ATI Radeon X1900 XTX And CrossFire: R580 Is Here

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AVIVO: Video Performance

We've written specifically about the AVIVO video engine incorporated into ATI's new X1K family of products in a couple of articles before (here and here), so we won't go into the specifics again. We will however, re-evaluate its performance using an X1900 and ATI's latest software suite. When the X1800 launched, the AVIVO video engine wasn't being fully exploited.  With the X1900 however, that is not the case.

DVD Video Quality: HQV Benchmark

For our first test, we used the HQV DVD video benchmark from Silicon Optics. HQV is comprised of a sampling of video clips and test patterns that have been specifically designed to evaluate a variety of interlaced video signal processing tasks, including decoding, de-interlacing, motion correction, noise reduction, film cadence detection, and detail enhancement. As each clip is played, the viewer is required to "score" the image based on a predetermined set of criteria. The numbers listed below are the sum of the scores for each section. We played the HQV DVD using the latest version of NVIDIA's PureVideo Decoder on the GeForce 7800 GT, and as recommended by ATI, we played the DVD on the X1900 using Intervideo's WinDVD 7 Platinum, with hardware acceleration enabled.

When the X1K family of products first hit store shelves, their score in this benchmark was below 40 points. With the latest set of Catalyst drivers though, video playback quality is vastly improved. The biggest boost to ATI's score comes by way of the eight individual film cadence test and the noise reduction tests. For playing back DVDs, or similar digital video files, ATI's X1K family of cards are the products to beat.

WMV-HD Decode Acceleration
So, what does Avivo do for me, today?

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" video 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 GTX and a Radeon X1900 XTX using Windows Media Player 10, patched using the DXVA update posted on Microsoft's web site (Update Available Here).

Average CPU Utilization - MP10 Digital Life
ATI Radeon X1900 XTX 38.23%
NVIDIA GeForce 7800 GTX 40.03%

With this particular video, ATI had a slight advantage in CPU utilization. The new Radeon X1900 XTX used just over 39% of our CPU's resources, while the GTX peaked at just a hair over 40%. Neither card had any trouble playing this video, and we didn't witness any dropped frames. We should note that CPU utilization will vary depending on the video being played back. Had we chosen a different video, NVIDIA could have come out on top here.

The Radeon X1900 XTX and the rest of the X1K family are also capable of accelerating H.264 and VC1 video as well. This will be very important once Blu-Ray and HD DVD discs hit sometime this year. NVIDIA currently doesn't have this ability, but a future driver update should expose this feature in the PureVideo engine.

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