In the last few HTPC reviews, we have incorporated video decoding and rendering benchmarks. The Ivy Bridge review carried a table of values with the CPU and GPU usage. The Vision 3D 252B review made use of HWInfo's sensor graphs to provide a better perspective. In the latter review, it was easier to visualize the extent of stress that a particular video decode + render combination gave to the system. Unfortunately, HWInfo doesn't play well with the A10-5800K / Radeon HD 7660D yet. In particular, GPU loading and CPU package power aren't available for AMD-based systems yet.

The tables below present the results of running our HTPC rendering benchmark samples through various decoder and renderer combinations. Entries in bold with a single star indicate that there were dropped frames as per the renderer status reports in the quiescent state, while double stars indicate that the number of dropped frames made the video unwatchable. The recorded values include the GPU loading and power consumed by the system at the wall. An important point to note here is that the system was set to optimized defaults in the BIOS (GPU at 800 MHz, DRAM at 1600 MHz and CPU cores at 3800 MHz).

madVR :

madVR was configured with the settings mentioned in the software setup page. All the video post processing options in the Catalyst Control Center were disabled except for deinterlacing and pulldown detection. In our first pass, we used a pure software decoder (avcodec / wmv9 dmo, through LAV Video Decoder) to supply madVR with the decoded frames.

LAV Video Decoder Software Fallback + madVR
Stream GPU Usage % Power Consumption
480i60 MPEG-2 38 77.9 W
576i50 H.264 24 68.2 W
720p60 H.264 49 106.6 W
1080i60 H.264 81 128.1 W
1080i60 MPEG-2 85 115.4 W
1080i60 VC-1 84 131.7 W
1080p60 H.264 51 116.6 W

madVR takes up more than 80% of the resources when processing 60 fps interlaced material. The software decode penalty is reflected in the power consumed at the wall, with the 1080i60 VC-1 stream consuming more than 130W on an average. The good news is that all the streams played without any dropped frames with the optimized default settings.

The holy grail of HTPCs, in our opinion, is to obtain hardware accelerated decode for as many formats as possible. A year or so back, it wasn't possible to use any hardware decoders with the madVR renderer. Thanks to Hendrik Leppkes's LAV Filters, we now have a DXVA2 Copy-Back (DXVA2CB) decoder which enables usage of DXVA2 acceleration with madVR. The table below presents the results using DXVA2CB and madVR.

LAV Video Decoder DXVA2 Copy-Back + madVR
Stream GPU Usage % Power Consumption
480i60 MPEG-2 44 76.8 W
576i50 H.264 24 66.2 W
720p60 H.264 54 102.4 W
1080i60 H.264 ** 72 111.1 W
1080i60 MPEG-2 * 82 111.8 W
1080i60 VC-1 * 84 111.6 W
1080p60 H.264 ** 64 110.4 W

There is a slight improvement in power consumption for the first few streams. We still have a bit of power penalty compared to pure hardware decode because the decoded frames have to get back to the system memory and then go back into the GPU for madVR to process. An unfortunate point to note here is that none of the 1080i60 / 1080p60 streams could play properly with our optimized default settings (rendering their GPU usage and power consumption values meaningless). We did boost up the memory speeds to DDR3-2133 and saw some improvements with respect to the number of dropped frames. However, we were unable to make the four streams play perfectly even with non-default settings.

EVR-CP :

For non-madVR renderers, we set Catalyst 12.8 to the default settings. The table below presents the results obtained with LAV Video Decoder set to DXVA2 Native mode. All the streams played perfectly, but the power numbers left us puzzled.

LAV Video Decoder DXVA2 Native + EVR-CP
Stream GPU Usage % Power Consumption
480i60 MPEG-2 26 78.1 W
576i50 H.264 22 78.1 W
720p60 H.264 38 90.1 W
1080i60 H.264 69 103.9 W
1080i60 MPEG-2 69 102.2 W
1080i60 VC-1 69 104.2 W
1080p60 H.264 60 98.4 W

For SD streams, the power consumed is almost as much as madVR with software decode. However, the HD streams pull back the numbers a little. This is something worth investigating, but outside the scope of this article. However, we wanted to dig a bit into this, and decided to repeat the tests with the EVR renderer.

EVR :

With Catalyst 12.8 in default settings and LAV Video Decoder set to DXVA2 Native mode, all the streams played perfectly with low power consumption. All post processing steps were also visible (as enabled in the drivers)

LAV Video Decoder DXVA2 Native + EVR
Stream GPU Usage % Power Consumption
480i60 MPEG-2 27 60.6 W
576i50 H.264 25 60.1 W
720p60 H.264 35 65.7 W
1080i60 H.264 67 80.1 W
1080i60 MPEG-2 67 80.6 W
1080i60 VC-1 67 82.5 W
1080p60 H.264 59 79.2 W

A look at the above table indicates that hardware decode with the right renderer can make for a really power efficient HTPC. In some cases, we have more than 20 W difference depending on the renderer used, and as much as 40 W difference between software and hardware decode with additional renderer steps.

Custom Refresh Rates Acceleration for Flash and Silverlight
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  • Marlin1975 - Thursday, September 27, 2012 - link

    Later, when you hace access, can you do the same test with the lower end dual core 65watt Trinity?

    I think that would be the best HTPC Trinity if it also keeps up.

    But looks good for a HTPC/Light gaming rig.
    Reply
  • coder543 - Thursday, September 27, 2012 - link

    gotta agree. The A10 would not be my choice of processor for an HTPC. I would go with something lower cost and lower wattage... but maybe other people enjoy transcoding videos on their HTPCs. Reply
  • ddrum2000 - Thursday, September 27, 2012 - link

    I partially disagree (personal preference). I'd like to the 65W A10-5700 reviewed as opposed to the A10-5800K since a 65W part makes much more sense for an HTPC then a 100W part. By extention, the A8-5500 would be interesting as well though I'm curious how much of a difference the number of Radeon cores makes in terms of HTPC usage. Reply
  • coder543 - Thursday, September 27, 2012 - link

    that's what we said. how do you disagree? Reply
  • Silent Rage - Thursday, September 27, 2012 - link

    You said, "The A10 would not be my choice of processor for an HTPC."

    He said, "I'd like to the 65W A10-5700 reviewed as opposed to the A10-5800K since a 65W part makes much more sense for an HTPC then a 100W", hence the partial disagreement.
    Reply
  • MonkeyPaw - Thursday, September 27, 2012 - link

    I transcode on my HTPC, but I just use Quicksync on my i3 with HD 3000 graphics. I use Arcsoft media converter 7 and rip HD TV recordings down to a manageable size to play on my Iconia tablet. Considering the fact that it only takes 20-30 minutes to take a 1080p show down to 720p at 1/6 the original file size, I can't complain about the results. Intel offers an HD 4000 i3, and that would be my HTPC CPU of choice if I had to buy today. Reply
  • Arbie - Thursday, September 27, 2012 - link

    The features you are testing are never obvious from a spec sheet, so a targeted hands-on review like this is very important. At least it is to me, because my next laptop choice will be based on its capabilities for media viewing and gaming. And battery life, followed by weight.

    Thanks!
    Reply
  • coder543 - Thursday, September 27, 2012 - link

    this was a desktop review. The Trinity mobile reviews happened months ago.. Reply
  • stimudent - Sunday, September 30, 2012 - link

    I'm glad that Anandtech has explained to us that this is a staged released and has offered its review based around that by looking to past performance. This is better reporting. Not the immature biased reporting being done by Tech Report.
    If Intel did this, it's almost a sure thing TechReport.com would not have said a thing about a staged release and gone ahead with its review the same way Anantech did here.
    Reply
  • ChronoReverse - Thursday, September 27, 2012 - link

    Isn't giving you 23.977 what you'd actually want over 23Hz? I can't think of when you'd want 23Hz (whereas 24Hz, 25Hz and 30Hz are all useful) whereas 23.976 is what you'd want from telecined material. Reply

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