The Test

Our test setup consisted of multiple processors including a high end, low end, and previous generation test case. Our desire was to evaluate how much difference hardware decode makes for each of these classes of CPU and to determine how much value video offload really brings to the table today.

Performance Test Configuration:
CPU: Intel Core 2 Extreme X6800 (2.93GHz/4MB)
Intel Core 2 Duo E4300 (1.8GHz/2MB)
Intel Pentium 4 560 (3.6GHz)
Motherboard: ASUS P5W-DH
Chipset: Intel 975X
Chipset Drivers: Intel 8.2.0.1014
Hard Disk: Seagate 7200.7 160GB SATA
Memory: Corsair XMS2 DDR2-800 4-4-4-12 (1GB x 2)
Video Card: Various
Video Drivers: ATI Catalyst 8.38.9.1-rc2
NVIDIA ForceWare 163.11
Desktop Resolution: 1920 x 1080 - 32-bit @ 60Hz
OS: Windows Vista x86


We are using PowerDVD Ultra 7.3 with patch 3104a applied. This patch fixed a lot of our issues with playback and brought PowerDVD up to the level we wanted and expected. We did, however, have difficulty disabling GPU acceleration with this version of PowerDVD, so we will be unable to present CPU only decoding numbers. From our previous experience though, only CPUs faster than an E6600 can guarantee smooth decoding in the absence of GPU acceleration.

As for video tests, we have the final version of Silicon Optix HD HQV for HD-DVD, and we will be scoring these subjective tests to the best of our ability using the criteria provided by Silicon Optix and the examples they provide on their disk.

For performance we used perfmon to record average CPU utilization over 100 seconds (the default loop time). Our performance tests will include three different clips: The Transporter 2 trailer from The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Blu-ray disc (H.264), Yozakura (H.264), and Serenity (VC-1). All of these tests proved to be very consistent in performance under each of our hardware configurations. Therefore, for readability's sake, we will only be reporting average CPU overhead.

Index HD HQV Image Quality Analysis
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  • erwos - Monday, July 23, 2007 - link

    Does it? Because I thought that was only for MPEG-2. Link? Reply
  • smitty3268 - Monday, July 23, 2007 - link

    Most drivers only support it with MPEG-2, but that doesn't mean it isn't capable of more. Looking again, I'm a little unclear about how much work would be required to get it working. I'm not sure if it is completely done and just requires support from the hardware vendors or if it also needs some additional work before that happens.

    http://www.mythtv.org/wiki/index.php/XvMC">http://www.mythtv.org/wiki/index.php/XvMC
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/X-Video_Motion_Compen...">http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/X-Video_Motion_Compen...
    Reply
  • Per Hansson - Monday, July 23, 2007 - link

    Hi, it would be really interesting to see similar tests done in Linux also

    For example how cheap of a HTPC rig can you build, with free software too, and still provide betters features than any of the commercial solutions.

    I think we are many that have some old hardware laying around. And when seeing this article it brings up ideas. Pairing the old computer with a (AGP?) ATI 2600 card would provide an ideal solution in a nice HTPC chassi under the TV perhaps?
    Reply
  • jojo4u - Monday, July 23, 2007 - link

    Linux is not practical. You would have to crack AACS and dump the disc first. Reply
  • Per Hansson - Monday, July 23, 2007 - link

    Hmm, I did not realize that

    However a HTPC can still be built to be a player for satellite data for example, granted configuring all that up with a subscription card will not be for the faint of heart. But then again the Dreambox 8000 is not available yet, only a new decoder from Kathrein UFS910 with no decent software (yet)
    Reply
  • jojo4u - Monday, July 23, 2007 - link

    Hi Derek,

    good review. However, based on a review of the german written magazine C't I have some suggestions and additions:
    PowerDVD patch 2911, Catalyst 7.6, Nvidia 158.24
    - the Geforce G84/85 miss not only VC-1 but also MPEG-2 bitstream processing.
    - the HD 2400 does not have MPEG-2 bitstream processing, frequency transform and pixel prediction or it is not activated.
    - A single core Athlon is significantly worse than a single core Pentium IV. The reson is AACS. Decryption puts a hudge load on the CPU and is optimized for Intel CPUs (9%->39% H.264, Pentium IV, Casino Royale). Perhaps later patches made the situation better (like your Yozakura shows?)
    - VC-1 on the Radeons and Geforces showed picture distortions, but based on your review this seems to be fixed now

    Combinations of Athlon 3500+, X2 6000+, Pentium IV 3,2 GHz, Pentium E2160 and HD 2400/2600, Geforce 8600 GTS which resulted in lagging in MPEG-2 or VC-1 or H.264
    3500+ + 690G/2400/2600/8600
    6000+ + 690G
    Pentium IV + 8600
    Reply
  • Chunga29 - Monday, July 23, 2007 - link

    Why run with older drivers? If these features are important to you, you will need to stay on top of the driver game. Would have been interesting to see AMD chips in there, but then that would require a different motherboard as well. I think the use of a P4 560 was perfectly acceptable - it's a low-end CPU and if it can handle playback with the 2600/8600 then Athlons will be fine as well. Reply
  • 8steve8 - Monday, July 23, 2007 - link

    nice article..

    but, while i usually think anandtech conclusions are insightful and spot on,

    it seems odd not to give props to the 2600xt which dominated the benchmarks.


    for the occasional gamer who often likes watching videos, it seems the 2600xt is a great choice, better than the 8600gts.

    for example for VC1, on a low end c2duo the difference between 7% and 19.2% matters, esp if the person likes watching a video while working or browsing or whatever...




    can amd add noise reduction options later w/ a driver update?
    Reply
  • defter - Tuesday, July 24, 2007 - link

    quote:

    for example for VC1, on a low end c2duo the difference between 7% and 19.2% matters, esp if the person likes watching a video while working or browsing or whatever...


    How can that matter? Even in worst case you have 80% of idle CPU time.

    Besides, how can you "work" while watching video at the same time? And don't try to tell me that a web browser takes over 80% of CPU time with Core2 Duo system...
    Reply
  • drebo - Monday, July 23, 2007 - link

    quote:

    it seems odd not to give props to the 2600xt which dominated the benchmarks.


    We all know why this is.

    I'll give you a hint: look at the overwhelming presence of Intel advertising on this site.

    It doesn't take a genius to figure it out. That's why I don't take the video and CPU reviews on this site seriously anymore.
    Reply

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