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How Does AV1 Compare to VP9?

A general overview of the (recent) AV1 video codec.

What is AV1?


AV1 (AOMedia Video 1) is a video encoding method. AV1 is still relatively new, it is a successor to the previous VP9 and H.264/H.265 (High Efficiency Video Coding) standards. It offers improved compression with no visible quality loss. A growing number of devices support AV1 natively, meaning they have hardware-based decoders that understand AV1 encoding. Large streaming platforms have adopted the AV1 format, and it will continue to grow in popularity.

AV1 Encoding: What Is It and How Does It Compare to VP9

The format was developed by the AOM (Alliance for Open Media), and has been adopted by large streaming platforms. Because the AOM includes some of the biggest phone and TV manufacturers and streaming platforms, AV1 will continue to spread. The biggest obstacle to AV1 adoption is the high computational power required to encode in the format. Additionally, many devices in circulation don't support hardware encoding of AV1 format.

You can read a more in-depth overview of AV1 here.

How does the AV1 codec work?

AV1 encoding divides a video into a series of pixel blocks. Compared to the older VP9 format, AV1 uses more precision to improve aliasing, contains various new features to aid in adaptive bit-rate streaming, and (like VP9) supports various profiles to handle different use-cases (the profiles are: main, high and professional).

Hardware Support

Many devices now support the AV1 format; as mentioned previously, large hardware manufacturers and software vendors are part of the Alliance for Open Media. Support of AV1 hardware decoding is included on modern graphics cards and mobile processors.

To name a few:

Brand & Device Maximum Decoded
AMD RX6000 Series (RDNA2) and newer 4k60p, 8k30p
NVIDIA RTX 3000 Series (Turing) and newer 8k60p
Samsung Galaxy S21 or newer* 8k60p

Compared to VP9 and other codecs

According to Netflix, AV1 is able to pull a 25% efficiency gain over VP9. This means AV1 uses 25% less data for the same perceivable quality in video.

Compared to HEVC/H.265, roughly the same gain is achieved over VP9, though these claims have not been proven.

Image containers

In comparison to the H265/HEVC standard, which has an image-container mode (HEIC, or High-Efficiency Image Container), AV1 attempts to use similar container formats to allow storage of both stills and videos.

So far, it's unclear whether this new image container will replace more popular formats like PNG, JPEG, WEBM containers, or HEIC images.

Video containers

Most commonly, AV1 content is stored inside a WEBM or MKV container. While other containers can be used, the two mentioned house many of Google’s prior compression/coding algorithms (such as VP9).

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The act of transferring or saving information into a usable file format.


A type of algorithm used to make files smaller.

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