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
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  • HighTech4US - Wednesday, June 20, 2012 - link

    At least hen the GT240 was released it came in both DDR3 and GDDR5. Reply
  • UNhooked - Wednesday, June 20, 2012 - link

    I wish there was some sort of Video encoding benchmark. I have been told AMD/ATI cards aren't very good when it comes to video encoding. Reply
  • mosu - Thursday, June 21, 2012 - link

    who told you that kind of crap ?Please check the internet. Reply
  • Rumpelstiltstein - Thursday, June 21, 2012 - link

    Did this low-end offering really manage to pull off these kind of numbers? I'm impressed. Not something I would buy personally, but I would have no problems recommending this to someone else. Reply
  • Samus - Thursday, June 21, 2012 - link

    DDR3....ruined a perfectly good chip. Reply
  • Deanjo - Thursday, June 21, 2012 - link


    Really the only thing we don’t have a good handle on for HTPC usage right now is video encoding through NVENC. We’ve already seen NVENC in action with beta-quality programs on the GTX 680, but at this point we’re waiting on retail programs to ship with support for both NVENC and VCE so that we can better evaluate how well these programs integrate into the HTPC experience along with evaluating the two encoders side-by-side. But for that it looks like we won’t have our answer next month.


    Noooooo! Come on, post some benchmarks as it is right now. Some of us do not want to wait for AMD to get their VCE in order. People have been waiting for VCE for months and there is no valid reason to hold off NVENC waiting for their competitor to catch up. When and if VCE support comes out then run a comparison then.
    Reply
  • ganeshts - Thursday, June 21, 2012 - link

    NVIDIA indicated that official NVENC support in CyberLink / ArcSoft transcoding applications would come in July only. Till then, it is beta, and has scope for bugs. Reply
  • Deanjo - Thursday, June 21, 2012 - link

    So? That didn't prevent them benching trinity and it's encoding capabilities despite it all being beta there.

    http://www.anandtech.com/show/5835/testing-opencl-...
    Reply
  • drizzo4shizzo - Thursday, June 21, 2012 - link

    So... do these new cards still support HDTV 1080i analog signals for those of us who refuse to give up our 150lb 34" HDTV CRTs?

    ie. ship with a breakout dongle cable that plugs into the DVI-I port? If they don't ship with one can anyone tell me if they are compatible with a 3rd party solution? For it to work the card has to convert to the YUV colorspace. My old 7600gt *did* support this feature, but none of the new cards mention it...

    Upgrading my TV also means buying a new receiver for HDMI switching to the projector, fishing cable in walls, and all manner of other unacceptable tradeoffs. Plus monay.

    Thanks!
    Reply
  • philipma1957 - Thursday, June 21, 2012 - link

    I have a sapphire hd7750 ultimate passive cooled card.

    This card seems to be worse in every case except it is 1 slot not 2.

    The passive hd7750 is 125 usd this is 110 usd.

    I am not sure that I would want this until they make a passive version.
    Reply

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