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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  • ckryan - Thursday, June 30, 2011 - link

    There's lots of good stuff to do with a GPU that doesn't involve games; unfortunately, it seems like that is the only thing AMD had in mind for the Llano GPU. It's unfortunate, since running a discrete GPU with Llano in its desktop form just seems to make Llano pointless. In a laptop you at least get decent game performance at low screen resolutions.

    My enthusiasm for the future of Llano isn't diminished, but strangely, it seems that Llano makes a cheap Phenom II + dGPU seem like a much better idea than it was yesterday.

    Still, with some Bulldozer cores, improved GPU section, and some better drivers will go a long way to making Llano mainstream vs. a super-niche product for the desktop.
  • duploxxx - Thursday, June 30, 2011 - link

    a super niche product for the desktop..... did you ever went to any large electronic shop? it's full of these kind of designs that you brand "niche". Check few OEM very soon they will all bulk this kind of Liano setups.... just like Brazos was a success this will also and already a major reason why intel introduces the 2105 just at release of Liano.... but the HD3000 over HD2000 remains crap.
  • L. - Thursday, June 30, 2011 - link

    You don't get it, the guy above is right !!!

    It's a super-niche product, for the biggest niche there is in the whole consumer market, normal people.

    Gee AMD ... bad idea really ;)
  • Ananke - Thursday, June 30, 2011 - link

    :) Llano is exactly what the mass-consumer grade computer market uses and needs. That's 99.5% of the total market. The other negligible 0.5% is enthusiast market, where most of the AnandTech readers belong. Intel is still king there.
  • therealnickdanger - Thursday, June 30, 2011 - link

    "However, this leads to increased expectations like support for full post processing on Blu-ray videos."

    Did I misunderstand the comment?

    Assuming a faithful transfer from film (16mm/35mm/65/70mm) to Blu-ray (1080p24), there should be absolutely no reason to apply any post-processing to a Blu-ray. The worst transfers are those cases where the studio applied processing prior to encoding on the Blu-ray, and then there is no recourse to undo the effects. With only a handful of examples of low-budget or foreign films, there are no interlaced Blu-rays. And then, you would only need deinterlacing, not post-processing. Any artificial sharpening, coloring, or smoothing will ultimately degrade picture quality, not improve it. Outside of playing back Blu-rays in the proper color space and eliminating judder, not much else should be done to them.
  • ganeshts - Thursday, June 30, 2011 - link

    Sorry if I wasn't clear in this respect. I had also mentioned in the HQV section that we believe Blu-rays don't need post processing.

    First, there are a lot more interlaced Blu-rays than we would actually expect. Loads of nature documentaries and concerts are available in 1080i60. While the former ones are mostly VC-1, the latter Blu-rays are all H.264

    AMD's main stance with respect to not supporting 1080p60 camcorders was the fact that they want to target the Blu-ray market mainly. Now, 1080i60 is less demanding than 1080p60, and is also present in many camcorders which are already in the $200 - $300 range. If Llano GPUs don't support post processing on 1080i60 fully, I think it is a long way off before they start supporting 1080p60 decode along with post processing. So, the 'even for Blu-rays' comment is meant to stress that aspect rather than mean that we actually need the post processing for Blu-ray videos. (Local files were the main target of my post processing tests)
  • therealnickdanger - Thursday, June 30, 2011 - link

    Understood, thanks for taking the time to respond!
  • StormyParis - Thursday, June 30, 2011 - link

    for a very detailed review. I don't know much about HTPCs to start with, and I'm left a bit overwhelmed and confused, though.

    First, I really don't think the current Llano is meant to be used with a discrete graphics card. I think the whole point of the product, and the only situation in which it's worth coping with their underpowered CPU / higher power draw, is if I actually take advantage of their GPU.

    Second, I'm not really clear which issues are fixable in software, and which will stay. Actually, I'm not really clear which issues are important, and which aren't.

    Third, It'd be nice to have a hint about what lower clocks / core counts will do. I'd rather use 65W parts for small enclosures, and I have the feeling that wouldn't change much, but I'm not sure.
  • geniekid - Thursday, June 30, 2011 - link

    Sounds to me like, if they fixed their software issues, AMD would be the preferred platform for HTPC.
  • ganeshts - Thursday, June 30, 2011 - link

    Yes, let us wait and watch for a couple of driver releases

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