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Video Playback

All contemporary chipsets with integrated graphics, including AMD 785G and Intel G45, have special hardware engines that accelerate high definition video decoding in H.264/VC-1/MPEG-2 formats. This particular feature made integrated platforms into popular choices for media center PCs: during video viewing they provide very good image quality at minimal CPU utilization. However, it was the case in Windows Vista. This time we performed all tests in Windows 7, which has its own codecs for popular video formats and requires special drivers, where the developers have to implement hardware support for video stream decoding in the GPU. That is why the results we are going to see now may be somewhat different from the usual idyllic picture.

For our tests we used a 64-bit Media Player Classic Home Cinema 1.2.908.0 that uses hardware GPU potential for standard video acceleration – via DXVA (DirectX Video Acceleration). All videos used for our test session were recorded in 1080p.

The results are not that good: Intel G45 doesn’t use any hardware acceleration at all, while AMD785G doesn’t use acceleration during video playback in MPEG-2 format. As a result, the CPU utilization in this case becomes very high. At the same time, when we playback video in H.264 and VC-1 formats, AMD platform demonstrated remarkable video acceleration by means of the built-in UVD engine, which resulted into low CPU utilization.

Update:

While we were working on this review the unpleasant issue with Intel G45 was successfully fixed. The new version of Media Player Classic Home Cinema 1.3.1249.0 started to support Intel Clear Video Technology engine that is why Intel G45 based mainboards now have the ability to accelerate H.264 video with minimal CPU utilization.

However, as we have already mentioned above, Windows 7 already has standard codecs for most video formats including DivX, XviD and H.264. Therefore, we were very interested to see how the chipset cope with video playback using these specific codecs. So, we undertook one more test session that involved the default Windows Media Player 12 from Windows 7:

This is a completely different situation. Hardware acceleration is supported at all times on both platforms, including Intel. As a result, the CPU utilization on Intel G45 based system was even lower than that on AMD based one. However, it is important to remember that Windows Media Player 12 is actually not the best software player for a home media system. It still doesn’t support some widespread formats like VC-1, for example. Besides, it can’t work with popular media containers, such as Matroska (.mkv) in the first place.

 
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