New Intel IGP drivers add H.265, VP9 hardware decode support


— 9:56 AM on January 15, 2015

Intel graphics drivers releases aren't usually very exciting, but this one is worth pointing out. Numbered 15.36.14.4080, this update imbues Haswell and Broadwell processors with hardware acceleration support for two next-gen video formats: HEVC, also known as H.265, and Google's VP9. Here's the relevant snippet from the "new features" section:

  • Improved video playback through partial hardware acceleration support for the VP9 video format.
  • GPU accelerated decode of HEVC video file format including both 8-bit and 10-bit support. This will provide improved video playback capabilities on the platforms.

Supported processors include the Core M family; 4th-gen Core CPUs with HD, Iris, or Iris Pro graphics; and "Select PentiumĀ®/ CeleronĀ® Processors."

Note that the VP9 acceleration is partial, so decoding won't be fully offloaded from the CPU cores. Still, I'm curious to see the power and performance implications of these new capabilities. If history is any indication, hardware-assisted decode should enable smooth playback at higher bitrates and resolutions, and it could also cut power use and extend battery life.

Incidentally, the drivers also add support for a handful of OpenCL and OpenGL extensions. One of those extensions, cl_intel_advanced_motion_estimation, "provides access to Intel's motion estimation hardware acceleration block that can be used by media processing applications including custom transcoders and image stabilization." Nifty. (Thanks to TR reader SH SOTN for the tip.)

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