In short: Intel has struggled to launch its line of dedicated entry-level graphics cards, struggling to get them to consumers on time and with perhaps underwhelming results in gaming tests. However, they represent the debut of AV1 hardware encoding, and early tests show significant efficiency gains over Nvidia’s and AMD’s H.264 encoders.

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The AV1 hardware encoder in the new Intel Arc A380 wiped out Nvidia and AMD H.264 encoders in initial real world tests this week. The results are much needed, good news for Intel’s entry into the GPU market and bodes well for the future of AV1 in content creation.

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At the end of last month, computers with entry-level Intel Arc Alchemist video card hit international market after several weeks of delays. YouTuber EposVox bought one of the first available A380s and compared its AV1 encoding to several H.264 encoders.

See also: TechSpot Intel Arc A380 review

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Over the past few months, support for the new AV1 video codec has expanded rapidly. It promises better compression than competitors such as VP9 or H.264 and is royalty-free, unlike H.265.

However, AV1 decoding requires relatively newer hardware such as Nvidia RTX 30 series graphics cards, AMD Radeon 6000 GPUs, or 11th generation or later Intel processors.

Apple devices don’t support it yet, but Qualcomm Snapdragon chip will be next year. Streaming services such as YouTube, Twitch, and Netflix currently support at least some of AV1 and are likely to expand their support in the future. fire fox added AV1 hardware decoding in May after using only software decoding.

While hardware decoding to view AV1 content is gaining widespread support, encoding to create AV1 video was only possible with pre-Intel Arc software. EposVox’s results indicate that content creators may want to switch to this codec as its use expands.

When streaming games such as Halo Infinite and Battlefield 2042, the Intel AV1 encoder produced significantly cleaner video than H.264 encoders such as Nvidia NVENC, AMD AMF, and Intel QSV, even at lower bitrates. The Intel AV1 encoder at 3.5Mbps outperforms AMD and Nvidia at 6Mbps. AV1’s lead shrinks at higher bitrates, but at 6Mbps it still outperforms other GPU vendors at 8Mbps.

These tests show that as more devices and services add AV1 compatibility, the streams look better using less data. AV1 hardware encoding could be implemented in the next generation of GPUs from both Nvidia and AMD, due later this year.