Tutorial: Playback 4K videos with HEVC and VP9 seamlessly on Android and Windows

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The encoding format of HEVC or H.265 videos is gaining market share in compressed video content especially for 4K and UHD resolutions. In this guide we want to clarify terms and explain how to reproduce content encoded in this format in a simple way on the Windows and Android systems. These formats still have a very small percentage of content in the network at the user level and the king is still the h.264 format since it is the most comfortable to compress contents easily and quickly.

Codec performance explanation

General concepts

  • The H.265 or VP9 codecs is the future and is being implemented in most streaming content as well as among users
  • These new codecs achieve a significant reduction of the data load in streaming without loss by its compression system
  • Currently compressing this formats at user level is limited to fairly expensive hardware
  • Videos with 4K or UHD resolution may be compressed in other older formats

Compatible hardware to play HVEC or VP9 fluently

To see content in a specific codec such as H.265 or VP9 we need our graphics chip to support hardware acceleration to decode it natively, otherwise we will have to reproduce it by software by brute force, this will cause frameskips during playback or other synchronization problems .

In the following images we can see the difference in performance between software decoding and hardware decoding, the peaks of the first one indicates an unstable reproduction, the second shows the stability in the reproduction. The use of the CPU in the first one goes off in the second one is very low because it is not used, if the CPU has enough power we will not have problems (although it will not be efficient) but if we use a mini PC with a limited capacity the reproduction will not It will be stable since the CPU is saturated at 100% usage.

Hardware compatibility

Hardware with acceleration

Within the hardware decoding of any codec we have different profiles, in the case of the codec h.265 or VP9 is not different and although our specs can say that we have hardware acceleration for these codecs it may be partial or only for specific formats, in modern hardware we already have full support normally.

Android hardware

  • Intel: For native Android Intel has no compatible hardware since it abandoned this system with the Atom
  • NVIDIA: Since Tegra X1, the SoC that we found on the Nvidia Shield TV
  • AMD: Since the 6th APU gene and from the Fiji GPU generation (RX 300 series), the new Vega support compress up to 4K
  • Amlogic: Since the S805 models for color 8bit and from the S905 with support for 10bit
  • Rockchip: Since the basic RK3036 models to the RK3288 and the RK3368 we do not have full acceleration
  • Allwinner: Since the A80 and H3 models but we only have support for 1080p60fps or 4K30fps
  • MediaTek: Since mid 2014, it has a lot of SoC and each one can reach a different level
  • Realtek: SoC RTD1295 is fully supported
  • Hisilicon: Since its Hi3519 models for TV-Box and from the Kirin 950 for mobiles, both of the year 2015
  • Qualcomm: Since their families Snapdragon 805/615/410/208, for the simple models only 720p and the powerful 4K
  • Samsung: Since models with Exynos 5 Octa 5430
  • Apple: Since its Apple A8 SoC

Windows hardware

  • Intel: Since the 6th generation of Intel Skylake we have acceleration for 8bit 1080p and from the 7th generation for 10bit 4K
  • NVIDIA: Since Pascal (series 960/950) is complete, the series 900 is partial, the new series 10 allows to compress even 8K
  • AMD: Since the 6th APU gene and from the Fiji GPU generation (RX 300 series), the new Vega support compress up to 4K

How to playback of HVEC or VP9

Playback in Android

For the Android system we can play content encoded in H.265 or VP9 using several popular players such as KODI or MXPlayer, in all models it is recommended that if you try the native player that comes with the system because in many cases we have some kind of acceleration extra for video playback.

Playback in Windows

With Windows we have native compatibility in Windows 10, with other previous versions of this system like Windows 7 or Windows 8 we need to use a codecs package or a standalone player like MPC-HC or KODI that supports H.265 or VP9 directly. Certainly the native Windows 10 player called “Movies and TV” works quite well but it lacks many options that we find in other specific software with many more configuration capabilities.

How to configure MPC-HC or KODI to play HVEC or VP9 video

The player we like the most in Windows is MPC-HC (media player classic home cinema), a software that has been around for many years and that allows us to configure many aspects in detail. We can also use KODI as a player, in this program we will not have to do anything since by default is already prepared to decode h.265.

The configuration of MPC-HC to play content H.265 or VP9 with 4K resolution is very simple because it comes with the necessary codecs installed, we just have to change some options.

 

  1. Download MPC-HC program and install it
  2. Go to the menu View> Options> Internal filters
  3. Observe that in the transformation filters we have active HVEC and VP9, ​​click on the button “Video Decoding”
  4. In the Hardware acceleration section we look at the “Hardware Decode to use” list, although we can leave it in DXVA 2 (native)
    – None: It will not use any hardware method and the CPU will be used
    – NVIDIA CUVID: Use the CUDA units of NVIDIA graphics cards
    – Intel QuickSync: Intel specific acceleration method, it depends if our GPU supports it or not
    – DXVA2 (copy-back): Copy the video content from the RAM of the graphics to the RAM of the PC
    – DXVA 2 (native): Uses the memory of the GPU. It is the default system, most compatible and the one we RECOMMEND.
  5. Also activate the HVEC and UHD (4K) boxes
  6. Accept and restart the program
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