The Applications

The last time we looked at Blu-ray/HD-DVD playback on PCs we were sorely disappointed in software support, mostly because we needed to use a separate application for Blu-ray and HD-DVD playback despite similarities in the standards. Thankfully both Cyberlink and Intervideo have since introduced universal versions of their applications that support both Blu-ray and HD-DVD. Cyberlink's PowerDVD Ultra and Intervideo's WinDVD 8 support both standards through a single UI; unfortunately neither application appears to be quite ready for prime time.

Cyberlink's PowerDVD Ultra 7.3 gave us the most problems, especially with ATI hardware. The application was simply far more prone to random crashes than WinDVD 8, which was unfortunate given that it was the only of the two that properly enabled hardware acceleration on ATI GPUs.

WinDVD 8 didn't crash nearly as much as PowerDVD Ultra 7.3, but it did give us its fair share of problems. Complete application crashes were fairly rare, but on NVIDIA hardware we'd sometimes be greeted with a green version of whatever movie we were trying to watch. There was no rhyme or reason to why it would happen, but it just did. When things worked, they worked just fine though.

If you're running 64-bit Vista, you'll probably want to avoid installing either application as the problems we encountered were only amplified under the OS. Enabling hardware acceleration for ATI hardware under 64-bit Vista caused PowerDVD to crash anytime it attempted to playback an H.264 stream, while VC1 content was totally fine. WinDVD 8 gave us the wonderful problem of throwing an error whenever we hovered over a program menu item for too long. As much as we appreciated the improvement to our reflexes, we fondly preferred using WinDVD under 32-bit Vista where we could spend as much time as wanted in the menu without running into an error.

A quick perusal through Cyberlink and Intervideo's forums reveal that we aren't the only ones that have had issues with their software. Do keep these issues in mind if you are planning on turning your PC into a Blu-ray/HD-DVD playing powerhouse, as we're not yet at the point where you can get a truly CE experience on your PC with these applications.

It's a shame that we could only get ATI's hardware acceleration to work under PowerDVD and it's equally unfortunate that PowerDVD was so unstable because it was actually the faster of the two applications when it came to menu rendering/interaction time. Clearly both applications need work, but for our benchmarking purposes they sufficed to give us an initial look at what will be available once the bugs are fully vanquished.

Index The Test
POST A COMMENT

64 Comments

View All Comments

  • JarredWalton - Saturday, April 28, 2007 - link

    The peak numbers may not be truly meaningful other than indicating a potential for dropped frames. Average CPU utilization numbers are meaningful, however. Unlike SETI, there is a set amount of work that needs to be done in a specific amount of time in order to successfully decode a video. The video decoder can't just give up CPU time to lower CPU usage, because the content has to be handled or frames will be dropped.

    The testing also illustrates the problem with ATI's decode acceleration on their slower cards, though: the X1600 XT is only slightly faster than doing all the work on the CPU in some instances, and in the case of VC1 it may actually add more overhead than acceleration. Whether that's due to ATI's drivers/hardware or the software application isn't clear, however. Looking at the WinDVD vs. PowerDVD figures, the impact of the application used is obviously not negligible at this point.
    Reply
  • BigLan - Saturday, April 28, 2007 - link

    Does the 8600 also accelerate x264 content? It's looking like x264 will become the successor to xvid, so if these cards can, they'll be the obvious choice for HD-HTPCs.

    I guess the main question would be if windvd or powerdvd can play x264. I suspect they can't, but nero showtime should be able to.
    Reply
  • MrJim - Tuesday, May 08, 2007 - link

    Accelerating x264 content would be great but i dont know what the big media companies would think about that, maybe ATI or Nvidia will lead the way, hopefully. Reply
  • Xajel - Saturday, April 28, 2007 - link

    I'm just asking why those enhancement are not in the higher 8800 GPU's ??

    I know 8600 will be more used in HTPC than 8800, but it's just not a good reason to not include them !!
    Reply
  • Axbattler - Saturday, April 28, 2007 - link

    Those cards came out 5 months after the 8800. Long enough for them to add the tech it seems. I'd expect them in the 8900 (or whatever nVidia name their refresh) though. Actually, it would be interesting to see if they add to the 8800 Ultra. Reply
  • Xajel - Saturday, April 28, 2007 - link

    I don't expect Ultra to have them, AFAIK Ultra is just tweaked version of GTX with higher MHz for both Core and RAM...
    I can expect it for my 7950GT successor
    Reply
  • Spacecomber - Friday, April 27, 2007 - link

    I'm not sure I understand why Nvidia doesn't offer an upgraded version of their decoder software, instead of relying on other software companies to get something put together to work with their hardware. Reply
  • thestain - Friday, April 27, 2007 - link

    http://www.newegg.com/product/product.asp?item=N82...">All this tech jock sniffing with the latest and greatest, but this old reliable is a better deal isn't it?

    For watching movies.. for the ordinary non-owner of the still expensive hd dvd players and hd dvds... for standard definition content.. even without the nice improvements nvidia has made.. seems to me that the old tech still does a pretty good job.

    What do you think of this ole 6600 compared to the 8600 in terms of price paid for the performance you are going to see and enjoy in reality?
    Reply
  • DerekWilson - Saturday, April 28, 2007 - link

    the key line there is "if you have a decent cpu" ... which means c2d e6400.

    for people with slower cpus, the 6600 will not cut it and the 8600gt/8500gt will be the way to go.

    the aes-128 step still needed to be done on older hardware (as it needs to decrypt the data stream sent to it by the CPU), but using dedicated hardware rather than the shader hardware to do this should help save power or free up resources for other shader processing (post processing like noise redux, etc).
    Reply
  • Treripica - Friday, April 27, 2007 - link

    I don't know if this is too far off-topic, but what PSU was used for testing? Reply

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now