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Nvidia GeForce GTX 560 Ti and High-Definition Video

When Nvidia designed their GeForce GTX 5-series (Fermi 2.0) graphics processors, they tried to lower their power consumption and increase their computational performance, rather than add more functionality. As a result, GeForce GTX 560 Ti (GF114) has the same PureVideo unit as its predecessor. Therefore, our today’s test session will look at the new drivers performance rather than new hardware.

As we know, the last version of Nvidia PureVideo supports all contemporary video formats, such as MPEG2-HD, MPEG4, MPEG4-AVC, MPEG4-MVC, VC-1, WMV-HD, Adobe Flash 10.1, etc., as well as lossless audio bitstreaming for decoding in an external receiver. Unlike contemporary Radeon HD 6800 solutions, the new GeForce GTX 560 Ti doesn’t support hardware DivX/XviD and entropic decoding for MPEG2, but this is hardly a serious issue for 2011.

The size and power consumption of the new Nvidia card will hardly allow it to be considered a solution for HTPC. Nevertheless, it fits perfectly fine inside our Antec Fusion HTPC case. This way, GeForce GTX 560 Ti can actually be used in a computer system used for gaming as well as video playback.

Let’s see how well GeForce GTX 560 Ti can playback Blu-ray content and how much load it can take off the CPU during HD video decoding.

Video Playback Benchmarking Testbed and Methods

We are going to investigate the decoding performance and playback quality of Nvidia GeForce GTX 560 Ti and other today’s testing participants on 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);
  • ATI Catalyst 10.9/10.10 driver for ATI Radeon;
  • Nvidia ForceWare 258.96/260.63/260.99/260.56 for Nvidia GeForce
  • CyberLink PowerDVD 10
  • CyberLink PowerDVD 10 for GeForce GTX 460
  • Microsoft Windows Performance Monitor
  • Microsoft Windows 7 64-bit

The following graphics cards and integrated graphics processors took part in our tests:

  • ATI Radeon HD 6800
  • ATI Radeon HD 5700
  • ATI Radeon HD 5600
  • ATI Radeon HD 5500
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 560
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 460
  • Nvidia GeForce GTS 450
  • Nvidia GeForce GT 240

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

  • IDT/Silicon Optix HQV 2.0 DVD
  • IDT/Silicon Optix HQV2.0 Blu-ray

The driver settings remained the same. However, according to the HQV suite requirements, the noise suppression and detail levels in the drivers were increased to medium (50%-60%), which, however, didn’t affect the results in multi-cadence tests.

Since the owners of high-end sound systems will be extremely interested in the results of lossless threads playback, we also enabled DTS-HD Master Audio and Dolby Digital TrueHD (where available) in order to increase the CPU load in all played movie fragments.

Keeping in mind that all tests are run under Windows 7 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 1%-2% difference is not indicative of any advantage of a certain graphics accelerator over the competitor.

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

  • Alien Vs. Predator: MPEG2 HD, chapter 18
  • Constantine: VC1, picture-in-picture, chapter 25
  • Dark Knight: VC1, chapter 1 (credits not included into the test sequence)
  • Death Race: MPEG4-AVC/H.264, picture-in-picture, chapter 14
  • The Day After Tomorrow: MPEG4-AVC/H264, chapter 14

We didn’t use any free content for this test session.

Video Playback Quality

The HQV 2.0 test suite is a means to subjectively evaluate the quality of some video processing operations performed by a graphics card. As we wrote in our earlier reviews, this suite is very detailed and focuses on comparing Blu-ray and DVD players, which are based on specialized video processors. Therefore, today's GPUs do not always score the highest marks in it.

HQV 2.0 DVD

Today, few people watch regular DVD movies on TVs and monitors at the native resolution of DVD content. Most users instead prefer larger screens with full-HD resolution (1920x1080). So, the primary goal of any video processor is not just to properly display video content, but to be able to upscale the image, perform movement correction, reduce noise, improve detail quality, etc. Video fragments used in the HQV 2.0 DVD tests are selected in such a way as to demonstrate how good today’s video processors are at performing each of the mentioned operations.

As we have expected, the newcomer performed comparably with GeForce GTX 460. You can disregard a slight score difference: some tests played back with subjectively poorer quality and some with subjectively better quality than with earlier driver versions. In any case, we can’t recommend watching 480x320 video on monitors supporting 1920x1080/1920x1200 resolutions. At the same time, a good DVD will play just fine on a higher-end GeForce GTX 560 Ti.

HQV 2.0 Blu-ray

Similar to HQV 2.0 DVD, the HQV 2.0 Blu-ray test suite allows to subjectively evaluate a video processor at high display resolutions.

Just like in the previous case, we do not see any serious differences with the predecessors, which is good overall. Although ATI Radeon HD competitors are a little ahead of our today’s hero, it will hardly imply that Blu-ray movies will playback with lower quality.

When analyzing the results of the HQV tests, you must keep it in mind that the scoring method is highly subjective. Therefore a small difference in the total scores of different graphics cards is hardly considered critical.

 Blu-ray Playback

Let’s see how well hardware decoding units can free the CPU from video playback processing and how greatly it will allow lowering the system power consumption.

GeForce GTX 560 shows even better results than its predecessor, which could come from driver improvement as well as high clock frequency of the chip. However, average CPU utilization time is so short and so close by 460 and 560 models that we can hardly talk about any noticeable difference.

During MPEG4-AVC/H.264 playback the newcomer utilizes the CPU just as much as GeForce GTX 460 does.

When it comes to MPEG2-HD content that has become almost completely outdated already, GeForce GTX 560 Ti also performs pretty well. Slightly higher maximum CPU utilization in this case is determined mostly by software, rather than hardware reasons.

Summary

Being a slightly improved GF104 version, GeForce GTX 560 demonstrates similar playback quality and similar performance during video decoding. If you already have a GeForce GTX 460 inside your HTPC system, the new Nvidia solution will not deliver any other advantages besides higher energy-efficiency in idle mode.

Just like its predecessors and competitors, Nvidia GeForce GTX 560 Ti supports hardware decoding of almost all popular formats including Blu-ray 3D, high-definition audio bitstreaming via HDMI 1.4a, and other contemporary functionality. The new Nvidia card doesn’t support hardware DivX decoding, is typically slower in HQV tests compared with its competitors, and requires a special middleware driver from Nvidia in order to playback movies and games on stereo 3D HDTV. Nevertheless, GeForce GTX 560 Ti will be a good choice for a multimedia PC.

Being a pretty fast gaming graphics accelerator, GeForce GTX 560 Ti consumes up to 160 watt of power and is quite bulky in size. Of course, GeForce GTX 560 Ti is not an HTPC solution, as positioned by the developer. Therefore, if you decide to use it inside an HTPC, you will have to ensure that there is proper cooling inside in order to avoid possible overheating.

 
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