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Best phone for h.264 playback?

Discussion in 'Music & Media' started by leptogenesis, Dec 22, 2011.

  1. leptogenesis

    leptogenesis Lurker
    Thread Starter

    Greetings everyone,

    The biggest disappointment of my previous phone--a Verizon Droid--was that although it claimed to support h.264, the actual support for the codec was quite minimal. It turns out that only the baseline profile was supported, and even then there were limits on the video bitrate and on the amount of motion that could be present in the video before the decoder would choke. This isn't something a media player can solve. Rockplayer is great for videos that are so simple that they can be decoded on the CPU, but even a 480p h.264 video needs hardware acceleration, plain and simple.

    So before I buy a new phone, I want to figure out what a modern phone ought to be capable of. If anyone just knows the answer to this question, please say so. However, given that I can't even find the answer in developer documentation, I'm guessing that we'll have to figure this out experimentally.

    So, question #1: Choosing a random video with lots of motion...Let's use Nostromo's Auriga (In your youtube app, just search for "auriga nostromovx" and it's the first result)


    Stupid auto-embed...does anyone know how to link to a youtube video without actually embedding it?

    Anyway, my droid can sometimes play the opening of it (0:00-0:21) in HD in the default YouTube app, but it usually drops frames very noticeably. The next bit (0:21-0:39) essentially doesn't play at all. I also sometimes get major framedropping in the low quality version for this segment, though it seems to depend on how much video I've played since I last rebooted. So, who can play the low quality version consistently? Is there anyone who can play the whole thing in HD? Please post your phone and results. Thanks in advance.

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  2. jgreetham

    jgreetham Well-Known Member

    On my T-mo Vibrant (Samsung Galaxy S) I use the h.264 codec in converting movies from "whatever" to mp4 with 800x480 resolution & 1500 kbps average bit rate. My conversions of "Farscape" from dvd to mp4 play fine. I'm sure the Galaxy S2 would be even better and you'd probably want to go to a higher bit rate if you accept the file size increase.
    And mp4 allows use of the hardware.
  3. supercilious

    supercilious Lurker

    Without a doubt the Samsung Galaxy S2 (i9100) is the best video playback phone. The Exynos chip has hardware offloading for High Profile (5.1) playback. That great in theory...

    In practice though, you will also need an app like DicePlayer to actually play back stuff like that since the Samsung builtin player doesn't like MKV files, and even MP4 support is a bit hit and miss. Other video playback apps I tried didn't offload to the hardware decoder, and though the CPUs are fast enough for most videos, its fairly easy to exceed the capacity of the software decoders (these are almost always based on ffmpeg, which is not as well optimised on ARM as x86).

    With DicePlayer though, I can playback 1080p60 high profile video at around 40mbit/s (thats insane) without flaws. Even my SD card can't read fast enough to feed the decoder, so I have to mount a share from my PC over wifi (using CIFSmanager) to get the file to read fast enough. I was blown away by it. Its not even skipping the deblocking filter or anything, and no artefacts with any video I tried. Even the infamous 45mbit/s Birds sample from Planet Earth plays back flawlessly.

    Basically, if video playback is a priority, get an Exynos based device. Samsung use it in all their top end phones and tablets and in-between stuff like the Galaxy Note. I use it all the time for watching movies and things, and not having to re-encode is FANTASTIC. I can literally drag and drop 15GB movies as-is and watch them wherever and whenever. I would not go back to encoding for phone playback ever again.

    EDIT: Just to add, the video you linked played back perfectly in the Youtube app and perfectly in the flash plugin in the browser embedded in this page. That's not surprising, as its only 720p not even full HD. Youtube bit rates are always quite low, even for 1080p stuff to guarantee playback on main profile compliant decoders.
  4. Shocky

    Shocky Android Expert

    Total nonsense, default player on the Galaxy S II plays MKV files without breaking a sweat, hardware or software accelerated? Not really sure it matters unles you looking to save battery. Which Galaxy S II are you using? it's not a borked US version is it?

    There is no need for Diceplayer at all.

    Galaxy S II is the only Android device where you can download your favourite MKV video as they are even at 1080p and not have to worry about video or audio playback.
  5. supercilious

    supercilious Lurker

    Glad to hear you haven't need it. I wasn't pleased about buying an app to do something I thought should be built in... but I have a tonne of video files in various formats that don't play back or don't play back perfectly (things like missing the audio stream) in the stock player. The stock player is fine for most stuff, but DicePlayer has in my experience been flawless on every video. I recommend it now. Also, I should add, that its very useful for those occasions where you get some weird format like .RMVB and you need to play it back. The stock player never works for those rare and obscure formats.
  6. supercilious

    supercilious Lurker

    Its not the only device, any device based on the same chip, like the Galaxy Note, the Galaxy Tab and so on will also do the same.
  7. Shocky

    Shocky Android Expert

    I have many MKV video files, many I download straight to the phone now over wifi with no doubt at all they will play, I've never had a problem so to say the stock player doesnt like MKV files is wrong.

    Sites I download from would never use formats like that, I haven’t seen any realmedia extensions on videos for years, I'm not even sure my PC would play them WMP but it's not an issue because I never encounter them.

    This is true, I stand corrected. :)
  8. NZtechfreak

    NZtechfreak Android Expert

    Galaxy SII or Galaxy Note are hands down the best for video playback, but as mentioned earlier Dice Player is needed for the absolute best experience (the stock player is extremely good but can't do DTS/Ogg audio (and maybe AC3 too for that matter, can't remember - been that long since I used the stock one), has limited subtitle support, and poorer wide-codec support than Dice Player).
  9. Shocky

    Shocky Android Expert

    Allot of the mkv files I download are encoded with 5.1 DTS and they work, the Galaxy S had issues with 5.1 audio though.

    Not sure about ogg, not something i've come across.
  10. NZtechfreak

    NZtechfreak Android Expert

    They work in the stock player? None of the ones with DTS audio that I've tried work... They all work with Dice Player.
    Shocky likes this.
  11. leptogenesis

    leptogenesis Lurker
    Thread Starter

    Wow, I guess I'm way behind on video playback capabilities. So let's try a video that's a bit tougher: Shinzo - Aqua Satellite. h.264, high-profile, 720p and 60fps. For some reason, AMV editors tend to prefer higher temporal resolution over higher pixel resolution. I think in practice, though, this won't be much tougher than a standard 1080p video; the bitrate averages 6.5 mbps so I doubt it gets anywhere near 40mpbs. I'm still curious whether the 60fps or the large amounts of motion cause issues, though.

    Anyway, I'm surprised that the Galaxy Note/SII are mentioned, but the Galaxy Nexus is not. I'd like a phone that's easily rootable as well (I use linux--most of the rooting tools seem to be windows-only). Is there much of a difference?

    @supercilious: I'm on Verizon in the US. Does that mean I risk getting one of those borked US versions that you're talking about?
  12. Shocky

    Shocky Android Expert

    Damn your right, I must have got confused with AC3. DTS not working, just copied over some samples and they don't work with the stock player.
  13. Shocky

    Shocky Android Expert

    That sample plays fine with the stock player on the Galaxy S II.

    Both the Galaxy S II and Galaxy Note use Samsungs Exynos SoC and also share the same video player from Samsung. The Galaxy Nexus on the other hand unfortunately doesnt use Exynos and it's a Google phone so no Samsung applications.

    There are a few versions of the Galaxy S II available in the US, I believe the ones to avoid are the T-Mobile version and Skyrocket as they use a Qualcomm SoC instead.
  14. supercilious

    supercilious Lurker

    That sample plays back perfectly on my GSII, I only tried with DicePlayer though. In practice, I have never ever found a video that doesn't play back, even when I do crazy stuff just to see how far I can push it, like maxing out the b-frames and p-frames to 16, and setting all the high profile stuff in handbrake, CABAC, pyramidal b-frames and all.

    The nexus is using a TI OMAP 4460 SoC which I know relatively little about. Its possible it too has hardware offload for high profile, but I don't know for sure. I can say for sure that the GPU is not as fast as the Mali 400 GPU in the Exynos, many benchmarks have already been done, so information should not be too hard to find. I haven't looked hard though, since I know I wasn't getting the Nexus since before it was released.

    From what I gather, from benchmarks such as this, the Galaxy Nexus performs poorly compared to the S2. Though this may be due to an earlier driver version or something. Also, since it has a 720p screen its GPU has to push more pixels too, and that will of course impact the performance.

    I found I had no trouble rooting and flashing my phone at all. The instructions on XDA were very clear and easy to follow. I had my first custom ROM on it within about 2 hours of getting the phone in my hands. Luckily it came charged :)

    I can't say. I'm in the UK. I know next to nothing about the US phones. It seems every major carrier releases their own variant of specific handsets. I know a friend who has the Skyrocket, but it is internally completely different to the regular S2.

    In general, I try to buy the handsets outright rather than from a carrier, and I use a pay-as-you-go calling plan, since I am a huge mobile data user, but make very few calls and relatively few texts. Simply buying the handset from Amazon outright saved me well over
  15. chanchan05

    chanchan05 The Doctor

    The Galaxy Nexus not only uses an inferior chipset to the Exynos, but the GPU is inferior to the S2 since it uses the same one they used on the Galaxy S1.
  16. NZtechfreak

    NZtechfreak Android Expert

    Yep, with Dice Player the Nexus is OK for video playback, but falls well short of the Note, SGSII, and now Transformer Prime (I have the Note, Nexus, and Prime, and owned an SGSII for nearly months before that).

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