Whenever ATI tells us they have some announcements to make two weeks before the end of the year, we usually get a bit worried.  The fact of the matter is that it is very rare for a company to release and ship new products this close to the end of a year, so we tend to get suspicious when new announcements happen like this.  There is one exception, however - and that is software, or in this case, drivers. 

Just earlier this month, ATI released their Catalyst 5.12 drivers, which offered support for dual core processors, but without any really tangible gains in performance as we found out.  ATI had also alluded to the potential of another Catalyst release before the end of the year, and as their predictions would have it, Catalyst 5.13 is due out for release this coming Thursday (12/22/2005). 

But Catalyst 5.13 doesn't promise improved gaming performance, better scaling from dual core processors or anything of that sort.  Instead, Catalyst 5.13 is a little gift to Radeon X1000 owners from the Avivo team. 

Avivo was pretty much a joke of a launch when the X1000 series came out.  There were hardly any tangible improvements due to the new platform that we didn't already have, and its fabled improvements in DVD playback turned out to be worse than what NVIDIA had already had out for months beforehand; yet, there was promise of more. 

ATI promised us H.264 decode acceleration, offloading some of the most CPU intensive tasks for media PCs today onto their brand new GPUs.  ATI also alluded to a transcode utility, which would aid in the conversion between video formats and potentially even accelerating it on the GPU as well. 

Catalyst 5.13 begins to deliver on some of those promises of more, and while we had pretty much given up on Avivo being any good for DVD playback quality, ATI has also promised improved video playback in the latest version of Catalyst.  While we'll save the video playback portion of this article for a later time, there are two equally important topics to discuss today instead.  And there's one more surprise from ATI's Avivo team later on in the article as well...

H.264 Decode Acceleration - As Promised
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  • ShadowVlican - Friday, December 16, 2005 - link

    how bout a review on the quality of the transcoded files? we all know that all encoders are not equal, that is why some mpeg2 encoders cost more than my car Reply
  • mongoosesRawesome - Saturday, December 17, 2005 - link

    yea, i agree. speed is all well and good, but if the output sucks then why bother? Reply
  • JustAnAverageGuy - Friday, December 16, 2005 - link

    quote:

    The other item we didn't touch on that makes its appearance in the Catalyst 5.13 drivers is significantly improved video playback quality. ATI didn't have all of their Avivo ducks in a row when the X1000 series launched, but with Catalyst 5.13 they are looking to improve a number of the issues we noted in our first Avivo video quality article. We will be working on a follow-up to that piece in the near future to take a look at exactly what Catalyst 5.13 brings us in terms of video quality.


    Read the article.
    Reply
  • PrinceGaz - Friday, December 16, 2005 - link

    He's talking about ENcoding quality for transcoding purposes, not playback quality.

    If a test is done on MPEG2 encoding quality, I would suggest using CCE SP as the comparison encoder as it is generally considered the best available (though it is a touch expensive to purchase).
    Reply
  • tfranzese - Monday, December 19, 2005 - link

    Read a different article then. AT isn't the only place to cover this (FiringSquad had some IQ coverage). Reply
  • Andyvan - Friday, December 16, 2005 - link

    I'm wondering if you have both a cheap ATI card and an NVIDIA card installed in your computer, whether you would be allowed to run the converter.

    -- Andyvan
    Reply
  • Rys - Friday, December 16, 2005 - link

    Yes, as long as one of the boards is an X1K, the transcoding tool will run. I currently have a GeForce 7800 GTX as my primary board, and an X1800 XL as the secondary one. The new driver, decoder and transcoding tool all run fine. Reply
  • synic - Friday, December 16, 2005 - link

    read the article, it says X1000 or greater only Reply
  • Araemo - Friday, December 16, 2005 - link

    "we will look at other performance comparisons upon request from you all"

    Just one: Compare DVD->Divx against AutoGK(Using the official Divx.com codec?) Does the ATI tool even support ripping from an actual DVD(Or decrypted DVD files) to another format? I am curious.
    Reply
  • fnord123 - Friday, December 16, 2005 - link

    Please compare against the Microsoft Windows Media Encoder (http://www.microsoft.com/windows/windowsmedia/9ser...">http://www.microsoft.com/windows/windowsmedia/9ser.... A lot of Media Center Extender and XBox 360 people are using it to recode their .avi files to .wmv (Divx isn't supported by 360/MCExtenders). It is a slow process so if the ATI accelerator speeds it up they will have a bunch of buyers! Reply

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