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Last Updated · July 11, 2023

H.265 Vs. H.264: A Complete Guide

h.265 vs. h.264Video codecs play a crucial role in our modern digital world, where high-quality video content is more prevalent than ever before. These codecs compress and decompress video data to efficiently transmit, store, and stream videos. Among the various video codecs available, H.264 or H.265 are widely adopted standards.

From content creators and distributors to streaming platforms and consumers, H.264 to H.265 offer tangible advantages. By efficiently compressing video data, these codecs enable content creators to deliver high-resolution videos without excessive bandwidth usage.

Today's post will delve deeper into video codecs, specifically comparing H.265 vs. H.264. We will explore these codecs' technical aspects, benefits, and use cases so you understand their strengths and weaknesses comprehensively.

Part 1: What is a Video Codec?

The term "codec" is an abbreviation for "encoder-decoder" or "compressor-decompressor." It refers to algorithms and techniques that enable efficient video file encoding (compression) and decoding (decompression).

Video codecs are essential because they address reducing video file size without significantly losing quality. Since video data contains vast amounts of visual information, uncompressed videos can be huge and unwieldy. Transmitting or storing such videos would require excessive bandwidth or storage capacity. That's where video codecs come in - they employ various compression methods to reduce the size of video files while retaining the essential visual details.

Video codecs are not limited to a single standard. Different standards and specifications define the encoding and decoding processes for specific codecs. Popular measures include codec H.264, H.265, VP9, AV1, and MPEG-2, with unique features, compression efficiency, and compatibility for various applications and devices.

Thus, a video codec is a software or hardware solution that helps reduce the size of video data and facilitates smooth video transmission, storage, and playback while ensuring minimal loss of quality.

Part 2: What is H.265?

Before learning 264 vs. 265, let us know what each video coding means. H.265, also known as High-Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC), is a video codec standard developed to significantly improve video compression efficiency compared to its predecessor H.264. H.265 was introduced by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and the Video Coding Experts Group (VCEG) in 2013 to address the increasing demand for higher resolution and quality video content while reducing bandwidth requirements.

The primary objective of H.265 is to achieve better compression efficiency by efficiently utilizing available bits through a combination of advanced techniques and algorithms.

Mechanisms of H.265 Are:

1. Improved Compression Efficiency

H.265 employs advanced coding techniques for higher compression efficiency. It delivers high visual quality using approximately 50% fewer bits. This reduction in bit rate translates to significant benefits in terms of bandwidth savings and storage requirements.

2. Enhanced Block Partitioning

H.265 introduces a more flexible and refined block partitioning structure for subdividing video frames into smaller blocks, enabling a more accurate representation of complex video content. Improved partitioning enables better prediction and reduces spatial redundancies, resulting in more efficient compression.

3. Larger Coding Unit Sizes

H.265 supports larger coding unit sizes, called Coding Tree Units (CTUs), partitionable into smaller blocks for more precise prediction and reducing coding artifacts. A particularly beneficial feature for high-resolution video content, where larger coding units help preserve details and enhance compression efficiency.

4. Enhanced Motion Compensation

H.265 incorporates advanced motion compensation techniques that improve the prediction of moving objects between video frames. It accurately estimates motion vectors, thus reducing temporal redundancies and achieving better compression efficiency, especially for videos with significant motion.

5. Support for Higher Resolutions

H.265 extends its compression capabilities to support higher resolutions, including 4K and even 8K ultra-high-definition (UHD) video content. It efficiently handles the increased visual data in these high-resolution videos while maintaining reasonable file sizes.

6. Wide Compatibility

Despite being a newer standard, H.265 has backward compatibility. It ensures that H.265-encoded videos can get decoded by devices that only support H.264. However, interpreting H.265 requires more processing power due to its increased complexity.

As a result, H.265 has gained widespread adoption in various applications, including video streaming platforms, video surveillance, video conferencing, and broadcasting, where efficient video compression is crucial.

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Part 3: What is H.264?

H.264, also known as Advanced Video Coding (AVC), is a widely used video codec standard that revolutionized video compression in 2003. Jointly developed by the ITU and MPEG (Moving Picture Experts Group), it provides efficient compression while maintaining good video quality.

Mechanisms of H.264 Are:

1. Compression Efficiency

H.264 reduces the size of video files while preserving visual quality through effective algorithms for motion estimation, intra-prediction, and entropy coding. These techniques exploit temporal and spatial redundancies in video content to minimize data duplication and achieve efficient compression.

2. Flexible Macroblock Partitioning

H.264 divides video frames into macroblocks, smaller units for motion estimation and compensation. It provides flexible partitioning options and enhances the codec's ability to adapt to other video content types and optimize compression efficiency.

3. Motion Compensation

H.264 utilizes motion compensation, a technique that predicts the motion of objects between video frames. Thus, H.264 can efficiently encode the differences between frames rather than encode each frame independently, reducing data redundancy, especially for videos with significant motion.

4. Adaptive Variable-Length Coding and Adaptive Binary Arithmetic Coding

CAVLC and CABAC adaptively encode the video data based on the statistical properties of the content, assigning shorter codes to more frequently occurring symbols. This approach improves compression by allocating bits more efficiently.

5. Baseline and High Profile

The Baseline Profile provides basic compression features suitable for low-power devices, while the High Profile offers more advanced compression capabilities, enabling higher video quality and supporting additional features.

6. Broad Device and Platform Support

H.264 is supported by numerous hardware and software-based decoders, ensuring playback compatibility on various devices, from smartphones and tablets to smart TVs and desktop computers.

In short, H.264's compression efficiency and compatibility have made it a common choice for online video delivery.

Part 4: H.265 Vs. H.264: What's the difference?

As we learned in the above sections, H.265 and H.264 are two popular video codecs to compress and decompress digital video content. Both codecs have their strengths and weaknesses, and picking the right one depends on what your needs and requirements are.

H.265 Vs. H.264:

1. Features

H.265 (HEVC): H.265, which came after H.264 offers better compression efficiency, which means better video quality at lower bit rates. It comes inbuilt with more advanced encoding techniques, such as larger block sizes, improved motion compensation, and enhanced entropy coding.

H.264 (AVC): H.264 is a famous and long-time video codec that has been the standard for many years. It provides good compression efficiency and works with various devices and platforms. H.264 uses variable block sizes, motion compensation, and entropy coding for efficient compression.

2. Compression Efficiency

H.265 boasts of the same video quality as H.264 at around 50% of the bit rate. This, in simple terms means that for a specific file size or bandwidth, H.265 can offer better video quality or more efficient use of storage or network resources.

3. Video Quality

H.265 has the potential of better video quality than H.264 at the same bit rate, particularly in situations wherein bandwidth availability is limited or constrained. H.265's better compression efficiency lets you play higher-quality video or store them with lesser changes or visual degradation.

4. Bandwidth and Storage

The superior compression efficiency of H.265 suits users with limited bandwidth or storage capacity. They get to experience high-quality video content on their chosen streaming platforms even with slower internet connections. Similarly, H.265 reduces the storage requirements for video files, so you access disk space more efficiently.

5. Hardware Support

H.264 has been in use for long and thus is widely compatible with multiple hardware devices and software applications, including cameras, video editing software, and media players. H.265, is a relatively newer codec and thus has limited support on older or less capable devices.

Note: The support for H.265 has been steadily increasing, and most modern devices and platforms now offer compatibility with this codec.

6. Use Cases

H.265: Due to its high-class compression efficiency, H.265 is ultra-useful in applications where bandwidth or storage resources are limited, for example, video streaming platforms, video surveillance systems, and mobile devices. It is particularly beneficial for 4K and higher-resolution video content.

H.264: H.264 has been in use in video conferencing, broadcasting, Blu-ray discs, and online video streaming platforms. It continues and will be the standard codec for many devices and platforms for a long time.

So, Is HEVC Better than H.264?

As per the above points, we can say that H.265 or HEVC is a better option than H.264 or AVC as it comes with better compression efficiency and delivers super-quality video at lower bit rates. However, selecting the best codec for you largely depends on device compatibility, specific use cases, and available resources. So, consider the requirements of your particular project or application to determine which codec is better suited for your needs.

Hence, that was a detailed comparison of each aspect of H.265 Vs. H.264 features.

Part 5: FAQs about H.265 and H.264

Q1: Is H.265 Better than H.264?

Indeed, H.265 (HEVC) is a superior codec to H.264 (AVC) in terms of compression efficiency. H.265 achieves better compression and delivers the same visual quality with approximately 50% fewer bits than H.264. In short, H.265 provides high-quality video with reduced bandwidth usage and storage requirements.

Q2: Should I Use H.264 or H.265 for 1080p?

Well, both H.264 and H.265 can be good options for 1080p video content. H.264 is a well-established codec with good compression efficiency for HD resolutions and enjoys broad support across various devices and platforms. On the other hand, H.265 provides higher compression efficiency with reduced bandwidth requirements and storage space compared to H.264 while maintaining the same quality.

If you have older devices or systems, opting for H.264 would be safer. And, if you want to reduce bandwidth usage or optimize storage, and the playback devices support H.265 decoding, then H.265 is a better option any day.

Q3: Does H.265 Reduce Quality?

No, H.265 does not reduce video quality but maintains similar visual quality while using lesser bits than H.264. The compression techniques of H.265 remove redundancies in the video data without majorly compromising the perceived quality. However, please note that the quality depends on the specific implementation, encoding settings, and source material. Poor encoding settings or excessive compression will reduce quality, but when used the right way, H.265 delivers high-quality video with improved compression efficiency.

Q4: Does H.265 Support HDR?

Yes. H.265 (HEVC) supports High Dynamic Range (HDR) content completely, thus enhancing the visual experience by expanding the color gamut, increasing contrast, and creating more vibrant images. H.265 can very well retain HDR information within video streams, enabling the transmission and playback of HDR content. It also handles the larger color space and higher bit depth necessary for HDR videos.

Q5: Is H.265 Good for Streaming?

Yes. H.265 is excellent for streaming applications due to its superior compression efficiency, which reduces the required bandwidth for streaming high-quality video content. Streaming platforms can use H.265 for high-resolution videos with minimized buffering and effortless playback, even in low-bandwidth areas. H.265 maintains optimum video quality using fewer bits and provides a significant advantage for streaming platforms.

Q6: What is the bitrate for 4K H.265?

The bitrate for 4K H.265 (HEVC) videos can vary due to the quality, the content complexity, and the requirements of the streaming or playback platform. Although, we usually recommend a bitrate range of 15-25 Mbps for 4K H.265 video streaming to balance video quality and bandwidth efficiency. So, you get a smooth streaming experience without a lot of buffering or loss of visual quality.


Hence, this was our full tutorial on H265 vs. H264 in detail. We discussed everything about video codecs and which is better, H.264 or H.265.

Lastly, we urge you to share this post with your near and dear ones who are interested in creating live content. It will surely help them get better views and quality.