Did you know that there are two separate types of support for video formats: Hardware, and software? Often people assume that they mean the same thing, but in actual fact there are significant differences between the two.
“What is Hardware Support?”
To put it simply when you play a video its data needs to first be decoded before the video can be displayed, and that requires the use of a video decoder. That decoder can consist of:
- A software decoder that uses software and relies on the CPU processing power to decode the video data.
- A hardware decoder that uses hardware (in most cases the GPU) to decode the video.
Hardware support basically refers to cases where a hardware decoder is used. It should be noted that if any type of decoder is present (software or hardware) the video format will technically be supported and can be played.
However despite the fact that software support is all that is required, hardware support is important.
Benefits of Hardware Support
The main benefit of a hardware decoder is the fact that they don’t rely as heavily on the CPU as a software decoder would. That can make a big difference, especially in certain cases.
If the CPU is older or slower it may not be able to handle the demands of decoding high resolution videos at high frame rates. That will affect the performance of the device, and ultimately the video playback may suffer as well.
Even if the CPU can cope with decoding the video, the CPU processing power is normally shared between other applications. As a result you may notice the performance of other apps or software that you’re running start to dip.
Last but not least, CPU-intensive activity requires a lot of power. That may not be an issue on computers that are plugged in, but on laptops, tablets, smartphones and other mobile devices – it can have a big impact.
By comparison hardware support that uses hardware acceleration instead of relying on the CPU won’t have any of these issues, and the burden will shouldered by the GPU instead. It typically consumes less power as well, and can decode high quality videos without any issues.
“Why Do Not All Video Formats Have Hardware Support?”
As you may be aware your devices may not have hardware support for all video formats – and that is largely a question of adoption. It takes time before new video formats are adopted by chipset manufacturers, and then more time before the components they manufacture make their way into various devices.
Manufacturers tend to prioritize popular formats that are widely used. That is why it makes sense to convert MPG to MP4 using Online Video Converter for example, as MP4 with H.264 tends to have hardware support on most devices.
All in all while you can get by with software support – you should be able to see just how important hardware support can be, and why it is preferable to use formats that your devices can decode using the GPU.