In our first article, we used a Blu-ray drive for testing. However, seeing that all the Blu-ray movies we have on hand are encoded in MPEG-2, decided to switch to HD DVD media to properly perform CPU usage comparisons while playing these discs that use next generation HD video decoding formats (like VC-1 and H.264 instead of MPEG-2). We managed to secure a HD DVD drive and a few H.264 and VC-1 encoded titles for testing purposes and the following table lists down the core components that we will be using for the tests.
For ATI AVIVO, we've chosen an MSI Radeon X1650 XT graphics card and for NVIDIA PureVideo HD tests, we will use the MSI GeForce 7600 GT. Both cards are in the same class as each other, and with the difference in processing technologies for AVIVO and PureVideo HD, it should be interesting to see the performance from each card. Note that our aim of this article is to highlight the importance of GPU-assisted HD video formats versus a system without such capability rather than AVIVO versus PureVideo HD. We'll return to look at the performance differences of the latter aspect at a later time when the playback software and software decoders used are in a more finalized state.
Like all Blu-ray and HD DVD content on the PC today, the only two major players in the market that supports the discs are InterVideo and Cyberlink. Our drive came with the Cyberlink PowerDVD 6.5 HD DVD version, so that will be used. One thing to note though is that Cyberlink has heavy ties with NVIDIA on the launch of PureVideo HD. Because of this, the Cyberlink HD DVD Advisor application will not recognize the ATI card as being capable for HD DVD playback. However, hardware acceleration is still based on DXVA and will continue to work as long as the card and drivers support it.
For our movies, we used two HD DVD samplers encoded in H.264 for testing. Virtual Trip Yoazkura is the more taxing of the two with high encoding bitrates around 25Mbps, while the True Blue disc averages around 15Mbps. Both discs also have high bitrate LCPM audio tracks, but take note that they are 1080i movies. We've also thrown in a VC-1 encoded movie (Swordfish) into the mix to see how well AVIVO and PureVideo HD helps CPU consumption. Technically not as demanding as H.264, VC-1 is still a next generation compression format that is more advanced that MPEG-2. Most HD DVD movies out today are encoded in VC-1.