Hardware and software support for the royalty-free AV1 video codec has been steadily building over the last couple years. Hardware-accelerated encoding and decoding is becoming standard in more GPUs, phone SoCs, and other hardware, while streaming video services like YouTube and Netflix have begun serving AV1-encoded video to devices that support it.
Open-source software projects are beginning to follow suit, too. The Open Broadcaster Software (OBS) package has been expanding its AV1 capabilities in recent releases, and now the Handbrake video transcoding app has added AV1 support as well. Version 1.6.0, released yesterday, has added support for encoding AV1 video using both CPU-based SVT-AV1 software encoding as well as via Intel’s AV1-capable QuickSync video encoder included in its Arc GPUs.
Nvidia and AMD’s latest RTX 4000- and RX 7000-series GPUs also include hardware encoding support for AV1, but the software needed to use it hasn’t been built into Handbrake yet.
AV1 is an open-source video codec developed by the Alliance for Open Media, a group that includes heavy industry hitters like Google, Netflix, Amazon, Intel, and Microsoft. Like the H.265/HEVC codec, AV1 enables much more efficient video compression than the old H.264 codec, allowing for streaming of 4K and HDR video without requiring a massive increase in bandwidth relative to 1080p video. Unlike HEVC, support for the AV1 codec can be added to just about anything without paying royalties.
HEVC’s main benefit over AV1 as of this writing is that it enjoys much wider support than AV1 across many generations of hardware from most major manufacturers. Roku supports AV1 decoding in some of its higher-end streaming devices, but allegedly pushed back against Google when the company tried to force Roku to support AV1 decoding across its entire lineup. Apple’s AV1 plans are also murky—the company is a member of the AOMedia group and some rudimentary AV1 support has appeared in its developer documentation recently, but hardware-accelerated AV1 decoding and encoding either isn’t supported or hasn’t been enabled in its most recent Apple Silicon chips.