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Blu Ray/HD DVD VIdeo Playback

Having spent some considerable time with 1080p high definition content over the past month or so it became clear to us that only the highest end systems have a hope of playing back some of the available content without dropping frames. That was until the Geforce 8600 and the latest beta of WinDVD8 came along. Now Nvidia have set the bar for High Definition playback performance. The results shown below are taken using an Intel Core2 QX6700 CPU which features four cores running at 2.66 GHz. Even with one of the best processors that money can buy, the CPU usage statistics are very high so any GPU assistance is appreciated.

As mentioned earlier in the article the 2900 XT does not feature the same video capabilities as the 2400/2600 and so relies on raw shader power to assist with video tasks, let’s see how much of a difference it can make.

(NOTE: Both the Asus and Sapphire models performed identically in this test and so the results are not branded)

Test 1: Blu-Ray: 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: HD-DVD: Superman Returns Chapter 16 (Plane Rescue). Superman Returns is encoded in High Definition 1080p format (VC-1) using a dual layer 30Gb disc. The aspect ratio used is 2.4:1 with letterbox bars at the top and bottom of the 16:9 image.

Don't have flash installed? then click here for a jpeg

 

Looking at our HD movie playback we can see that there are some clear advantages to enabling the Avivo acceleration within PowerDVD. In Blu-Ray playback CPU usage drops 20% which compares to the 8800’s 6%. The maximum CPU usage statistic is much closer and whilst the drop of 14% is impressive it is only 7% ahead of the GTS. HD-DVD playback also shows significant performance increases across all of the measured areas. Additionally the XT is a fair amount ahead of the GTS with the largest gap being 16%.

The above performance is great on paper however the Radeon was backed by just about the fastest processor money can buy (without going Quad Core). As a small experiment we decided to install the 2900 XT in a media centre PC which features an AMD Athlon64 5200+ and a 500w PSU with 2x6pin power. In this configuration we were unable to play the BBC’s Planet Earth HD-DVD box set at 1080p smoothly, instead we had to drop down to 720p settings.

What also became apparent in the time we used the 2900 XT for video playback is that it is completely unsuitable due to the noise the cooler makes. If there is one thing a graphics card shouldn’t do when watching a movie/video, is to interfere with the user’s enjoyment and that’s precisely what the HD 2900 XT does! The fan is far too loud and the constant variation in speed makes it even more noticeable, so despite the reasonably good acceleration we cannot recommend any reference cooled models for video use.

 

 

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