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Video Playback Quality

The HQV benchmarks from Silicon Optix, the leading developer of video processors for home video players, are one of the few available methods of evaluating the playback quality of Blu-ray, DVD and HD DVD movies. They have one drawback, however. The tester’s perception is subjective while the notion of an ideal picture is rather vague.

We have been criticized for following the HQV HD test instructions too closely and giving out too low scores. However, our scores seem to have been quite correct because some GPU’s playback quality has improved dramatically over time.

The three major developers of graphics solutions, ATI/AMD, Intel and Nvidia, are constantly optimizing video playback settings in their drivers, so the playback quality in general and the HQV HD result in particular have increased over the last year. Alas, ATI and Nvidia do not take the HQV test seriously as the lowering results indicate.

So, considering the subjective nature of this test, you should not view the HQV and HQV HD results as the ultimate truth.

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Although DVD has become obsolete and even, for some people, dead with the arrival of HDTV and Blu-ray/HD DVD, not all modern GPUs can play that old format at high enough quality.

None of the tested GPUs could achieve the maximum score of 130 points. The main problems are the inability of the GPUs to smooth out the jaggies and transform filmed content (24fps, progressive scan) into DVD or 1080i HDTV with the 3:2 pulldown method. For some reason, some GPUs prove to be unable to render text over video, which is a serious problem.

Standard-resolution video is dying out. The TV channels in the United States are already broadcasting in 720p whereas HTPC owners are going to use full-HD TV-sets with a resolution of 1920x1080. As a result, it is far more important to ensure high-quality playback of high-definition video.

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As you can see, many GPUs boast exceptional quality. In fact, nearly every mainstream and performance-mainstream GPU is very good at playing Blu-ray and HD DVD movies. The disappointing results only come from the integrated graphics cores Intel GMA 4500 and Nvidia GeForce 8300, and from the discrete Radeon HD 3400.

We want to note that no GPU could reproduce the Film Resolution Loss Test - Stadium with 100% correctness. The GPUs that received 10 points for that test had no moiré but had some flickering. If you feel like fault-finding, you should subtract these 10 points from the total score because, according to the HQV HD instructions, flickering means 0 points.

Another thing we must note is that Nvidia’s GeForce processors are still inferior at reducing noise to ATI’s Radeon HD chips.

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