NVIDIA’s GeForce GPUs now encode up to five video streams simultaneously

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NVIDIA's GeForce GPUs now encode up to five video streams simultaneously
(Image Credit: NVIDIA)

NVIDIA has quietly updated its support page to reveal that its GeForce GPUs now have a small but significant boost in their video encoding capabilities. The company’s NVENC encoder, which was previously limited to encoding three video streams simultaneously, can now encode up to five streams of video simultaneously with the latest driver updates. This enhancement unlocks capabilities that had always been present in the hardware but were previously software-limited in consumer GPUs.

While it is unclear exactly when NVIDIA made this change, archival snapshots on the Internet Wayback Machine indicate that the old three-stream limit was still in place as recently as March 18. Users will need to install the most recent drivers to unlock the additional encoding capabilities. However, video quality settings may still limit the number of video streams that can be encoded simultaneously.

Fortunately, most GeForce GPUs going back to the 2014-era Maxwell architecture now support the extra simultaneous streams, meaning that users do not need a new or powerful video card to benefit from the change. Even older models such as the GeForce 750 Ti are on the list, as are most GeForce 900, 1000, 2000, 3000, and 4000-series cards. It should be noted that some models, particularly MX-series GPUs for budget laptops, still do not have any video encoding capabilities, presumably because they lack the necessary hardware.

However, the kinds of video that can be encoded will still depend on what the GPU’s hardware encoder actually supports. To help users navigate this, NVIDIA has provided a support document that lists supported codecs, color depths, and other specifications for each GPU.

It is worth noting that many of the GPUs on the list still have hardware capable of encoding even more video streams simultaneously. However, NVIDIA still imposes a software limit on those GPUs to encourage users who encode lots of streams at once to purchase its workstation-grade Quadro and RTX-branded GPUs instead. While third-party software patches exist that can remove these limits for GeForce GPUs, users may not be comfortable installing them on their systems and should exercise caution.