Still Not the Perfect HTPC Card

After encountering the video decoding limitations of the 5450 in our review of that card, we had been expecting the 5570 to finally fill the role of the perfect HTPC card. Since we had already seen that the 5670 had full video acceleration capabilities under any circumstance, it wouldn’t be much of a stretch for the 5570 to deliver a repeat performance.

Unfortunately that hasn’t come to pass, in fact if anything its proven the 5450 isn’t quite as good of an HTPC card as we first thought.

But before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s start with what’s been a wrench in our plans the entire time: the Enforce Smooth Video Playback option in AMD’s drivers. ESVP is an option in AMD’s drivers that does exactly what it says on the box: it ensures that any videos playing through AMD’s UVD2 decoder play back smoothly. After talking to AMD we’ve come to understand that this is a quality of service mechanism, with there apparently being a couple of different factors involved. The biggest factor as far as the video card is concerned is that when ESVP is enabled, it allows the drives to disable any post-processing features they believe might impact the playback performance of the card.


The AVIVO control panel on the Radeon HD 5570

We’re still going back and forth with AMD trying to get the full details on how ESVP works, but from what we understand thus far and what we’re seeing in the Catalyst Control Center, it looks like AMD is hardcoding their drivers to disable certain post-processing features when ESVP is enabled, depending on the hardware being used. In the case of the 5570, virtually all post-processing features are disabled when ESVP is enabled, with the only remaining options being to select between Bob and Weave deinterlacing.

This actually made us reexamine our 5450, since it didn’t disable so many features when ESVP is enabled. As it turns out that’s a bug in the current version of the drivers for the 5450, and in spite of what the Catalyst Control Center is showing, the 5450 cannot use any additional post-processing features beyond what the 5570 can use, meaning that Edge Enhancement and De-Noise don’t actually work on the 5450 when ESVP is enabled.

As a result, the 5570 does no better on the Cheese Slices video test than the 5450. With ESVP enabled, it can’t do Vector Adaptive Deinterlacing to correct jagged lines on things such as sports fields. It’s still a small issue, but it stands in the way of HTPC perfection.


Cheese Slices: Radeon 5670 Deinterlacing


Cheese Slices: Radeon 5570 Deinterlacing

Ultimately the 5450 and 5570 are both limited-functionality cards for HTPC use, giving users the choice between video playback QoS and post-processing. In our testing we didn’t notice any obvious playback issues with the 5450 or 5570 when we had ESVP disabled, but we’ve seen enough forum posts of this feature magically fixing poor video playback performance that we’re not confident enough to recommend disabling this feature. It’s something we think should be left enabled, at least for the time being.

This makes the 5670 the most-perfect HTPC card, as we’ve found it to be able to offer all of AMD’s post-processing features with ESVP enabled, and of course it offers audio bitstreaming like the rest of the 5000 series. The downside to this is that the 5670 is $99, it isn’t low-profile, and at 70W TDP it’s not a particularly cool card. It’s certainly more than workable as an HTPC card, but until someone can get a 5670 out there that’s passively cooled, it’s not the ideal HTPC card that enthusiasts have been looking for.

We’ll also quickly add to this that this all depends on AMD’s drivers, rather than the hardware. Certainly AMD can tweak things if they determine that the 5570 has enough power to do more post-processing, but obviously there’s no guarantee that will happen.

Meet Sapphire’s 5570 The Test
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  • YogiBeer - Tuesday, March 16, 2010 - link

    Hey i'm a bit of an end user so dont troll on me for asking this but ive got an Hp s5216f system the graphics card i got with it is shovel ware and i need one that can play games like modern warfare 2 and the like...will this do the trick and if not what will.......... thanx for the help............ Cheers mates Reply
  • mAJORD - Friday, April 02, 2010 - link

    I got one of these to play Battlefield Bad company 2 on a little ITX system.

    I OCd it to 720 core 1080 mem leaving the fan at AUTO.

    at 1920x1080 Med detail settings, DX10, no AA 2xAF it's quite "playable" 25-mid 30 FPS and looks OK to be honest for such such a low power card. which is exactly what I was hoping.

    Saying that I really wish they were equiped with downclocked DDR5! and the same 42w TDP. that would have been incredible bang / watt and size! disapointing AMD :(
    Reply
  • avi1956 - Sunday, February 28, 2010 - link

    I purchased HIS 5570 HD 1GB video card from Newegg on Feb 15. When playing games after 5 to 15 mins of play I get crackling sound and frame rate degradation. The problem gets worse till the frame rate drop becomes progressively worse and noise continues. Also the OS slows down (mouse slow down). The only way to recover is to reboot. I have gateway SX2802-01 quad core Q8300 with 4 meg ram and windows 7 64 bit and latest catalyst driver dated 2/17/10 from ati.com. I have sent a belarc trouble report to ati and HIS and awaiting their feedback. Not sure if this is a hardware or software problem. Reply
  • PhantomKnight - Tuesday, February 23, 2010 - link

    Thank you for a very informative article. It clears a lot up. I'm interested because I'm sick of using old hot noisy hardware.

    I don't normally like typo posts, but when it confuses, it's a problem.

    "As with Sapphire’s 5450, their 5770 comes in a surprisingly large box. Inside is the card, a low-profile bracket, drivers, an installation guide, and Arcsoft’s SimHD video conferencing plugin."

    While I'd love to see a 5770 utalise a low profile, I doubt it will happen.
    Reply
  • office boy - Wednesday, February 10, 2010 - link

    With the NV GT cards supporting 8 channel LPCM is ATI's support of Bitstreaming that important? Decoding in the PC vs in the receiver.

    Isn't the outcome is the same? Uncompressed 7.1?
    Reply
  • wlee15 - Wednesday, February 10, 2010 - link

    The GT and older ATI cards don't support the Protected audio path which means that any soundtracks higher than 16-bit 48 khz are downsampled to 16-bit 48 khz.

    Also the HD 5570 should support support Vector Adaptive with newer drivers.

    http://forum.beyond3d.com/showpost.php?p=1392217&a...">http://forum.beyond3d.com/showpost.php?p=1392217&a...
    Reply
  • falacy - Wednesday, February 10, 2010 - link

    My upgrade process over the last several years has led me to the following system, which I am very happy with in terms performance for the things I actually do (World of Warcraft, media encoding, productivity applications, music production). However, I have a couple "issues" that I'd like to resolve.

    eVGA 8600GT 256MB video
    1600x900 resolution
    Asus P5K-VM motherboard
    Q8200 2.33GHz CPU
    6GB 667MHz RAM
    Seagate 7200RPM 16MB Cache HD

    The thermal performance of my case, a modified AT server tower cira 1991, is great and the 8600GT runs at 50c idle 73c avg load, which compairs nicely to the 5570. Ultimately, I'd like a fanless card that can do what I do now.

    In WoW I can run at full (4x AA and 8x AF in driver) settings as long as I turn Shadow Detail all the way down to Min. However, any time there is a lot fog or spell detail, I end up with a nice 5FPS picture show. Turning spell detail to half resolves that.

    Do you think the 5570, when someone creates a fanless version, would solve those two issues and perform a little better than the 8600GT with its whopping 256MB of slow RAM?
    Reply
  • MrSpadge - Tuesday, February 09, 2010 - link

    I've been reading this sentence in GPU reviews since some time now:

    [quote]The GT 240 is the biggest winner here, beating even the 5570. However this is likely due to differences in how AMD and NVIDIA throttle their cards under FurMark.[/quote]

    Doesn't it bother you to basically say "Well, half of all these measurements are probably wrong, but we'll show them as a comparison anyway"? Either rename the FurMark.exe or use a different test. 3DCenter.org have shown that Bioshock is very demanding and reaches the highest real world power usage ever recorded in a game (still lower than FurMark, of course).
    Reply
  • Moizy - Tuesday, February 09, 2010 - link

    Now that the 5450 and 5570 are out, and nVidia won't have replacements for the 210 and 220 for a while, can we have a HTPC card showdown article? I noticed that the GT 220 review didn't analyze the video quality quite like the 5450 and 5570 reviews have, so I'm wondering how they all compare.

    Could we have a showdown that analyzes these newer HTPC cards for audio and video capabilities, and maybe throw in the new Intel HD graphics? Would be very educational for those of us that want a good HTPC card but don't care about gaming.
    Reply
  • Ryan Smith - Tuesday, February 09, 2010 - link

    If you check the 5450 article, I actually do have a shot of the GT 220 in there. It actually does rather well at the VA test, but going NVIDIA means you have to give up some degree of post-processing control, along with bitstreaming audio. Reply

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