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The following test from PCMark 7 measures how well these platforms play back a 1080p, H.264 video file at 24 FPS:
The Giada i50 suffers a little, likely the result of its entry-level HD Graphics engine. We’re a little surprised to see the Zbox fall behind as well, as we didn't choppiness during actual Blu-ray playback testing. As a matter of fact, it's surprising that none of these solutions manage to achieve a perfect 24 FPS. Despite this, HD video appears smooth in our tests on the Zbox, MC001-BD, and CoreHT.
Now let's look at video playback quality using the HQV 2.0 benchmark. Giada's i50 is left out of this test because it doesn't come equipped with a Blu-ray drive:
|HQV Benchmark version 2.0 Results (out of 210 possible)|
|Zotac Zbox AD03BR-Plus and|
|ASRock CoreHT 252B|
|Test Class 1: Video Conversion||89||78|
|Test Class 2: Noise and Artifact Reduction||44||44|
|Test Class 3: Image Scaling and Enhancements||30||25|
|Test Class 4: Adaptive Processing||7||17|
The Zbox and MC001-BD share an identical 170-point score, which we expected since both solutions employ similar Radeon-based graphics hardware. The Intel HD Graphics 3000 chipset in the ASRock CoreHT scores slightly less, but still manages a fine result.
Blu-ray 3D Playback
The only one of these nettops advertised with Blu-ray 3D support is ASRock's CoreHT, and it performs this task well. This is our first experience with 3D over HDMI using an Intel graphics chipset, and its performance is surprisingly good thanks to hardware-based decode logic able to handle the otherwise taxing workload.
The Zbox and MC001-BD don't fare as well. Arctic's entry plays back Blu-ray 3D, but without MVC decode acceleration on its Mobility Radeon HD 5430, the resulting slide show is caused by the Atom D525 CPU trying to keep up. As for Zotac's Zbox, the E-350 APU is able to decode MPEG-2, VC-1, and H.264 in hardware. However, AMD didn't see fit to arm it with MVC decode acceleration, which is required for Blu-ray 3D playback. As a result, its two Bobcat cores struggle right alongside Intel's Atom, too slow for a usable experience.
Other Video Considerations
The ASRock, Arctic, and Zotac nettops all feature a Realtek 7.1-channel HD Audio codec and the ability to bitstream lossless audio data over HDMI. ASRock’s CoreHT 252B also features THX TruStudio PRO certification. While the Giada i50 does not have an optical audio output, it can deliver digital audio via a coax adapter that does not come with the bundle.