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Lenovo laptops silently stripped of important feature in BIOS updates

Even recently launched Lenovo products are affected. (Source: Lenovo)
Even recently launched Lenovo products are affected. (Source: Lenovo)
Many users on Lenovo's forums are reporting missing encoding codecs on their Legion laptops after a recent BIOS update. This issue appears to exclusively affect Legion units sold in Germany, potentially due to now-settled litigation with Nokia.
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Various users of Lenovo's Legion laptops have been complaining about a missing feature on their laptops on Lenovo's forums since April of 2021. This missing feature is the H.264 encoding codec, an encoder that the NVIDIA graphics card in these laptops use for Shadowplay. This codec is also used for hardware-accelerated video encoding in software that supports NVENC, some of which isn't strictly for content creation.

The lack of this encoder causes numerous issues on user's devices, such as Shadowplay crashing, OBS failing to record/stream, and even the Oculus Quest 2 failing to stream video from the laptop to the headset over USB. This also makes many major use cases for high-power gaming hardware (streaming, video editing, or just recording your screen) difficult to do on these laptops.

Lenovo's exclusion of this feature is not noted anywhere visible for customers to see before purchasing, let alone in the BIOS updates provided to users of machines originally sold with this encoder enabled. Reverting to a BIOS version from 2020 has fixed the problem for some users, although BIOS updates from 2020 don't exist for Lenovo's latest Legion laptops.

The issue only seems to affect Lenovo gaming laptops sold in Germany, potentially due to a legal battle between Nokia and Lenovo that had been ongoing for some time. However, this suit seems to have been settled now, so it's not clear why Lenovo has continued to exclude these codecs from customer's notebooks.

As of now, it's unclear if the encoder is missing from Lenovo's other laptops with NVIDIA graphics, such as models from their ThinkPad P series or the X1 Extreme. The codec has been confirmed missing from devices as old as the Y540 from 2019, although older devices with recent BIOS updates may be affected.

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Loki Rautio
Loki Rautio - Tech Writer - 20 articles published on Notebookcheck since 2019
When I was 9, I tried to modify a PC game. The mod I made worked (mostly) and sparked my current, intense interest in software development. A few years later, that interest led me to experiment with all kinds of tech around the house, which has ultimately given me an eye for small, but substantial, problems in devices and software. I'm now writing articles about technology and its nuances for Notebookcheck.
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> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > News > News Archive > Newsarchive 2021 07 > Lenovo laptops silently stripped of important feature in BIOS updates
Loki Rautio, 2021-07-14 (Update: 2021-07-14)