Articles: Graphics

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Testbed Configuration and Methodology

We checked out the image quality and graphics processors performance during video decoding and playback 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);
  • 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.

Below is the list of graphics cards and integrated solutions participating in out today’s test session:

  • ATI Radeon HD 4850
  • ATI Radeon HD 4670
  • ATI Radeon HD 3870
  • ATI Radeon HD 3650
  • ATI Radeon HD 2400/3400-series
  • ATI Radeon HD 3300 IGP (AMD 790GX)
  • Intel Graphics and Media Accelerator 4500 IGP (Intel G45)
  • Nvidia GeForce 9800 GTX+
  • Nvidia GeForce 9800 GT
  • Nvidia GeForce 9600 GT
  • Nvidia GeForce 9400/8500 GT
  • Nvidia GeForce 8300 IGP

Since HTPC users are very unlikely to install a noisy and expensive graphics accelerator into their systems and since many newest solutions such as ATI Radeon HD 4870/4870 Х2 and Nvidia GeForce GTX 260/280/285/295 do not fit into our Antec Fusion case, we will not be discussing high-end products today.

Mainboards with integrated graphics core 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 significantly 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.

Keeping in mind that all tests are run 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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