Hardware Accelerated Blu-ray Playback Comparison

All three platforms we're talking about here support hardware Blu-ray acceleration, but how much of an offload do they provide? To find out we looked at CPU utilization while playing all three types of content (MPEG-2, VC-1, H.264) with a Core 2 Quad Q9450 on the Intel chipsets and a Phenom X4 9950 BE on the AMD/NVIDIA platforms. Because of our CnQ issues we've provided data with it both enabled and disabled. Intel's EIST is always enabled.

The breakdown of video decode offload is as follows: AMD offers the best in terms of CPU offload, followed by NVIDIA, then Intel with the G45. Remember that the G35 has no hardware decode support, so that's the reference point.

VC-1 Blu-ray Playback: Dave Matthews Concert BD

With CnQ enabled Intel takes the lead; however, this isn't a recommended configuration.

VC-1 Blu-ray Playback: Dave Matthews Concert BD

The same holds true for MPEG-2 and H.264 playback: AMD's 780/790GX offer the most CPU offload, followed by the GeForce 8200/8300 and then G45. Turn on CnQ and Intel takes the lead.

MPEG-2 Blu-ray Playback: Crank BD

MPEG-2 Blu-ray Playback: Crank BD

H.264 Blu-ray Playback: Simpsons BD

H.264 Blu-ray Playback: Simpsons BD

All of these numbers are low enough that the chipset you pick shouldn't matter - as long as you have hardware acceleration you're golden, but let's look at power consumption to see the impact of the CnQ issues on the AMD platforms.

AMD's Cool'n'Quiet: Disable it Blu-ray Power Consumption
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  • tonyintoronto - Wednesday, October 15, 2008 - link

    The issue is the 780G just doesn't work well enough to be used in htpc.. tons of issues with hdcp and different monitors/tv's, still can't decode mpeg2 stream without crashing the display driver, issues with open GL, was a great idea but bad drivers/hardware have done it for me.. now, the 9300 and 9400 looking nice :)
  • Mathos - Tuesday, October 14, 2008 - link

    Hmmmmm Actually the power numbers aren't too bad when you take it into context. Q9300 is a 45nm chip, and 9950 is 65nm. Q9300 is 95w TDP rated, but runs much lower actual TDP. While the 9950 is rated 125w TDP. I'd be interested in seeing this test redone once Deneb variants come out. Considering the lesser performance of the Phenom compared to the Penryn, it actually speaks well of both the AMD based chipsets, and shows that the 790GX does a lot to make up for the processor.

    I'd say AMD/ATI are doing a good job on the Chipset front now.
  • Calin - Tuesday, October 14, 2008 - link

    Also, considering we're talking about a $174 versus a $260 processor. I wonder what the results were if the comparation would have been against the quad core Q6600 (at a somewhat similar price of $189).
  • 3DoubleD - Tuesday, October 14, 2008 - link

    "However, they are offering 8-channel LPCM support on the HD 4xxx series of video cards. Of course that option comes with an additional cost and potential problems such as incompatibility with AVR receivers such as those from Yamaha"

    Can you elaborate on these problems? I was planning on building an HTPC system and was considering this exact combination. Are these temporary (driver update solvable) problems?

    This second question is only distantly related to this article. When using the HDMI with LPCM audio, will sound from sources other than Blu-ray discs (such as games or movies with DD5.1 or DTS) be playable on your stereo? Part of me wants to say yes it will for DTS and DD5.1, but I'm skeptical about video games for some reason. I guess I don't fully understand the extent of the sound card capabilities on these IGP/discrete graphics solutions.

    Great article, I'm looking forward to your HTPC graphics card review.
  • AmdInside - Tuesday, October 14, 2008 - link

    I own the Asus M3N-H/HDMI (Geforce 8300) and except for the fact that it doesn't have an eSATA port, I have no complaints (well, maybe the placement of the 24-pin power connector).


    I recently purchased the Intel G45 Mini-ITX motherboard to build a second HTPC and although it has worked ok for the most part, BD and HD-DVD playback just doesn't seem as smooth as the Geforce 8300. It is not choppy. It just feels like the framerate is lower. I can't explain why. The same HDTV was used with both systems and they were both set to 1080p/60. Both systems are running Windows Vista. If you are building a new HTPC, I would not recommend Windows XP btw with these platforms. Anyways, I appreciated the article. For me, I was trying to build a somewhat portable HTPC with the Intel mini-ITX motherboard but given the problems I am having with BD and HD-DVD playback, I think I am going to leave it as a Windows Media Center DVR box and use the Geforce 8300 as my main HTPC. For what it's worth, I tested with both WinDVD and Arcsoft TMT.
  • gipper - Tuesday, October 14, 2008 - link

    It sounds to me like you're really recommending that at this time the way to go is to get a cheap Intel chipset motherboard with the cheapest, lowest power 45nm Core2 Duo, and an ATI 4550.

    But what Intel chipset would give that rock solid platform at the lowest price?
  • tayhimself - Tuesday, October 14, 2008 - link

    Neither AMD nor Nvidia can make a decent chipset. Intel seems to have as many misses as they have hits so they're usually a good bet. Boo hiss to poor QC!
  • Nil Einne - Friday, January 30, 2009 - link

    As with others, I have to say this is a piss poor review. I looked at the Part 1 and came across a resonably decent review. Was expecting the same thing here. But what do I come across? You onmly test two quad cores. What idiot buys a quad core for their HTPC? Unless you're transcoding there's absolutely no reason and given the price of HDs nowadays and the fact that some broadcasters are using AVC for their HD content anyway there's only a few people who are going to bother. Even if you are occasionally transcoding, it's questionable of you really need a quad core or it might be better to just stick with a dual. At the very lest you could have tested quad cores and dual cores like you did with the previous review. But you didn't and so have a fairly useless review for 99% of the population. Why did you even bother with gaming anyway? Seriously, how many people game with quad core IGP systems particularly the kind of games you were testing. And how many of those check out Anandtech reviews? Maybe 5 people in the whole world... You may use a quad core IGP for a high load server or a non-3D workstation but not gaming.

    As it stands, based on your previous review (part 1, i.e. the one with the G35) and your comparison between the G35 and G45 I'm guessing that the 8200 is probably still better when paired with a decent CPU for most HTPC purposes but only barely. Sadly it's just a guess for the reasons I outlined above
  • Nil Einne - Friday, January 30, 2009 - link

    When I said part 1 I meant the "IGP Power Consumption - 780G, GF8200, and G35", got slightly confused. One of the strangest things about this review of course is the 8200 performed so poorly whereas in that review, it was better then the 780G. Has the 780G improved a lot? Is it just the Gigabute 780G was a POS? Who knows, one would have thought the reviewer would have at least co=mmented on if not investigated this but apparently not
  • lisajack - Saturday, January 18, 2020 - link

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