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Posted by Kaley Torres - Contact Author

VLC Hardware Acceleration: Use GPU to Play/Convert Video

VLC media player features GPU hardware acceleration for hardware decoding on Windows, macOS, Android and iOS operating systems. Yet, oodles of users have no idea on how to use GPU acceleration in VLC, what video codecs are supported for HW decoding and how to fix video stutterring/lagging errors in VLC. No biggie! This post aims to help you find out the answers you need and to provide you with the smart approaches to fix the video playback/conversion errors in VLC.

Part 1 - How to Enable GPU Accelerated Decoding in VLC

For those whose VLC version is 2.2.X branch or older, follow the below guide to enable hardware decoding in VLC.

Run your VLC player > click "Tools" at the top banner > opt for "Preferences" > tap "Input/Codecs" > find "Hardware accelerated decoding" under Codecs and change the default "Disable" to "Automatic" > give the last hit to "Save" button. And that's it!

If you don't want to manually enable GPU hardware acceleration in VLC, please upgrade your VLC to version 3.0.0 or higher, which will defaultly set it as "Automatic". What's plus, it has more video codecs supported for HW acceleration.

enable hardware accelerated decoding in VLC

Part 2 - What Video Codecs Are Supported by VLC for Hardware Decoding

Grounded on the wiki.videolan, VLC media player for Windows supports MPEG-1, MPEG-2, WMV3, VC-1 and H.264 (MPEG-4 AVC) hardware decoding using DxVA2. If you are meant to hardware decoding HEVC (H265) video, please upgrade VLC to 3.0.0 or later version with DxVA2 and Direct3D11 Video Acceleration techs.


Only H.264 (MPEG-4 AVC) is supported for VLC macOS older version. Please update VLC to 3.0.0 or higher if you want HEVC hardware decoding based on VideoToolbox.


Note: as is known to all, you're unable to activate hardware acceleration tech on your laptop unless both your hardware configurations and software product support GPU hardware acceleration. That's to say, it's far from enough if only your software VLC player supports GPU HW accel. tech. Consequently, you have to check and make sure your computer hardware - graphics card also sports with GPU hardware acceleration.

Head to Intel QSV wikipedia and Nvidia official NVENC/NVDEC support matrix to check if your GPU assembles hardware acceleration.

Part 3 - How to Fix Video Stuttering/Lagging Error in VLC

It's a no-brainer for VLC to play and convert the standard video or 1080p video formatted by MP4, MKV, MOV, AVI, MPEG-2, H264, etc. But when it comes to the compute-intensive 4K HEVC video, especially HEVC 4K 60FPS video, the playback errors emerge one after another.

"VLC 3.0.4 poor performance with H.265 mkv. Win 7 x64, 4790K, GTX 980. Frequent micro-stutters during playback, CPU usage is about 25%. During fastforwad / rewind, CPU jumps to 60-70%, and every jump takes a few second before playback resumes. That's horrible, and not what I am used to with H.264." - by hazardass from forum.videolan.

"Ultra HD (4k 60fps) HEVC Playback Problems . I'm using VLC Version (3.0.1, 64bit). My Samsung Smartphone can record 4k 60fps videos with the 'new' hevc /x265 codec. If playing them on my windows, my video is greenish. Recording in the 'old' x264 codec everything is fine. Any ideas?"
- by jerikooo from forum.videolan

VLC consumes high CPU usage around 60-70% for HEVC x265 video playback and failed to successfully play HEVC 4K 60FPS video. Are these cases general phenomenon or the individual phenomenon? Test them on my own.

Testing environment:
Windows OS: Windows 7 Ultimate
CPU: Intel(R) Core(TM) i5-3470 CPU @3.20GHz 3.60GHz
GPU: Intel Ivy Bridge Graphics Controller (GPU hardware acceleration supported)

Testing Results:
1. VLC can smoothly play 4K HEVC Main Profile Level 5 video at 30FPS. But the same case occurs, CPU usage from 14% skyrocketing to 67%.
2. In terms of the 4K 60FPS GoPro HEVC Main Profile Level 5 footage, VLC disappoints me, video freezing and audio stuttering. It can't handle GoPro HEVC video at 60FPS.

VLC not working in 4K HEVC 60FPS

To solve VLC not working in 4K 60FPS HEVC and CPU high usage issues, take the below solutions for reference:
Solution 1: Upgrade your GPU chip to higher configurations so as to relieve CPU usage, as well as CPU high temperature.

Solution 2: Download a solid video converter like WinX HD Video Converter Deluxe to adjust GoPro 4K 60FPS HEVC Main Profile Level 5 settings. To be specific, downscale 4K 60FPS to 4K 30FPS, compress 4K to 1080p, convert HEVC to H264 or adjust profile from Main to baseline or Level 5 to Level 4 to have one more try with VLC player.

One thing worth a mention is that this is also a GPU hardware accelerated video converter, which supports you to not only hardware decode HEVC, H264, MP4, etc., but also hardware encode HEVC to H264, MKV to MP4, etc. Do what VLC can't do.

Solution 3: If nothing changed in your 4K HEVC 60/30FPS video is what you desire, then plaing back your 4K HEVC video using VLC alternative is your way to go. One of Top Downloads on Softonic - 5KPlayer fits your bill. It gets enhanced with Level-3 GPU hardware acceleration tech to allow you seamlessly playing back 4K HEVC video even HDR video at 30/60FPS by means of GPU hardware decoding, minimal consumption of CPU and no matters of sort like stuttering/freezing/lagging.


author - Kaley Torres

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Kaley Torres is particularly skilled in writing and sharing video-related contents. Her guides cover from deep-seated video/audio parameters, to media entertainment on different platforms. She also enjoys shooting and processing videos by herself for a more reliable basis of informative info with her articles.

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