H.265 vs 4K Ultra HD - IP Camera Trends

By John Honovich, Published Nov 03, 2013, 12:00am EDT

The next two upcoming trends in IP cameras are H.265 and 4K Ultra HD. The questions, then, become, how important are they and is either likely to be stronger than the other. Recent IPVM poll and readers statistics show clear patterns.


H.265 / HEVC is the next generation of CODECs, following H.264. It promises bandwidth savings up to 50%.

4K Ultra HD is the next step up in high definition, beyond 1080p. It promises 4x the pixel count of 1080p, going up to 8MP (and often 12MP when used in a 4:3 aspect ratio).

IPVM Findings - H.265 > 4K

While both are appealing, H.265 holds more interest than 4K from surveillance professionals, according to both our polls and reader statistics. The consensus is that a decrease in bandwidth per pixel is more important than increasing the amount of pixels. The MP race may not be over, but the priority overall is shifting to reduce the storage / bandwidth cost of MP.

The results of our 4K poll show overall appeal but with more than a third who are not very interested.

By contrast, the same question for H.265 shows an overwhelming positive response with only 1 out of 8 not very interested.

Beyond the poll numbers, our reader statistics show twice the number of reads for H.265 references than 4K Ultra HD.

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Implementation Issues Beware

Our statistics show interest, but that does not ensure success, as the technologies need to be able to deliver on their promises.

For example, if H.265 only delivers 15% savings on average or if it lacks VMS support or if it spikes CPU consumption, all of these could severely hurt its adoption.

Likewise, if 4K cameras are very expensive or have poor low light or WDR, many may just stick with 1080p. On the other hand, if 4K cameras perform well at modest costs, we could see a steady migration from 1080p to 4K, just like we have recently seen with 720p to 1080p.

Given the early stage of these technologies today, it is not possible to definitively determine how well they will perform, but this should be kept in mind when evaluating (as will be a priority for us).

2014 Reality

At least a half dozen manufacturers have announced 4K cameras at ISC West 2014 while no new vendors are even claiming future support for H.265 (save for Aventura who announced H.265 cameras last year). Worse, many of the 4K announcements were just demonstrations or prototypes, meaning they are unlikely to ship until the end of 2014 or even 2015. We cover this in our 7 Key Surveillance Trends for 2014 report.

Regardless of which one you like or want, it seems you are likely going to get very little of either for the time being.


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