HTPC enthusiasts are often concerned about the quality of pictures output by the system. While this is a very subjective metric, we have decided to take as much of an objective approach as possible. We have been using the HQV 2.0 benchmark in our HTPC reviews to identify the GPUs' video post processing capabilities. The HQV benchmarking procedure has been heavily promoted by AMD, and Intel also seems to be putting its weight behind that. The control panel for the Sandy Bridge GPU has an additional skin tone enhancement option which the Clarkdale drivers used to lack.

HQV scores need to be taken with a grain of salt. In particular, one must check the tests where the GPU lost out points. In case those tests don't reflect the reader's usage scenario, the handicap can probably be ignored. So, it is essential that the scores for each test be compared, rather than just the total value.

The HQV 2.0 test suite consists of 39 different streams divided into 4 different classes. In our HTPC(s), we use Cyberlink PowerDVD 11 with TrueTheater disabled and hardware acceleration enabled for playing back the HQV streams. The playback device is assigned scores for each, depending on how well it plays the stream. Each test was repeated multiple times to ensure that the correct score was assigned. The scoring details are available in the testing guide from HQV.

Blu-rays are usually mastered very carefully. Any video post processing (other than deinterlacing) which needs to be done is handled before burning it in. In this context, we don't think it is a great idea to run the HQV benchmark videos off the disc. Instead, we play the streams after copying them over to the hard disk. As we noted in the previous section, the capabilities of the APU vary between Blu-ray and local file playback. How much difference does that cause in the HQV scores? How do the scores look when compared to the HD3000?

In the table below, we indicate the maximum score possible for each test, and how much each GPU was able to get. The HD3000 is from the Core i5-2520M with the Intel drivers. The Lynx was tested with Catalyst 11.6, driver version 8.862 RC1

HQV 2.0 Benchmark
Test Class Chapter Tests Max. Score Intel HD3000 AMD 6550D (Blu-ray) AMD 6550D (Local file) Sapphire 6570
Video Conversion Video Resolution Dial 5 5 4 4 5
Dial with Static Pattern 5 5 5 5 5
Gray Bars 5 5 5 5 5
Violin 5 5 5 5 5
Film Resolution Stadium 2:2 5 5 5 5 5
Stadium 3:2 5 5 5 5 5
Overlay On Film Horizontal Text Scroll 5 3 5 5 5
Vertical Text Scroll 5 5 5 5 5
Cadence Response Time Transition to 3:2 Lock 5 5 5 5 5
Transition to 2:2 Lock 5 5 5 5 5
Multi-Cadence 2:2:2:4 24 FPS DVCam Video 5 5 5 5 5
2:3:3:2 24 FPS DVCam Video 5 5 5 5 5
3:2:3:2:2 24 FPS Vari-Speed 5 5 5 5 5
5:5 12 FPS Animation 5 5 5 5 5
6:4 12 FPS Animation 5 5 5 5 5
8:7 8 FPS Animation 5 5 5 5 5
Color Upsampling Errors Interlace Chroma Problem (ICP) 5 2 5 2 5
Chroma Upsampling Error (CUE) 5 2 5 2 5
Noise and Artifact Reduction Random Noise SailBoat 5 5 5 5 5
Flower 5 5 5 5 5
Sunrise 5 5 5 5 5
Harbour Night 5 5 5 5 5
Compression Artifacts Scrolling Text 5 3 3 3 5
Roller Coaster 5 3 3 3 5
Ferris Wheel 5 3 3 3 5
Bridge Traffic 5 3 3 3 3
Upscaled Compression Artifacts Text Pattern 5 3 3 3 3
Roller Coaster 5 3 3 3 3
Ferris Wheel 5 3 3 3 3
Bridge Traffic 5 3 3 3 3
Image Scaling and Enhancements Scaling and Filtering Luminance Frequency Bands 5 5 5 5 5
Chrominance Frequency Bands 5 5 5 5 5
Vanishing Text 5 5 5 5 5
Resolution Enhancement Brook, Mountain, Flower, Hair, Wood 15 15 15 15 15
Video Conversion Contrast Enhancement Theme Park 5 5 5 5 5
Driftwood 5 5 5 5 5
Beach at Dusk 5 2 5 5 5
White and Black Cats 5 5 5 5 5
Skin Tone Correction Skin Tones 10 0 7 7 7
    Total Score 210 173 190 184 197

A look at the above table reveals that Intel has caught up with the competition in terms of HQV scores. There is not much to choose betwee 173 and 184. But, does it pass the video quality stress streams? How does the Llano fare in that? We will see in the next few sections. But, first, we will look at the discrepancy between the Blu-ray and local file playback with respect to chroma upsampling.

Lynx HTPC Testbed Setup Lynx: Chroma Upsampling Errors
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  • ganeshts - Thursday, June 30, 2011 - link

    For casual HTPC users (or even non-HTPC .. just users who want to play back HD video), there was no need for a discrete HTPC GPU starting with the Clarkdales / Arrandales (some would say even with the IGP in the 4500, but let us not talk about that because it was a pain to use).

    Hey, it looks like AMD's latest GPUs are not even able to decode videos that SNB / Clarkdale has no trouble with! (agreed it is a driver issue, but when are they going to fix it? We reported it 6 months back)

    Agreed about Intel's GPU very weak, but only for gaming. And for videos, the only place 6550D stands out is in deinterlacing quality (most people are OK with proper playback of progressive content).

    Atom deserves to get creamed in any way it can. But, I don't ever suggest people buy Atom based products (and I still advise friends to avoid anything with that level of performance, which includes Brazos) -- though market might not agree with me here. ION market no longer exists.

    The other propositions, I agree with. In this piece, I restricted myself to HTPC performance.
  • cyrusfox - Thursday, June 30, 2011 - link

    I can respect and agree with your response, it just originally seemed to me that you were trumping Intel unfairly in regards to GPU integration efforts. But strictly in regards to video consumption in an HTPC, I can't fault your analysis, my apologies.

    As for AMD and its drivers, it can take awhile for them to get all the issues right(many times I have to opt for a hotfix release to fix one issue only to create another). But I have a little more faith in AMD releasing a driver update that corrects its issues than Intel. Then again you will be testing to see if you can achieve 23.976 Hz on SB with a new driver in the works, maybe Intel is stepping up there GPU driver game. Shoot, maybe Intel will even get the linux community sorted(we can hope!)
  • prdola0 - Friday, July 1, 2011 - link

    "HTPC Quality is better on Liano vs"

    What? You didn't even finish that sentence. HTPC Quality is better on i3-2100 + proper dGPU than on Llano.

    Then you throw at us some opinions totally unsupported by facts.

    "Features are better on AMD chipsets"

    Again, just an opinion and a flawed one. How are AMD chipsets better than Intel chipsets? You can't just say that without telling us what is better on AMD side or missing on Intel's. I can't really find anything.

    "Performance idle and playback is lower then Intel "
    No. The former is true, but the latter is a lie. In the main review Llano won just one power consumption test and lost the other four.

    Instead of accusing a quality review of bias without any facts to support it, just go away already.
  • StormyParis - Friday, July 1, 2011 - link

    The tests in the article seem to find video playback quality better on Llano. And much better for games.

    Superior features on the AMD chipset: USB 3, more SATA2 ports, typically better sound chip than on H61 boards (that's an OEM choice though, I just couldn't fnd an H61 board with ALC 892.. I didn't look much).

    Indeed lower idle power, higher under load.
  • maroon1 - Friday, July 1, 2011 - link

    What is the cheapest motherboard for Llano ?

    H61 motherboards can be found for $60 and H67 can found for only $75 in newegg

    Is there any Llano motherboard that cost same in newegg ?
  • StormyParis - Friday, July 1, 2011 - link

    give it a bit of time ?
  • just4U - Friday, July 1, 2011 - link

    I've found the past few years that AMD boards are higher quality with more features then their Intel counterparts in similiar price ranges. I think it has to do with Intel charging more for their chipset maybe.. (a guess). AT could easily confirm this observation I think since they must have noticed the same thing.
  • just4U - Friday, July 1, 2011 - link

    as an afterthought..

    Outside of OEM you really don't see bare bones Amd Boards like you do for Intel $60 boards. They'd have to sell them for 35-40 bucks and margins would be so low it's just not worth it. So they add more to bump the cost up (and appeal) making AMD's rock bottom boards equivelent to Intels $100 offerings.
  • T2k - Saturday, July 2, 2011 - link


    you are surely retarded, I must say - which part you STILL cannot grasp?

    For HTPC Llano is better EVERY WAY when compared to Intel's shitty Sandy Bridge solution and still scores better when compared to your Intel + VGA setup, first and foremost thanks to much lower power consumption which is one of the primary considerations when building an HTPC.
  • L. - Thursday, June 30, 2011 - link

    Mhhh no.
    Any other APU with the same GFX will do the same, I have no data about the others, but seeing how much this is memory constrained I would expect scaling to be non-linear in favor of the worse igp's.

    You will save slightly less than 30 bucks on the memory if you really want to buy 1333 today.
    You will also save only 30 bucks if you go for 2133mhz ram, with which the Llano performs much better, as shown in other reviews.

    4Gigs of 1333 (dual) : $33.99
    4Gigs of 1600(dual): $37.99
    4Gigs of 1866(dual): $59.99
    4Gigs of 2133(dual): $64.99

    Your I3+mobo already costs 20 bucks more than the Llano+mobo.

    i3 : $124.99
    cheapest p67 : $104.99
    Total : 230

    Llano A8 : $135 (announced)
    cheapest Llano mb : $70 (announced)
    Total 205

    Well .. I guess you could consider having a $5 rebate on your discrete GPU a total win in favor of i3 ...

    Need real numbers ? Go check newegg it's not my job ;)

    So in effect you are telling me that a more expensive system will be better... I do trust you on that ;)

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