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The popularity of Intel's HD Graphics amongst HTPC enthusiasts and the success of the AMD APUs seem to indicate that the days of the discrete HTPC GPU are numbered. However, for those with legacy systems, a discrete HTPC GPU will probably be the only way to enable hardware accelerated HD playback. In the meanwhile, discrete HTPC GPUs also aim to offer more video post processing capabilities.

In this context, both AMD and NVIDIA have been serving the market with their low end GPUs. These GPUs are preferable for HTPC scenarios due to their low power consumption and ability to be passively cooled. Today, we will be taking a look at four GPUs for which passively cooled solutions exist in the market. From AMD's side, we have the 6450 and 6570, while the GT 430 and GT 520 make up the numbers from the NVIDIA side.

Gaming benchmarks are not of much interest to the HTPC user interested in a passively cooled solution. Instead of focusing on that aspect, we will evaluate factors relevant to the AV experience. After taking a look at the paper specifications of the candidates, we will describe our evaluation testbed.

We will start off the hands-on evaluation with a presentation of the HQV benchmarks. This provides the first differentiating factor.

While almost all cards (including the integrated graphics on CPUs) are able to playback HD videos with some sort of acceleration, videophiles are more demanding. They want to customize the display refresh rate to match the source frame rate of the video being played. Casual HTPC users may not recognize the subtle issues created by mismatched refresh rates. However, improper deinterlacing may lead to highly noticeable issues. We will devote a couple of sections to see how the cards handle custom refresh rates and fare at deinterlacing.

After this, we will proceed to identify a benchmark for evaluating HTPC GPUs. This benchmark gives us an idea of how fast the GPUs can decode the supported codecs, and whether faster decoding implies more time for post processing. We will see one of the cards having insane decoding speeds, and try to find out why.

Over the last few months, we have also been keeping track of some exciting open source software in the HTPC area. Aiming to simplify the player setup and also take advantage of as many features of your GPU as possible, we believe these are very close to being ready for prime time. We will have a couple of sections covering the setup and usage of these tools.

Without further ado, let us go forward and take a look at the contenders.

The Contenders
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  • ganeshts - Thursday, June 16, 2011 - link

    PotPlayer apparently doesn't have support for hardware deinterlacing, and has a host of other issues [ Search for PotPlayer in this page and then read the next set of posts about it : http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showthread.php?p=20... ].

    Of course, if it works for you, it is great :) (probably it is a good solution for people watching progressive material only).

    The author of LAV CUVID talks in that thread about how renderless DXVA mode works with madVR at the cost of deinterlacing.

    Btw, there is no decode of DTS-HD in any open source software now. Both ffdshow and PotPlayer can decode only the core DTS soundtrack. DTS decode has been around for a long time, though.
    Reply
  • NikosD - Saturday, June 18, 2011 - link

    Indeed, I was referring to progressive material only - interlaced material is rare - but the page you mentioned says PotPlayer has CPU deinterlacing.

    I don't see where is the problem.

    Hardware Deinterlacing is less important - for most users - than Hardware Decoding (DXVA) and less important than the UNIQUE capability of using DXVA + madVR at the same time.

    The cost of hardware deinterlacing is nothing compared to the cost of DXVA and madVR.

    For the audio part of your answer, I have to say that because of my AVR (Pioneer VSX-920) decoding inside a PC, BluRay, Media Player or any other decoding capable device of multi-channel audio is never an option for me.

    I always prefer the bitstreaming solutions for multi-channel audio - as most of the owners of AVR do - like those provided by FFDshow and PotPlayer which both are more than capable of providing them.

    That's why I wrote "decoding and pass-through", I had to write "splitting and pass-through".

    One last word.

    For every piece of software out there, there is always a list of changes, bugs, things to do.

    That doesn't mean we don't use it or like it.
    Reply
  • PR3ACH3R - Friday, June 17, 2011 - link

    @Ganesh T S,
    This is some NICE work.
    In fact, I cannot recall when was the last time I have seen such an in depth article on the HTPC GPU subject in Anandtech.

    The balance between the technical issues, the background, & the effort to honestly report all issues known to you in this article, is spot on.

    If it is missing something on the issues report, it misses on the ATI/AMD DPC Latency spiking issues.

    As this is still remains unnoticed in Anandtech even in this excellent article, here is a link to the AVS post describing it.

    http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showthread.php?t=12...

    (Ignore some of the discredit attempt posts in this thread, this problem exists to this very day.)
    Reply
  • NikosD - Thursday, June 23, 2011 - link

    Well, I did some further tests and found out that PotPlayer does have hardware deinterlacing.

    Have you done any tests by yourself to see if the player supports Hardware Deinterlacing ?
    Reply
  • ganeshts - Saturday, June 25, 2011 - link

    NikosD, I will definitely try PotPlayer out in the next GPU review. Till now, my knowledge is limited to what is there in the AVSForum thread. Reply
  • flashbacck - Friday, June 24, 2011 - link

    I know HTPCs are even more of niche these days than ever, so I appreciate you still doing these tests very much. Reply
  • wpoulson - Thursday, July 28, 2011 - link

    I really appreciate this guide and have been stepping through it

    I just registered the ASVid.ax file from TMT5 but the filter is not showing up in the External Filter section of MPC-HC. At first I thought it might be because I registered it on the 32 bit side and I'm using 64 bit MPC-HC, so I unregistered the file from System 32 and registered it on the 64 bit side.

    I registered it by going to Start>CMD>Cntrl-Shift-Enter and using the "Regsvr32" command to register the file. I put the file along with the checkactivate dll in a folder in the root directory of my C drive and pointed the Regsvr command to the ASVid.ax file. After hitting enter, I received a "dll successfully registered" message.

    Can someone help me to get the filter visible for MPC-HC?

    A question...While it's considered beta, will the new LAV video decoder do the same thing the arcsoft video decoder does?

    Thanks

    Warren
    Reply
  • stuartm - Friday, January 20, 2012 - link

    I am aware the gt 430 is a good choice to work around the infamous WMC 29/59 framerate bug. Can you comment on whether or not the 6570 will stutter or not when playing content with 29/59 framerate problems? A very important consideration for those of us using ceton or HDHR Primes (or the new Hauppauge box) for cable TV Live viewing and record/replay.

    Thank You
    Reply
  • MichaelSan1980 - Saturday, January 21, 2012 - link

    I'd use my HTPC for DVD's and BD's only with an Full-HD TV. Since i have a rather strong CPU and wouldn't use Hardware Deinterlacing for DVDs, i wonder, if the GT520 is ~that~ bad, in terms of image quality? Reply
  • drizzo4shizzo - Wednesday, June 20, 2012 - link

    Old guy here.

    In the market but I need confirmation that these cards can do component output to "old guy" HDTV.

    NONE of the marketing materials suggest that any recent card can.

    Meaning they either come with a component video breakout or at least are compatible with a known 3rd party product, and that they can do the RGB -> YUV thing.

    This ancient EVGA 7600 GT I have does it... with an "svideo lookalike" 7 pin -> component breakout.

    Anyone? Beuller?
    Reply

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