VLC has taken the important first step towards enabling GPU acceleration for various codecs commonly used in high definition videos. However, they have been crippled by their application structure, resulting in the fact that they are unable to provide the same amount of acceleration as other methods like DXVA using MPC-HC / Windows Media Player. While the untested Arrandale provided around 5% CPU usage improvement for VC-1 decode, PureVideo VP2 had speed-ups of around 60% for H264 and 20% for VC1. PureVideo VP4 turned out to be the best of the lot when GPU acceleration is enabled. CPU usage was lesser by a factor more than 65% for H264 and 36% for VC1.

Are these numbers good enough for the occasional HD video watcher? I would say, yes, as soon as the GPU vendors fix their drivers for the remaining minor issues. But, for the HD enthusiast with terabytes of Blu-Ray backups, I would still advise sticking with MPC-HC / Windows Media Player / favourite software Blu-Ray player.

GPU vendors should get their act together and work with the VLC developers to ensure smooth interaction between their drivers and VLC. This has already been done between the MPC-HC / mplayer - VDPAU developers and Nvidia / Intel. VLC, being much more popular, should not have much trouble in this respect (as indicated by how long it took CatalystMaker to tweet regarding Catalyst support for VLC). The vendors and developers should also look into ways to further the performance gains that have been realized with this first release. It will probably not be long before all GPU vendors support this type of acceleration at the basic level. That would be time for the VLC developers to enable GPU acceleration by default, and take away the experimental tag associated with it.

On other HD media aspects related to VLC, it is heartening to note support for WMAPro audio in the past few releases. Would it be wishful thinking to see audio passthrough / HD audio bitstreaming implemented internally in VLC? Hopefully not! Anandtech takes this opportunity to thank the VLC developers for creating and supporting one of the best open source softwares of all time.

Note: Don't forget to check out the update section on the next page, where I have tried to address some comments from readers (both here, and also in private communication)

Playback Performance Update Section: VLC, MPC-HC & Miscellaneous Notes
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  • piroroadkill - Friday, June 25, 2010 - link

    I use Media Player Classic Homecinema as well.

    Why would you bother with something else?
    Reply
  • DustinW - Friday, June 25, 2010 - link

    I'd say XBMC is a pretty important free media player for HTPC users...

    But anyway, yes I'll agree with everyone else...using DXVA with MPC-HC is dead-simple and quite powerful.
    Reply
  • The0ne - Friday, June 25, 2010 - link

    Have to agree. MPC/MPC-HC is very nice already. I use the k-lite codec pack myself and just go with the default setting during installation. No tweaking for me so it's nice. However, the latest version has a new MPC with new buttons and some of the codecs are a bit buggy as now many of my encoded animes can't be read properly. But my 720P and 1080P encoded files plays just fine and that's more important :) Reply
  • CSMR - Friday, June 25, 2010 - link

    Yes I remembered that after posting but no edit button. Thanks. Reply
  • Furuya - Friday, June 25, 2010 - link

    I tested myself some samples I had from the "popular blog post". The result is very bad: some videos just play the first seconds and others got very blocky.

    The best solution for me was Cuda acceleration with CoreAVC (tutorial also available in that blog post), I play 1080p movies with less than 5~10% CPU usage.
    Reply
  • Touche - Friday, June 25, 2010 - link

    MPC-HC doesn't need any external codec packs. You don't even have to install it. Just download and run the exe. All integrated, DXVA works perfectly and has for quite some time now.

    Although I prefer MPC-HC+madVR. Quality>>DXVA.
    Reply
  • hechacker1 - Friday, June 25, 2010 - link

    I agree, I use a third-party updated build of MPC-HC that has madVR as an option. It really does give the best quality upscaling for SD content. Combined with ffdshow tweaked, I can't really find any other codec that can compete.

    For HD content, I just use MPC-HC and its built in decoder. It really looks good on my 4850, and hardly registers as loading the GPU.
    Reply
  • Pino - Friday, June 25, 2010 - link

    Splash Lite is better, simpler and work with Intel, AMD and Nvidia. Reply
  • kasakka - Friday, June 25, 2010 - link

    Splash is indeed very impressive. It looks good and works well. They recently released the Pro version, which is not free but has more features. I'll wait till it gets a bit better and then might buy it.

    Until then MPC-HC + ffdshow is great, though post processing doesn't work with DXVA so I don't use the GPU acceleration.
    Reply
  • 0roo0roo - Friday, June 25, 2010 - link

    "Even the most powerful modern day multi-core processors have trouble decoding HD videos."

    Not true, any decent software decoder, like previous versions of vlc or coreavc or ffdshow/mpc-hc would easily decode current web or mkv type videos at 1080p. A fraction of a multicores processor would be necessary. 720p was possible on even old pentium m at times using coreavc decoder. any modern athlon2 or core2 can playback 1080p mkv at even 2x time stretched without a problem.

    i've found that this vlc fails pretty hard on xp, it crashes on exit playing mkv h264 videos for me to the point where i've gone back to the previous version. coreavc gpu decode however works fine using other players so its vlc thats wonky.

    the only processors that would hickup on hd video were the atom processors. any recent core2 could pull off hd decode for most web videos just fine, even at 1080p.
    Reply

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