Yes, it can be better, and it probably is. There really shouldn't be a difference in the frame rates while just playing back 1080p, though. They should look exactly the same.
"To my eyes" may be the trick here. Get someone to switch the cards on you by flipping a coin. Do this a few times, and see if you can call the difference without knowing which card is doing the playback. Try it with them, too: switch the cards and see which they think looks better - if you tell someone that one of two options is better, they can and will pick a solid favorite from two identical options.
If you can still tell, then we can move on with solving this. If not, you were just getting yourself with a placebo. Video stuff is very subjective.
In general, integrated graphics will never really be comparable to discrete cards.
That is what I thought. However, this time in brought in a few friends to help me do side-by-side comparison. They all felt that my old nVideo GeForce 9400 looked better.
I also noticed that some frames are skipped by ATI. I have a 1080p video clip that displays a countdown from 10 to 1. Each time I played it, the UI froze momentarily at 8, skipped 7, and moved to 6. Similar problem at 3. Skipped 2 and went straight to 1.
In my setup, I am using VLC on both the HTPC. I have tried the experiment with GPU acceleration turned on as well as turned off.
Both systems are running Windows 7.
I have downloaded a bunch of video clips for my experiment. For some clips, my friends couldn't tell the difference between the two.
Realistically, when brand new a 9400 GT wasn't exactly an under $50 solution though, right? It's also a higher wattage solution and a discrete card will take up more space than the small APU package which requires larger case and heat vs silence considerations. These are also completely different companies with different ways of processing the video. It could be a matter of adjusting settings in catalyst to get the quality to match what you're used to. Any high end picture expectations need calibration to look ideal. I'd assume your old machine would already be set to have an ideal picture. I'm not really sure where the picture degradation lies, but it doesn't seem like it'd be a lack of video processing power.
It depends, the dedicated video memory and bandwidth for a discrete card is almost always better than an integrated solution.
Peter, you seem to be taking me the wrong way. Yes the dedicated card is most likely still a much better solution than an integrated one. This is no surprise.
Actually, the 9400 uses GDDR2, which in terms of bandwidth would be less than the DDR3 the A6 would be utilizing, not taking into consideration it is still sharing it's memory with the CPU. It could have a higher amount of memory though depending on model, I think the APUs only go up to 512MB. (Did you set the memory usage of the GPU to it's highest BTW?)
The 9400 has a slightly higher base clock speed than A6, although it's a bit lower than the A8.