Intel Core i7-2820QM Mobile Sandy Bridge Processor

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HD Media Playback and Encoding

Possibly one of our favorite additions to the Sandy Bridge architecture would be Intel's Quick Sync technology.  Quick Sync essentially offers new functional blocks and hardware engines to offload video encoding on the CPU.

Rather than relying on brute force execution in software, Intel's new Sandy Bridge graphics core takes on HD video encode workloads within its graphics processing pipeline. That said, what's more interesting is how efficient and fast these new functional blocks are and how impressive our first experience with a Core i7-2820QM mobile processor turned out to be.

HD Video Encoding and Playback Performance
Intel Quick Sync Video Encode Acceleration Kicks In

Cyberlink's Media Show Espresso is a video conversion tool that imports various video media files types and converts them to other standard video types for publication, distribution and streaming.  In this test, we take a 224MB high definition 720p AVCHD video clip and convert it to a 720p H.264-encoded video file.  Times are measured in minutes:seconds with lower times representing faster throughput in the video conversion process.

The top two gold bars in this graph are scores taken in Cyberlink Media Show Espresso with Sandy Bridge mobile crunching the file with its hardware engines enabled and also disabled.  Intel's Quick Sync video encoding technology offers an amazing performance advantage in this application under our test conditions.  The Quick Sync-enabled test run was performed in just a few seconds, versus over a minute required for the Core i7-2820QM to process the file without Quick Sync.  What's more impressive however is how much faster Sandy Bridge was versus the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 280M graphics chip along with Intel's previous generation Core i7-920XM.  Even NVIDIA's CUDA video processing engines can't keep up with Quick Sync and also cut it close versus Sandy Bridge without Quick Sync enabled.

Finally, with a powerful chip like the Core i7-2820QM, we didn't expect HD video playback to be an issue but regardless, we looked at CPU utilization playing back a 1080p H.264 QuickTime clip.  We fired up the .MOV file with both Apple's QuickTime player as well as Windows Media Player, taking note of thread activity in Windows Task Manager Performance Monitor.

1080p H.264 Movie Trailer - Apple QuickTime Player

1080p H.264 Encoded Movie Trailer - Windows Media Player

In the QuickTime player the Core i8-2820QM shows about 5% utilization playing back this 1080p content.  In Windows Media Player, resource utilization isn't even registering on the CPU usage meter.

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