Introduction

The current generation of graphics hardware is capable of delivering high definition video with lower CPU utilization and better quality than ever. Armed with the most recent drivers from AMD and NVIDIA we have spent quite a bit of time testing and analyzing the current state of HD playback on the GPU. And we have to say that while there are certainly some very high points here, we have our concerns as well.

Since the last time we tested HD playback performance on the 8600 line, we have seen software support improve dramatically. PowerDVD, especially, has come quite a long way and now fully supports both AMD and NVIDIA hardware with full hardware acceleration and is quite stable. Drivers from both camps have also now added HD video quality improvements in the form of post processing to their drivers. HD deinterlacing and noise reduction now (mostly) work as we would expect. This is in contrast to the across the board scores of 0 under HD HQV we saw earlier this year.

This will be the first time we test AMD's new R600 and RV6xx based graphics cards using our video decode tests. Our RV6xx based Radeon HD 2600 and 2400 hardware features AMD's UVD video decode pipeline that accelerates 100% of the HD video decode process on all codecs supported by HD-DVD and Blu-ray. NVIDIA's hardware falls short of AMD's offering in the VC-1 bitstream decoding department, as it leaves this task up to the CPU. We will try to evaluate just how much of an impact this difference will really offer end users.

Here's a breakdown of the decode features for the hardware we will be testing:



While the R600 based Radeon HD 2900 XT only supports the features listed as "Avivo", G84 and G86 based hardware comprise the Avivo HD feature set (100% GPU offload) for all but VC-1 decoding (where decode support is the same as the HD 2900 XT, lacking only bitstream processing).

With software and driver support finally coming up to speed, we will begin to be able to answer the questions that fill in the gaps with the quality and efficacy of AMD and NVIDIA's mainstream hardware. These new parts are sorely lacking in 3D performance, and we've been very disappointed with what they've had to offer. Neither camp has yet provided a midrange solution that bridges the gap between cost effective and acceptable gaming performance (especially under current DX10 applications).

Many have claimed that HTPC and video enthusiasts will be able to find value in low end current generation hardware. We will certainly address this issue as well.

The Test
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  • smitty3268 - Monday, July 23, 2007 - link

    No. The 2400 and 2600 have support for Avivo HD feature set even with VC-1 decoding, while the G84 and G86 don't so their quote is correct. If a little confusing, since Avivo is ATI terminology. Nevertheless, it is basically equivalent to the NVIDIA hardware. Reply
  • scosta - Monday, July 23, 2007 - link

    I think this sentence in page 1 is wrong!

    <blockquote>While the R600 based Radeon HD 2900 XT only supports the features listed as "Avivo", <b>G84 and G86<\b> based hardware comprise the Avivo HD feature set (100% GPU offload) for all but VC-1 decoding ...<\blockquote>

    Dont you mean ...
    <blockquote>the features listed as "Avivo", <b>HD 2400 and HD 2600</b> based hardware comprise the Avivo HD feature set (100% GPU offload) for all but VC-1 decoding ...<\blockquote>

    Regards
    Reply
  • iwodo - Monday, July 23, 2007 - link

    quote:

    We have to stress here that, in spite of the fact that NVIDIA and AMD expect the inclusion of video decode hardware on their low end hardware to provide significant value to end users, we absolutely cannot recommend current low end graphics card for use in systems where video decode is important. In our eyes, with the inability to provide a high quality HD experience in all cases, the HD 2400, GeForce 8500, and lower end hardware are all only suitable for use in business class or casual computing systems where neither games nor HD video play a part in the system's purpose.


    May be i am the only one who doesn't understand why would they not recommend a Geforce 8500 for Low end machine?
    Reply
  • Chunga29 - Monday, July 23, 2007 - link

    The NVIDIA 8500 drivers are not currently working with PureVideo HD, I believe was mentioned. Reply
  • ssiu - Monday, July 23, 2007 - link

    NVIDIA PureVideo HD still doesn't support Windows XP, correct? That would be the deciding factor for many people (instead of a noise reduction score of 15% versus 25% etc.) Reply
  • legoman666 - Monday, July 23, 2007 - link

    this man hit the nail on the head. A couple months ago i was on the verge of buying a new video card for my htpc with h.264 acceleration, but upon learning that those features were only enabled for vista (bleh) I decided not to upgrade at all. Reply
  • DigitalFreak - Monday, July 23, 2007 - link

    Any ideas as to why the HQV scores are almost totally opposite of what http://techreport.com/reviews/2007q3/radeon-hd-240...">The Techreport came up with? I'd trust AT's review more, but it seems strange that the scores are so different. Reply
  • phusg - Monday, July 23, 2007 - link

    Yes very interesting! FTA:
    quote:

    Also, even on the 8600 GTS, Nvidia's noise reduction filter isn't anywhere near ready for prime-time. This routine may produce a solid score in HQV, but it introduces visible color banding during HD movie playback. AMD's algorithms quite clearly perform better.
    Reply
  • DigitalFreak - Monday, July 23, 2007 - link

    I'm wondering if they ran with the noise filter at over 75% in their test. As Derek mentioned, higher than 75% produced banding. I also noticed that Derek used 163.x drivers, while TR used 162.x.

    Honestly, I wish there was an 8600 GT/GTS with HDMI out. Would really love to avoid running two cables to my receiver.
    Reply
  • Gary Key - Monday, July 23, 2007 - link

    quote:

    Honestly, I wish there was an 8600 GT/GTS with HDMI out. Would really love to avoid running two cables to my receiver.


    There will be in about 60 days, hardware is sampling now. ;)
    Reply

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