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Multimedia Content Playback

Besides the required interfaces and technologies such as HDCP, a multimedia graphics card must provide hardware acceleration of video decoding and improve playback quality through post-processing.

Hardware and Software Testbed Configuration

Since ATI Radeon HD 4550 is first of all targeted for home-theater personal computer systems (HTPC), we checked out not only the content playback quality but also the CPU utilization. For our tests we built the following platform:

  • Intel Core 2 Duo E8500 CPU (3.16GHz, 6MB cache, 1333MHz PSB);
  • Gigabyte EG45M-DS2H mainboard (Intel G45 chipset);
  • OCZ Technology PC2-8500 memory (2x1GB, 1066MHz, 5-5-5-15, 2T);
  • Western Digital HDD (640GB, SATA-150, 16MB buffer);
  • Antec Fusion 430W chassis;
  • Samsung 244T monitor (24”, 1920x1200@60Hz max resolution);
  • LG GGC-H20L optical drive (Blu-ray, HD DVD, DVD);
  • Microsoft Windows Vista Ultimate 32-bit;
  • ATI Catalyst 8.11/8.12 for ATI Radeon;
  • Nvidia ForceWare 178.24 for Nvidia GeForce;
  • CyberLink PowerDVD 7.3;
  • Microsoft Windows Vista Performance Monitor.

Since ATI Radeon HD 4550 is a very inexpensive graphics card we compared it against the following discrete and integrated solutions:

  • ATI Radeon HD 4670
  • ATI Radeon HD 3400-series
  • ATI Radeon HD 3300 IGP (AMD 790GX)
  • Intel Graphics and Media Accelerator 4500 IGP (Intel G45)
  • Nvidia GeForce 9600 GT
  • Nvidia GeForce 9400/8500 GT
  • Nvidia GeForce 8300 IGP

Mainboards for AMD processors were tested with the similar software and hardware components with that only difference that we used an AMD Phenom X4 9550 processor. Since it is quad-core CPU, integrated AMD platforms demonstrate higher results than the competitor solutions.

We used the following tools to estimate the video playback quality in standard (SD) and high-definition (HD) resolutions:

  • Silicon Optix HQV Benchmark
  • Silicon Optix HQV HD Benchmark

The driver settings remained the same. However, according to the HQV HD suite requirements, the noise suppression and detail levels for Nvidia GeForce graphics cards and Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 4500 were set to the maximums.

Considering that the CPU utilization was measured under Windows Vista OS without disabling background services, the CPU utilization peaks shouldn’t be regarded as critical. It is much more important how much time it takes the CPU on average to complete the task. Note that the CPU utilization may vary. Therefore, 1-2% difference is not indicative of any advantage of a certain graphics accelerator over the competitor.

Since MPEG2 decoding and DVD playback are no longer a complicated task for GPUs, we didn’t measure the CPU utilization in this case.

To estimate the CPU utilization during full-HD video playback (1920x1080) and full-HD video with enabled “picture-in-picture” feature, we used the following movies:

  • Beowulf (Director’s Cut): MPEG4-AVC/H.264, picture-in-picture, chapter 14
  • The Day After Tomorrow: MPEG4-AVC/H264, chapter 14
  • The Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift: VC1, picture-in-picture, chapter 2
  • Troy (Director’s Cut): VC1, chapter 23

Since there is also a lot of HD content available online these days, we also measured CPU utilization during playback of several free videos with the following parameters:

  • WMV HD 720p (1280x720, 24 fps progressive, 6 Mbit/s)
  • WMV HD 1080p (1440x1080, 24 fps progressive, 8 Mbit/s)
  • MPEG4-AVC 720p (1280x720, 24 fps progressive, 6 Mbit/s)
  • VC-1 720p (1280x720, 60 fps progressive, 15 Mbit/s)
  • MPEG-2 HD 1080i (1920x1080, 30 fps interlaced, 20 Mbit/s)
  • DivX HD 1080p (1920x1080, 25 fps progressive, 9.5 Mbit/s)
 
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