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Media Engine

Haswell media engine is yet another way of lowering the processor power consumption. Instead of video encoding and decoding in the computational core, they now utilize special engine that needs much less power. And keeping in mind that video processing is currently one of the most popular type of user activity, this approach is totally reasonable. This is exactly why Intel pays such close attention to media in general and Quick Sync in particular.

Haswell supports an extended range of formats for video encoding and decoding besides the peviously supported formats. Among the new ones are native MVC short format, MJPEG decode and hardware decode acceleration of SVC (Scalable Video Coding). Haswell also acquired native support for large resolution content – up to 4Kx2K (for example, 4096x2304, 4096x2160 and 3840x2160). I have to say that this is a very timely addition. The ecosystem for resolution like that is already shaping up: Sony has recently announced a new TV-set supporting these resolutions, YouTube also supports resolutions like that.

In codec space Intel has been continuously improving the codec engine. They introduced hardware based SVC (scalable video coding), which is a derivative of AVC H.264. They have also implemented support for MPEG2 encode. And this time they claim that the encoder has become true low-latency and can be used for video conferencing.

The encoding speed is also expected to improve. Quick Sync in Ivy Bridge is faster than in Sandy Bridge, and it should be even faster than that in Haswell. Of course, its performance will depend on the graphics core model, but according to Intel, the GT3 core should transcode a 2-hour movie in a few minutes.

They have also paid special attention to the video quality aspect. There are new functions in the engine that may be applied during video encoding process. Haswell is claimed to produce better video quality than Ivy Bridge even at identical bitrate levels.

They have added new effects to the list of functions implemented in the media engine, which can be applied to video processing.

Of course, the media engine also has some power-saving features that make Haswell processors more energy efficient than their predecessors during video encoding/decoding.

 
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