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
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  • yacoub - Friday, April 27, 2007 - link

    Wait, so is H264 decoding is so terrible with gaming cards that anyone who wants to watch H264 encoded DVDs or videoclips would waste the extra $$$ to get a GTS?

    Outside of HTPCs there's really little market for it and even for HTPC there's likely something cheaper that gets the job done just as well (8600GT?).

    Let's see what NVidia does for the G80 refresh in a few months... hopefully it includes putting out a card with the spec sheet the 8600GTS should have had: 64 stream processors and a 256-bit bus.
    Reply
  • bearxor - Friday, April 27, 2007 - link

    EIGHTY

    FIVE

    HUNDRED.

    -----------------

    That's the HTPC card. No one with a HTPC is going to spend $70-150 more if it performs exactly the same. But we don't know because no site seems to be able to buy one from newegg even though they've been available since last Tuesday. I guess they're waiting on nVidia to send review samples. I have a hundred bucks in hand ready to buy a 8500 but have been waiting to see how it performs with video decoding.

    PLEASE!
    Reply
  • kilkennycat - Friday, April 27, 2007 - link

    The 8600GT/GTS has HTPC built-in. THe 8500GT does NOT. It apparently is a vendor-supplied option in the case of the 8500GT.

    Newegg has been very careful in their listings of late to include "HDCP" in their text-description of graphics cards if they are aware of it being available. However, you should also check the manufacturer's website specsheet. If no mention of HDCP there... buyer beware !!

    For an example, see the BFG website and the specs for the 8600GT and the 8500GT ( Other vendor websites very conveniently hide the HDCP detail in their summary descriptions, eg: eVGA )

    See:-

    http://www2.bfgtech.com/bfgr85256gte.aspx">http://www2.bfgtech.com/bfgr85256gte.aspx

    and

    http://www2.bfgtech.com/bfgr86256gtoce.aspx">http://www2.bfgtech.com/bfgr86256gtoce.aspx

    Compare and look at the last couple of paragraphs, No sign of HDCP on the 8500 spec.....
    Reply
  • kilkennycat - Friday, April 27, 2007 - link

    Ooops sorry. No edit-function for past-postings on Anandtech nor Daily Tech. ( I suggest that Anand and DT personnel take a look at The Tech Report website http://techreport.com/">http://techreport.com/ for the proper way to handle edits in comment-postings....)

    Anyway, I meant to type HDCP on the first line of the above posting. So anybody with a H...T...P...C requiring H...D...C...P needs to be a little careful in their choice of whether to invest in a 8500 or a 8600 card and double-check the manufacturer's spec for the magic abbreviation "HDCP". Otherwise, iirc the video decoding capabilities of the two families are identical.
    Reply
  • bearxor - Friday, April 27, 2007 - link

    Yes, HDCP is a option on the 8500. Newegg has a HDCP 8500. The gigabyte with passive cooling, perfect for a htpc.

    The problem is the 'supposed to have'. Who knows? I've not seen benchmarks on it. the 8600GT and GTS are 'supposed to be' the same but in this review there were some significant differences between the two. At one point the 8600gt required 8 percent more cpu power. How do I know the 8500 won't be 10-15% higher than that?
    Reply
  • A5 - Friday, April 27, 2007 - link

    Is there any chance of a review of the various PVR/TV/MC packages out there, like a comparison between SageTV, BeyondTV, Vista MCE, and a free option (GB-PVR/MediaPortal)? No one has really done anything like that since you guys did it a few years ago, and a lot has changed, especially with the advent of practical HDTV cards. Reply
  • ssiu - Friday, April 27, 2007 - link

    Are there any image quality differences between G8600 / older NVIDIAs / ATIs / no hardware acceleration?

    In your previous article http://www.anandtech.com/video/showdoc.aspx?i=2923">Coming Soon to HD DVD: Silicon Optix HD HQV you talked about both ATI/NVIDIA flunked the HQV DVD tests when the HQV tests first came out, but now had improved to almost perfect score, but then they all got 0 score on the "(beta) HD HQV" tests. Has the situation improved with newest hardware+driver?
    Reply
  • Final Hamlet - Friday, April 27, 2007 - link

    It's really great to know that this GPU is better at playing back videos I would never buy because of the DRM crap on it...

    It's like buying a car for it's colour...
    Reply
  • yzkbug - Friday, April 27, 2007 - link

    There is still no retail version of WinDVD HD available. Any news when InterVideo is going to release one? They must be really afraid to repeat thier previous fiasco when thier master key was revoked :) Reply
  • ZetaEpyon - Friday, April 27, 2007 - link

    quote:

    Even more interesting isn't the GeForce 8600, but the $100 GeForce 8500 that's due out in the coming weeks.


    Was this article written a while back or something? I have an 8500GT in hand right now.
    Reply

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