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ATI Avivo vs. Nvidia PureVideo: Evolution

Until Radeon X1000, ATI’s graphics processors offered a rather modest video engine, but were capable of performing some decoding and processing of video on the GPU through DXVA. Such GPUs are already obsolete, so we will only be talking about the Radeon X1000 series here.

This series was released on October 5, 2005. Among the numerous innovations described in our review called ATI RADEON X1000: Brand-New Graphics Architecture from ATI Explored, it featured the new video processing engine called Avivo.

Besides hardware decoding of HD video formats, Avivo incorporates two independent processors each of which supports 10-bit color processing, overlays, color and gamma correction, image scaling and high-quality deinterlacing. Right now the entire line-up of AMD/ATI’s Radeon X1000-based graphics products is equipped with Avivo and thus supports hardware acceleration of HD video playback. AMD’s next-generation GPUs may bring about some improvements in this field, too.

Nvidia’s alternative, PureVideo technology, was first introduced in the NV40 chip and in the GeForce 6800 graphics card family on April 14, 2004. There were some initial problems, though. The video acceleration block was disabled in the first batches of the NV40 chip, obviously due to some hardware defect. When the defect was mended, it transpired that the 6800 series was equipped with a “first-generation” PureVideo processor that didn’t support WMV HD decoding. The more functional second-generation processor was introduced later, in the GeForce 6600 series. The third-generation PureVideo acquired additional features, particularly support for inverse 2:2 pulldown, but it was only in the fourth generation, implemented in the Nvidia G80 GPU, that PureVideo technology really matured.

It is now called PureVideo HD, reflecting the video processor’s ability to decode and post-process the main HD video formats H.264 and VC-1 utilized on HD-DVD and Blu-ray media. As opposed to the earlier implementations of PureVideo technology, PureVideo HD doesn’t require you to install Nvidia’s special decoder to play DVDs. Like ATI Avivo, it can work with third-party decoders and players.

Although S3 Graphics doesn’t have much weight in the world of discrete graphics solutions, this company offers a rather advanced video engine called Chromotion that we first described in our review of the DeltaChrome graphics card. It is roughly equal to AMD’s Avivo and Nvidia’s PureVideo HD in capabilities, but S3 had implemented its technology in hardware earlier. In late 2003, test samples of the DeltaChrome S8 card could play WMV HD video at an acceptable CPU load thanks to an integrated decoder (which, unfortunately, does not support H.264 and VC-1). That’s why we decided to include products from S3 Graphics into this review.

You should keep it in mind that modern video processors – Avivo, Chromotion and PureVideo – consist of both hardware and software components. And the software part is even more important than the other because it determines the quality of such features as adaptive deinterlacing, etc.

 
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