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As video streaming has been an indispensable part of our daily lives, you may desire to enjoy streaming with a smoother and better viewing experience. To deliver high-resolution video quality, video codecs also play an important role.
Today's blog will mainly focus on two commonly used video codecs, H.264 and H.265. After viewing all their differences through comparison in all aspects, you will know better about them and have a clearer mind on which one is better for you. Now, let's get started reading.
H.264 is the most widely-used video compression standard today, also known as Advanced Video Coding (AVC) or MPEG-4 Part 10. H.264 typically encodes videos using the .mp4 extension as well as other popular formats such as .mov, .3gp, .ts, or .f4v. Additionally, H.264 delivers the ability to lower the media file size for smaller video bitrates without compromising great quality at all. Even for high-definition 4K video, H.264 is able to process the encoding and playback in lossless quality.
Meanwhile, as AVC is now compatible with more devices and media players, users are able to enjoy H.264 video streaming whenever they want with great quality.
As a newer video compression standard, compared with H.264, H.265 (High-Efficiency Video Coding, or MPEG-H Part 2) delivers even better video compressing ability and higher quality to encode video files. This video codec is able to display the highest UHD 8K video at very low bitrates, enabling you to enjoy a better video streaming experience in smooth ways.
However, as HECV is able to process at a higher efficiency, you are required to use better hardware in order to stream this video codec. Hence, the H.265 codec would be mostly used by professional video editors rather than normal users.
After grasping the overview of the introduction of both H.264 and H.265, you may have a clearer understanding of these two video codecs. Now, let's go deeper into their differences by analyzing them from several aspects.
The first thing that can greatly distinguish the two video codecs should be the compression ratio they can reach. In general, H.265 is able to increase its coding efficiency by saving up to 50% of the bitrate than H.264 does. In other words, it is possible for H.265 to process a larger reduction in the bitrate even if it provides the same encoding quality as H.264.
Verdict: While processing the same video resolution, the compression ratio of H.265 would be higher.
For video quality, H.265 is compatible with the ability to recognize 8K UHD videos at a resolution of up to 8192x4320 pixels. By comparison, H.264 is only supported to stream videos of 2048x2048 pixels (at 4K HD).
Additionally, H.265 can lower the bitrate by 30% off than H.264 but without causing a loss to the video quality. Hence, when they are maintained at the same bitrate, H.265 can deliver better image quality to you.
Verdict: H.265 is able to deliver better image quality but retain a 30% lower bitrate to stream videos.
As we know that the video file size would greatly depend on the bitrate of the media. When the bitrate is higher, the video file would take up larger space. Hence, as mentioned before, when H.265 can use a lower bitrate to encode the video of the same quality as H.264, the output file size of the H.265 file would be around half. To conclude, H.265 can deliver better image quality to you but requires much smaller space to save.
Verdict: Under the same video quality, H.265 occupies almost half the size of H.264.
The bandwidth used by H.264 and H.265 encoding would depend of the compression rate and bitrate, too. When H.265 takes higher compression efficiency and maintain a lower bitrate to encode the video files, it would take lower bandwidth for video encoding, to bring you a smoother streaming experience. The chart below reveals the recommended bandwidth that H.264 and H.265 should use:
Verdict: When you consider a smoother streaming experience at lower bandwidth, the H.265 video codec definitely wins.
When H.265 delivers a higher compression ratio, better video quality, and requires less bandwidth to process video encoding, it also has higher demands towards the device hardware performance. For this reason, H.265 fails to gain wider device compatibility than H.264. On the contrary, H.264 is more suitable for streaming, which explains why it is supported by 30% more devices than H.265 does.
Verdict: When H.265 requires better hardware technology to process the video encoding, if you consider higher compatibility, H.264 would be ideal to pick.
For the details on the hardware compatibility of both video codecs, H.265 requires a higher CPU, which recommends having at least Intel 6th Generation Skylake or AMD 6th generation Carizzo to be compatible with the H.265 video encoding. Hence, it would be limited to being used on devices of a higher power. However, H.264 is widely supported by more devices as it uses less CPU power while streaming media. On most devices, like your mobile phone and the majority of players, H.264 is well-compatible and can deliver smooth playback without hassle.
Verdict: H.265 requires a higher CPU to encode and stream the media, while H.264 takes a lower CPU and is able to run much more smoothly.
After comparing the two video codecs from several aspects, when it comes to the question of defining which one is the better, actually, it will depend on what you are considering.
For example, when you consider better video quality, H.265 is definitely a better option. However, when you desire to enable video streaming on more devices without limitation, H.264, the one with higher compatibility can fulfill your demand.
Hence, this chart also clearly shows you the superiorities of both H.264 and H.265, enabling you to select the better option based on different requirements:
Although YouTube now supports H.265 video uploading, it is still considered H.264 the best option for the following reasons:
Through the blog, you probably know more about H.264 and H.265, including their own pros and cons. H.265 is superior in its quality, great compression ratio, and lower encoding bandwidth, while H.264 is able to be compatible with more devices and media players, providing a smoother video streaming experience. Hence, you can select the option in different situations based on your actual requirements from now on!