HTPC Aspects : HQV 2.0 Benchmarking and Video Post Processing in Action

HTPC enthusiasts are often concerned about the quality of pictures output by the system.  While this is a very subjective metric, we have decided to take as much of an objective approach as possible. Starting with the Core 100 review in 2010, we have been using the HQV 2.0 benchmark for this purpose.

The HQV 2.0 test suite consists of 39 different streams divided into 4 different classes. The playback device is assigned scores for each, depending on how well it plays 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 on the HQV website.

In the table below, we indicate the maximum score possible for each test, and how much the Zotac GT 640 was able to get. As mentioned in the previous section, we used NVIDIA Graphics Driver v301.42 for the benchmarking.

 
HQV 2.0 Benchmark - Zotac GT 640
Test Class Chapter Tests Max. Score Zotac GT 640
Video Conversion Video Resolution Dial 5 5
Dial with Static Pattern 5 5
Gray Bars 5 5
Violin 5 5
Film Resolution Stadium 2:2 5 5
Stadium 3:2 5 5
Overlay On Film Horizontal Text Scroll 5 5
Vertical Text Scroll 5 3
Cadence Response Time Transition to 3:2 Lock 5 5
Transition to 2:2 Lock 5 5
Multi-Cadence 2:2:2:4 24 FPS DVCam Video 5 5
2:3:3:2 24 FPS DVCam Video 5 5
3:2:3:2:2 24 FPS Vari-Speed 5 5
5:5 12 FPS Animation 5 5
6:4 12 FPS Animation 5 5
8:7 8 FPS Animation 5 5
Color Upsampling Errors Interlace Chroma Problem (ICP) 5 5
Chroma Upsampling Error (CUE) 5 5
Noise and Artifact Reduction Random Noise SailBoat 5 5
Flower 5 5
Sunrise 5 5
Harbour Night 5 5
Compression Artifacts Scrolling Text 5 5
Roller Coaster 5 5
Ferris Wheel 5 5
Bridge Traffic 5 5
Upscaled Compression Artifacts Text Pattern 5 3
Roller Coaster 5 3
Ferris Wheel 5 3
Bridge Traffic 5 3
Image Scaling and Enhancements Scaling and Filtering Luminance Frequency Bands 5 5
Chrominance Frequency Bands 5 5
Vanishing Text 5 5
Resolution Enhancement Brook, Mountain, Flower, Hair, Wood 15 15
Video Conversion Contrast Enhancement Theme Park 5 2
Driftwood 5 2
Beach at Dusk 5 2
White and Black Cats 5 2
Skin Tone Correction Skin Tones 10 0
         
    Total Score 210 178

We find that score closely tracks what we had for the GT 540M in the ASRock Vision 3D 252B review. In fact, the only difference is the fact that the horizontal scroll response time has been improved a bit, enabling it to score two more points in that test. Given that the GT 540M had no trouble deinterlacing 1080i60 content, it was not a surprise to find that the GT 640 sailed through those tests. In the next section, we will look at some rendering benchmarks to see how deinterlacing operations load up the GPU. Chroma upsampling algorithms are passable, and there is no difference in quality between what was obtained through the 540M and what we got with the GT 640.

In our review of the video post processing features of the GT 540M, we had indicated that the contrast enhancement and skin tone correction features didn't work. We found no change in the v301.42 drivers. However, we did find contrast enhancement working with the black level testing clip in the AVS HD 709 calibration suite. This just proves that the dynamic contrast enhancement feature in the NVIDIA drivers doesn't work as effectively as Intel's or AMD's.

Should the low HQV score or lack of proper dynamic contrast enhancement prevent you from choosing the GT 640 for your HTPC? Definitely not! The nice aspect about NVIDIA GPUs is the fact that there are lots of HTPC software packages available to take advantage of the GPU resources. As long as the hardware deinterlacer works (it does, as the HQV scores for those tests indicate), and there are enough shaders and other computing resources available to let madVR work its magic, the HTPC end-user has no reason to worry. Advanced HTPC users tend to distrust any post processing done by the drivers, and would rather not let the driver mess with the video output by applying its custom post processing algorithms (which tend to break with every new driver release).

However, video post processing algorithms are not the only issue-prone HTPC aspects in the driver. Proper black levels are necessary irrespective of the color space being output. The gallery below shows that the behavior of the driver doesn't correlate in any way to the settings in the control panel. NVIDIA drivers seem to adopt two modes for the limited (16-235) and full (0-255) settings, one for global (desktop, photos etc.) and one for videos. Global mode is chosen to be limited (16-235) for all in-built resolutions and full (0-255) for all custom resolutions when in YCbCr mode with no way to change this (the gallery below shows correct dynamic range being chosen in RGB mode for still photos / desktop). The dynamic range for video and desktops are also different. Toggling the dynamic contrast enhancement box also seems to affect this setting. In addition, there is no way to specifically choose RGB Full or RGB Limited in the current drivers.

This dynamic range issue was apparently present in the Vista days, and fixed earlier. There appears to be a regression in the state of this bug recently, and we have been observing problems since May 2011 at least. A method to fix the issue has been outlined on Microsoft's official Windows community forums. It is disappointing to note that NVIDIA has still not fixed the issue despite the bug being a major annoyance for many HTPC users.

HTPC Aspects : Custom Refresh Rates HTPC Aspects : Decoding and Rendering Benchmarks
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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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