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Radeon HD 6800: Multimedia Functionality and HD Video Playback

The UVD video engine has been traditionally improved with each new Radeon HD generation, indicating that the Radeon HD 6800 is positioned by its developer as a solution for HD video playback. Let’s see how good the Barts is in multimedia tasks.

UVD 3.0 offers hardware acceleration for decoding video in a number of formats (DivX/XviD, MPEG2-HD, MPEG4-AVC, MPEG4-MVC, WMV-HD, VC-1, Adobe Flash 10.1, etc.) and supports bitstreaming of many audio formats via HDMI. It can also do hardware post-processing of SD and HD video. In other words, UVD 3.0 is not much different from the previous video engine.

It may look odd that the developer implements hardware decoding support for DivX/XviD and entropy decoding support for MPEG2 in 2010, but UVD 3.0 has been developed not only for graphics cards with a peak power consumption of over 100 watts but also for integration into various mobile GPUs or CPUs. When decoding video, UVD 3.0 must consume less power than a higher-performance CPU, so it is rather a surprise that the Radeon HD 6850 needs about 40 watts of power for playing HD video. This is not much for a desktop computer but quite a lot for a mobile platform.

A desktop PC user doesn’t care much about power consumption. He needs the cooling system to be as quiet as possible and the reference Radeon HD 6850 is not a very quiet card, but the quality of video playback, both in HD formats and in SD formats upscaled to 1080p, is important, too.

In this section of our review we will see how good the Radeon HD 6850 and its UVD 3.0 engine are at decoding Blu-ray, playing HD videos, and upconverting SD video to full-HD.

Video Playback Benchmarking Testbed and Methods

We are going to investigate the decoding performance and playback quality of Nvidia GeForce GTS 450 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 10.6/10.9/10.10 driver for ATI Radeon;
  • Nvidia ForceWare 197.45/258.96/260.63/260.99 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 6850
  • ATI Radeon HD 5750
  • ATI Radeon HD 5670
  • ATI Radeon HD 5570
  • ATI Radeon HD 4770
  • Nvidia GeForce GTS 450
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 460
  • Nvidia GeForce 9800 GT/GTS 240
  • 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” (PiP) or Bonus View (according to Blu-ray disc Association classification) 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.

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