Intel's Ivy Bridge: An HTPC Perspectiveby Ganesh T S on April 23, 2012 12:01 PM EST
HTPC enthusiasts are often concerned about the quality of pictures output by the system. While this is a very subjective metric, we have been taking as much of an objective approach as possible. We have been using the HQV 2.0 benchmark in our HTPC reviews to identify the GPUs' video post processing capabilities. The HQV benchmarking procedure has been heavily promoted by AMD, and Intel also seems to be putting its weight behind that.
The control panel for the Ivy Bridge GPU has a number of interesting video post processing control knobs which earlier drivers lacked. The most interesting of these is the ability to perform noise reduction on a per-channel basis, i.e, only for luma or for both luma and chroma. More options are always good for consumers, and the interface makes it simple enough to leave the decision making to the drivers or the application. An explicit skin tone correction option is also available.
HQV scores need to be taken with a grain of salt. In particular, one must check the tests where the GPU lost out points. In case those tests don't reflect the reader's usage scenario, the handicap can probably be ignored. So, it is essential that the scores for each test be compared, rather than just the total value.
The HQV 2.0 test suite consists of 39 different streams divided into 4 different classes. For the Ivy Bridge HTPC, we used Cyberlink PowerDVD 12 with TrueTheater disabled and hardware acceleration enabled for playing back the HQV streams. The playback device was assigned scores for each, depending on how well it played the stream. Each test was repeated multiple times to ensure that the correct score was assigned. The scoring details are available in the testing guide from HQV.
Blu-rays are usually mastered very carefully. Any video post processing (other than deinterlacing) which needs to be done is handled before burning it in. In this context, we don't think it is a great idea to run the HQV benchmark videos off the disc. Instead, we play the streams after copying them over to the hard disk. How does the score compare to what was obtained by the Sandy Bridge and Llano at launch?
In the table below, we indicate the maximum score possible for each test, and how much each GPU was able to get. The HD3000 is from the Core i5-2520M with the Intel 126.96.36.199.2372 drivers. The AMD 6550D was tested with Catalyst 11.6, driver version 8.862 RC1 and the HD4000 with driver version 188.8.131.5296
|HQV 2.0 Benchmark|
|Test Class||Chapter||Tests||Max. Score||Intel HD3000||AMD 6550D (Local file)||Intel HD4000|
|Video Conversion||Video Resolution||Dial||5||5||4||5|
|Dial with Static Pattern||5||5||5||5|
|Film Resolution||Stadium 2:2||5||5||5||5|
|Overlay On Film||Horizontal Text Scroll||5||3||5||3|
|Vertical Text Scroll||5||5||5||5|
|Cadence Response Time||Transition to 3:2 Lock||5||5||5||5|
|Transition to 2:2 Lock||5||5||5||5|
|Multi-Cadence||2:2:2:4 24 FPS DVCam Video||5||5||5||5|
|2:3:3:2 24 FPS DVCam Video||5||5||5||5|
|3:2:3:2:2 24 FPS Vari-Speed||5||5||5||5|
|5:5 12 FPS Animation||5||5||5||5|
|6:4 12 FPS Animation||5||5||5||5|
|8:7 8 FPS Animation||5||5||5||5|
|Color Upsampling Errors||Interlace Chroma Problem (ICP)||5||2||2||5|
|Chroma Upsampling Error (CUE)||5||2||2||5|
|Noise and Artifact Reduction||Random Noise||SailBoat||5||5||5||5|
|Compression Artifacts||Scrolling Text||5||3||3||5|
|Upscaled Compression Artifacts||Text Pattern||5||3||3||3|
|Image Scaling and Enhancements||Scaling and Filtering||Luminance Frequency Bands||5||5||5||5|
|Chrominance Frequency Bands||5||5||5||5|
|Resolution Enhancement||Brook, Mountain, Flower, Hair, Wood||15||15||15||15|
|Video Conversion||Contrast Enhancement||Theme Park||5||5||5||5|
|Beach at Dusk||5||2||5||5|
|White and Black Cats||5||5||5||5|
|Skin Tone Correction||Skin Tones||10||0||7||7|
A look at the above table reveals that Intel has caught up with the competition in terms of HQV scores. In fact, they have comfortably surpassed what the Llano got at launch time. Many of the driver problems plaguing AMD's GPUs hadn't been fixed when we looked at the AMD 7750 a couple of months back, so it is likely that the Llano's scores have not budged much from what we have above. In fact, the score of 197 ties with what we obtained for the 6570 during our discrete HTPC GPU shootout.