HTPC Aspects : What is New?

We covered discrete HTPC GPUs in detail last year, and noted that the GT 520 was the sign of interesting things to come from NVIDIA.

The GT 520 was the first GPU from NVIDIA to come with support for VDPAU Feature Set D (also called as VP5 by some). VP5 is faster than VP4 and also brings support for decode of 4K x 2K videos. Unfortunately, the GT 520 didn't have the necessary hardware to output 4K resolution over any of its video outputs. The number of shaders in the GT 520 was also too low to support advanced deinterlacing algorithms. On the whole, despite the updated video processing engine (VPU), we couldn't recommend the GT 520 as the ideal discrete HTPC GPU.

All our concerns were supposed to be laid to rest with the launch of the Kepler series. NVIDIA started off at the high end with the GTX 680, a card which couldn't be called HTPC-friendly by any stretch of imagination. The more HTPC-friendly GK107 did see a simultaneous launch, but in mobile-only form as the 640M.

Given the configuration of GK107, it appeared likely that a desktop version would tick off all the boxes necessary for a HTPC. Does the Zotac GT 640 fulfill our expectations? The short answer is: Yes, it does! It improves upon the performance of the GT 430 with respect to madVR, thanks to the extra computational power and memory bandwidth. Meanwhile the updates to the video outputs (HDMI PHYs) and the retention of the VPU from the GT 520 enable decode and display of 4K videos in their native resolution.

However, these updates don't mean that NVIDIA's GPUs are perfect for HTPCs. Just like every other HTPC GPU vendor out there, NVIDIA has a list of things which need to be fixed from a HTPC perspective, which we'll dive into in a moment.

Another important update present in the Kepler series is the on-board H.264 encoder. The practice of integrating a H.264 encoder in the GPU was started by Intel in Sandy Bridge. While Intel has the second generation version of QuickSync in the Ivy Bridge processors, AMD and NVIDIA are just now starting to ship their first generation encoders (VCE and NVENC respectively).

Both VCE and NVENC are yet to gain widespread support amongst the software vendors, and NVIDIA themselves indicated that full support for NVENC in CyberLink's and ArcSoft's offerings would be coming sometime next month. Keeping this in mind, we have decided to postpone NVENC coverage to a later date.

In the next few sections, we will look at the HTPC aspects of the Zotac GT 640. Before delving further into that, the details of our testbed are provided below:

Zotac GT 640 HTPC Testbed Setup
Processor / GPU Intel Core i7-3770K - 3.50 GHz (Turbo to 3.9 GHz)
Zotac GT 640
Motherboard Asus P8H77-M Pro uATX
OS Drive Seagate Barracuda XT 2 TB
Secondary Drive Kingston SSDNow V+ 128 GB SATA II SSD SNV325-S2/128GB
Memory G.SKILL ECO Series 4GB (2 x 2GB) SDRAM DDR3 1333 (PC3 10666) F3-10666CL7D-4GBECO CAS 9-9-9-24
Case Antec VERIS Fusion Remote Max
Power Supply Antec TruePower New TP-550 550W
Operating System Windows 7 Ultimate x64 SP1
Display / AVR Sony VPL-VW 1000ES
Sony KDL46EX720 + Pioneer Elite VSX-32
Acer H243H
Graphics Drivers GeForce R300 Series v301.42 WHQL
Softwares CyberLink PowerDVD 12
MPC-HC 1.6.2.4902
LAV Filters 0.50.5
madVR 0.82.5
.

Note that we used three different HDMI sinks for our testing. While the fancy Sony VPL-VW 1000ES was used to test out 4K resolution output, the Sony KDL46EX720 + Pioneer VSX-32 was used to verify HD audio bitstreaming. The rest of the tests (including HQV benchmarking) were performed with the Acer H243H monitor.

Meet The Zotac GeForce GT 640 DDR3 HTPC Aspects : 4K Decode and Display
POST A COMMENT

60 Comments

View All Comments

  • Joe H - Wednesday, June 20, 2012 - link

    This is the type of review that other hardware sites can't even imagine, let alone write. Thanks for putting this and the other HTPC articles together. It's great to see a hardware review site taking HTPC enthusiasts and their needs seriously. Excellent review. Reply
  • n0b0dykn0ws - Wednesday, June 20, 2012 - link

    Is there a chance of a follow up once a few driver updates have been released?

    I would love to see if the card gets even better after a few releases.

    I have a Radeon 6570 right now, and I've found it to be palatable for HTPC purposes.

    n0b0dykn0ws
    Reply
  • Taft12 - Wednesday, June 20, 2012 - link

    They haven't done it before, I don't know why they'd start now. Reply
  • Ryan Smith - Thursday, June 21, 2012 - link

    What specifically are you looking for? Gaming performance or HTPC functionality? Gaming performance isn't likely to improve; even with the newer architecture it's not Kepler that's the limiting factor. HTPC functionality on the other hand can easily be improved with drivers. Reply
  • n0b0dykn0ws - Thursday, June 21, 2012 - link

    HTPC only. For gaming I would get a 670.

    Sometimes drivers break HTPC performance/quality though. At least in the AMD world.

    n0b0dykn0ws
    Reply
  • Kevin G - Wednesday, June 20, 2012 - link

    If they're going to release a DDR3 version, why not just offer a version with no onboard memory and two DIMM slots so that users can add there own? You can get a DDR3-2133 kit which would boost bandwidth limited scenarios by roughly 15%. While I don't see the need, such a card could be upgraded all the way to 16 GB of memory. Reply
  • MrSpadge - Thursday, June 21, 2012 - link

    Sockets
    - are unconventional (I don't think nVidia likes this word)
    - introduce a little cost (GPU manufacturer doesn't like it)
    - make the board larger (GPU manufacturer doesn't like it)
    - make the bus timing worse, so it's harder to clock them as high as directly soldered chips (wouldn't matter with DDR3, though)
    - introduce another point of failure (GPU manufacturer doesn't like higher RAM rates)
    - add cost to the overall product, as the end user wouldn't get as sweet a deal on RAM as the GPU manufacturer (this would eat into the GPU manufacturers profit margin)
    Reply
  • Stuka87 - Wednesday, June 20, 2012 - link

    Sounds like unless temps are really important to you, the 7750-800 is by far the better choice. It outperforms the GT640 (And by a wide margin in some cases) in what looks like, every single test.

    And they are priced the same, which makes the GT640 kind of worthless for its intended price point.
    Reply
  • cjs150 - Wednesday, June 20, 2012 - link

    Great review.

    It is too noisy, and the HDMI socket is an epic design fail. As a card for an HTPC what were Zotac thinking of? This is so badly wrong.

    Now onto frame rates. Nvidia, AMD and Intel really are total and utter idiots or they have decided that we the customers are total and utter idiots. There is simply no excuse for all IGPs and video cards not to be able to lock on to the correct frame rate with absolute precision. It is not as though the frame rate specs for film have changed recently. I cannot decide whether it is sloppiness, arrogance or they simply do not give a rats a##e for the customer experience.
    Reply
  • Stuka87 - Wednesday, June 20, 2012 - link

    God forbid there be a technical reason for it.... Reply

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now