details of HandBrake system requirements >

2. For your information, HandBrake can't rip Blu-ray discs for DRM reasons, let alone GPU accelerated ripping. Installing libdvdcss can solve part of the copy protection problems of DVD disc.

HandBrake Does Not Rip Bluray
HandBrake Does Not Rip Bluray

Q3. How to Enable GPU Based Encoding in Handbrake?

Here we take DVD transcoding as an example. Follow the next steps to configure HandBrake to use GPU acceleration.

Step 1: Download and install HandBrake 1.2.0 for Windows, Mac OS or Linux. Go to the official HandBrake download page >

Step 2: Download third-party libdvdcss and drag it to the HandBrake setup file directory. If you skip this step, the reading of encrypted DVDs will crash with error. You can see it from the preview window.

libdvdcss.dll for Windows 64 bit | libdvdcss.pkg for Mac OS X | Detailed libdvdcss download install guide >

Handbrake with or without libdvdcss
Handbrake with or without libdvdcss

Step 3: Enable HandBrake GPU acceleration

• Insert your DVD disc into the drive and open HandBrake.
• Click Open Source, select the DVD option to load the content, and then switch to Video tab.
• In the Video Codec option, choose H.264 (Intel QSV), H.264 (Nvidia NVEnc), H.265 (Intel QSV) or H.265 (Nvidia NVEnc).

How to enable Handbrake GPU acceleration
How to enable Handbrake GPU acceleration

Step 4: Choose an output preset or set video parameters by yourself. Remember that there is a tradeoff between speed and quality/size. So make a decision based on your needs.

CQ (19-21) is recommended and don't go above 22 RF when ripping a DVD.
• Choose Same as source for Framerate.
• Denoise NLMeans filter is very memory intensive, drastically slowing your encodes down.
• Encoder Level 6 and higher is required for 8K video encoding, while 5-5.2 for 4K video transcoding. Well, HandBrake doesn't support that. Check the level for different video resolution >

Q4. HandBrake CPU or GPU Encoding, Which Is Better?

"Last year someone asked here if GPU encoding was worth it and was told to stick to CPU encoding. But HandBrake x265 encoding takes too long. CPU or GPU encoding, which should I use?" - from Reddit

Answers:
Generally speaking, the priority of CPU encoding is quality while GPU encoding focuses on speed. Based on our test, HandBrake can do 2-pass 1080p encoding of DVD video with H.265 NVEnc at 500+ fps on GTX 1080. CPU encoding takes two times longer, leaving a ton of GPU power untapped in the process, but outputs file half the size. One more thing: the video codec options are limited when using HandBrake GPU acceleration.

>> Quick Fixes for Handbrake Output File Larger Than Input

If encoding quality is your primary concern over speed, you can stick to HandBrake CPU encoding. Sometimes the ripping-hour difference between CPU and GPU encoding is not that much. Encoding video into MP4 H.264 is a typical example. For more information, check the following test results. (Test environment [1])

DVD to H.264 - HandBrake CPU vs. GPU Encoding

 

HandBrake CPU Encoding

HandBrake GPU Encoding

Rip time

19min 22s

17min 54s

Avg. FPS

308

max 509, avg. 357

Output file size

849 MB

1.68 GB

DVD to H.265 - HandBrake CPU vs. GPU Encoding

 

HandBrake CPU Encoding

HandBrake GPU Encoding

Rip time

33min 14s

17min 55s

Avg. FPS

max 211, avg. 130

max 507, avg. 354

Output file size

619 MB

1.32 GB

Output Quality: HandBrake CPU vs. GPU Encoding

Handbrake CPU vs. GPU Encoding
Handbrake CPU vs. GPU Encoding

Q5. Use HandBrake QSV or NVEnc Acceleration?

"Which gives better quality? HandBrake QSV encoding or NVEnc acceleration? Let's assume all settings on each type of encode are of approximate same quality output."

Answers:
It depends. GPU acceleration is realized through CUDA cores before there is a dedicated video encoding units in the graphics card. Back then, GPU was not ideal for video encoding for your final quality suffers. Now HandBrake GPU acceleration mainly uses built-in hardware encoder (i.e. Intel QSV, Nvidia NVENC, etc). Some people firmly believe that x264 > QSV > NVENC from the quality aspect. At least, we don't see any obvious difference in our test.

DVD to H.264 - HandBrake QSV vs. NVENC Encoding

 

HandBrake QSV Acceleration

HandBrake NVENC Acceleration

Rip time

17min 55s

17min 54s

Avg. FPS

356

357

Output file size

1.26 GB

1.68 GB

DVD to H.265 - HandBrake QSV vs. NVENC Encoding

 

HandBrake QSV Acceleration

HandBrake NVENC Acceleration

Rip time

19min 31s

17min 55s

Avg. FPS

301

354

Output file size

0.97 GB

1.32 GB

Q6. Any Other GPU Accelerated Video Encoder Like HandBrake

"Are there any other video transcoders like Handbrake that actually has functioning GPU acceleration?"

Answers:
There are some other GPU accelerated DVD rippers and video transcoders. But most of them are paid software. Freeware that supports GPU acceleration like HandBrake includes:
• WinX DVD Ripper (reaches Level-3 GPU acceleration >)
• Freemake
• Staxrip

Besides, HandBrake GPU encoding is far slower than WinX DVD Ripper (Google Chrome can make Handbrake's low-level VideoToolBox framework even slower - about 30%. So you have to shut down Chrome during its transcoding). Grappling with the one-by-one title scanning of copy protected DVDs really takes time. Well, you will just have to keep your fingers crossed for that slow process, or else you may get a crash error. Here is a speed comparison of GPU encoding to MP4 H.264 with HandBrake and WinX DVD Ripper.

Programs

HandBrake

WinX DVD Ripper

 

QSV

NVENC

QSV

NVENC

Rip time

17min 55s

17min 54s

9min 16s

8min 45s

Avg. FPS

356

357

369

387

Output file size

1.26 GB

1.68 GB

1.22 GB

1.24 GB

Intel GPU usage

38%

0

54%

0

Nvidia GPU usage

1%

5%

5%

11%

Output Quality: HandBrake vs. WinX DVD Ripper

Handbrake vs. WinX GPU Encoding Quality
Handbrake vs. WinX GPU Encoding Quality

[1] Test Environment
Processor: Intel(R) Core(TM) i7-8700K CPU @3.70GHz
RAM: 16 GB
OS: Windows 10 64-bit
GPU 1: Intel(R) UHD Graphics 630
GPU 2: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080
Source DVD: 2h 12min

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kistent Waung

Kistent Waung began her career as a multimedia software editor at Digiarty since 26, and has reviewed dozens of software related to video conversion, editing and compression. She's seasoned at troubleshooting video related issues and always passionate about new trend and entertainment technology, from hot HEVC, 4K to the new AV1 codec.

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