The ability to cram in more and more transistors in a die has made it possible to have both the CPU and GPU in the same silicon. Intel's GPUs have traditionally catered to the entry-level consumers, and have often been deemed good enough for basic HTPC use. AMD introduced their own CPU + GPU combination in the Llano series last year. While AMD does have a better GPU architecture in-house, they could not integrate their best possible GPU for fear of cannibalizing their mid-range GPU sales. The result was that Llano, while being pretty decent for HTPC use, didn't excite us enough to recommend it wholeheartedly.

Today, Intel is taking on AMD's Llano with a revamped integrated GPU. We have traditionally not been kind to Intel in our HTPC reviews because of the lack of proper drivers and open source software support. Things took a turn for the better with Sandy Bridge. One of Intel's engineers took it upon himself to bring reliable hardware decoding support on Intel platforms with the QuickSync decoder.

As a tech journalist in the HTPC space, I spend quite a bit of time on forums such as Doom9 and AVSForum where end-users and developers interact with each other. The proactive nature of the QuickSync developer in interacting with the end-users was something sorely lacking from Intel's side previously. We have seen various driver issues getting quashed over the last few releases, thanks to the new avenue of communication between Intel and the consumers.

With Ivy Bridge, we are getting a brand new GPU with more capabilities. Given the recent driver development history, even advanced HTPC users could be pardoned for thinking that Ivy Bridge would make a discrete HTPC GPU redundant. Video post processing quality is subjective, but that shouldn't prevent us from presenting pictorial results for readers to judge. One of the most talked about issues with the Intel GPU for HTPC purposes is the lack of proper 23.976 Hz display refresh rate support. Does this get solved in Ivy Bridge?

In this review, we present our experience with Ivy Bridge as a HTPC platform using a Core i7-3770K (with Intel HD Graphics 4000). In the first section, we tabulate our testbed setup and detail the tweaks made in the course of our testing. A description of our software setup and configuration is also provided. Following this, we have the results from the HQV 2.0 benchmark and some pictorial evidence of the capabilities of the GPU drivers. A small section devoted to the custom refresh rates is followed by some decoding and rendering benchmarks. No HTPC solution is completely tested without looking at the network streaming capabilities (Adobe Flash and Microsoft Silverlight performance). In the final section, we cover miscellaneous aspects such as power consumption and then proceed to the final verdict.

Testbed and Software Setup
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  • anirudhs - Monday, April 23, 2012 - link

    I can barely notice the difference between 720P and 1080I on my 32" LCD. Will people notice the difference between 1080P and 4K on a 61" screen?

    It seems we have crossed the point where improvements in HD video playback on Sandy Bridge and post-Sandy Bridge machines are discernible to normal people with normal screens.

    I spoke to a high-end audiophile/videophile dealer, and he tells me that the state of video technology (Blu-Ray) is pretty stable. In fact, it is more stable than it has ever been in the past 40 years. I don't think "improvements" like 4K are going to be noticed by those other consumers in the top 1%. This seems like a first-world problem to me - how to cope with the arrival of 4K?
    Reply
  • digitalrefuse - Monday, April 23, 2012 - link

    ... Anything being discussed on a Web site like Anandtech is going to be "a first-world problem"...

    That being said, there's not much of a difference between 720 lines of non-interlaced picture and 1080 lines of interlaced picture... If anything a 720P picture tends to be a little better looking than 1080I.

    The transition to 4K can't come soon enough. I'm less concerned with video playback and more concerned with desktop real estate - I'd love to have one monitor with more resolution than two 1080P monitors in tandem.
    Reply
  • ganeshts - Monday, April 23, 2012 - link

    OK, one of my favourite topics :)

    Why does an iOS device's Retina Display work in the minds of the consumers? What prevents one from wishing for a Retina Display in the TV or computer monitor? The latter is what will drive 4K adoption.

    The reason 4K will definitely get a warmer welcome compared to 3D is the fact that there are no ill-effects (eye strain / headaches) in 4K compared to 3D.
    Reply
  • Exodite - Monday, April 23, 2012 - link

    We can certainly hope, though with 1080p having been the de-facto high-end standard for desktops for almost a decade I'm not holding my breath.

    Until there's an affordable alternative for improving vertical resolution on the desktop I'll stick to my two 1280*1024 displays.

    Don't get me wrong, I'd love to see the improvements in resolution made in mobile displays spill over into the desktop but I'd not be surprised if the most affordable way of getting a 2048*1536 display on the desktop ends up being a gutted Wi-Fi iPad blu-tacked to your current desktop display.
    Reply
  • aliasfox - Monday, April 23, 2012 - link

    It would be IPS, too!

    :-P
    Reply
  • Exodite - Monday, April 23, 2012 - link

    Personally I couldn't care less about IPS, though I acknowledge some do.

    Any trade-off in latency or ghosting just isn't worth it, as accurate color reproduction and better viewing angles just doesn't matter to me.
    Reply
  • ZekkPacus - Monday, April 23, 2012 - link

    Higher latency and ghosting that maybe one in fifty thousand users will notice, if that. This issue has been blown out of all proportion by the measurable stats at all costs brigade - MY SCREEN HAS 2MS SO IT MUST BE BETTER. The average human eye cannot detect any kind of ghosting/input lag in anything under a 10-14ms refresh window. Only the most seasoned pro gamers would notice, and only if you sat the monitors side by side.

    A slight loss in meaningless statistics is worth it if you get better, more vibrant looking pictures and something where you CAN actually see the difference.
    Reply
  • SlyNine - Tuesday, April 24, 2012 - link

    I take it you've done hundreds of hours of research and documented your studies and methodology so we can look at the results.

    What if Anand did videocard reviews the same way your spouting out these "facts". They would be worthless conjector, just like your information.

    Drop the, but its a really small number argument. Until you really document what the human eye/brain is capable all your saying its a really small number.

    Well Thz is a really small number to. And we can the human body can pick up things as little as 700 Tera Hz. Its called the EYE!.
    Reply
  • Exodite - Tuesday, April 24, 2012 - link

    Look, you're of a different opinion - that's fine.

    I, however, don't want IPS.

    Because I can't appreciate the "vibrant" colors, nor the better accuracy or bigger viewing angles.

    Indeed, my preferred display has a slightly cold hue and I always turn saturation and brightness way down because it makes the display more restful for my eyes.

    I work with text and when I don't do that I play games.

    I'd much rather have a 120Hz display with even lower latency than I'd take any improvement in areas that I don't care about and won't even notice.

    Also, if you're going to make outlandish claims about how many people can or cannot notice this or that you should probably back it up.
    Reply
  • Samus - Tuesday, April 24, 2012 - link

    Exodite, you act like IPS has awful latency or something.

    If we were talking about PVA, I wouldn't be responding to an otherwise reasonable arguement, but we're not. The latency between IPS and TN is virtually identical, especially to the human eye and mind. High frame (1/1000) cameras are required to even measure the difference between IPS and TN.

    Yes, TN is 'superior' with its 2ms latency, but IPS is superior with its <6ms latency, 97.4% Adobe RGB accuracy, 180 degree bi-plane viewing angles, and lower power consumption/heat output (either in LED or cold cathode configurations) due to less grid processing.

    This arguement is closed. Anybody who says they can tell a difference between 2ms and sub 6ms displays is being a whiny bitch.
    Reply

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