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Midrange Graphics Card Round Up


by Stuart Davidson - 11th April 2008
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High Definition Playback

Test 1: AVC: Casino Royale Chapter 2 (Chase through the construction site). Casino Royale is encoded in High Definition 1080p format using MPEG4 AVC compression (rather than Mpeg 2 which is used on older Blu-Rays) and comes on a dual layer (50 GB) disc. The aspect ratio of 2.40:1 is used with letterbox bars at the top and bottom of the 16:9 image.

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Test 2: VC-1: Planet Earth: Fresh Water Chapter 1. Planet Earth is encoded in High Definition 1080p format (VC-1) which results in discs with 30GB of content. The aspect ratio used by this disc is 1.78:1.

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High-Definition video acceleration performance follows the normal pattern for these two cards. ATI have by far the best VC-1 performance where as things are much closer on AVC. When we enable picture in picture the results change significantly as shown below.

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One of the features which Nvidia has enabled on the Geforce 9 series is dual stream decoding and when watching a special feature in the standard picture in picture mode the 9600 is able to accelerate both streams, keeping CPU usage at a minimum. The Radeon does not yet have this feature and as a result a significant amount of decoding is passed to the CPU.

The 9600 also allows us to keep the Aero desktop enabled when playing back high definition content where as Radeon systems switch to Vista basic. Clearly this is not a major issue; it just creates a nicer environment in which to watch movies if a Geforce 9 card is installed.


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