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Bitstreaming, Eyefinity Power Consumption, And Zotac's Mini-ITX

CPU Charts, An ATI Update, And Zotac's Mini-ITX Board
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With that said, I have a couple more ATI-related bits to talk about.

First is the much-anticipated official arrival of Dolby TrueHD/DTS-HD Master Audio bitstreaming support over HDMI in CyberLink’s PowerDVD 9. I had been working with CyberLink to troubleshoot beta support since the Radeon HD 5870 launched more than two months ago. However, access to this functionality was limited to members of the press (and somewhat awkwardly, too—you had to choose HD audio output after starting video playback). Build 2320 officially lets you send the encoded signal to your stereo receiver, where the lossless audio track can be decoded and played back. If you’re lucky enough to own a Radeon HD 5000-series board and use PowerDVD 9, make sure you grab the free update. The only issue we encountered was the software forgetting to leave Aero enabled during Blu-ray playback—a feature the new Radeons are supposed to support.

Second, I got a report from our German office that Radeon HD 5800-series owners (and indeed, owners of Nvidia graphics cards as well) were claiming that running in a multi-monitor configuration caused idle clocks to change, increasing power consumption from the levels reported in my initial reviews.

I tested on a Radeon HD 5850 and a 5750. Sure enough, adding a second monitor to either card caused idle clock rates to jump from 157 MHz core / 300 MHz memory to 400 MHz core / 1,150 MHz memory. Idle system power consumption on the 5750 box increased from 133W to 147W, taking the card’s idle power from a cited 16W up to 30W. Purportedly, this is necessary in order to maintain a stable display output. While that’s still impressively low, you’re still looking at almost two times the power consumption in a multi-monitor configuration. Overall, not horribly impactful, but good to know.

Two monitorsTwo monitors

One monitorOne monitor

Finally, I noticed that ATI enabled the much-anticipated Drag and Drop transcoding feature via Windows 7 in its latest Catalyst software release. Though this is Very Cool on ATI’s part, I’m at a loss as to actually using the functionality, and Microsoft is eerily quiet on the matter—strange, considering this is supposed to be an early example of DirectCompute making life easier through simplified transcoding. I wasn’t surprised when my iPod Touch shut me down, but was downright amazed when my Zune HD showed no sign of supporting this native Windows 7 capability. Hopefully we’ll hear more on this soon.

Zotac Refreshes A Classic

Just before taking a couple of days off for Thanksgiving, I received a package from Zotac containing its GeForce 9300-ITX WiFi Rev. 2, which is beefed up with three SATA 3 Gb/s ports, one eSATA port, and RAID 0, 1, 0+1, and 5 support. It also includes Wake-on-USB support and a number of expanded voltage options. Finally, the integrated GeForce 9300 GPU is overclocked to match the specs of Nvidia’s GeForce 9400 (580 MHz core, 1,400 MHz shaders).

Now, bear in mind that I’ve had a few GeForce 9300-based experiences up until this point: Zotac’s own mini-ITX Ion platform rocking an Intel Atom processor and HP’s Mini 311, which I purchased—again—with an Atom. At no point have I ever really found the combination to be suitable on the desktop (even as an HTPC). I’d been meaning to rebuild my initial mini-ITX effort using the first revision of Zotac’s LGA 775-equipped board. But now that there’s a second revision available, keep an eye out for a follow-up with much stronger performance potential paired to a low-power Pentium, Core 2 Duo, or Quad.

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