Nvidia Lifts Some Video Encoding Limitations from Consumer GPUs

Nvidia has quietly removed some of the concurrent video encoding limitations from its consumer graphics processing units, so they can now encode up to five streams. The move will simplify the life of video enthusiasts, but Nvidia’s data center grade and professional GPUs will continue to have a massive edge over consumer products as now Nvidia does not restrict the number of concurrent sessions on them. 

Nvidia has increased the number of concurrent NVENC encodes on consumer GPUs from three to five, according to the company’s own Video Encode and Decode GPU Support Matrix (opens in new tab). This is effective for dozens of products based on the Maxwell 2nd Gen, Pascal, Turing, Ampere, and Ada Lovelace microarchitectures (except some MX-series products) and released in the last eight years or so. However, the number of concurrent NVDEC decodes in these GPUs is still limited to one stream. 

The change does not affect the number of NVENC and NVDEC hardware units activated in Nvidia’s consumer GPUs. For example, Nvidia’s latest AD102 graphics processor, based on the Ada Lovelace architecture, features three hardware NVENC encoders (opens in new tab) and three NVDEC decoders. All three are enabled on Nvidia’s RTX 6000 Ada and L40 boards for workstations and data centers, but only two are active on consumer-grade GeForce RTX 4090.

(Image credit: Nvidia/Tom’s Hardware)

Historically, Nvidia has restricted the number of concurrent decoding and encoding sessions on all of its graphics cards. Consumer-oriented GeForce boards supported up to three simultaneous NVENC video encoding sessions and up to one NVDEC video decoding stream. By contrast, Nvidia’s workstation and data center solutions running the same silicon and aimed at ProViz, video streaming services, games streaming services, and virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) could support 11 – 17 concurrent NVENC sessions depending on quality and hardware. It turned out a couple of years ago that Nvidia’s restrictions could be removed by a relatively simple hack.

But Nvidia’s stance on NVENC and NVDEC limitations has evidently changed. Now, consumer GPU support up to 5 concurrent NVENC encode sessions and up to 1 NVDEC decode session at once. By contrast, workstation-grade and data center-grade boards do not have any restrictions and the actual number of concurrent sessions depends on actual hardware capabilities and video quality.

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