If you use Google Chrome then by default YouTube shows you videos in Google’s VP9 Video codec. VP9 is a modern and advanced video codec meant for delivery of  content up to 4K resolution  on internet more easily with half the bandwidth requirement compared to H.264 which is a decade old video codec.

YouTube Stats for nerds

YouTube Stats for nerds

However, the broadcasting industry prefers to use H.264 or the new H.265 video codec which is as good if not better than VP9. The good thing about both H.264 and H.265 is that all modern day Intel, AMD, Qualcomm and Mediatek chipsets support hardware decoding of H.264 and H.265.

  1. If you want to save bandwidth at the loss of battery life in your laptop, then continue to use YouTube with VP9.
  2. 6th and previous generation Intel Core CPU support H.264/H.265 decoding in hardware and partial support for VP9 decoding. You can force YouTube to only use H.264 using a Google Chrome extension H264ify for better battery life at the loss of bandwidth. Even 4K videos on YouTube will play smoothly with H.264 on these CPUs.
  3. 7th generation Intel Core CPU support hardware decoding of H.264, H.265 and VP9 so if you have desktop PC or laptop with this CPU, leave everything at default and YouTube will automatically give you VP9.
  4. AMD Ryzen CPUs do not come with on-board graphics hence they can’t decode H.264/H.265/VP9 in hardware. But since you are anyway going to use Ryzen with a GPU such as GeForce 9xx/10xx series, Radeon RX 4xx/RX 500 series, this is not a problem as all the GPUs released in last 2 year support hardware decoding of H.264/H.265/VP9 . In this case YouTube will give you VP9 by default which your GPU will decode.
  5. If you are watching YouTube on your mobile phone, then you anyway get H.264 content.

Make sure you do the following…

  • For Google Chrome
    1. Type “chrome://flags” in address bar.
    2. Search for “Override software rendering list“. Enable it
    3. Restart Chrome
  • For Microsoft Edge
    • Download and install latest version of WebM Decoder for your PC.
    • Type “about:flags” in Microsoft’s Edge address bar.
    • Search for “Media Source Extensions group”.
    • Set “Enable VP9 Video format” to Always On.
    • Restart Edge.

If you use a desktop PC where battery life is not a concern, leave everything at default and YouTube will automatically give you VP9.