What is an IPTV Hardware Decoder and How Does It Work?

What is an IPTV Hardware Decoder and How Does It Work?


IPTV streams need to be decoded in order to be properly presented on your home screen. There are different kinds of decoders out there and each one is best optimized depending on the codec in use and the specifications of your computer.

You may have come across terms like ‘hw decoder’ and asked yourself what HW means in IPTV. Generally speaking, the hardware decoder or HW decoder is the best means of preparing IPTV content for viewing on your device, provided that you have good enough hardware to do so. But first off, let’s explain what a video decoder really is.

What is a Video Decoder?

IPTV is a technology that delivers TV, video on demand, and online content to your home. A video decoder in IPTV plays the role of converting digital data into video. Video decoders are essential components of IPTV networks because they hold the key to decoding video from its transmission format into something more accessible by TVs and other devices. There are two main types of Video Decoders: Hardware Decoder and Software Decoder.

Hardware Decoder vs Software Decoder

The process of video decoding is very complex and significant, especially for IPTV. There is an essential difference between software decoders and hardware decoders, or SW and HW decoding to keep things short. HW decoding can also go by the term ‘hardware-accelerated streaming’.

The difference between a hardware decoder and a software decoder is that the hardware decoder is a very specialized means of decoding video data using dedicated hardware (in most cases your GPU). The software decoder, however, relies on your CPU to do all the heavy lifting so you don’t have to worry about it breaking down in order for it to work properly.

The basic rundown is that a software decoder will harness your system’s CPU to decode the IPTV video. In contrast, a hardware decoder will harness your system’s GPU for the decoding process instead. In theory, HW decoding is better and faster than SW decoding, but that’s only if you have a good enough GPU to perform the task.

What is an IPTV Hardware Decoder and How Does It Work?

What is an IPTV Hardware Decoder and How Does It Work?

HW decoding for IPTV comes in handy, especially when dealing with intensive streams, particularly ones that are being rendered at ultra-high-definition, also known as 4K resolution. It can also come in handy even when using 1080p resolution, especially if you watch content at a high refresh rate or framerate.

Suppose you are watching content that is rendered at 720p or below. In that case, it will likely be best to stick with SW decoding as HW decoding can use up a lot of unnecessary system resources and may end up making little to no difference anyway.

Slow Streams or Buffering?

Are your streams loading too slow? Getting constant buffering? Not able to stream at full resolution? Check out these tips to improve your streaming experience:
  • Use a modern Router that has advanced features like QoS to prioritize video content. Check out our recommended Routers for Streaming.
  • If you are using a Wifi connection, be sure to check out our 9 easy steps to improve your Wifi for Streaming.
  • Some Internet Service Providers throttle video streaming traffic without telling their customers. A VPN encrypts all your traffic and circumvents throttling, blocking and geographical restrictions.

The benefit of HW decoding for IPTV is that you can have your streams begin and load faster. It also frees up some labor from your CPU if you want to perform multiple tasks at the same time.

Concluding Thoughts

What does HW mean in the context of IPTV? In the simplest of terms, it means having your GPU handle the decoding process of IPTV content instead of the default CPU, which can potentially improve the loading and speed of your streams by a lot.

If you have any remarks or questions about HW with IPTV, please feel free to leave them below. Thanks for reading!

About the Author Edwin

Edwin "The Streaming Dutchman" has been streaming IPTV and grabbing the latest media from torrents and Usenet for countless years. When he isn't streaming (or writing about it), he enjoys cooking and traveling.

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