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 15.22.2.64.2372 drivers. The AMD 6550D was tested with Catalyst 11.6, driver version 8.862 RC1 and the HD4000 with driver version 8.15.10.2696

 
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
Gray Bars 5 5 5 5
Violin 5 5 5 5
Film Resolution Stadium 2:2 5 5 5 5
Stadium 3:2 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
Flower 5 5 5 5
Sunrise 5 5 5 5
Harbour Night 5 5 5 5
Compression Artifacts Scrolling Text 5 3 3 5
Roller Coaster 5 3 3 5
Ferris Wheel 5 3 3 5
Bridge Traffic 5 3 3 5
Upscaled Compression Artifacts Text Pattern 5 3 3 3
Roller Coaster 5 3 3 3
Ferris Wheel 5 3 3 3
Bridge Traffic 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
Vanishing Text 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
Driftwood 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
             
    Total Score 210 173 184 197

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.

Testbed and Software Setup Video Post Processing in Action
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  • jwilliams4200 - Monday, April 23, 2012 - link

    Not really. I think HD4000 is just about right for an HTPC. Later, when the Ivy Bridge core-i3's come out, I think the i3-3225, with HD4000, will be the first choice for HTPCs. Reply
  • shawkie - Monday, April 23, 2012 - link

    If the i7-3770T is actually ever available to buy then from a power consumption point of view it would also be a good choice (with plenty of CPU headroom for the times where GPU decoding doesn't work) . From a cost point of view it might be a bit on the high side I suppose. Reply
  • flashbacck - Monday, April 23, 2012 - link

    As one of the few people still running a dedicated htpc, I appreciate the article. Reply
  • anirudhs - Tuesday, April 24, 2012 - link

    You mean use your HTPC for all media, including HD-DVR and Blu-Ray? I am just getting into it now. Reply
  • jwcalla - Monday, April 23, 2012 - link

    Getting an i7 for an HTPC is like getting a Mustang GT500 to drive Miss Daisy. Come on now, is AT a review site for Daddy Warbucks types?

    Ok serious question though. What's the Intel IVB driver / HW acceleration situation on Linux? I couldn't imagine dropping $100 on Windows 7 for something as simple as HTPC functionality. For nvidia we're talking $10 Geforce card + VDPAU + lowest end CPU + least amount of RAM possible + linux = HTPC solution. Or a Zotac box. Can Intel compete with that?
    Reply
  • ExarKun333 - Monday, April 23, 2012 - link

    This review is really testing the HD4000 implementation. When the dual-cores are released with the HD4000, the GPU will be exactly the same, so almost everything will be directly applicable there too. Reply
  • anirudhs - Tuesday, April 24, 2012 - link

    If you plan on getting cable onto your PC you have no choice but Windows due to DRM issues. Some channels will not be recorded by MythTV. Reply
  • CoffeeGrinder - Monday, April 23, 2012 - link

    With that P8H77-M config, if you use a double slot GPU in one PCIex16 slot (and so lose one PCIex1 slot) and use TV tuners in both on the remaining slots PCIex1 and PCIex16 does using the second PCIex16 slot result in the first PCIex16 running at x8 ? Reply
  • ganeshts - Tuesday, April 24, 2012 - link

    If the second PCIe is occupied, then it will cause the first x16 to run at x8. Both these slots are electrically connected, so when you need even one lane, it takes eight away from the first PCIe slot for it. Reply
  • Bluestraw - Tuesday, April 24, 2012 - link

    I see you didn't test madVR in Full Screen Exclusive mode - can you elaborate on the reason for this please? I read over at missingremote that FSE improved the situation significantly for madVR with the HD4000? Reply

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