Intel is the first GPU manufacturer to offer AV1 encoding capabilities in its line of Arc graphics cards. Thanks to YouTuber EposVox, who tested the tech on an Arc A380 graphics card, we got a chance to see the encoding in action. The YouTuber discovered that AV1 is very good for video streams that produce low bitrate. It outperformed all H.264 hardware encoders, such as competitor NVIDIA’s NVENC encoder.
Intel’s AV1 encoder outperforms NVIDIA’s NVENC H.264 video codec
Many videos on YouTube which are watched daily have adopted the new AV1 encoding, especially in the last years of development. Intel’s AV1 video encoding was originally developed by the Alliance for Open Media as an open-source, royalty-free video encoding format in 2015. The format is revolutionary in theory and free, allowing it to be more accessible to users via the Internet. AV1 produces fewer file sizes than H.264, providing much greater compression capability.
In recent years, AV1 has been increasingly adopted in video streaming platforms and has seen more widespread use in graphics card architectures, such as the NVIDIA RTX 30 series, RDNA 2 d ‘AMD and recently in Intel’s iGPUs. Sony has also incorporated the technology into the PlayStation 4 Pro console gaming system.
In content creation, especially in streaming, AV1 has not been fully utilized, even with the video encoding available. Current graphics engines do not support AV1 encoder engines. With software assistance, a system’s processor can use the AV1 codec. However, hardware capable of properly accelerating AV1 encoding has never been developed, with the exception of Intel’s recent Arc graphics cards.
In the video above, EposVox placed Intel’s AV1 encoder and tested the technology against several H.264 encoders. Testing included AMD’s AMF, Intel’s Quick Sync, NVIDIA NVENC, and software options available in streaming packages, such as OBS streaming software.
The YouTuber used Netflix’s VMAF benchmark tool which allows the user to analyze video quality with a score of 0 (which would be considered unwatchable) to 100 (the best video quality imaginable). The benchmark tool compares video quality to uncompressed video and is tested at 3.5 Mbps, 6 Mbps, and 8 Mbps.
The video used was footage from the game Battlefield 2042. At 3.5 Mbps, Intel’s AV1 video encoder scored 83 points, while at 6 Mbps it hit 90 points out of 100 available. On the other hand, NVIDIA NVENC scored 71 at 3.5 Mbps, but 8 Mbps hit 85 points. AMD and its AMF encoder were similar to NVIDIA, and Intel’s Quick Sync encoder hit 76 and 87, respectively. Intel currently uses the Quick Sync encoder in the Alder Lake platform.
The benchmark test produced by EposVox shows that the Intel AV1 video codec has a sixteen percent better performance increase than NVIDIA and AMD.
OBS offered amazing results with its H.264, x264 VerySlow software encoder preset. The built-in software offered 78 points at 3.5 Mbps and 88 at 6 Mbps. However, for streaming, it’s not a usable format, so streamers are better off avoiding the setting altogether.
As EposVox has educated users on streaming in general, it should be noted that 3.5 Mbps is more accessible to viewers and the soft setting when using Intel and AV1 encoding. It produces more available stream quality while using fewer resources than competing companies.
Sources of information: Tom’s Hardware
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