Update: AMD’s RDNA 3-based GPUs with VCN 4.x engines turn out to support AV1 hardware encoding, according to Linux driver patches released by AMD and discovered by @Kepler_L2. Previously we reported, based on Linux patches, that AMD’s upcoming Radeon RX 7000 series GPUs do not support AV1 encoding, which is not correct. We have changed the text to reflect the new information.

As part of AMD’s ongoing next-generation RDNA 3 GPUs enablement, the company has released a series of Linux patches that reveal details about the company’s upcoming video engine, Video Codec Next version 4. x. Based on the information we have, VCN 4.x supports decoding virtually all modern codecs.

AMD’s VCN 4.0 engine appears to support H.264/MPEG 4 AVC, H.265, VP9, ​​AV1, and JPEG decoding, as well as AV1, H.264, and H.265 encoding. At this time, VCN doesn’t seem to support H.266/VVC (Versatile Video Coding) decoding/encoding. VVC is a next-gen codec that may be needed in 2023 or 2024 (when suitable content becomes available), while AV1 is a current-gen codec with growing usage. There are users and companies who would like to have it now for video encoding or transcoding, but later this year should also suffice.

Intel’s Arc Alchemist GPUs fully support AV1 decoding and encoding, the only chips to do so today. We expect Nvidia to also support AV1 encoding with its upcoming Ada architecture, although this is yet to be confirmed. AMD’s RDNA 3 also won’t arrive until the end of this year, but if AMD’s VCN 4.x does indeed support AV1 encoding, then all three major GPU companies will offer encoding and hardware-accelerated AV1 decoding.

AMD

(Image credit: AMD/@Kepler_L2)

AMD’s current-generation GPUs based on the RDNA 2 architecture use the company’s VCN 3.0, VCN 3.1, and VCN 3.1.2 video decoding blocks. In contrast, next-gen RDNA 3 GPUs (at least the so-called SoC21, which would be Navi 31) will feature the next-gen VCN 4.0 engine, according to a new Linux patch released by AMD and discovered by @Kepler_L2.

Speaking of VCN 4.0, even the current VCN 3.x engine fully supports H.264/MPEG4 AVC, H.265, VP9, ​​AV1 and JPEG decoding as well as H.264 and H.265 encoding. . Unless there are more innovations, the key improvement with VCN 4.0 over 3.x will be support for AV1 encoding/decoding with hardware acceleration. It may also support higher resolutions, color depths/formats, and/or efficiency improvements, and we are also planning additional feature set changes.

Keep in mind that not all GPU features are enabled before launch, especially on Linux for various legal and technical reasons. We’ll find out for sure what VCN 4.x and RDNA 3 will add to the feature list probably later this year when we expect the RX 7000 series GPUs to launch.