The AMD AMF encoder has received a substantial upgrade in image quality after a decade of quality issues. This new upgrade introduces B-Frames into the new AMF Release 1.4.24. While AMD posted this update several months previously, Chris Griffith of the website Code Calamity tested the recent update to give readers an idea of the quality of life changes to the AMF encoder.
AMD AMF encoder catches up to Nvidia NVENC in recent testing thanks to B-Frames
From the report, Griffith was capable of pushing the AMD AMF encoder to extremely comparable levels compared to NVIDIA and their new NVENC encoder seen in the RTX 20 and 30 series graphics cards. AMD Radeon graphics cards will now be as accessible as NVIDIA's wares for streaming games using lower bitrates.
The struggle for AMD encoding technology has plagued the company for many years, dating back to the Polaris GPUs (AMD 400 series) if not further back. The encoding has never felt entirely up to par compared to Intel and its QuickSync encoder and NVIDIA's NVENC encoder.
During this time, NVIDIA introduced the sixth generation of the NVENC encoder with the RTX 20 series GPUs that utilized x264 encoding and placed them far ahead of AMD for the time being.
The video below by EposVox, a top-rated YouTube streaming expert, demonstrates how AMD has suffered in performance in low-bitrate streaming, especially when using the H.264 codec that is still present in the company's recent Radeon RX 6000 series GPUs.
AMD does shine in HVEC encoding, but with the lack of real-world use, all video players demand H.264 support.
So, how did AMD finally fix a decade-old problem? The company brought the B-frames technology back to the AMF encoder, which has been missing since the company's original encoding and decoding engine VCE. AMD dropped the technology once they released the VCN engine with their Raven Ridge APUs and RDNA 1 GPUs.
"B frames allow the H.264 compression algorithm to predict image data from past and future frames in a video stream. It is an optional feature that has proven to significantly increase the image quality of streams at lower bit rates," says Tom's Hardware.
Code Calamity used VMAF to measure the image quality differentiation between AMF, NVENC, and Intel QuickSync, with Big Buck Bunny as the reference video. In this benchmark, the highest possible score of 100 points. For reference, NVENC scores 96.13 points, and Intel QuickSync scored 96.37 in this test. According to Code Calamity, AMD's AMF encoder is just half a point behind both those encoders, whereas before (without B-Frames), AMD's AMF was a full two points behind.
The benchmark tests revealed that the AMD AMF's image quality is closer to rivaling NVIDIA's current NVENC encoder. However, no streaming platform has offered any current support, even with it being readily available for months. It is speculated that AMD's developer support history in implementing its encoder SDKs has been troublesome, which could explain why it is not as incorporated.