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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  • saturn85 - Thursday, June 21, 2012 - link

    great folding@home benchmark. Reply
  • kallogan - Thursday, June 21, 2012 - link

    WORST GPU EVER Reply
  • dertechie - Friday, June 22, 2012 - link

    Here's hoping DDR4 is cheap and cheery enough for low end cards when it comes out, because this is ridiculous. We have here a card with 50% more shader horsepower than an 8800 Ultra, and 70% less memory bandwidth. Way to ruin a perfectly good GPU by not shipping with real memory.

    My old 7900 GS had more memory bandwidth than this. . . in 2006.
    Reply
  • skgiven - Saturday, June 23, 2012 - link

    At GPUGRID the CUDA4.2 crunching performance of the GT 640 matches that of a GTX460.
    65W TDP vs 150W TDP.
    The low running cost, no high end PSU, or 6-pin power cable requirements make it a good entry card for crunchers.
    The 950MHz GDDR5 version (75W TDP) and the 797MHz DDR3 (50W) TDP versions should also perform well.
    Reply
  • anac6767 - Thursday, June 28, 2012 - link

    A video card with a fan on it has no place in a modern HTPC... we're well past that. You might as well order a full tower (80's off white) ATX case and corded peripherals to go along with your noisy card. Reply
  • infoilrator - Wednesday, July 04, 2012 - link

    Not appealing at this price.

    FWIW department, mITX motherboards taking single slot cards are maybe due for an upgrade.
    Maybe a motherboard could mount connectors sideways to allow fitting a two slot card.
    Maybe mITX cases could come with provision for two slot cards.

    If the numbers are right AMD Llano/Trinity and Intel IVB HD4000 make more sense than adding a $100 discrete card with limited capabilities. At least at the moment.
    I am seeing AMD Llano 3850/ A75 Combinations for $150 in mATX. Better, even though I find FM1 limiting.

    Contemplating an FM1 or FM2 such a build in a couple months. Unless I go after more GPU power.

    ? still new at these decisions.
    Reply
  • Felip3 - Saturday, July 07, 2012 - link

    Look what I found ...
    http://www.gainward.com/main/vgapro.php?id=886&...
    Reply
  • xeizo - Friday, July 27, 2012 - link

    That's old Fermi and not new Kepler, rather uninteresting even though it sure is gddr5, a passive GT640 with gddr5 would be interesting but seems nonexistent. Too bad! Reply
  • stanislav_kosev - Thursday, September 20, 2012 - link

    I love me some painfully slow gaming! http://www.insightvision.biz/cd-dvd-packaging Reply
  • Montmac - Friday, March 01, 2013 - link

    Don't expect Zotac to admit this when you call them to try and get a replacement card. One of the high ups told me they had never heard of this problem.

    However another in tech support told me he had and will be sending me a call tag to get the card I just bought replaced.

    It has taken almost 4 weeks to get this accomplished. I'm not very impressed with Zotac at all.

    When a company manufactures something wrong it shouldn't be a problem getting an exchange but it's not the case with them.
    Reply

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