Blu-ray Done Right: How Does Your Integrated GPU Stack Up?

Choosing The Hardware: Intel Platforms And Other Components

GeForce 9300 Motherboard: Asus P5N7A-VM

Asus' P5N7A-VM represents the GeForce 9300/9400 motherboards in our roundup. Since the only difference between the GeForce 9300 and 9400 is a slight clock speed increase, we have overclocked the GeForce 9300 to GeForce 9400 specifications in order to see if it is the best possible representation of the series.

Unlike the 785G, the P5N7A-VM motherboard for LGA 775 supports DDR2 memory. But with the lower latencies afforded by DDR2, we don't think there will be much, if any, of a speed handicap in video playback.

This board includes one 16-lane PCIe 2.0 slot, one PCIe x1 slot, and two PCI slots, which is typical of a microATX offering. The back panel features eight-channel audio jacks, Gigabit Ethernet, six USB ports on the back panel (and an additional six mid-board), an optical audio output, and an eSATA port. Not only does the Asus P5N7A-VM have HDMI, DVI, and analog VGA outputs, it also carries the forward-looking DisplayPort connector. The P5N7A-VM can be found online for $110.

Intel G45 Motherboard: Asus P5Q-EM

The Asus P5Q-EM is the only motherboard with an Intel chipset and the second LGA 775 board in our roundup. It also utilizes DDR2 for system RAM and can handle 1,066 MHz overclocked memory speeds. On the back panel you'll find eight-channel audio jacks, Gigabit Ethernet, six USB ports on the back panel, an optical audio output, a FireWire port, and an eSATA port.

Like the other LGA 775 motherboard in our roundup, the P5N7A-VM, this board features HDMI, DVI, and analog VGA outputs, in addition to a DisplayPort connector. Compared to the rest of the competitors, the expansion slots are divvied up uniquely, with one 16-lane PCIe 2.0 slot, two PCIe 1x slots, and one PCI slot. The Asus P5Q-EM can be found for $125 online.

Blu-ray Drive: Lite-On iHES 208 8x Blu-ray Disk Reader and CD/DVD Writer combo

The iHES 208 is a nice drive that sports very fast 8x Blu-ray read speeds. In addition, it also offers the flexibility of Blu-ray reading with dual-layer CD/DVD writing, while the Lightscribe direct-disc labeling feature is a nice bonus.

Operating System: Vista Home Premium 64-bit


As for the operating system, we chose Vista Home Premium 64-bit. We chose the 64-bit flavor of Vista because it as become our standard for benchmarking. For anyone who wants to see a benefit from more than 3 GB of RAM, a 64-bit operating system is a must.

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  • i don't get it why a home theater would use a 1200w power source. at the same time i don't get why would someone evaluate the power efficency using this kind of power sorce. if you ask me i'd make this crazy ass power supplies illegal. a normal hometheater should not use more than 50w at idle and 100-150w at load. seems that this is what these actually consume. factor in the less than 5% load on the power supply and you get a masterfull 50-60% power efficency. i'd love to see some proper power supply test.
    14
  • http://www.pcper.com/article.php?aid=417&type=expert&pid=6
    the 1200w power supply is green as in blue-green mould green.
    this is in fact an excellent power supply... if you use it. at 100watts load it has a "cool" 76% efficency. if the intel pc uses less than 82watts in load and 66watts in idle you can only imagine the efficency a power supply has at below 5% load. the site suggest around 65% so instead of having a proper power supply using 40watts or less when idle, you get this "green" efficient hummer who swollows 66w. i really like you articles guys but this kind of testing is not the way to go.
    11
  • Other Comments
  • Great article. I think maybe the 4650 is a bit overkill, but that's just nitpicking.

    As long as you are talking about HTPC builds though, you might want to mention temps... aren't the 9300/9400 boards very hot?
    2
  • Power draw is not interesting because of the electricity bill, it is the generated heat needed to be dissipated with the associated noise levels due to cooling that is critical for an HTPC.
    0
  • i don't get it why a home theater would use a 1200w power source. at the same time i don't get why would someone evaluate the power efficency using this kind of power sorce. if you ask me i'd make this crazy ass power supplies illegal. a normal hometheater should not use more than 50w at idle and 100-150w at load. seems that this is what these actually consume. factor in the less than 5% load on the power supply and you get a masterfull 50-60% power efficency. i'd love to see some proper power supply test.
    14
  • BUT CAN IT PLAY CRYSIS!
    -22
  • BTW, I would like to see a "Can it play Crysis" article in the future that runs down every video card and IGP, then determines if it can possibly play Crysis and at what settings.
    -14
  • http://www.pcper.com/article.php?aid=417&type=expert&pid=6
    the 1200w power supply is green as in blue-green mould green.
    this is in fact an excellent power supply... if you use it. at 100watts load it has a "cool" 76% efficency. if the intel pc uses less than 82watts in load and 66watts in idle you can only imagine the efficency a power supply has at below 5% load. the site suggest around 65% so instead of having a proper power supply using 40watts or less when idle, you get this "green" efficient hummer who swollows 66w. i really like you articles guys but this kind of testing is not the way to go.
    11
  • Efficiency isn't even tested below 20% load i believe But it should still be around 70-80% it is a Thermaltake Toughpower 1200w and all of them(3 listed on their site) are standard 80% eff rated or bronze. Ture a more modest Delta,Seasonic 250w or 300w would be much more appropriate for a htpc.
    1
  • 20% for this would be 240watts and efficency would still be reasonable.
    i posted some link but i see it's been removed. that review said something about 65% minimum.
    -4
  • Uh, guys... you might want to edit this article...
    "For the last CPU utilization test, we will check the capability of these graphic chipsets to accelerate picture-in-picture (PIP) video streams. To do this, we will use the Blu-ray dick Sunshine, which utilizes the H.264 codec and features PIP commentary during playback."

    on page 6
    2
  • "If you are an audiophile, you should know that out of these remaining options, only the GeForce 9300/9400 can handle uncompressed eight-channel LPCM audio over HDMI 1.3."

    i did NOT know this...

    i thought only way to listen to uncompressed audio on blu-ray was using Asus Xonar HDAV 1.3 audio card to bitstream to your receiver...

    it's nice to know that IGP has enough power to handle 1080p while streaming HD audio codec....
    1
  • "To do this, we will use the Blu-ray dick Sunshine"
    I hate Blu-Ray dicks!

    Otherwise nice article. How about throwing in a GTX260 or other high powered card just for shits and giggles?
    0
  • I've tried the HD version of HQV a few weeks ago on my G45 based HTPC (Asus P5Q-EM), with slightly different results.
    The Film Resolution Loss test actually works, almost perfectly. There is just a minor glitch at the beginning of each scene, that you can see only if you know what to look for.
    In fact, if the "Film Mode Detection" control is toggled in the middle of playback, I can see a significant improvement in image quality at runtime.
    I would actually give 90 points to G45, for the simply reason that the denoise is not as good as the GeForce - but still one of the best HTPCs in the market.
    0
  • I find this review to be problematic on several fronts.

    First of all, there is way too much emphasis given to de-interlacing tests. This is mostly an issue with standard-definition DVDs and with some HDTV channels. The VAST majority of Blu-Ray content is stored in 24p format (23.976 frames per second, progressive). It does not need to be de-interlaced at all because it originated on film. This is even true of many newer TV shows, which are often shot on film, not video.

    Rather than wasting time with obsolete de-interlacing tests, you should have tested stutter-free 24p playback with compatible TV sets. Most new LCD flat panels that run at a 120Hz refresh rate are capable of supporting smooth 24p playback with 5:5 pulldown. However, not all chipsets can send this out properly. There have been reports of problems with the Intel G45 and some other chipsets - stuttering on 24p playback has been an issue in the past. I would be interested to know if this has been fixed. Also, you should have tested whether the HDMI repeater function (needed for hooking up through an A/V receiver) works properly with all chipsets.
    2
  • I'd love to see an update in this after the release of the integrated GPUs on the upcoming Clarkdale chips.
    0
  • I'm not really sure why anyone would even both spending money to build an HTPC and not spend the $40 for a Radeon 4350 or a 9400GT. They're passively cooled solutions that will easily outperform anything reviewed here today. It could even save you money because it would allow you to get a less expensive motherboard. Anyway, if you are serious about building an HTPC, it seems to me that one of these cards is just a no brainer. Why would you even risk blu ray stutter or graininess in your home theater?

    Anyway, I would really like to see a review of the 9400gt and hd 4350 as far as their effectiveness in video play back.
    0
  • I did not see any mention of what software was used to playback the blu-ray disks. I would like to see an article comparing various software options against a couple dedicated Blu-ray players.
    0
  • It would be nice next to the graphics card roundup, to see some articles about integrated graphics!

    Most people buy a mobo or laptop with integrated graphics card, and don't even bother to see how their performance could differ between AMD, intel, or an NVidia graphics powered mobo.

    I think it could really help the people who want to buy a new computer,eg: for work purposes, but would like to casually game on it, without suffering too horrible resolutions or lagging framerates.
    Ofcourse everyone serious about gaming would buy an additional graphics card to play their crysis, and I don't expect IGP's to run that game.
    But perhaps they are good for games like Tycoon, Formula 1, some basic 3rd and 1st person shooter games, etc...
    0
  • icepick314"If you are an audiophile, you should know that out of these remaining options, only the GeForce 9300/9400 can handle uncompressed eight-channel LPCM audio over HDMI 1.3."i did NOT know this...i thought only way to listen to uncompressed audio on blu-ray was using Asus Xonar HDAV 1.3 audio card to bitstream to your receiver...it's nice to know that IGP has enough power to handle 1080p while streaming HD audio codec....


    Actually, the ASUS card is used to bitstream those high-def audio codecs to your receiver, where they can be decoded (giving you 24-bit 192kHz, if the content offers it). If you're happy decoding the audio locally on the HTPC and sending the uncompressed LPCM (16-bit 48kHz) to your receiver, Nvidia's GeFOrce 9300 will do the trick!
    Regards,
    Chris
    -1
  • HalfHumani don't get it why a home theater would use a 1200w power source.


    It wouldn't... It's a testbed. I don't think there's any recommendation for a 1200w PSU in the article.
    2
  • I still prefer the discrete card solution, I just feel better about my systems with em.
    0