The AV1 video codec created by the Alliance for Open Media promises big gains in video quality for a given bitrate. The new codec also delivers an open, royalty-free standard that the consortium hopes to use to replace Motion Picture Entertainment Group's (MPEG) H.264 and Google's VP9. AOM says that AV1 can achieve 50% better compression with the same image quality compared to H.264, so it's bound to save some bandwidth. Video encoded with AV1 has been out there for a while, but has required CPU intervention to decode. Now AV1 can be accelerated by graphics hardware, but the requirements are kind of steep.
First of all, you'll need a brand new graphics processor, or perhaps one that hasn't been released yet. Microsoft says acceleration requires Intel's Iris Xe integrated graphics processor (like that found in the ASUS Zenbook Flip S's Core i7-1165G7) or a brand new GPU. The only solutions from NVIDIA that the new accelerated codec supports are the Ampere GPUs found in the GeForce RTX 3080 and 3090. On the AMD side, you'll need an altogether unreleased Radeon RX 6000 GPU like the one AMD showed off this week when it announced the Ryzen 5000 series of CPUs.
Microsoft has released an AV1 Video Extension to the Microsoft Store. The extension requires Windows 10 version 1909 or later, which is probably not a big obstacle to overcome. The 1909 update has been available for a year already and brought with it some fun gaming-centric features like DirectX Raytracing (DXR) and is required for Turing and Ampere owners to get the most out of DXR-enabled games. If that describes your system, you've probably already got a compatible update. As is common in these situations, you'll also need an app and some source material that make use of the code, though there isn't much out there yet.
An AV1 decoder created by VideoLAN (the makers of VLC) and the FFMpeg team named DAV1D and Microsoft's own DirectX Video Acceleration API can use this hardware acceleration. Chrome, Firefox and Microsoft's own Edge browser all already support AV1 in software, and many of the big streaming services are already on board. AOM's website is decorated with logos from Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, Twitch, and many more. Netflix announced in February that it had already started streaming AV1 to compatible devices like the recently-updated Roku lineup and now Windows 10 PCs. If it hasn't already, we're confident that AV1-encoded video will find its way to a PC near you soon.