Nearly every modern GPU is effective at decoding high-definition video. However, the playback quality may vary greatly even within the same GPU series.
Our tests show that despite the 12-year-long tenure of the DVD standard on the market none of the graphics cards can boast maximum playback quality with it.
ATI’s Radeon HD 4800/4600 and Nvidia’s GeForce 9600 GPUs deliver the best image quality in the Silicon Optix HQV test (118 out of 130 points). The Radeon HD 3800 and GeForce 9800 are but barely worse, scoring 116 out of 130. Surprisingly, the Intel GMA 4500 processor is almost as good as the discrete GPUs, scoring 113 out of 130 points. The GeForce 8300 IGP and GeForce 8500/9400 GPUs are a disappointment as they could score only 80 points.
The quality of HD video playback on today’s PCs is also questionable, according to the Silicon Optix HQV HD. ATI’s Radeon HD 4800/4600/4500 cards deliver an ideal picture (100 out of 100 points) whereas ATI’s Radeon HD 3800/3600 and Nvidia’s GeForce 9800/9600 are very close to that (90 out of 100 points). The integrated Radeon HD 3300 is good (80 out of 100) whereas the results of the Radeon HD 3400, GeForce 8300 and Intel GMA 4500 (65, 60 and 50 points, respectively) are simply disappointing.
Of course, the playback of high-quality Blu-ray movies (The Day After Tomorrow, Transformers, Casino Royale) is going to be top class even on the Intel GMA 4500, but there are a lot of movies that need noise reduction (28 Weeks Later) or detail enhancement (The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen). If these features do not work properly, watching such movies won’t be a pleasure.
We must note one thing here. Practice suggests that modern GPUs can be reprogrammed to deliver much higher video playback quality. Therefore, the current situation can change in the future. But right now, ATI’s Radeon HD 4800 and 4600 GPUs are the best in terms of DVD, Blu-ray and HD DVD playback.