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The popularity of Intel's HD Graphics amongst HTPC enthusiasts and the success of the AMD APUs seem to indicate that the days of the discrete HTPC GPU are numbered. However, for those with legacy systems, a discrete HTPC GPU will probably be the only way to enable hardware accelerated HD playback. In the meanwhile, discrete HTPC GPUs also aim to offer more video post processing capabilities.

In this context, both AMD and NVIDIA have been serving the market with their low end GPUs. These GPUs are preferable for HTPC scenarios due to their low power consumption and ability to be passively cooled. Today, we will be taking a look at four GPUs for which passively cooled solutions exist in the market. From AMD's side, we have the 6450 and 6570, while the GT 430 and GT 520 make up the numbers from the NVIDIA side.

Gaming benchmarks are not of much interest to the HTPC user interested in a passively cooled solution. Instead of focusing on that aspect, we will evaluate factors relevant to the AV experience. After taking a look at the paper specifications of the candidates, we will describe our evaluation testbed.

We will start off the hands-on evaluation with a presentation of the HQV benchmarks. This provides the first differentiating factor.

While almost all cards (including the integrated graphics on CPUs) are able to playback HD videos with some sort of acceleration, videophiles are more demanding. They want to customize the display refresh rate to match the source frame rate of the video being played. Casual HTPC users may not recognize the subtle issues created by mismatched refresh rates. However, improper deinterlacing may lead to highly noticeable issues. We will devote a couple of sections to see how the cards handle custom refresh rates and fare at deinterlacing.

After this, we will proceed to identify a benchmark for evaluating HTPC GPUs. This benchmark gives us an idea of how fast the GPUs can decode the supported codecs, and whether faster decoding implies more time for post processing. We will see one of the cards having insane decoding speeds, and try to find out why.

Over the last few months, we have also been keeping track of some exciting open source software in the HTPC area. Aiming to simplify the player setup and also take advantage of as many features of your GPU as possible, we believe these are very close to being ready for prime time. We will have a couple of sections covering the setup and usage of these tools.

Without further ado, let us go forward and take a look at the contenders.

The Contenders
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  • fixxxer0 - Sunday, June 12, 2011 - link

    that arrangement of cards slightly resembles a swastika Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Sunday, June 12, 2011 - link

    Thanks for the heads up, it honestly didn't cross our minds at all but now that it's been pointed out I can completely see the resemblance. Needless to say we've removed the offending image and I'd like to apologize to anyone who was offended.

    Thank you guys for catching it so quickly.

    Take care,
    Anand
    Reply
  • fb39ca4 - Monday, June 13, 2011 - link

    If people want to jump to conclusions, let them. The swastika means many things, if you want to associate it with Nazis then go ahead, or you could associate it with the religion Jainsim, which it happens to be a symbol of. Your interpretaion of the image affects no one, there is no reason to make a big deal over it. Reply
  • fixxxer0 - Monday, June 13, 2011 - link

    lol... i made no connection to nazis or anything... nor said i was offended.

    i just pointed out a resemblance i noticed as a matter of fact.
    Reply
  • tzhu07 - Sunday, June 12, 2011 - link

    Yeah, time to change the Nazi reference. Reply
  • qwertymac93 - Sunday, June 12, 2011 - link

    The indians(the asian ones...) have been using Swastikas for centuries before the nazi party was even thought of. Just sayin'. Reply
  • jwilliams4200 - Sunday, June 12, 2011 - link

    It is unfortunate that there is such an over-reaction to something like this. Besides, the swastika symbol is and has been used for many, many other purposes than representing Nazis:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swastika
    Reply
  • Souka - Monday, June 13, 2011 - link

    True as it may be that fact remains that if some one says:

    "Hitler"
    Most people think of Adolf

    "swastika"
    Most people think of Nazi

    I'm of Jewish decent... the pic didn't offend me in the least bit, nor my friends.

    Jusy saying.... ;)
    Reply
  • Gnarr - Monday, June 13, 2011 - link

    people should be thinking of Nazi's and Hitler anyways, it reminds everyone not to make that mistake again.

    I see no harm in accidentally arranging something in a Swastika :p

    and on that notes.. There is a company in my home country that has been using the swastika as the company logo for over hundred years:
    http://martasmarta.blog.is/users/1d/martasmarta/im... ;)
    Reply
  • L. - Tuesday, June 14, 2011 - link

    Unfortunately it does not.

    The way the western world depicts adolf hitler, nazism and everything surrounding that part of history is far from reminding anyone not to make that mistake again, as the main message is "nazi evil, hitler evil, us good guys, us not like them".

    Anyone ever wondered what difference there is between Gestapo and the Patriot Act ? - oh right it doesn't target jews so it's fine ... lol
    Reply

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