AMD's Trinity : An HTPC Perspectiveby Ganesh T S on September 27, 2012 11:00 AM EST
Before proceeding to the business end of the review, let us take a look at some power consumption numbers. The G.Skill RAM was set to DDR3 1600 during the measurements. We measured the average power drawn at the wall under different conditions. In the table below, the Blu-ray movie from the optical disk was played using CyberLink PowerDVD 12. The Prime95 + Furmark benchmark was run for 1 hour before any measurements were taken. The MKVs were played back from a NAS attached to the network. The testbed itself was connected to a GbE switch (as was the NAS). In all cases, a wireless keyboard and mouse were connected to the testbed.
|Trinity HTPC Power Consumption
|Prime95 + Furmark (Full loading)
|Blu-ray from optical drive
|Blu-ray ISO from NAS
|1080p24 MKV Playback (MPC-HC + QuickSync + EVR-CP)
|1080p24 MKV Playback (MPC-HC + QuickSync + madVR)
The Trinity platform ticks all the checkboxes for the mainstream HTPC user. Setting up MPC-HC with LAV Filters was a walk in the park. With good and stable support for DXVA2 APIs in the drivers, even software like XBMC can take advantage of the GPU's capabilities. Essential video processing steps such as chroma upsampling, cadence detection and deinterlacing work beautifully. For advanced users, the GPU is capable of supporting madVR for most usage scenarios even with DDR3-1600 memory in the system (provided DXVA is not used for decoding the video). Ivy Bridge wasn't a slam-dunk in this scenario even with software decode.
Does this signify the end of the road for the discrete HTPC GPU? Unfortunately, that is not the case. The Trinity platform is indeed much better than Llano, and can match / surpass even Ivy Bridge. However, it is not future proof. While AMD will end up pleasing a large HTPC audience with Trinity, there are still a number of areas which AMD seems to have overlooked:
- Despite the rising popularity of 10-bit H.264 encodes, the GPU doesn't seem to support decoding them in hardware. That said, software decoding of 1080p 10-bit H.264 is not complex enough to overwhelm the A10-5800K (but that may not be true for the lower end CPUs).
- Full hardware decode of MVC 3D videos is not available. 3D Blu-rays have a slightly greater power penalty as a result. However, 3D is fast becoming an 'also-ran' feature, and we don't really fault Trinity for not having full acceleration.
- The video industry is pushing 4K and it makes more sense to a lot of people compared to the 3D push. 4K should see a much faster rate of adoption compared to 3D, but Trinity seems to have missed the boat here. AMD's Southern Islands as well as NVIDIA's Kepler GPUs support 4K output over HDMI, but Trinity doesn't have 4K video decode acceleration or 4K display output over HDMI.
Our overall conclusion is that discrete GPUs for HTPC use are only necessary if one has plans to upgrade to 4K in the near term, or the user is set upon using madVR for 1080i60 content. Otherwise, the Trinity platform has everything that a mainstream HTPC user would ever need.