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.
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.
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 last looked at graphics cards from Nvidia and ATI we covered some new developments on the Nvidia cards such as acceleration of a second stream and Blu-Ray playback with Aero enabled. In PIP playback mode we saw that Nvidia significantly outperformed ATI at the time however as the above results show ATI now has that aspect of their products up and running well when PowerDVD is combined with Catalyst 8.5, the result being better performance than Nvidia can offer us.
The situation surrounding Aero Playback is however a bit less clear cut and, if we are honest, it is currently quite a mess.
Up until recently, getting the latest Nvidia cards to combine Aero with HD playback was easy. Simply install the most up to date Forceware driver and a build of PowerDVD 7.3 such as 3730. If Aero was automatically disabled with this configuration, changing the registry entry “NVDWMON” to 1 was a simple solution. Despite PowerDVD having a similar switch for ATI hardware (ATIDWMON) enabling this switch resulted in a blank display and so we were limited to playback without Aero.
The ability to take advantage of this functionality changed with the release of a more recent patch for PowerDVD, build 4102. Due to an AACS issue Aero Playback has been disabled and is no longer possible on Nvidia hardware, regardless of the driver or card used. Having contacted Cyberlink we were informed that they intend to add support for Aero playback again at a later date, when the AACS issue is resolved. There is also the added twist that the recently released PowerDVD 8.0 also currently lacks support for Aero playback of Blu-Ray content on any card.
We also took this opportunity to speak to both ATI about their inability to have Aero playback enabled in PowerDVD builds such as 7.3.3730 and they informed us that the Radeon 3000 series is capable of this functionality and information on how to implement this has been passed to Cyberlink but it has yet to be enabled by them. Whist ATI seem to be laying blame at Cyberlink we do feel a little more proactive developer involvement could have had this technology up and running in some form, after all Nvidia seem to have worked well with Cyberlink in this regard.
To be fair though, we also feel that Cyberlink could be much more forward thinking in their approach to the whole situation. It is clear that we have two major manufacturers who are ready to implement this feature yet Cyberlink do not have this as a priority and the result is that consumers are made to put up with a sub standard user experience when trying to play their high definition content.
Our recommendation for the short term is that when using Nvidia G92 based hardware, where possible; stick with PowerDVD 7.3 build 3730 for the best visual experience on Windows Vista.
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