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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  • meacupla - Monday, June 03, 2013 - link

    there's like... exactly one mITX FM2 mobo even worth considering out of a grand total of two. One of them catches on fire and neither of them have bluetooth or wifi.

    LGA1155 and LGA1150 have at least four each.
    Reply
  • TomWomack - Monday, June 03, 2013 - link

    The mITX FM2 motherboard that I bought last week has bluetooth and wifi; they're slightly kludged in (they are USB modules apparently glued into extra USB ports that they've added), but I don't care.

    The Haswell mITX boards aren't available from my preferred supplier yet, so I've gone for micro-ATX for that machine.
    Reply
  • BMNify - Monday, June 03, 2013 - link

    I know you're trolling but the fact is more people are content with converting their 5 year old C2D cookie cutter desktop into an HTPC ($50 video card + case + IR receiver = job done) than buying all new kit.
    We reached the age of "good enough" years ago. Money is tight and with all the available gadgets on the market (and more to come) people are looking to make it go as far as possible. Intel is going to find it harder and harder to get their high margin silicon into the homes of the average family. Good enough ARM mobile + good enough x86 allows people to own more devices and still pay the bills. It looks like AMD has accepted this, they've taking their lumps and are moving forward in this "new world". I'm not sure what Intels long term strategy is but I'm a bit concerned.
    Reply
  • Veroxious - Tuesday, June 04, 2013 - link

    Agreed 100%. I am using an old Dell SFF with an E2140 LGA775 CPU running XBMCbuntu. It works like a charm. I can watch movies while simultaneously adding content. That PC is near silent. What incentive do I have for upgrading to a Haswell based system? None whatsoever. Reply
  • kallogan - Monday, June 03, 2013 - link

    2.0 ghz seriously ??? The core 45W Sandy i5-2500T was at 2,3 ghz and 3,3 ghz turbo. LOL at this useless cpu gen. Reply
  • kallogan - Monday, June 03, 2013 - link

    Forget my comment didn't see it was a i7 with 8 threads. 35W tdp is not bad either. But the 45W core i7-3770T would still smoke this. Reply
  • Montago - Monday, June 03, 2013 - link

    I must be blind... i don't see the regression you are talking about.

    HD4000 QSV usually get smudgy and blocky.. and that i don't see in HD4600 ... so i think you are wrong in your statements.

    comparing the frames, there is little difference, and none i would ever notice while watching the movie on a handheld device like an tablet or Smartphone.

    The biggest problem with QSV is not the quality, but the filesize :-(
    QSV is usually 2x larger than x264
    Reply
  • ganeshts - Monday, June 03, 2013 - link

    Montago,

    Just one example of the many that can be unearthed from the galleries:

    Look at Frame 4 in the 720p encodes in full size here:

    HD4600: http://images.anandtech.com/galleries/2836/QSV-720...
    HD4000: http://images.anandtech.com/galleries/2839/QSV-HD4...

    Look at the horns of the cattle in the background to the right of the horse. The HD4000 version is sharper and more faithful to the original compared to the HD4600 version, even though the target bitrate is the same.

    In general, when looking at the video being played back, these differences added up to a very evident quality loss.

    Objectively, even the FPS took a beating with the HD4600 compared to the HD4000. There is some driver issue managing the new QuickSync Haswell modes definitely.
    Reply
  • nevcairiel - Monday, June 03, 2013 - link

    The main Haswell performance test from Anand at least showed improved QuickSync performance over Ivy, as well as something called the "Better Quality" mode (which was slower than Ivy, but never specified what it really meant) Reply
  • ganeshts - Monday, June 03, 2013 - link

    Anand used MediaEspresso (CyberLink's commercial app), while I used HandBrake. As far as I remember, MediaEspresso doesn't allow specification of target bitrate (at least from the time that I used it a year or so back), just better quality or better performance. Handbrake allows setting of target bitrate, so the modes that are being used by the Handbrake app might be completely different from those used by MediaEspresso.

    As we theorize, some new Haswell modes which are probably not being used by MediaEspresso are making the transcodes longer and worse quality.
    Reply

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