YouTube for Android TV adopts AV1 video codec in certain devices
News about video codecs may not seem particularly exciting to most users, but they can make a huge impact on our media consumption without us even realizing it. That’s especially true since we’re all stuck at home using the Internet to do online classes, watch TV shows and movies from Netflix, or go down the YouTube rabbit hole. Each of the companies behind your favorite online video service carefully considered which video codec to use to encode their videos to optimize the size without sacrificing heavily on quality or power consumption for the end-user. One video codec that has seen a lot of support from enthusiasts lately is the royalty-free AV1 codec which Google has implemented for some YouTube videos and Google Duo video calls. Now, Google is adding support for watching videos encoded in AV1 in the latest version of the YouTube app for Android TV devices.
The AV1 codec is great for media streams; it allows for higher-quality video at smaller file sizes compared to comparable codecs, reducing bandwidth usage for both the service and the user. The catch here, though, is that there aren’t many SoCs that are capable of hardware-accelerated AV1 decoding. Most SoCs in use on smartphones and Android TV boxes rely on software decoding for videos encoded in AV1, which can be taxing on the CPU and lead to higher power consumption. On the smartphone side, only the MediaTek Dimensity 1000 is capable of decoding AV1, while only a handful of recent SoCs used in Android TV devices support hardware-accelerated AV1 decoding. Those include Broadcom’s bcm72190/72180 and Realtek’s RTD1311/RTD1319.
The changelog for the YouTube for Android TV update does mention that the feature is only available for “supported devices”, suggesting that there may be a whitelist of devices in play.
If you have an Android TV device with a supported chipset, then you can try to download the YouTube update to see whether you’re able to stream videos encoded in AV1. The update is now rolling out through Google Play, but if you don’t see it, then you can also sideload it from APKMirror.