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Test Class 3: Image Scaling And Enhancements

Video Quality Tested: GeForce Vs. Radeon In HQV 2.0
By

This class puts the video processor’s scaling and resolution enhancement abilities to task.

Chapter 1: Scaling and Filtering

These tests use 1080p test patterns to assess the video processor’s ability to scale and filter video. There are three tests in this chapter: the first two are simply static and moving-frequency band test patterns, while the third is made up of vanishing text. To perform these tests properly, the video must scale, so we’re running these tests at a 1280x720 resolution. This forces the video processor to scale down the 1080p source to fit a 720p output signal.

Tests A and B: Luminance and Chrominance Frequency Bands

The first two tests are luminance frequency bands and chrominance frequency bands. The full five points are earned if the bands have uniform patterns and there’s no ringing or ghosting. This is reduced to two points if some non-uniform or attenuation is present only on the highest band, or if there’s mild faint ringing or ghosting. Zero points are awarded if there’s heavy ringing or ghosting and uniformity problems with the lower bands.

The scoring criteria can be subjective here if any ringing or ghosting is seen at all, but we aren’t able to make out any problems with any of the hardware. As such, we’ve scored all of the graphics cards with the full five points.

Frequency Band Scaling Test Results (out of 5)

Radeon HD 6850Radeon HD 5750Radeon HD 5670Radeon HD 5550Radeon HD 5450
Luminance Bands
5
5
5
5
5
Chrominance Bands
5
5
5
5
5

GeForce GTX 470GeForce GTX 460GeForce 9800 GTGeForce GT 240GeForce GT 430GeForce 210
Luminance Bands55
5
5
5
5
Chrominance Bands5
5
5
5
5
5


Test C: Vanishing Text

In the vanishing text test, the scene shows a cloudy background with moving text entering from the bottom of the screen and shrinking toward a vanishing point as it moves upward—think the Star Wars movie intros. If the video processor scales the text without striping or stepping artifacts, five points are awarded. If there is slight striping, stair-stepping, or ringing artifacts on the edge of characters, the score is reduced to two points. Zero points are awarded if these problems are noticeable.

Once again, the test scoring criteria is worded a little ambiguously. As with the previous test, we aren’t able to make out any problems with any of the tested graphics cards, so all of the graphics cards we’re testing are awarded the full five marks.

Vanishing Text Test Results (out of 5)
Radeon HD 6850Radeon HD 5750Radeon HD 5670Radeon HD 5550Radeon HD 5450
5
5
5
5
5
GeForce GTX 470GeForce GTX 460GeForce 9800 GTGeForce GT 240GeForce GT 430GeForce 210
5
55
5
5
5


Chapter 2: Resolution Enhancement Tests

Upscaled video can have scaling and filtering problems, but it will also lose detail and appear softer or blurrier. This chapter consists of a single test comprised of five different scenes: a brook, a mountain, a time-elapsed flower bloom, red hair, and wood grain.

A single score is based on evaluating the entire sequence of images. The full 15 points are awarded for fine details that are more distinct and three-dimensional without bright or dark outlines introduced around characters or objects. This is reduced to 10 points if detail is increased but some outlines are introduced, and five points if mild outlines are present. No points are awarded if no enhancement detail is observed, or if the enhancement looks coarse and artificial.


All of the cards that are powerful enough to handle edge enhancement manage a perfect 15 points in this test. The only exception in our test group is AMD's Radeon HD 5450.

Resolution Enhancement Test Results (out of 15)
Radeon HD 6850Radeon HD 5750Radeon HD 5670Radeon HD 5550Radeon HD 5450
15
15
15
15
0
GeForce GTX 470GeForce GTX 460GeForce 9800 GTGeForce GT 240GeForce GT 430GeForce 210
15
1515
15
15
15
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Top Comments
  • 14 Hide
    rootheday , February 2, 2011 3:18 AM
    Could you give the same evaluation to Sandy Bridge's Intel HD Graphics?.
Other Comments
  • 14 Hide
    rootheday , February 2, 2011 3:18 AM
    Could you give the same evaluation to Sandy Bridge's Intel HD Graphics?.
  • 4 Hide
    jimmysmitty , February 2, 2011 3:44 AM
    I second the test using SB HD graphics. It might be just an IGP but I would like to see the quality in case I want to make a HTPC and since SB has amazing encoding/decoding results compared to anything else out there (even $500+ GPUs) it would be nice to see if it can give decent picture quality.

    But as for the results, I am not that suprised. Even when their GPUs might not perform the same as nVidia, ATI has always had great image quality enhancements, even before CCC. Thats an area of focus that nVidia might not see as important when it is. I want my Blu-Ray and DVDs to look great, not just ok.
  • 1 Hide
    compton , February 2, 2011 4:10 AM
    Great article. I had wondered what the testing criteria was about, and Lo! Tom's to the rescue. I have 4 primary devices that I use to watch Netflix's streaming service. Each is radically different in terms of hardware. They all look pretty good. But they all work differently. Using my 47" LG LED TV I did an informal comparison of each.

    My desktop, which uses a 460 really suffers from the lack of noise reduction options.
    My Samsung BD player looks less spectacular that the others.
    My Xbox looks a little better than the BD player.
    My PS3 actually looks the best to me, no matter what display I use.

    I'm not sure why, but it's the only one I could pick out just based on it's image quality. Netflix streaming is basically all I use my PS3 for. Compared to it, my desktop looks good and has several options to tweak but doesn't come close. I don't know how the PS3 stacks up, but I'm thinking about giving the test suite a spin.

    Thanks for the awesome article.
  • 4 Hide
    cleeve , February 2, 2011 4:17 AM
    Quote:
    Could you give the same evaluation to Sandy Bridge's Intel HD Graphics?.


    That's Definitely on our to-do list!

    Trying to organize that one now.
  • 1 Hide
    lucuis , February 2, 2011 4:58 AM
    Too bad this stuff usually makes things look worse. I tried out the full array of settings on my GTX 470 in multiple BD Rips of varying quality, most very good.

    Noise reduction did next to nothing. And in many cases causes blockiness.

    Dynamic Contrast in many cases does make things look better, but in some it revealed tons of noise in the greyscale which the noise reduction doesn't remove...not even a little.

    Color correction seemed to make anything blueish bluer, even purples.

    Edge correction seems to sharpen some details, but introduces noise after about 20%.

    All in all, bunch of worthless settings.
  • 0 Hide
    killerclick , February 2, 2011 5:13 AM
    jimmysmittyEven when their GPUs might not perform the same as nVidia, ATI has always had great image quality enhancements


    ATI/AMD is demolishing nVidia in all price segments on performance and power efficiency... and image quality.
  • -2 Hide
    alidan , February 2, 2011 5:34 AM
    killerclickATI/AMD is demolishing nVidia in all price segments on performance and power efficiency... and image quality.


    i thought they were loosing, not by enough to call it a loss, but not as good and the latest nvidia refreshes. but i got a 5770 due to its power consumption, i didn't have to swap out my psu to put it in and that was the deciding factor for me.
  • 3 Hide
    haplo602 , February 2, 2011 5:40 AM
    this made me lol ...

    1. cadence tests ... why do you marginalise the 2:2 cadence ? these cards are not US exclusive. The rest of the world has the same requirements for picture quality.

    2. skin tone correction: I see this as an error on the part of the card to even include this. why are you correcting something that the video creator wanted to be as it is ? I mean the movie is checked by video profesionals for anything they don't want there. not completely correct skin tones are part of the product by design. this test should not even exist.

    3. dynamic contrast: cannot help it, but the example scene with the cats had blown higlights on my laptopt LCD in the "correct" part. how can you judge that if the constraint is the display device and not the GPU itself ? after all you can output on a 6-bit LCD or on a 10-bit LCD. the card does not have to know that ...
  • 4 Hide
    mitch074 , February 2, 2011 5:43 AM
    "obscure" cadence detection? Oh, of course... Nevermind that a few countries do use PAL and its 50Hz cadence on movies, and that it's frustrating to those few people who watch movies outside of the Pacific zone... As in, Europe, Africa, and parts of Asia up to and including mainland China.

    It's only worth more than half the world population, after all.
  • 1 Hide
    cleeve , February 2, 2011 5:54 AM
    mitch074"obscure" cadence detection? Oh, of course... Nevermind that a few countries do use PAL and its 50Hz cadence on movies...


    You misunderstand the text, I think.

    To clear it up: I wasn't talking about 2:2 when I said that, I was talking about the Multi-Cadence Tests: 8 FPS animation, etc.
  • 0 Hide
    caeden , February 2, 2011 5:58 AM
    Now I am not sure how the radions stack up, but using these settings on my 9800GT made my video quality noticeably worse than normal. Especially around text (white over black background was painful) where noise was added. After messing with it a little I found that using the video defaults under the image settings was best. And checking the dynamic contrast under color settings helped the contrast a little, but not much, and I think it is adding noise, so I am going back to defaults on this as well.

    More important than your driver would be calibrating your monitor. PC monitors are very different than HDTVs (higher brightness and lower contrast, square pix to optimize text over video, and most of us have tn screens which are very limited on color range), but in spite of their shortcomings, if properly adjusted they can still look quite good.

    A note to those who are putting your DVDs on your computer, there is a very powerful program called AVS which can do much of this cleanup for you during the ripping process. This allows for smaller file size with good compressors (h264 for storage, Lagarith for editing), as well as making upscaling less of a problem. It is not a particularly intuitive tool, but there are many good tutorials out there on it. This is especially handy with old DVDs that were not encoded well in the first place, or super long DVDs (lord of the rings) where it was encoded poorly in order to fit the content on the disc.
    As for blue-Ray content, the quality you get will depend mostly on the software you are using. The driver options (at least for my card) hinder more than help, so it then depends on the software you are using.
    For HD content in general you will notice a huge difference between that nicely encoded music video you download vs Netflix HD streaming. Part of this is because Netflix is (for the most part) only 720p, and 2ndly because they have an automated process which will work better for some movies than others. It would seem their biggest flaw is color banding. This is still worlds better than cable, and other web services, but you are just not going to get that BD quality.
  • 1 Hide
    cleeve , February 2, 2011 6:03 AM
    haplo602 cadence tests ... why do you marginalise the 2:2 cadence ? these cards are not US exclusive. The rest of the world has the same requirements for picture quality.


    True enough, although I'm a US writer primarily tasked to write for the US audience. I do think readers from PAL countries can understand the implications, however.

    haplo602 2. skin tone correction: I see this as an error on the part of the card to even include this. why are you correcting something that the video creator wanted to be as it is ? I mean the movie is checked by video profesionals for anything they don't want there. not completely correct skin tones are part of the product by design. this test should not even exist.


    I understand the argument, and frankly the fact that user is free to turn it off is good enough for me. Regardless of whether or not we agree with its inclusion, it is something that's included in some high-end video processors and is therefore a point of comparison.

    haplo602 3. dynamic contrast: cannot help it, but the example scene with the cats had blown higlights on my laptopt LCD in the "correct" part. how can you judge that if the constraint is the display device and not the GPU itself ? after all you can output on a 6-bit LCD or on a 10-bit LCD. the card does not have to know that ...


    For me it was sufficient to use a good-quality display for testing the different graphics hardware. Frankly, the HQV test can be used for displays, too. But with our test display capable of differentiating contrast enhancement without overexposure I think that's the best way to test the video processor. Whether other folks have worse displays is kind of outside the scope of the test.
  • 3 Hide
    spac18 , February 2, 2011 6:42 AM
    @shinobi
    where did you get that stat from? your all american wet dream?
  • 3 Hide
    intelx , February 2, 2011 6:47 AM
    shin0bi272but 85% of the worlds computers are in the US and so your countries dont really matter.


    can you prove your statement?
  • 4 Hide
    andrewcutter , February 2, 2011 7:45 AM
    shin0bi272but 85% of the worlds computers are in the US and so your countries dont really matter.


    why am i not suprised by this statement. i hope you are not representative of your whole country
  • 4 Hide
    aldaia , February 2, 2011 8:46 AM
    shin0bi272but 85% of the worlds computers are in the US and so your countries dont really matter.


    I'm not sure if he is a troll or simply a dumb ass (probably both). The opposite is actually closer to reality, that is 85% of personal computers are outside of the US. In 2005-2004 only 28.4% of the world computers where in the US. Since then, countries like China or India have grown significantly faster than western countries where the market was already saturated 5 years ago. By the way the countries with more computers (per capita) are Switzerland: 864.584 per 1 million people, San Marino: 857.143 per 1 million people & Sweden: 763.012 per 1 million people.
  • 3 Hide
    haplo602 , February 2, 2011 9:32 AM
    CleeveTrue enough, although I'm a US writer primarily tasked to write for the US audience. I do think readers from PAL countries can understand the implications, however.


    I do not dispute the results as they speak clearly. I do have a problem with you downplaying an Nvidia disadvantage just because you are a US resident. The tone of the comment was not neutral (i.e. just to highlight that one cadence is used for 60Hz and the other for 50Hz).

    Nvidia does not issue non-US driver versions or non-US cards, so they should be blamed for the lack of features in this case.

    I just want to make you aware that some of your comments might not come across as correct to non-US residents. After all, Internet knows no borders :-)
  • -1 Hide
    marraco , February 2, 2011 9:52 AM
    It's useless without a video player capable of applying all those enhancements to different video formats.
  • 2 Hide
    hardcore_gamer , February 2, 2011 10:24 AM
    CleeveThat's Definitely on our to-do list!Trying to organize that one now.

    Please add gtx5xx series cards too
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