Whenever ATI tells us they have some announcements to make two weeks before the end of the year, we usually get a bit worried.  The fact of the matter is that it is very rare for a company to release and ship new products this close to the end of a year, so we tend to get suspicious when new announcements happen like this.  There is one exception, however - and that is software, or in this case, drivers. 

Just earlier this month, ATI released their Catalyst 5.12 drivers, which offered support for dual core processors, but without any really tangible gains in performance as we found out.  ATI had also alluded to the potential of another Catalyst release before the end of the year, and as their predictions would have it, Catalyst 5.13 is due out for release this coming Thursday (12/22/2005). 

But Catalyst 5.13 doesn't promise improved gaming performance, better scaling from dual core processors or anything of that sort.  Instead, Catalyst 5.13 is a little gift to Radeon X1000 owners from the Avivo team. 

Avivo was pretty much a joke of a launch when the X1000 series came out.  There were hardly any tangible improvements due to the new platform that we didn't already have, and its fabled improvements in DVD playback turned out to be worse than what NVIDIA had already had out for months beforehand; yet, there was promise of more. 

ATI promised us H.264 decode acceleration, offloading some of the most CPU intensive tasks for media PCs today onto their brand new GPUs.  ATI also alluded to a transcode utility, which would aid in the conversion between video formats and potentially even accelerating it on the GPU as well. 

Catalyst 5.13 begins to deliver on some of those promises of more, and while we had pretty much given up on Avivo being any good for DVD playback quality, ATI has also promised improved video playback in the latest version of Catalyst.  While we'll save the video playback portion of this article for a later time, there are two equally important topics to discuss today instead.  And there's one more surprise from ATI's Avivo team later on in the article as well...

H.264 Decode Acceleration - As Promised
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  • jpowell5 - Thursday, February 02, 2006 - link

    Is there anyone here actually using the latest version of Cyberlink's H.264 Decoder with Windows Media Player?

    I have yet to get it play an AVC H.264 Video clip. I've tried clips endoded with the MainConcept H.264 encoder, QuickTime and Nero H.264 encoder. None of these clips will invoke the Cyberlink decoder and play the clip.

    Please let me know if you've had some success with this and what your system configuration is.

    Thanks,

    Josh
    Reply
  • Bencoder - Thursday, March 09, 2006 - link

    Just get the CoreAVC h.264 decoder and the latest version of WMP Classic. Save yourself the 15 bucks. Works like a champ. See lots of good resources and comments about the decoder application at Doom9. Warning! The version released by the company is not open-source and is only a beta. Apparently the full release version of CoreAVC is not going to be a piece of shareware. Reply
  • Davebo - Thursday, December 22, 2005 - link

    http://www.ati.com/technology/h264.html">http://www.ati.com/technology/h264.html

    http://www.cyberlink.com/cinema/ati/h264_decoder/e...">http://www.cyberlink.com/cinema/ati/h264_decoder/e...

    I thougt this was to be free? Not much different than PureVideo now, is it?
    Reply
  • apriest - Wednesday, January 18, 2006 - link

    Yeah, that bites... Reply
  • Tujan - Tuesday, December 20, 2005 - link

    ATI promised us H.264 decode acceleration

    ....of H.264 movies possible on lower end systems and have less of a performance impact on all systems. ATI's work on H.264 decode acceleration today is extremely important because H.264 is the codec of choice for both Blu-ray and HD-DVD.

    Gosh do you think that somebody could name H.264 decode acceleration something less cryptic sounding ? Just what IS H.264 decode , is it on my CD,my DVD,...does my camera make one.? Is it HDTV,or 'broadcast signaling,..or a 'format ? [ ]

    I had let AutoUpdates run on my computer here.So WMP 10 was installed.I have a DVD player/writer of wich I had taken for granted thinking in terms of usage of it w/o its software complements.I for a new configuration of software had uninstalled a proprieties DVD player. So when I plopped my DVD into the player so late at night,WMP (the only thing on the machine for 'media) 10 would not play the DVD w/o a 'codec.
    Blissfully wondering through Microsofts website,the MSN.com looking for DVD codecs,I found that 'sure,you can watch your DVD,but you will have to purchase a 15$ software codec.
    Well long story short,the DVD/Writer 'came with a DVD codec.Named to any other name than the DVD player itself though through its complementing 'lite'DVD movie player.Wich I had reinstalled.Think you purchase a DVD writer,that you can write gigs of information to,yet you have to have yet another component to look at a DVD.

    Annyway,Im involved in trying to figure out what the best approach would be to creating self designed media- movies,data etc for use between the different devices that 'create them,and play them back.Weird thing is some equipment will do a given format,so that it is not compatible to what your playback equipment/software my be compatible with. Mpeg,MPeg 1,Mpeg 2,AVI,.Mov etc.All considerations,now H.264 ? Think the information you create -the receiver (mom,dad,gramps,boss) must be handled by the the same sustanance of knowledge ,and equipment you used to create it.That is you may have a good codec,but your going to have to 'deck the users,and viewers of your work with the appropriate contributive compatible equipment.

    And I think that a device that does a single output is missing some screws if it is thought this is the only thing going.

    Happy Holidays.

    Reply
  • ViRGE - Sunday, December 18, 2005 - link

    It seems to be a good start from ATI, but I'd really like to see more options in their converter. Assuming the output quality is up to par with what DivX/XviD can offer, I'd like to see them enable users to select specific MPEG4 encoding options(B-Frames, Qpel, etc) that the current encoders offer, otherwise the program may not be of much use. Eventually a full-fledged Windows codec for all of this is also going to be something encoders will want, as the ideal situation will be to hook in VirtualDub, AVISynth, and other encoding apps in to the GPU accelerated encoder, in order to utilize their editing and remastering features. What they're offering right now is more like a reduced version of Dr. Divx, which is useful for some people, but not enough for others.

    Still, this is a good start, especially the H.264 decoding support. I only hope ATI can come through on GPU-assisted encoding like they've promissed, as that's been a holy grail that has escaped ATI and Nvidia for some time now.
    Reply
  • bloc - Saturday, December 17, 2005 - link

    When the x1600 line came out, the reviewers gave mediocre reviews as they thought the price was going to be $200+. Now that it's in the $140 US range, it's roughly the same price as the 6600 GT. This alters the $$ vs FPS ratio of the x1600's by a lot.

    I'd recommend the 6600 GT for agp, but the x1600 looks like a good option for pcix boards.
    Reply
  • PrinceGaz - Saturday, December 17, 2005 - link

    With ATI making available for free the video encoding/decoding software for their VPUs, do you think this might prompt nVidia to make the PureVideo software also available for free? The current situation where you have to either pay up to $50 or use a keygen to continue to use it after 30 days is stupid. Reply
  • ViRGE - Sunday, December 18, 2005 - link

    It's unlikely Nvidia will change, and I'm a bit surprised even ATI is. MPEG decoders cost money to properly license, and right now ATI is eating the cost for a H.264 license(but not a MPEG2 license it seems). I really doubt Nvidia is going to want to eat up the costs retroactively, but weirder things have happened before. Reply
  • deathwalker - Saturday, December 17, 2005 - link

    Surely you jest!! Not today, toworrow or ever! Reply

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