Articles: Graphics
 

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Testbed and Methods

We tested video playback performance of modern graphics cards on a platform configured like follows:

  • AMD Athlon 64 FX-60 CPU (2x2.60GHz, 2x1MB L2)
  • ASUS A8R32-MVP Deluxe mainboard (ATI CrossFire Xpress 3200)
  • OCZ PC-3200 Platinum EL DDR SDRAM (2x1GB, CL2-3-2-5)
  • Maxtor MaXLine III 7B250S0 (Serial ATA-150, 16MB buffer)
  • Creative SoundBlaster Audigy 2 sound card
  • Enermax Liberty 620W power supply (ELT620AWT)
  • Samsung SyncMaster 244T monitor (24”, 1920x1200@75Hz max display mode)
  • Microsoft Windows XP Pro SP2, DirectX 9.0c
  • ATI Catalyst 7.1
  • Nvidia ForceWare 93.71

All the modern video engines make use of the pixel shader processors to process video. Performance of pixel processors depends directly on the graphics core frequency, and so we tried to expand the range of tested devices as far as we could. Besides that, video playback performance can be affected by other parameters like the frequency of graphics memory and the width of the graphics memory bus. Therefore, we’ve got the following graphics card models on our list:

AMD/ATI:

  • Radeon X1950 XTX
  • Radeon X1900 XT
  • Radeon X1950 Pro
  • Radeon X1650 XT
  • Radeon X1600 Pro
  • Radeon X1300 Pro

Nvidia:

  • GeForce 8800 GTX
  • GeForce 7950 GX2
  • GeForce 7900 GTX
  • GeForce 7950 GT
  • GeForce 7900 GS
  • GeForce 7600 GT
  • GeForce 7300 GS

S3 Graphics:

  • Chrome S27

For our tests we used the following video content:

  • DVD-disk “Gladiator” (PAL, 720x576, 25 fps interlaced, 9 Mbit/s)
  • MPEG-2 HD 1080i (03:13, 405 MB, 1920x1080, 30 fps interlaced, 20 Mbit/s)
  • DivX SD (24:00, 140 MB, 640x480, 24 fps progressive, 1 Mbit/s)
  • DivX HD  1080p (224 MB, 03:13, 1920x1080, 25 fps progressive, 9.5 Mbit/s)
  • H.264 720p (71 MB, 1:33, 1280x720, 24 fps progressive, 6 Mbit/s)
  • H.264 1080p (309 MB, 4:13, 1920x1080, 30 fps progressive, 10 Mbit/s)
  • VC-1 720p (120 MB, 1:20, 1280x720, 60 fps progressive, 15 Mbit/s)
  • WMV HD 720p (97 MB, 2:02, 1280x720, 24 fps progressive, 6 Mbit/s)
  • WMV HD 1080p (142 MB, 2:21, 1440x1080, 24 fps progressive, 8 Mbit/s)

We were unable to find a free clip in VC-1 format with a resolution of 1920x1080 pixels and we could not use commercial Blu-ray or HD DVD discs just because we didn’t have an appropriate optical drive. We will fill in this blank in our test as soon as we can.

We took CyberLink PowerDVD 7 Ultra as our software player. It supports all the formats we are interested in, including HD-DVD and Blu-ray. It incorporates a decoder that supports hardware acceleration options offered by today’s graphics cards and is one of the most popular and widespread players (together with WinDVD 8 Platinum and Windows Media Player).

We turned on hardware acceleration in PowerDVD settings, enabled the Pulldown Detection and Windows Media Video Acceleration options in the AMD Catalyst Control Center and the Use inverse telecine option in the Nvidia ForceWare control panel. The Edge Enhancement and Noise Reduction sliders were left at their defaults.

We measured the CPU load level by means of Microsoft Management Console 2.0. We didn’t disable any of Windows processes for this test, so the CPU load was fluctuating a little. It means that a difference of 1-2% is insignificant and doesn’t indicate a superiority of one graphics card over another.

 
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