Introduction

While we have had our hands on HDCP capable video cards for over a month, we haven't been able to really test our hardware with AACS protected content employing HDCP to secure the digital link between the system and the display. HD-DVD and Blu-Ray drives are both scarce and expensive, and a good variety of content is tough to find. Fortunately, NVIDIA and CyberLink are touring the world showing off what they can do when a PC with a PureVideo graphics card and an HD-DVD player get together with some Japanese imports for a little fun.

At this point, it is fair to say that no PC capable of playing back an HD-DVD or a BD at full resolution will be without a graphics card capable of accelerating some portion of the decode process. All of the graphics cards we have seen with real HDCP support (including the ROM and keys required) will feature NVIDIA's PureVideo HD or ATI's AVIVO. While this is, of course, a selling point from both NVIDIA and ATI's side, offloading processing from the CPU happens to be a necessity on lower end hardware. Our perspective on video decode acceleration for graphics cards that support HDCP has shifted to the point where we now feel CPU offloading is a requirement.

With DVDs, the debate over GPU acceleration had to do with lowering power consumption. At this point, with higher resolutions, processing requirements, and content protection, power isn't a priority yet. Our tests will show that PureVideo is more of a resource shift that draws the same amount of power rather than a feature that will enable mobility. It will still be some time before we see a notebook capable of playing an entire HD-DVD or BD movie at resolution on one charge.

All of the parts that made this demo work are still in beta, from the CyberLink player to the NVIDIA drivers used. While PureVideo HD is capable of accelerating high def video files, this new driver is the first that allows PureVideo HD to be used on HDCP protected content. These capabilities should be enabled in a ForceWare driver release sometime near the end of July or the beginning of August.

CyberLink should also start selling their HD-DVD player on store shelves in Q3. Curiously, player vendors seem to be releasing different versions of their software for HD-DVD and Blu-Ray. As both media formats are capable of holding data compressed with multiple (and overlapping) encoding schemes, there shouldn't be much difference in the players. Hopefully CyberLink, InterVideo, et al, will merge their player versions at some point in the future, but we aren't sure of the technical reasons that might have required this initial move.

We are taking a first look at HD-DVD playback on the PC with NVIDIA's PureVideo HD and CyberLink's player. The questions we want to answer are: what can early adopters of HD content expect in general, and what kind of performance does PureVideo HD offer? First, lets take a look at what exactly PureVideo HD does.

PureVideo HD and Video Playback
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  • BigLan - Monday, July 24, 2006 - link

    "Curiously, player vendors seem to be releasing different versions of their software for HD-DVD and Blu-Ray.... Hopefully CyberLink, InterVideo, et al, will merge their player versions at some point in the future, but we aren't sure of the technical reasons that might have required this initial move."

    AFAIK, the BD camp (maybe HDDVD as well, not sure) does not allow licencees to create a device capable of playing BD and HDDVD, which is why there are separate version planned. This may change if/when one of the large CE makers produces a combo standalone player, but I don't think that either Intervideo or Cyberlink can afford to stand up to the licensors and having their license revoked.
    Reply
  • DerekWilson - Monday, July 24, 2006 - link

    technically the devices are the drives -- and if I've got 2 drives (one HD and one BD), I don't see the reason why I should need two pieces of software. Different hardware is still required. But I could see this as a reason for initially making two players. Reply
  • bersl2 - Saturday, July 22, 2006 - link

    HDCP is still a trap. Reply
  • DerekWilson - Sunday, July 23, 2006 - link

    hear hear Reply
  • SunAngel - Saturday, July 22, 2006 - link

    First off, Nvidia is doing an excellent job with PureVideo. And like the author commented, PureVideoHD should get better over time.

    However, some of the points in the article are a little alarming. First, HDCP is going to be required across the entire digital range equal to and greater than 720p. Second, if one link in the HDCP chain is not authenticated the resolution will be downsized to 540p. Most current HDCP-enabled widescreen lcd tvs (or at least the ones that are reasonably affordable) can output only as high as 1366x768. Thus, trying to downsize a 1080i/p resolution picture into a 720p resolution will be a waste of computing resources. Setting the display adapter to match the resolution of the tv set will regain some computing resources and reduce the load on the processor and gpu. At this point, very few of us including enthusiasts have 1080p enabled sets (I am going to bite my tongue because you can buy "full-sized" tvs with 1080p output for as little as $2500US) so forcing 1080p content to show on a 720p display is moot. Third, all 6 series and 7 series Nvidia gpus support some sort of HD acceleration. Nvidia GPUs 7600GT and higher have the sophisticated high-definition de-interlacing and inverse telecine support that is complementary to PureVideoHD, otherwise the CPU will be handling the task. SSE and 3DNow! extentions should easily handle those functions. Fourth, and the author did mention on this, the playback software and PureVideoHD are both still in beta form (well Cyberlink's player is nolonger in beta and can be bought on their site for $40US). If past performance with Cyberlink's player with PureVideo support is any indication of what's ahead, I am sure anxious to enjoy the next upgrade. Overall, the article was good reading. I just fell reviews at this time should be done with what's typically out in people's homes. Again, most of us don't own 1080p sets (I will not comment on those that don't even have HD sets), but quite a few of us have 720p sets. In my opinion, a better article would have been to review using 720p output on a 720p HDCP enable-set. This way we all would have a truer view of what PureVideoHD have waiting in store for us. On a scale of 1 to 10 is give the author a 7 for his piece. Good Luck. Cheers!
    Reply
  • SunAngel - Saturday, July 22, 2006 - link

    I should clarify my comment on image downsizing. The image will be downsized if the constraint token is used. And from the look of current piracy issues I expect this to come into effect once higher resolution sets become more mainstream and vga is abandoned. Reply
  • DerekWilson - Sunday, July 23, 2006 - link

    Thanks, we will make sure to compare video output over 720p and 1080p in future HD content reviews (and especially in our comparison between NVIDIA and ATI playback).

    Our reasoning for doing the test the way we did was something along the lines of -- people buying HD or BD players and media for the PC right now very likely have a lot of disposeable income and probably have no problem dropping the $1800 for the cost of the 1080p Westinghouse we used.

    Over the next few months as players are available and drop in price, it does make much more sense to look at 720p output as this is a much more mainstream target.

    Thanks for the feedback.

    Derek Wilson
    Reply
  • Tujan - Tuesday, July 25, 2006 - link

    I find it very strange the cliche of 'displosable cash'.

    When HD-DVD,or BD is discussed,as a 'media choice. Was it really the hollywood set,or the computer set wich had derived that the content would be as it is - in-the-media (on disk_) . Since obviously all of the support electronics consists of components that actually do not exist,or are merely speculation of future itenerary comming for some unknown. Oblivious of 'media. Or media of intention.

    I hope that somebody breaks open those boxes. Just to make sure there isn't an IBM processor in them. One of those 'Core processors or something.

    Certainly isn't the 'media'. It is obviously a 'platform.

    All of the baly who about 'getting-the-equipment up. Ya know. For the most of it,this will always,be a 'simulation. Of the real thing. No matter the ideals 'theator mode,may take up from specs ballyhoowed via 'movie makers. If you throw them something new,they will certainly consider you an old timer. Being there is nothing to compare.
    Being so that I would tend to agree that it is a constant of artificiality,that is actually the the status quo.

    Hope there is an alternative to the status quo.To keep speculating of something real. Assuming this 'must be constant.
    Reply
  • Zaitsev - Saturday, July 22, 2006 - link

    Page 4, 3rd paragraph, 2nd line reads: "with and with a GPU on the D 830"

    I believe it should be "with and without a GPU..."

    I'm really looking forward to the comparison with ATI cards. Interesting article, though.

    Cheers.
    Reply
  • Pirks - Saturday, July 22, 2006 - link

    Ya, it's a toy review, since no real content is out there. For SERIOUS review you people have to include CoreAVC which kills any CyberLink or whatever and craps on its corpse - I almost can play 1080p videos on my Athlon XP 3200 on Socket A - WITHOUT _ANY_ GPU ACCELERATION. CyberLink and buddies can't even spit close to that. This means I'll buy A64 3800 soon for pennies, pop it in, pop CoreAVC and give nVidia and other boys a big fat finger. Haha - just try CoreAVC yourself, you won't believe your eyes!

    So unless I see comparison of some serious sort, which means including CoreAVC in addition to other big boys - that'd be just another toy review. Move along people.
    Reply

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