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What Is the Difference Between X264 and H264? (Difference Explained)

What Is the Difference Between X264 and H264? (Difference Explained)

Video codecs are important software and are essential to pre-recorded and on-demand video delivery over the web. Because of these codecs, many people are able to enjoy content on video-sharing websites like Netflix, youtube, without any buffering. Due to these codecs, encoders are able to compress and prepare video files before delivering them to our devices.

However, it’s not an easy task to pick the right codecs since there are plenty of options out there, and each offers different image quality and bitrate. Every option has its own advantages and drawbacks, and picking just one can be quite difficult.

There are two options available which are x264 and H264. X264 is the encoder and H264 is the codec. Encoders are the translator of the language and codecs are the language. X264 was created in the early 2000s as a free command-line encoder that translates the video into H264.

In this article, we’ll discuss the differences between x264 and H264 in detail.

What Is X264?

X264 is an open-source library developed by VideoLAN that allows video streams to be encoded into the MPEG-4 AVC/H264 format. It was issued under the label of the GNU General Public License. You can also use x264 under the commercial license from x264LLC and CoreCodec.

X264 provides a large number of features, compared to other encoders. X264 comes with an API as well as a command-line interface. Many graphical users, such as MeGUI and Staxrip use the command line interface for x264, whereas, the API feature is used by interfaces such as FFmpeg and HandBrake.

For improving the subjective video quality of the encoded video, X264 comes with psychovisual enhancements such as the psychovisual rate-distortion optimization and adaptive quantization available in two modes. 

One of the significant features of x264 is its ability to use Periodic Intra Refresh, which allows every single frame to be capped at the same size, instead of using keyframes. Furthermore, this feature helps each slice to be transmitted quickly in a single TCP or UBP packet and also allows faster decoding on arrival.

X264 has the potential of achieving dramatic performance by encoding four or more 1080p streams in real-time on one end-user computer. It provides the best quality with the most advanced and improved psychovisual optimizations available compared to other encoders.

Moreover, x264 also supports some features which are used by different applications such as web videos, Blu-ray, low-latency video applications, and television broadcasts. A lot of web video services such as YouTube, Vimeo, Hulu, and Facebook use x264. It is also used by ISPs and television broadcasters.

X264, Allowing Videos to Watch Without Buffering
X264 Allows Watching Videos Without any Buffering

Use of X264

X264 software has been used in many programs. Since you can use encoders only from the command line, developers have taken it and put it into the graphical user interface (GUI) of their programs. 

X264 encoder is used for programs, such as FFmpeg, Handbrake, VLC Media Player, and MeGUI. X264 is basically a transparent software that’s used for user interaction and mediated through another software’s interface.

What Is H264?

H264 is a codec which is also known as Advanced Video Coding (AVC), it’s the world’s most-used video compression standard for HD video. This codec is a block-oriented, compensation-based standard that includes several max video bitrates and resolutions (it even supports 4K and 8K videos).

H264 is one of the most versatile codecs in the industry since it supports a wide variety of containers format. It most commonly uses MPEG-4, but it often appears in some other ones too. Here’s a list of some of the most common H624 container formats:

  • MP4
  • MOV
  • F4V
  • 3GP
  • TS

Though H264 isn’t the best compression codec, it’s easy and cheap to use. It also reduces the size of the video file while keeping its quality at a high standard. This makes it a more efficient choice than most of its predecessors.

Use of H264

H264 is used to put large amounts of video into any setting with limited bandwidth. Video-sharing websites, such as YouTube, DailyMotion, Hulu, and Netflix all have capitalized on the H264 codec’s ability to reduce the size of the video file and squeeze a large amount of video into a small space.

H264 is for broadcasting European HDTV, along with Blu-ray DVDs. Videos that are saved in iPhones and iPods are saved using H264 to maximize space and efficiency.

H264 Reduces Size of Video File
H264 Reduces the Size of the Video File.

Best Video Encoder Settings When Using H264

When you’re using H264 for encoding your videos, it’s important to set up your encoder’s video bandwidth and resolution adequately to get your desired video quality. The majority of the videos that use H264 will have the following quality renditions:

  • Ultra-Low Definition (240p)
  • Low Definition (360p)
  • Standard Definition (480p)
  • High Definition (720p)
  • Full High Definition (1080p)

Here’s a table to help you understand how you should configure your hardware encoder for streaming in each of these quality renditions:

SettingsUltra-Low DefinitionLow DefinitionStandard DefinitionHigh DefinitionFull High Definition
Video Bitrate (kbps)350350–800800–12001200–19001900–4500
Width (px)42664085412801920
Height (px)2403604807201080
Configuring Hardware Encoder for Streaming Different Quality

Depending on the resolution you choose, you’ll require different amounts of bandwidth to deliver your content buffer-free. The higher your resolution will be, the more bandwidth it will use. This means users with slow internet speed or some problem with the internet will experience some disturbance in the video.

Slow Internet Speed Effects Watching Videos
Slow Internet Speed Troubles Watching Videos

What Is the Difference Between X264 and H264?

X264 and H264 are both encoders and codecs, both are used for streaming videos on video-sharing websites. Because of these two softwares, you’re able to enjoy high-quality video without any buffering or compromising on the quality of the video.

Although x264 and H264 are used for almost the same purpose, there are few differences in the features of these softwares. Both of these softwares have their own plus points and drawbacks.

X264 provides best-in-class performance, compression, and features. It achieves dramatic performance, encoding 4 or more 1080p streams in real time on a single consumer-level computer.

Moreover, it provides the best quality, with advanced psychovisual optimizations, and supports some features that are important for many different applications, such as TV broadcast, Blu-ray low-latency video applications, and web video.

On the other hand, H264 provides next-generation compression and codec and excellent quality. It’s completely free and libre software, ensuring freedom for everyone. It has parallel encoding on multiple CPUs, both frame-level and wavefront parallelism.

H264 is used for web video services, such as uploading HEVC to YouTube, Facebook, etc., or next-generation HDTV, Satellite TV. However, it requires more computing power to decode, devices using batteries will run out of power faster and it’s expensive to license.

Comparing x264 and H264/HEVC Encoders


  • Encoders and codecs are the reason behind all the video streaming.
  • X264 is an encoder.
  • The encoder is the translator of the language.
  • X264 provides the best quality and amazing features.
  • X264 achieves dramatic performance.
  • Provides the high-class quality with improved psychovisual optimizations.
  • H264 is a codec.
  • Codec is the language.
  • H.264 has amazing quality
  • H264 provides next-generation compression and codec.

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