AMD's UVD Debacle

by Derek Wilson on June 4, 2007 12:05 AM EST

There has been a lot of talk over the past week about the fact that the Radeon HD 2900 XT lacks UVD (Universal Video Decode) hardware for HD video decode acceleration on the GPU. We've seen sites from The Tech Report to DailyTech, and even Beyond3D reporting on the situation. While there is much discussion already out there, we would like to provide our take on things.

To recap, the situation is as follows. A huge number of press and channel partners were given the impression by AMD that their R600 GPU used to build the new Radeon HD 2900 XT contained UVD hardware. AMD's press materials are incredibly vague about the issue: they never explicitly state that the HD 2900 XT does or does not physically have UVD hardware. They do list R600 as having AVIVO HD, which they explained includes GPU offload of the entire video decode pipeline in their press materials.

In other slides and presentations, AVIVO HD and UVD have been presented as synonymous. As the entire HD 2000 line is supposed to support AVIVO HD, how could we assume that UVD hardware wasn't included on the GPU?

It seems that AMD is now trying to make it clear that R600 (the 80nm GPU for the HD 2900 XT) does not include UVD, but supports the same video decode features as the X1950. Dedicated hardware makes a big difference in entropy decoding, as we've seen with our G86 testing, but neither NVIDIA nor AMD have top end parts with full spec video decode offloading. The rationale is that high-end GPUs will be paired with CPUs capable of decoding any HD video thrown at them.

With such a huge volume of information to absorb, it seems reasonable to think that some details could get lost in the mix. But, while AMD never actually said anything untrue, they did omit details which could have easily clarified the situation. Walk with us through our experience and see for yourselves how we came to our conclusions.

Our Experience with UVD and R600
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  • Goty - Monday, June 4, 2007 - link">
  • Goty - Monday, June 4, 2007 - link

    ...soooo the HD2900XT doesn't support UVD. Who cares? I still accelerates HD video play back and can even beat its competition at the feat, so what's the big deal? You guys missed something, get over it.
  • Roy2001 - Tuesday, June 5, 2007 - link

    ATI card makers cares.
  • drebo - Monday, June 4, 2007 - link

    Yet another pointless anti-AMD "article".

    Look, we realize that Intel buys a shitload of advertising from you, but could we atleast get a shred of real review material please?

    This is bollocks. AMD never said UVD would be on the 2900 XT. nVidia didn't include full decode on the G80. Whatever the reasoning, it doesn't matter. My feelings are that those high end parts don't NEED the help. Your feelings are that AMD is deceptive and nVidia is god. We get it. You don't like AMD (or Intel pays you not to). Get over it already. I'd have rather seen an actual comparison of the video decode features of the 2900 XT, the 8800GTS, the 8600GT and the lower-end AMD parts.

    You know, something that would actually mean something, other than this useless drivel, specualtion and namecalling.
  • Roy2001 - Tuesday, June 5, 2007 - link

    Yeah, AT and many sites dislike AMD, and AMD partners are also dislike AMD so they pretend to know nothing about lacking of UVD and thus printed their box with UVD support.

    Is that your theory?
  • SilthDraeth - Monday, June 4, 2007 - link

    Drebo you are hilarious. Anandtech certainly is anti AMD, and back before core 2 they where anti Intel.

  • chrispyski - Monday, June 4, 2007 - link

    I can understand if review sites like Anandtech or Tom's get things like this messed up as they have to rely on the information given to them from the PR guys whose job it is to make there merchandise appealing. But when board partners are being mis-informed and then mis-labeling their cards accordingly, then you begin to wonder what the hell is going on with their tactics.

    AMD was deceitful, if not to the review sites, then to their board partners. Either way is just bad business. Plain and simple.
  • tuteja1986 - Monday, June 4, 2007 - link

    Yeah... Like i read around 3 or more reviews like firingsquad article that told it readers that 2900XT didn't UVD.These review were published on the 1st of 2900XT launch and they didn't make fuss about it. Also i have read article that compares 8600GT playback vs 8800GTX playback and it show that Image quality is better on 8800GTX than 8600GT playback.
  • PrinceGaz - Monday, June 4, 2007 - link

    Exactly, some first day reviews of the HD 2900 did mention that it did not include dedicated UVD hardware but that it would instead be implemented using its shaders/stream-processors (because the 2900 has sufficient of them to do the task just as well as the dedicated hardware on lower models does).

    Some people rely on just one review (possibly AT for many readers here); that is always a bad idea regardless of the site you choose. If you feel you know enough about an important new product by doing anything less than reading at least three (preferably more) comprehensive reviews, then you are likely to miss small but significant details. Reading more than one reduces the likelihood you overlook something, and increases your chance of being told about something another site missed such as details of the UVD support in the HD 2900.

    I'm not saying any site is good or bad; the site where I first learned on launch day that UVD on the HD 2900 would be provided by its stream-processors rather than dedicated hardware, is the same site which not long previously had posted a review of the 8600GT/GTS launch which was at odds with just about every other respectable tech site. All sites have their ups and downs, so never trust what any site alone says, including AT, unless others support their findings.
  • Creig - Thursday, June 7, 2007 - link">


    Ahh, the guys at Dailytech are at it again.

    AMD made it fully clear at the launch that only the HD2400 and HD2600 had the extra UVD chip since the R600 could handle it in the GPU with the shaders. Heck, I even wrote about that in my article. The UVD chip is put in the HD2400 and HD2600 as they do not have the shader performance to handle it.

    Apparently they haven't turned on that yet in the beta HD2900XT drivers (got new ones a few days agi but cant put in the HD2900XT now to test). So the HD2900XT is definitely supposed to be capable of accelerating HD.

    Incidently this is exactly the same stuff as the 8800GTX has. When playing HD-DVD on my 360 HD-DVD drive i got about the same CPU utilization on both (a bit lower on the HD2900XT). None of the highest end cards have an extra chip to handle the Hd decoding as it is handled by the GPU.

    The only issue I can see is that they haven't been able to get it fully working yet in the drivers. I personally don't see the big fuss here. Playing a 20-25 Mbps HD-DVD on a E6400 and getting around 40% CPU usage is to me not a bad result.


    Well, hardware decoding acceleration is supposed to be available in the next drivers coming in the next few days or so (I really need to install my HD2900XT again to see if the new drivers I got a few days ago have this turned on).

    I've read up more on this and I still am quite surprised on this whole debacle. I'm not sure what happened at the US launch event, but at the Tunis launch event there were no uncertaines what-so-ever that UVD was anything else than a feature for the 2400 and 2600 as they needed assists at handle 1080p.

    Apparently AMD did not count on people not being able to read all the slides and thus did nt make it clear on every possible slide that UVD was for 2400 and 2600.

    This is not the first time that it has taken some time for hardware decoding to start working on new videocards. When the X1000 series first was released it took a while before the various programs supported the hardware encoding in them. And I've had issues with Purevideo.

    It definitely is bad though that some AIB's went out and printed boxes where they advertised UVD for the HD2900XT. Apparently AMD hadn't made it clear to them or they jumped the gun and didn't doublecheck this feature.

    I think most of this debacle stems from the fact that they did not have the HD2400 and HD2600 ready for the 14 May launch. This made them talk a lot about a feature (UVD) that wasn't available on the card they were selling which confused a lot of people.

    But the simple fact is that at least at the Tunis event they clearly told us about the lack of UVD on the HD2900XT as well as the fact that the same features was being handled by the R600 GPU.

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