High-definition video content (at resolutions of 1280x720 and higher) is becoming more and more widespread, and the GPU developers follow this trend by introducing innovations pertaining to the playback of such content. This trend is related to the increasingly more important role of the PC as an entertainment center at home and to the competition with the last generation of game consoles, Microsoft Xbox 360 and Sony PlayStation 3.
To name just a few innovations implemented by ATI, AMD’s graphics department, and Nvidia in their GPUs, there are the audio-over-HDMI feature, the hardware acceleration for decoding of video in H.264/MPEG4 AVC, VC-1 and WMV HD formats, post-processing of HD video, driver-integrated algorithms (very questionable ones) for enhancing the quality of HD video playback, etc.
Even inexpensive integrated graphics cores from AMD, Nvidia and even Intel have long acquired support for the HDMI interface (common in consumer electronics) and advanced video-processors, which indicates the developers’ interest in the HTPC concept (Home Theater Personal Computer).
Today, we will see how the HD video playback quality offered by the newest graphics cards has improved over the older GPUs and will measure the CPU load when watching high-definition movies. Besides graphics cards, our test session will cover the newest chipsets with integrated graphics cores: AMD 790GX, Intel G45 and Nvidia GeForce 8300.
You should keep it in mind that performance may not be the main factor for choosing the graphics solution for a HTPC. Such factors as compactness, moderate power consumption, HDMI support and others are highly important, too. Considering the abundance of differently designed graphics cards on the market, we will give you our general recommendations basing on the typical functionality of each graphics card series.