The Home windows 10 Fall Creators Replace (FCU) got here with a bunch of welcome adjustments. One of many facets that didn't get a lot protection within the tech press was the change in Microsoft's strategy to the bundled video decoders. There had been complaints concerning the lacking HEVC decoder when the FCU was within the Insider Preview stage. It turned out to be much more puzzling when FCU was launched to the steady ring. This has led to loads of misguided hypothesis within the person neighborhood. We reached out to Microsoft to clear issues up.

The lacking HEVC decoder just isn’t an element for customers enjoying again media by open supply functions reminiscent of Kodi, MPC-HC, or VLC. Nonetheless, customers of the Films and TV app constructed into Home windows 10 FCU or software program counting on the OS decoders reminiscent of Plex will discover HEVC movies enjoying again with a clean display. Whereas this can be a minor inconvenience at greatest, a extra irritating difficulty is the one for customers with methods able to Netflix 4K playback. As a substitute of 4K, FCU restricts them to 1080p streams at 5.eight Mbps (as these are encoded in AVC).

Netflix Stream Capped at 1080p / 5.eight Mbps on the ASRock Beebox-S 7200U with the Home windows 10 FCU

We initially believed patent licensing to be the difficulty. Whereas the precise royalty phrases for the HEVC playback functionality in Home windows 10 stay a carefully guarded secret, MultiCoreWare's Tom Vaughan believes that the licensing for methods with a decoder obtainable is dealt with by the system OEM. Nonetheless, the onus shifts to Microsoft for a pure software program decoder bundled with the OS.

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On reaching out to Microsoft, a spokesperson gave us the next quote: “With the Fall Creators Replace, we modified our strategy to media codecs to allow us to get extra codecs to shoppers sooner and provides system makers extra flexibility by way of a brand new strategy known as Codec Packs. The HEVC codec has been transformed to a Codec Pack and will probably be quickly obtainable to all gadgets working the FCU.”

We then explicitly requested them if the choice to go the codec pack route was dictated by patent royalty points. The precise quote we obtained was: “Clients who improve to the FCU on appropriate will get HEVC. For brand spanking new gadgets that don’t embody HEVC, it is going to be obtainable quickly by the Microsoft Retailer. It could take a day or two after the improve to FCU for the codec to get put in.”

Based mostly on these feedback, we consider that there aren’t any adjustments to the person by way of the price of the Home windows 10 HEVC decoder (notably given the automated rollout indicated by the Microsoft spokesperson). We do be aware that Microsoft refused to touch upon the royalty difficulty outright, however, nearly all fashionable methods include a decoder and the Home windows 10 HEVC codec goes to stay free for these methods.

Customers who don’t need to anticipate the replace to rollout into their system can set up the HEVC Video Extension app from the Microsoft retailer.

The HEVC Video Extension App within the Microsoft Retailer

After upgrading to the FCU on our ASRock Beebox-S 7200U pattern, we discovered that the Netflix 4K functionality went lacking (see earlier screenshot). Nonetheless, after putting in the HEVC Video Extension, we have been in a position to stream the 4K variations of varied titles.

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Netflix 4K Stream (2160p / 16 Mbps) on the ASRock Beebox-S 7200U with the Home windows 10 FCU and HEVC Video Extension App Put in

Notice that any Win 10 FCU system with a HEVC decoder is affected by this difficulty. This consists of methods making use of a NVIDIA GPU for Netflix 4K capabilities additionally.

The change in strategy barely adjustments Microsoft's present tightly coupled strategy to video decoders. As new video codecs like AV1 change into steady and mainstream, the brand new structure permits Microsoft to carry it to their prospects in a fast and environment friendly method.