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H.264 vs. H.265: What They Are and Which One Is Better

H.264 vs. H.265: A Comparison of Two Advanced Standards

Video is by far the most popular content type on the internet. In fact, 6 out of 10 people would rather watch online videos than television. Luckily, there’s enough content to satisfy their needs. Experts predict that 82% of all internet traffic will consist of video by the end of 2021, so even video content marketing is booming! It should be abundantly clear that this medium is spreading like wildfire!

Of course, companies have had to develop complex and intricate technology to support video’s massive popularity. However, there are times when this technology fails us. Let’s be honest — we’ve all been there. We were watching a viral video, movie, or TV show when unexpectedly our screen froze or the quality went from high to low in a matter of seconds. Regardless of the content you’re watching, this decrease in quality is incredibly frustrating to all of us.

Luckily, video technology has advanced so much that we now have solutions to combat the above-mentioned issue. We’re talking about video codecs that play a vital role in video encoding. This process compresses video files, enabling them to play smoothly in our players.

What’s more, two video codecs have been at the center of a debate recently. That’s why we’ve decided to do an H.264 vs. H.265 comparison to help you understand these two codecs better and conclude which one reigns supreme.

Let’s start!

What Is H.264/AVC?

H.264 Codec

When we’re discussing video compression, the first codec that comes to mind is H.264, also known as Advanced Video Coding (AVC) or MPEG-4 Part 10. This codec is an industry standard for video compression that makes it possible for publishers and content creators to record, compress, and distribute their online videos, especially streams. And the industry was in dire need of this codec back in the day.

Namely, the intention of H.264/AVC was to develop a standard capable of delivering good video quality at lower bitrates compared to previous standards. And this goal was accomplished, making AVC one of the most commonly used codecs in the industry. It is especially utilized by streaming providers that want to provide the best possible experience to their users. Additionally, almost any device can play this codec nowadays.

Supported Container Formats

  • MP4
  • MOV
  • F4V
  • 3GP
  • TS

But how does H.264/AVC work? Let’s find out before we take a look at our H.264 vs. H.265 comparison!

How H.264 Works

The most popular codec initializes multiple processes in order to create an H.264 bitstream. It utilizes a block-oriented standard with motion competition so that it can process frames of video content. The results are macroblocks which consist of block sizes as large as 16×16 pixels. These can be further divided into transform and prediction blocks. Then, the video decoder comes into play to prepare the file for viewing.

Before we tell you which codec wins the H.264 vs. H.265 battle, we’ll delve deeper into the latter technology.

What Is H.265/HEVC?

H.265 Codec

H.265 codec, also referred to as High-Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC), is the worthy successor to H.264. However, it is yet to surpass its predecessor as far as popularity is concerned. Nevertheless, H.265/HEVC is taking over the industry, one step at a time. It consists of some considerable improvements when compared to H.264/AVC.

Moreover, H.265 is a video compression standard that was designed for the newest generation of high-resolution video. Compared to H.264, this newer standard offers from 25% to 50% better data compression at the same level of video quality. It basically delivers high-quality videos at the same bitrate. Additionally, H.265/HEVC supports resolutions up to 8192×4320, which includes 8K UHD as well. Okay, this indicates which standard is better as far as our overview of H.264 vs. H.265 is concerned!

Supported Container Formats

  • TS
  • MP4
  • 3GP
  • MKV

How H.265 Works

So what enables H.265/HEVC to offer better data compression at the same level of video quality? The answer lies in the advanced technology behind this newer codec.

While H.264 would break an image down into squares of pixels known as macroblocks, H.265 relies on a different encoding method. Namely, this codec replaces macroblocks with something called coding tree units (CTUs). CTUs can use block structures up to 64×64 pixels. HEVC first divides the picture into different CTU sizes, and the biggest pixel block size typically increases the coding efficiency. This makes H.265 one of the best codecs in the industry.

But which standard wins in our H.264 vs. H.265 comparison?

H.264 vs. H.265: Which One Is Better?

H264 vs H265 Video Codecs

When you examine the technology behind these two codecs, you can easily conclude which one wins. You’ve guessed it — it’s HEVC!

H.265 is more advanced than H.264 because of various reasons. The biggest difference here is that H.265/HEVC allows for even lower file sizes of your live video streams. This significantly lowers the required bandwidth.

Then, another perk of H.265 is the fact that it processes data in coding tree units. Although macroblocks can go anywhere from 4×4 to 16×16 block sizes, CTUs are able to process up to 64×64 blocks. This enables H.265 to compress information more efficiently.

Additionally, H.265 also has an improved motion compensation and spatial prediction than H.264 does. That is quite helpful for your viewers in that their devices will require less bandwidth and processing power to decompress all information and watch a stream.

Everything we mentioned above points to the fact that, when it comes to this H.264 vs. H265 comparison, H.265 takes first place.

Closing Thoughts

In conclusion, if you want to deliver the best quality video in the smallest possible format, then you should go with H.265/HEVC. However, bear in mind that H.265 is still less common than its predecessor (H.264) in the industry. Ultimately, it’s your decision on which standard you’ll rely on to deliver live streams to your viewers.