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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  • Targon - Friday, July 1, 2011 - link

    New vs. open's like comparing the price of a used car vs. a new car, it's not in the same market.

    Yes, a car that is three years old drops in value by 45-55 percent, so you can get a used car that is better in most respects for the same money, but who knows how the original owner treated the car, if there are problems, etc. Buying new vs. used....

    You will be able to get an open box AMD motherboard for super-cheap too, so where's your advantage once THAT happens?
  • maroon1 - Friday, July 1, 2011 - link

    Obviously, 4GB DDR3 1600MHz for $38 is going to have poor timing, and it is not going to performs as good as the one that anandtech tested
  • rockrr - Saturday, July 2, 2011 - link

    I’m not a technowiz like many of the AT readers are, (I read AR to learn.) I am a gamer and build my own machines. I agree that the ability to upgrade CPU and GPU separately is cost effective and allows for customizing for the best performance to suit your needs. Also it allows for recycling of components to upgrade other systems.
  • Anato - Thursday, June 30, 2011 - link

    Couldn't agree more. There is feeling that no way AT could let AMD to be good at something. In mobile market there was this magical performance metric i7-2630QM+GTX460M (which obviously is not a competitor to Llano) on top of the char.

    And yes AMD is not as good as Intel at x86 but the whole point of Llano is different. AMD clearly chose to set more area for the GPU and make it affordable as a platform.

    In general would be better to compare what user can get with given price range. CPU-price is only 1/2 of the story, then there is motherboard and Intel chipped motherboards are generally more expensive.
  • prdola0 - Thursday, June 30, 2011 - link

    That is entirely untrue now. It used to be the case but that time is now gone (it has been for a while, but you obviously missed it). It gets even better with H61.
  • maroon1 - Friday, July 1, 2011 - link

    No one would buy a P67 unless you want to use discrete GPU

    A good quality H67 can be found as cheap as $75

    And H61 cost only $60
  • ganeshts - Thursday, June 30, 2011 - link

    duploxxx, I agree wtih you on almost all the points.

    But, AMD has a good discrete GPU background now and taken in that context, the HTPC performance is not up to the mark.

    People don't care about post processing if they can't even play their camcorder videos. With a proper dGPU (targeted towards HTPCs), they can play and also get post processing done on the same clip. Why is the ESVP feature enabled by default when it doesn't work as intended?

    When I heard about the high end Llano, I expected it to fully replace the discrete HTPC GPU. Unfortunately, that is not happening (pending some magical driver updates?)
  • kev18 - Thursday, July 7, 2011 - link

    i second the comment made.....I have an AMD based HTPC already......i was excited to hear the new integrated CPU/GPU and may be it is time to upgrade..... but after hearing the problem playing files on hard drive, I think i willl wait for this to be more mature before buying........may be i should consider buying a 6xxx GPU card so that i can get HD-DTS
  • Gigantopithecus - Thursday, June 30, 2011 - link

    Thanks for the review, Ganesh. I have a quick question: though the Antec Skeleton is a far less than ideal testbed for an HTPC, do you have any numbers or subjective impressions of the noisiness of the stock HSF?

    Also, from your reported power consumption numbers, your setup should run on an external power brick or picoPSU. The Antec PSU you used is a bottom-barrel model that's not even 80+, and during local HD file playback, is pulling ~10% of the PSU's rated output. That is, you're at the bottom end of the efficiency curve of a non-efficient PSU. It would be nice to see idealized or even more accurate power consumption numbers. Furthermore, I understand that you can only benchmark what you're actually sent, but as an HTPC builder, I'm having trouble thinking of a scenario when I would use the A8-3850 for HTPC duties...

    Finally, when you say "our expectations from the desktop Llano were much higher," well, what were you expecting? The issues with BRD and HD video file playback all sound like software, not hardware problems. Llano's not for sale on Newegg, so hopefully AMD will work out the kinks with its partners before or shortly after retail availability. I personally am extremely impressed by the power consumption numbers. Depending on the cost of the lower-end Llano SKUs and assuming they provide good enough computing (I can't wait for an HD 6410D APU to be tested), I'll likely cease building i3-based HTPCs.
  • ganeshts - Thursday, June 30, 2011 - link

    We were provided an ATX motherboard for review with the 100W TDP processor. Our benchmarking setup was chosen with future reviews in mind too. We had no idea is mind how the power consumption numbers would play out before choosing the PSU.

    Today is the launch date for the processor. So, this review is just an inkling of how the 6550D (which is also there in the A8-3800 with 65W TDP) will perform currently for HTPC duties. It is targeted towards DIYers who want to build a HTPC right away (and our conclusion is, wait and watch for a few driver releases).

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