At present, typical users probably do precious little transcoding, but this could easily change in the not-too-distant future. The proliferation of tablets and media-rich smartphones will give consumers the ability to view content on a variety of devices. Scaling that content to fit both the TV and the iPhone requires transcoding and Sandy Bridge delivers in spades.
At present, only two programs support Intel's Quick Sync technology: Arcsoft Media Converter 7 and Cyberlink's MediaEspresso 6.5. We opted to focus on MediaEspresso, but have included performance results for the NV GTX 480 when using Badaboom as well. We transcoded a 720P rip of The Incredibles into an iPhone-compatible format and averaged the time-to-encode over three consecutive runs.
Our testbed consisted of an Intel Sandy Bridge 2600K processor (3.4GHz, Intel HD Graphics 3000), an Intel BOXDH55PJ H55 motherboard, 8GB of DDR3-1333 RAM in two 4GB sticks, and a 1TB WD Caviar Black. All tests were run multiple times and averaged.
Quick Sync blows everything else away. At just over four minutes to encode a nearly two-hour movie it takes just 63 percent as long as its next-closest competitor, the GTX 480. The presence of the GTX 480 doesn't impact Quick Sync performance at all.
When it comes to Intel's transcode functionality, Lucid has things tightened up and good to go. Things are a bit less certain on the gaming side. We tested two games and both 3DMark's with Virtu enabled; results are below:
Dirt 2 showed a falloff when the GTX 480 was paired with the HD 3000, though not a serious one. The software version we tested was a Release Candidate, not the final version. Issues like this may be entirely resolved by the time Virtu ships out.
One Significant Annoyance:
If you don't mess with the control panel and prefer to define things using in-game controls, there's nothing to worry about here.