HTPC enthusiasts are often concerned about the quality of pictures output by the system. While this is a very subjective metric, we have been taking as much of an objective approach as possible. We have been using the HQV 2.0 benchmark in our HTPC reviews to identify the GPUs' video post processing capabilities. The HQV benchmarking procedure has been heavily promoted by AMD, but Intel also seems to be putting its weight behind that now.

The control panel for the Trinity GPU retains the host of options from earlier Catalyst releases. We used Catalyst 12.8 in our testing.

HQV scores need to be taken with a grain of salt. In particular, one must check the tests where the GPU lost out points. In case those tests don't reflect the reader's usage scenario, the handicap can probably be ignored. So, it is essential that the scores for each test be compared, rather than just the total value.

The HQV 2.0 test suite consists of 39 different streams divided into 4 different classes. For the Trinity HTPC, we used Cyberlink PowerDVD 12 with TrueTheater disabled and hardware acceleration enabled for playing back the HQV streams. The playback device was assigned scores for each, depending on how well it played 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 from HQV.

Blu-rays are usually mastered very carefully. Any video post processing (other than deinterlacing) which needs to be done is handled before burning it in. In this context, we don't think it is a great idea to run the HQV benchmark videos off the disc. Instead, we play the streams after copying them over to the hard disk. How does the score compare to what was obtained by the Llano and Ivy Bridge at launch?

In the table below, we indicate the maximum score possible for each test, and how much each GPU was able to get. The HD4000 is from the Core i7-3770K with the Intel 8.15.10.2696 drivers. The AMD 6550D was tested with Catalyst 11.6 (driver version 8.862 RC1).

HQV 2.0 Benchmark
Test Class Chapter Tests Max. Score AMD 6550D (Local file) Intel HD4000 AMD 7660D
Video Conversion Video Resolution Dial 5 4 5 5
Dial with Static Pattern 5 5 5 5
Gray Bars 5 5 5 5
Violin 5 5 5 5
Film Resolution Stadium 2:2 5 5 5 5
Stadium 3:2 5 5 5 5
Overlay On Film Horizontal Text Scroll 5 5 3 5
Vertical Text Scroll 5 5 5 5
Cadence Response Time Transition to 3:2 Lock 5 5 5 5
Transition to 2:2 Lock 5 5 5 5
Multi-Cadence 2:2:2:4 24 FPS DVCam Video 5 5 5 5
2:3:3:2 24 FPS DVCam Video 5 5 5 5
3:2:3:2:2 24 FPS Vari-Speed 5 5 5 5
5:5 12 FPS Animation 5 5 5 5
6:4 12 FPS Animation 5 5 5 5
8:7 8 FPS Animation 5 5 5 5
Color Upsampling Errors Interlace Chroma Problem (ICP) 5 2 5 5
Chroma Upsampling Error (CUE) 5 2 5 5
Noise and Artifact Reduction Random Noise SailBoat 5 5 5 5
Flower 5 5 5 5
Sunrise 5 5 5 5
Harbour Night 5 5 5 5
Compression Artifacts Scrolling Text 5 3 5 5
Roller Coaster 5 3 5 5
Ferris Wheel 5 3 5 5
Bridge Traffic 5 3 5 5
Upscaled Compression Artifacts Text Pattern 5 3 3 3
Roller Coaster 5 3 3 3
Ferris Wheel 5 3 3 3
Bridge Traffic 5 3 3 3
Image Scaling and Enhancements Scaling and Filtering Luminance Frequency Bands 5 5 5 5
Chrominance Frequency Bands 5 5 5 5
Vanishing Text 5 5 5 5
Resolution Enhancement Brook, Mountain, Flower, Hair, Wood 15 15 15 15
Video Conversion Contrast Enhancement Theme Park 5 5 5 5
Driftwood 5 5 5 5
Beach at Dusk 5 5 5 5
White and Black Cats 5 5 5 5
Skin Tone Correction Skin Tones 10 7 7 7
Total Score 210 184 197 199

We did some quick tests to ensure that all the post processing steps available for Blu-rays were also available for local files using MPC-HC's EVR renderer. AMD deserves kudos for being the only GPU vendor to get the local cadence detection (with respect to the shredding of overlay text) correct. In addition, they are the only ones to offer mosquito noise reduction as an option in addition the usual denoising setting. The chroma upsampling issue we noticed with the Llano is no longer an issue. With a score of 199, the 7660D with the Catalyst 12.8 drivers becomes the best performer on the HQV front. It is possible that the 7750's scores have also improved with these drivers, but we will take a look at that in another piece.

However, this doesn't mean that AMD's drivers are perfect. By default, the EVR / EVR-CP renderers rely on the drivers to supply the correct video levels to the display. As the screenshots below indicate, the meanings of full and limited seem to be interchanged.

Dynamic Range Set to Full for Video Playback (background)

Dynamic Range Set to Limited for Video Playback (background)

Setting the dynamic range to Limited (16-235) exposes black levels in the range 0-15 and 236-255, while setting it to Full (0-255) actually clips the color levels in the video in the background. This was one of the more obvious bugs that we encountered in our review process.

Testbed and Software Setup Custom Refresh Rates
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  • Oxford Guy - Friday, September 28, 2012 - link

    4K strikes me as being completely unnecessary. 1080p is enough resolution. Reply
  • brookheather - Friday, September 28, 2012 - link

    Is this a typo? "Intel and NVIDIA offer 50 Hz, 59 Hz and 60 Hz settings which are exactly double of the above settings" - 59 is not double 29 - did you mean 58? Reply
  • ganeshts - Friday, September 28, 2012 - link

    Nope :) 29 Hz is 'control panel speak' for 29.97 Hz and 59 Hz is 'control panel speak' for 59.94 Hz. So, if you have a file at 29.97 fps, it can be played back without any dropped or unsymmetrical repetition at 59.94 Hz since each frame has to be just 'painted' twice at that refresh rate. Reply
  • cjs150 - Friday, September 28, 2012 - link

    This is exact the standard of article I read AT for.

    I remain complete bewildered that chip manufacturers cannot get the frame rates right. It may be an odd frame rate but it is a standard rate that has remained the same forever.

    However, the problem for AMD remains the TDP of the processors. Heat requires to be dealt with, usually by fans and that means noise. An HTPC needs to be as close to silent as possible.

    TDP of 65W is simply too high. You can (as I have) buy a ridiculously over powered i7-3770T which has a TDP of 45W. AMD need to reduce the TDP to no more than 35-45W. At that point there are various HTPC cases which can cool that completely passively.

    Overall this is yet another step forward in the ideal HTPC but we are still short of the promised land
    Reply
  • wwwcd - Saturday, September 29, 2012 - link

    i7-3770T too expensive against Trynity models and have a double weakness video. For poor peoples it not be choice. Reply
  • cjs150 - Saturday, September 29, 2012 - link

    I agree that the i7-3770T is too expensive at the moment compared to AMD alternatives but it does not have video weaknesses check out the review on Anandtech.

    The refresh rate is close to the correct rate but close is not good enough it should be spot on.

    There is still a lot of work to be done to get to an ideal HTPC CPU. Both AMD and intel are close. If anything AMD has slightly better video but, as I said, TDP is too high.

    Of course the other option is something like the Raspberry pi, unfortunately whilst hardware is promising the software still needs a lot of work
    Reply
  • Burticus - Friday, September 28, 2012 - link

    Put one of these on a mini-itx board and cram it into something the size of the Shuttle HX61 that I just got and I am interested. I am so spoiled by having a small, silent, cool HTPC I will never go back to anything louder or bigger than a 360. Reply
  • LuckyKnight - Saturday, September 29, 2012 - link

    AMD are missing a market here, working 23.976Hz with a 35W TDP for a passive cooled case. That would be my choice, if it existed.

    Shame Intel can't get 23.976 to work properly, despite their alleged promise!
    Reply
  • Esskay02 - Saturday, September 29, 2012 - link

    "Intel started the trend of integrating a GPU along with the CPU in the processor package with Clarkdale / Arrandale. The GPU moved to the die itself in Sandy Bridge. Despite having a much more powerful GPUs at its disposal (from the ATI acquisition), AMD was a little late in getting to the CPU - GPU party."

    According to my readings, it was AMD not Intel, first to talk and initiated APU(cpu+gpu). Intel found the threat used it manpower and resources , came out release cpu+Gpu chip.
    Reply

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