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Blu-ray & Flash Video Acceleration

Compatibility is obviously a strongpoint of Brazos. So long as what you’re decoding can be hardware accelerated you’re pretty much in the clear. But what about CPU utilization while playing back these hardware accelerated formats? The CPU still needs to feed data to the GPU, how many cycles are used in the process?

I fired up a few H.264/x264 tests to kick off the investigation. First we have a 1080p H.264 Blu-ray rip of Quantum of Solace, averaging around 15Mbps:

Quantum of Solace 1080p H.264 CPU Utilization (1:00 - 1:30)
Platform Min Avg Max
AMD E-350 22.7% 27.8% 35.3%
Intel Atom D510 Fail
Zotac ION 14.6% 17.2% 20.1%

A standard Atom platform can’t decode the video but ION manages a 17% average CPU utilization with an Atom 330. Remember that the Atom 330 is a dual-core CPU with SMT (4-threads total) so you’re actually getting 17.2% of four hardware threads used, but 34.4% of two cores. The E-350 by comparison leaves 27.8% of its two cores in use during this test. Both systems have more than enough horsepower left over to do other things.

Next up is an actual Blu-ray disc (Casino Royale) but stripped of its DRM using AnyDVD HD and played back from a folder on the SSD:

Casino Royale BD (no DRM) CPU Utilization (49:00 - 49:30)
Platform Min Avg Max
AMD E-350 28.1% 33.0% 38.4%
Intel Atom D510 Fail
Zotac ION 17.7% 22.5% 27.5%

Average CPU utilization here for the E-350 was 33% of two cores.

Finally I ran a full blown Blu-ray disc (Star Trek) bitstreaming TrueHD on the E-350 to give you an idea of what worst case scenario CPU utilization would be like on Brazos:

Star Trek BD CPU Utilization (2:30 - 3:30)
Platform Min Avg Max
AMD E-350 29.0% 40.1% 57.1%

At 40% CPU utilization on average there’s enough headroom to do something else while watching a high bitrate 1080p movie on Brazos. The GPU based video decode acceleration does work, however the limits here are clear. Brazos isn’t going to fare well as a platform you use for heavy multitasking while decoding video, even if the video decode is hardware accelerated. As a value/entry-level platform I doubt this needs much more explanation.

Now let’s talk about Flash.

I ran through a number of Flash video tests at both YouTube and Hulu ranging in resolution from 480p all the way up to 1080p. I used Flash 10.1, 10.2 beta as well as an unreleased version of 10.2 beta provided by AMD.

Flash Video Playback CPU Utilization - YouTube 720p

Flash Video Playback CPU Utilization - Hulu 480p

For the most part GPU accelerated Flash video does work well. Performance under both YouTube and Hulu was flawless, provided that I wasn’t watching 1080p content. Watching 1080p content in YouTube wasn’t entirely smooth on Brazos, despite posting very reasonable CPU utilization numbers.

Flash Video Playback CPU Utilization - YouTube 1080p

Flash Video Playback CPU Utilization - YouTube 1080p

I took my concerns to AMD and was told that this was a known issue with Brazos and Flash 10.1 and that 10.2 should alleviate the issue. AMD then supplied me with an unreleased version of Flash 10.2 to allow me to verify its claims. While 1080p playback improved with AMD’s 10.2 beta, it wasn’t perfect (although it was very close). AMD wouldn’t tell me the cause of the problem but it’s currently working on it with Adobe. At the end of the day I don’t believe it’s a dealbreaker, but early Brazos adapters should expect some stuttering when playing back 1080p YouTube videos. Note that 720p and lower resolution videos were perfectly smooth on Brazos.

Video Decode Capabilities: Is Brazos the New ION? The Radeon HD 6310: Very Good for the Money
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  • msroadkill612 - Tuesday, February 08, 2011 - link

    I saw one mobo which had 1 x pcie, 1 pci, and 2 of the little pcie slots, so you do have other options.

    personally i would only consider a a dual tuner card (take care - they also refer to analogue/digital as dual tuner).

    The nature of free to air is that the good shows are always shown at the same time.
    Reply
  • silverblue - Monday, February 21, 2011 - link

    http://www.asus.com/product.aspx?P_ID=qSoDxhM5mAk1...

    £110 inc. VAT in the UK and it's not even passively cooled, nor does it have WiFi.

    The Deluxe model offers DTS Surround Sensation and a couple more USB 3.0 ports, plus comes in Mini ITX as opposed to uATX. Both seem to offer performance as well as power saving settings, and 5 SATAIII ports. I'd expect the Deluxe to be very difficult to find, however.
    Reply
  • misterg - Friday, March 11, 2011 - link

    Quick question: I am considering to use an e-350 brazos as a small and very power efficient system that runs windows 7 in the metering cupboard. Display keyboard mouse will not be needed, other than when installing the system.

    The OS (win7) run from a USB stick
    Some storage in 2.5" disks is added but spun down when not accessed
    PicoPSU or other very efficient PSU
    Low voltage / eco RAM

    What is a realistic power envelope for this when at idle? The 24 watt does not sound really great to me, I'm hoping to be able to reach well below 10 watts..
    Reply
  • FDIV-Bug - Monday, May 09, 2011 - link

    Hey guys!

    I have the same MSI E350IA-E45 board with Windows 7 SP1 x64 installed, but a cant log cpu usage.
    I already tried Core Temp 99.8 (log only one core), AMD Overdrive 3.2.3.0457 (it doesn't even open) and AMD AMD System Monitor Version 1.0.5 (just doesn't log correctly) .

    If you have any suggestions, I'm all ears
    Reply

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