In my opinion, XviD is the greatest overall, and most balanced video codec.  It's the open and more refined version of DivX.  Both are MPEG-4 based, but because XviD is open, a lot of different developers have tried to perfect it.  This has resulted in some great block smoothing advances in XviD which DivX lacks.

For people on PowerPC hardware (even as low as a G3 350MHz), XviD gives you the ability to have a respectable playback system with stock 13-14 year old hardware.  Something h.264 could never dream of.  DivX gives the same CPU efficient results as XviD but lacks some of the clarity.

I used DivX a lot myself in Handbrake for years, until I really took the time to see the visual advantages of XviD.  XviD in Handbrake 0.9.3 with a 1500+ kbps bitrate, and a 2-pass encode, can compete with h.264 of similar size.  The 1500kbps and 2-pass encode are key to that.

DivX in Handbrake is called FFmpeg, aka DX50, aka DivX 5.  Handbrake still retained FFmpeg in versions past 0.9.3, but dropped XviD and .avi wrapper support.  For these reasons, Handbrake 0.9.3 is the best overall version because every version after it is more limited.  I covered the same point in part 3 of the Video on PowerPC series.

A lot of the video industry has turned its back on XviD, but for us PowerPC users it's our best friend.  XviD makes 720p HD playable on a G4 under 1.0GHz.  Although I typically rip 400p XviD so that it will also play well on my slowest 400MHz CPU if ever needed.  400p XviD at 1500-2000kb in a 2-pass encode can compete with 480p h.264 for quality/clarity.

The main things that increase CPU use (after the codec of course) are resolution and framerate.  Bitrates under 3000kbps all use about the same amount of juice.  This is the key to making a low resolution look better than it is.  Keep the framerate at or under 30fps for best results on PowerPC hardware.  DVD are typically 24fps, but most video is 25-30.  If you rip something where the original is over 30fps, be sure to set your rip to 29.97 for best playback results.

Handbrake 0.9.3 needs Leopard, but if on Tiger then use 0.9.1.  Again, any version past 0.9.3 doesn't have XviD support.

Even those running modern Macs or any newer hardware can benefit from XviD.  XviD only consumes 1/2 to 1/3 of the CPU resources vs h.264 of the same resolution.  That means energy savings in your home for desktops, and longer battery life for portables vs. h.264.  Handbrake 0.9.3 runs perfectly on 10.6/10.7/10.8, but the version I link to below is PowerPC only.

The lesser appealing XviD is the mainstream stuff.  Most is only ripped around 1000kbps which is the main reason most who dislike XviD do, whether they realize that or not.  Once you get under 1300kbps it looks like a lesser codec.  Higher bitrates do equal bigger file sizes, but that is why I have almost 12TB of storage. Storage is infinite, CPU resources and energy aren't.

You could even say that XviD is a green alternative to h.264.

MP3 audio is typically best with XviD, but you can experiment with AC3 and AAC also if you desire.  128kbps for heavy dialogue, 256kbps for content with a lot of music.

Remember, 1500kbps+ and 2-pass = perfection!

Download Handbrake 0.9.3 for Leopard

Download Handbrake 0.9.1 for Tiger

This is how I would summarize the 3 codecs found in Handbrake 0.9.3 and 0.9.1:

DivX - rips fastest, efficient playback, looks the worst of the 3

h.264 - rips slowest, inefficient playback, quality only slightly better than HQ XviD

XviD - rips about 30% slower than DivX, efficient playback, quality only slightly lower than h.264, best of both worlds


  1. quite useful post, ill try those parameters cause most of the videos that i get trough torrent aren't performing well on a single G4 that i use to stream videos to the television.

    i suppose that you have your big video collection using Xdiv and avoiding HD movies. could be good, but what if later you want to see your videos on a big screen TV? the resolution would be good there too?
    is it comfortable for you to watch the movies on your Dell screen? at my place i use to watch series on the powermac, but i move to the sofa and the TV for films where i attach a powebook.

    1. Why do you assume that I have no HD? Yes most of my collection is XviD, but there is no shortage of HD h.264, which I play with coreplayer. Some .mkv wrapped h.264 HD don't rip to XviD so well, so I leave them as is. BTW, handbrake doesn't rip .mkv at all. I use Xilisoft Video Converter Ultimate for the mkv that do rip well to XviD, but it's XviD is a lot more sloppy than Handbrake.

      400p XviD at the quality I list above looks amazing at full screen on my LCD. VLC scales video very well to full screen. As I list above, bitrates under 3000 all use about the same CPU. About half the HD floating around in the torrent world is only 1500-2000kbps. The same bitrate at 400p~ can look just as good with a two pass encode.

      My methods look good on my 42" TV also, but my Dell 24" LCD is the best quality screen I have ever owned. It's S-PVA and looks exactly the same at any angle. Fuck that TN panel shit. I can't use them.

      The high bitrate and two-pass combined really deblock well and clear up things. A two pass encode takes twice as long though, but since Handbrake, and most other video rippers, use only nice (low priority) CPU cycles, it won't hinder you regular computing needs.

  2. I need to clarify my mkv point. Handbrake can rip with an mkv wrapper, but it does not rip mkv wrapped video to something else without serious sound issues.

    The best (and really only) wrapper for XviD is .avi

    Try a 720p (1280x720) XviD two pass and then do a 400p in the same bitrate and compare yourself. 720p XviD of 24-30fps should play on as low as a G4 single 867MHz. Especially if it has Core Image support in Mac OS. That leaves the CPU to nothing but decoding when you play back.

    400p 2 pass and 2000kbps should make anyone short of a pure HD enthusiast happy.

  3. Thanks for the advices, they are useful, most impressive is to get a good quality even on a big TV.

    I am looking for a second screen for one of my powermacs and i have seen some reviews from the Dell monitors and also yo said that the quality of yours is really good to. i was looking for some model like yours but it seems that only is possible to get the newer one, but i don't know if the quality would be as good as yours.

    Other thing you mention on your post is about energy efficiency, true that if you keep the CPU load as low as possible you would save energy, but i dont know if our powerpc machines with the stock processors ar saving energy compared with the newer PC chips, at least the G5 at least are wasting energy every time you boot them.

    In Spain is a think to keep in mind cause the KWh is around 0,15 €.
    for example the is a sightly difference on the Mac Mini at Idle consumption.


    1. My LCD was on the market from 2007-2009, they are rare to find now. Everyone who has one will likely never part with it. They have incredible longevity also.

      The higher end Dell LCD are not as good the last few years, but still much better than any TN. Lots of Mac people (at least the ones who aren't shameless Apple fanboys and need an Apple logo on their LCD) use the high end Dell screens from about 2003-2009. My 2007 model looks as good today as the day I got it.

      As for CPU consumption and energy efficiency, the lower the MHz the less you will conserve, but the slower systems can't really play h.264 anyway. For G4 350-700 chips, XviD or DivX is a must. My G4 450MHz testing system plays the 400p XviD I rip at about 53% CPU use in Debian with VLC.

      Also, the later 7447 and 7448 G4 chips are a lot more power efficient vs the early 7400 and middle era 7455. My 7448 @ 1.8GHz only consumes 19.3 watts at 100% use. That is half (or even less) than a 1.0GHz 7455.

      These 400p XviD I rip consume about 21% CPU on my 1.8GHz in VLC 1.1.12 in Mac OS, so my CPU is only using about 3-4 watts when I watch them.

  4. i have try to rip some DVDs to Xvid, and for the moment the result is awful, one of the rip was 1500 kbps and 720p and the other 1500 kbps and 400p. and both 24 fps and 2 pass encode.
    i haven't notice too much difference between 720p and 400p, but i think that i should try 2000 kbps, cause the image quality seems to be too low.
    about the sound i didn't find the way to choose MP3 instead AAC or AC3. and the highest was only 128 kbps.
    could you share some screens of your Handbrake settings? this weekend ill try to rip more DVDs on different settings.