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

  • MrSpadge - Thursday, June 21, 2012 - link

    And they support newer features and cost significantly less to run. Still, the price is ridiculous, especially for DDR3. Reply
  • Taft12 - Wednesday, June 20, 2012 - link

    "Zotac has worked themselves into an interesting position as the only partner currently offering a single-slot card"

    I think EVGA's launched even before Zotac. No blocked mini-HDMI port either!

    http://www.newegg.ca/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82...
    Reply
  • nathanddrews - Wednesday, June 20, 2012 - link

    First off, I want to thank you for testing the 4K capabilities of this card. While disappointing that there is no DP output for 4K@60Hz, I suppose it's only a matter of time.

    Second, and more important, I wanted to make you aware of this in case you haven't seen it. Shot in 4K, edited in 4K, mastered in 4K and you can buy it in any format including Blu-ray (1080p), 2560x1440p, and even its raw 140GB 4K Cineform resolution. Seeing as how one of you awesome people now has the Sony 1000ES (jealous!), you definitely shouldn't waste time showing 4K YouTube clips!

    http://timescapes.org/products/default.aspx
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e-GYrbecb88
    Reply
  • Hrel - Wednesday, June 20, 2012 - link

    I saw a GTX560 on newegg for 145bucks after MIR today. Whenever people ask me about gaming cards and say they don't want to spend much more than 100 bucks I say, cut back on coffee for a week or skip that night at the bars and just spend the extra 30 bucks or so. Makes absolutely NO sense to handicap yourself over 30 bucks. GTX560 FTW!!! Reply
  • just4U - Thursday, June 21, 2012 - link

    That's pretty much where the 7750 comes in. Performance overall is fairly similiar. Plus you can do away with the confusion since the 560 comes in 4-5 different flavors, yes? Reply
  • maroon1 - Saturday, June 23, 2012 - link

    What ?! GTX 560 is much faster than even HD7770.

    http://www.anandtech.com/show/5541/amd-radeon-hd-7...
    Reply
  • Lolimaster - Wednesday, June 20, 2012 - link

    So slow that a 6670 feels like high end and 7750 a total monster. $109 for these joke of a gpu (gt640)? You must be trolling. Reply
  • Lolimaster - Wednesday, June 20, 2012 - link

    A8 5800K is a tiny bit slow thatn 6670 so it should be faster (for free with the APU) than a $109 nvidia discrete gpu. Reply
  • bhima - Wednesday, June 20, 2012 - link

    This card is horrible. I was initially unimpressed with AMD's 7750 and 7770 performance, but now those cards just look beastly compared to this. This should be a $50-60 card at max for that kind of performance. Hell I think my 540m performs almost as good as this card. Reply
  • staryoshi - Wednesday, June 20, 2012 - link

    GDDR5 would have really lifted the performance of this card. I'm sure they went with GDDR3 as a cost-saving measure and to not canibalize the sale of other cards.. but at this price point it's not a compelling item at all for most.

    They really need to get the 28nm process under control and wrangle in pricing on this pup.
    Reply

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now