H264 vs AV1 vs H265: What is the best video CODEC?

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The competition between codecs has always been constant, but in the era of streaming, they have acquired even greater importance in order to transmit high-quality content without the connection suffering delays. In this sense, we are going to analyze the battle between H264, AV1 and H265, the three most popular video codecs today, so you can choose the one that best suits your needs.

What is H.264?

H.264 is a video compression codec also known as MPEG-4 AVC, which allows video to be compressed for more efficient transmission over the Internet. It uses advanced technology to analyze foreground, background, and static areas, eliminating redundant content and thus reducing the size of the video file.


As for the advantages offered by H.264, we can highlight:

  • Efficiency: this video codec is two times more efficient and the file size is three times smaller than MPEG-2 codecs, allowing for lighter and faster transmissions, and lower bandwidth consumption that can work well on slower connections.
  • Compression rate: it has the best compression rate compared to JPEG and MJPEG4 formats.
  • Suitable for slow motion: thanks to its efficiency, it allows for slow-motion video recording that is actually recorded with a fast camera.
  • High video quality: it offers high quality and clarity of image.
  • Great integration: it is easy to integrate H.264 into a wide range of image formats, making it a widely used compression/decompression format that is compatible with many devices.
  • Real-time video streaming: it allows for the use of real-time formats for video streaming, which is very positive for streaming. It could even allow cameras to stream directly over the Internet.
  • Storage savings: by reducing the size of the video, very good qualities can be obtained with up to 50% of the original size.


Although the H.264 codec has numerous advantages in its battle against the H.265 and AV1 codecs, it also has some disadvantages:

  • Compatibility issues: due to its complexity, some systems and devices may not be able to support it, which can result in compatibility issues. This may force us to use older and standard formats, such as H.263 or H.261.
  • Inconsistency: compression can generate inconsistent image quality that can be good in some scenes and not so good in others.
  • Hardware overload: it requires more CPU overload compared to other video compression codecs, and the amount of CPU time required is directly proportional to the quality of the compressed video.
  • License and costs: being a proprietary codec, license agreements can be complicated, and royalties are required to use it legally. This results in additional costs that ultimately affect the end user.
  • Error resilience: for maximum compression, another layer is added to deal with bit errors, which could affect the bit rate or bitrate.
  • Artifacts: distortions or faults can occur in the image of some scenes.
  • Latency: the H.264 AVC codec introduces high latency in the devices used, which can be a problem on equipment with fewer resources.

What is H.265?

H.265, also known as MPEG-H Part 2 or “High-Efficiency Video Coding” (HEVC), is a more advanced video compression standard than H.264 and was released in 2013, ten years after its predecessor AVC. Compared to previous codecs, the H.265 codec requires even more powerful hardware. Therefore, broadcasters, streamers, and other users will need more advanced equipment to use this video encoding and decoding standard.


To analyze the advantages of the H.265 codec, we highlight the following points:

  • It consumes half the bit rate in live streaming compared to an H.264-based encoder, which means that half the bandwidth or internet speed is required to transmit a 1080p video at 8 Mbps with H.265 compared to H.264. This is an excellent option for networks with limited or slow data, which is especially beneficial in mobile data that has additional costs.
  • With H.265, content can be streamed at 720P at 1.5 Mbps, compared to the previous limit of 480P at 1.5 Mbps, which offers viewers a better visual experience.
  • The H.265 codec has become one of the most popular and best-supported formats on TVs, computers, OTT platforms, streaming services, etc. Everyone has adopted it as a next-generation standard, which suggests a great future for this codec.


Although the H.265 codec has many advantages, it also has some disadvantages, including:

  • Because it is newer than H.264, it may present compatibility issues in some cases, especially in older software and hardware, which is more likely not to accept it.
  • HEVC video encoding takes a long time and consumes more resources than other encoding methods such as H.264/VP9.
  • High license fees and royalties can also be a barrier to its expansion.

What is AV1?

The AV1 video codec is one of the most promising codecs today and is receiving great attention from the industry. AOMedia Video 1, or AV1, is an open-source and royalty-free video codec used to compress and decompress video content for streaming.

Released in 2018, it was designed for use with real-time data and higher resolutions such as Ultra HD, Wide Color Gamut, and high FPS. By compressing the data, AV1 allows users to stream data more efficiently and with fewer performance issues compared to other similar codecs, resulting in a seamless, uninterrupted experience.

It was developed by the Alliance for Open Media, an organization that includes large companies such as Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Mozilla, Google, Intel, and Microsoft. Given its advantage and support, it could become a widely used standard. In fact, many latest-generation graphics cards already integrate hardware for the AV1 codec.

The main goal of AV1 is to make internet streaming more efficient and faster without compromising quality, which is especially important as the video industry uses higher resolution content, such as 4K and 8K, without requiring a much faster internet connection.

Being a free codec, no license fees are required to access it, which facilitates its implementation in software and hardware. This is different from the two previous codecs, which required royalties for their use since they were proprietary.


AV1 offers multiple advantages that make it very attractive, such as:

  • Royalty-free, making it more economical and accessible than other codecs.
  • It is efficient and optimized for the internet, consuming less data and space on servers and equipment.
  • It allows high resolutions such as 4K, HDR, and 8K, being 30% more efficient than HEVC and H.265.
  • It offers superior and sharper video quality.


Despite its advantages, the AV1 codec has some significant disadvantages, such as:

  • Requires compatible hardware to achieve good results, which can be a limitation for some users.
  • Slower in content encoding than other codecs, such as HEVC.

Conclusion about H.264 vs AV1 vs H.265 Video Codecs:

When it comes to choosing an internet-optimized codec, the two best options are HEVC or H.265, or AV1 if you have a system that supports it. AV1 is superior in quality and compression, but it can be a problem for some users due to the limitation of compatible hardware. If you do not have a system that is compatible with AV1, H.265 or VP9 may be suitable alternatives. Ultimately, whenever there is a possibility to use AV1, it is recommended to employ this codec to create higher quality content and attract more users to streaming platforms.

The landscape will gradually change, and more and more streamers and services will adopt AV1 to enjoy its benefits. They are looking for a codec that allows good quality transmission without high demands for bandwidth or data, as well as efficient storage on data center servers. AV1 is perfect for that.

AV1 is scalable to any modern device and bandwidth, and is designed to have a low computational footprint and be optimized for the internet. It offers consistent, high-quality real-time video, and is suitable for commercial and non-commercial content, including user-generated content.

There has long been a debate over whether AV1 is a suitable codec for the future, as it has a technical advantage but also an Achilles heel in some domains. The answer is affirmative, as its superiority and performance have been demonstrated, resulting in massive expansion in the coming years.

The thriving content creator industry, also known as streamers, will find a great ally in the AV1 codec, as it will allow them to reduce the bit rate through compression without affecting visual quality. On the other hand, users will have no trouble encoding and decoding content, as the codec will provide a seamless, uninterrupted playback experience.

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