Video Post Processing and HTPC Configuration Options

Our HTPC reviews over the last few years have used the HQV 2.0 benchmark to estimate and compare video post processing quality of the GPUs. We are at a stage where almost all GPUs end up scoring around 200, leaving very little differentiation. Put bluntly, the HQV 2.0 benchmark is dated, and presenting scores from it delivers no practical value to readers. That said, the tests themselves are relevant, but, instead of the HQV 2.0 Blu-ray, we used clips from Spears & Munsil's HD Benchmark (2nd Edition).

Intel has been paying particular attention to video post processing (courtesy of the pressure put by AMD's high scores in the HQV benchmark during the Sandy Bridge era). Haswell manages to clear common deinterlacing, chroma upsampling and cadence detection tests without issues, as shown in the gallery below

The disappointment comes in the form of the revamped Intel Graphics Control Panel. While the changes in appearance can be excused as migrating to be friendly with the Windows 8 touchscreen devices, the distribution of the various configuration options makes no sense at all. For example, it is only fair for users to expect the 'inverse telecine' option to be present under the Video category. However, it makes its appearance under the advanced display settings. Input range (Full / Limited for 0 - 255 / 16 - 235) is under advanced video settings, but the YCbCr / RGB setting is under the Display settings. It would make sense to have both settings under one category as users usually modify both when trying to calibrate and ensure that their setup is working optimally.

As I found out when trying to calibrate using Spears & Munsil's HD Benchmark, the mixture of settings in the control panel makes it very difficult to calibrate the correct output color space (amongst other things). For example, there is no way to choose YCbCr 4:2:2 / YCbCr 4:4:4 / Limited RGB / Full RGB. This is just one of the missing features in the configuration utility. I hope Intel's engineers try to calibrate a few displays by driving them using an Intel GPU and using the HD Benchmark 2nd Edition calibration disk (just to understand how badly the layout of the control panel is designed).

Andrew at Missing Remote also brings out the fact that clipping issues still exist. In addition, the current control panel completely removes the ability to create custom resolutions (in any case, the previous feature was also not very user friendly compared to NVIDIA's solution). The drivers and UI / UX still need work, but Intel hasn't been as responsive as we would like (partly due to the fact that casual HTPC users don't really care about these issues).

Note of Thanks:

Thanks to Spears & Munsil / Oppo Digital for providing us with an evaluation version of the HD Benchmark 2nd Edition Blu-ray

Testbed and Software Setup Refresh Rate Handling - 23.976 Hz Works!
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  • StardogChampion - Monday, June 03, 2013 - link

    I am wondering about this comment as well. Everything I've read seemed to indicate it would be available in mini-ITX form for building AIOs (so likely thin mini-ITX). Haswell will be a big disappointment without availability of the BGA packages in mini-ITX form. Reply
  • Sivar - Monday, June 03, 2013 - link

    Thank you for the article.
    Note that x264 is a specific software encoder, not a type of video or a thing that can be accelerated ("While full x264 acceleration using QuickSync...")
    H.264 is the video standard.

    Also note that x264, the CPU-based encoding software, does not need to run in 2-pass mode to get great quality. 2-pass mode is ONLY if you want a specific file size regardless of quality. If you want a specific quality, you use quality mode. --CRF23, for example, returns small (though variable depending on content) file size and good quality.
    Reply
  • ganeshts - Monday, June 03, 2013 - link

    Sivar,

    I did specifically want to mention full x264 acceleration using QuickSync -- That is because x264 is the H.264 encoder of choice for many users. The most beneficial addition to the CPU would be the ability to get hardware acceleration when using x264 with ANY set of options. That is simply not going to be possible with QuickSync (or, for that matter, any hardware-based encoder).

    Yes, agreed about the mistaken mention of 2-pass for improved quality. I will update it shortly.
    Reply
  • Spawne32 - Monday, June 03, 2013 - link

    People always fail to realize what key element in every one of these releases, how big the enthusiast market truly is. All of us posting here on this comment section regarding this review are a small fraction of the overall market intel targets, this is part of the reason AMD suffers so tragically with their current lineup. Power consumption and price are the two biggest factors in a regular consumers mind when purchasing a PC, be it laptop or desktop. Performance numbers rarely play a factor. I don't know what AMD is doing over there but I long for a day when AMD can actually challenge intel and drive prices down even further, because these 230-400 dollar starting prices for "mainstream" intel processors proves once again why I refuse to invest in them regardless of performance. The marginal increase in speed in my day to day activities does not warrant the price being paid for something that is obsolete in 1-2 years. AMD's highest priced processor right now is 179.99, its comparable intel counterpart in haswell....349.99, you do the math. Reply
  • bji - Monday, June 03, 2013 - link

    Either the increases in speed with each successive generation are great enough to render previous generations obsolete, or the increases in speed with each successive generation are small enough that the previous generation is not rendered obsolete. You can't have it both ways just to try to make Intel look bad, sorry.

    I don't know what margin Intel is making on these parts - do you? Remember that they are sinking large R & D and transistor budgets into these minor speed increases, and at the same time sinking lots of money into developing the next generation of process technology. If $300 is not worth it to you, don't buy the part; Intel won't be able to sustain their R & D budgets if nobody buys the results.
    Reply
  • Deuge - Monday, June 03, 2013 - link

    If one of the GT3 or GT3e parts comes out in a refreshed NUC, id love to see a review of it from an HTPC perspective. Very interested to hear if it can handle Lanzcos + AR or Jinc. Reply
  • dbcoopernz - Monday, June 03, 2013 - link

    Is the inability to use LAV with DXVA-native for madVR an Intel limitation? The devs of both the LAV filters and madVR have told me (on the doom9 forum) that DXVA-native is fine for madVR on AMD GPU's. Reply
  • BMNify - Monday, June 03, 2013 - link

    DXVA native DOES work with AMD using LAV filters and MadVR... I'm using it as I type (watching MotoGP) Reply
  • ganeshts - Monday, June 03, 2013 - link

    It also works with the Haswell piece. I will update the article ASAP. Reply
  • BMNify - Monday, June 03, 2013 - link

    APU is the go to for HTPC builders. And stop with the power this and thermals that... undervolt it, toss in a Pico PSU, suspend to memory when not in use and enjoy. Take the hundreds saved and buy a Kabini or two as clients.

    If we're talking balls to the wall processing might, absolutely, lets talk Intel but not for a simple HTPC.
    Reply

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