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Why it matters: A recent unannounced upgrade lets content creators and videophiles using Nvidia graphics cards encode more simultaneous streams. The feature likely came with a video driver update, affecting most consumer GPUs from the last several years. However, professional cards still have the advantage regarding decoding.
Nvidia quietly softened the limits on simultaneous video encoding streams for its consumer graphics cards. The change should give streamers and others working with video more flexibility without needing a workstation or data center GPU.
The new parameters, likely requiring the latest Nvidia Game Ready or Studio drivers, increase the number of possible simultaneous NVENC streams from three to five in GeForce graphics cards. The patch applies to all desktop and laptop models since Maxwell, including the GTX 745, 750Ti, and the entire 900 series. However, some models in the affected groups don't have any encoding capability, like the GTX 940MX or MX130.
Nvidia didn't announce the change, but comparing the current encoding support page with an archived version from March 18 reveals it occurred sometime this week. It's probably an unlisted addition included in driver version 531.41.
Click to view full chart. Note column "Max # of concurrent sessions." Left is March 24, right is March 18.
The increased bandwidth is just one new factor helping content creators and videophiles with consumer GPUs work more efficiently. Another is the emergence of the AV1 codec, which tests show encodes faster than the popular H.264. Last year's Intel Arc Alchemist, AMD Radeon RX 7000, and Nvidia GeForce RTX 4000 series were the first graphics cards to support hardware-based AV1 encoding.
However, users trying to encode more than five simultaneous streams on Team Green's hardware will still need professional or server-class GPUs like the Quadro, RTX 6000, or L40. As before, most of those cards have no restrictions on the number of concurrent NVENC streams other than what their hardware can handle. Unlike the GeForce models, the professional cards previously restricted to three streams remain unchanged
A third-party hack to remove consumer GPUs' software restriction has been available since 2021, and the developers continue to support the latest drivers. However, unofficial workarounds always carry risks, and it's impossible to tell how long modders will be able to maintain updates.