CPU Utilization with HD Content
Windows Media Video 9 Acceleration: Microsoft's Windows Media Video 9 (WMV9) HD format was accepted by the SMPTE HD-DVD consortium as a new HD format. The Windows Movie Maker software, which comes bundled with Windows XP, makes it easy for consumers to edit and save their favorite videos. These videos are saved in the .WMV format. Most of today's high-end GPUs include dedicated hardware to accelerate the playback of WMV and WMV-HD content for fluid full frame rate video even on systems with entry-to mid level CPUs. Previous generations of GPUs were not able to support WMV9 decode acceleration, so often times HD WMV9 content would drop frames when being played back on legacy hardware.
To document CPU utilization when playing back WMV HD content, we used the performance monitor built into Windows XP. Using the data provided by performance monitor, we created a log file that sampled the percent of CPU utilization every second, while playing back the 1080p versions of the "MP10 Digital Life" and "The Rules of Attraction" videos available on Microsoft's WMVHD site. The data was then imported into Excel to create the graphs below. The graphs shows the CPU utilization for a GeForce 7800 GT and the All-In-Wonder X1900 using Windows Media Player 10, patched using the DXVA update posted on Microsoft's web site (Update Available Here), and using ATI's own player that is included in the MMC software suite.
|Average CPU Utilization - MP10 Digital Life|
|All-In-Wonder Radeon X1900 (ATI Player)||42.01%|
|All-In-Wonder Radeon X1900 (WMP10)||48.66%|
|XFX GeForce 7800 GT||40.01%|
|Average CPU Utilization - The Rules of Attraction|
|All-In-Wonder Radeon X1900 (ATI Player)||44.45%|
|All-In-Wonder Radeon X1900 (WMP10)||42.22%|
|XFX GeForce 7800 GT||36.33%|
The latest set of Catalyst drivers available for testing did a great job at increasing ATI's video playback quality in the HQV benchmark, but they also seem to have increased CPU utilization. We ran a similar set of tests to the ones above in our evaluation of the All-In-Wonder X1800 XL a few months back, and at that time, the X1800 and GeForce 7800 GT traded victories. Each card performed within a couple percentage points of the other in that article. This time around though, the GeForce card has lower CPU utilization while playing back both videos. We thought this could have been an issue with WMP10 and the new X1900, so we ran two sets of tests using Windows Media Player and the ATI Player included with the Multimedia Center Software suite, but NVIDIA came out on top each time, sometimes by as much as 8%.