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HD Video Benchmarks

Three Slim Atom/Ion 2-Based Nettop PCs Compared
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We begin with CPU usage. We don’t expect much of a difference between the Atom/Ion 2 solutions, but it will be interesting to see how this platform compares to the Core i3 mobile/Intel HD Graphics combo. Let’s begin with a 1080p Flash-based video:

While the Atom D500 series wields far less power than the Core i3 mobile CPU, the Core i3 uses significantly more CPU resources for playback. This means that the Ion 2 graphics chipset is doing a very good job of offloading the work to the GPU.

The only strange occurrence of note is that the Giada Slim-N20 shows the same low CPU usage, yet playback is only smooth in the YouTube default-sized window. When the Flash movie is full-screen at 1080p, playback is extremely choppy. It seems the problem is the screen resolution and not the resolution of the movie, as even low-resolution videos will drop frames when stretched to full screen. We've also experienced this problem with some h720p video files. Giada representatives insisted that this problem should not occur, but have been unable to provide a reasonable explanation or fix for our issue. This is not a problem on the Zotac or Jetway PCs, which could play back the Flash video file at full screen with no skipping whatsoever.

Now let’s move onto Blu-ray playback, something limited to the Zotac ZBOX and ASRock Core 100HT-BD:

Although CPU usage is low for both products, the order is reversed compared to Flash movie playback, with the Intel Atom/Ion 2 combo using more CPU resources to get the job done.

Finally, let’s examine video playback quality with the HQV 2.0 benchmark on these two Blu-ray-equipped systems. We need to enable some image-quality enhancements in the drivers for the best possible scores. In the Ion 2 driver, we enabled 60% edge enhancement, 70% noise reduction, inverse telecine, dynamic contrast, and color enhancement. In the Intel HD Graphics driver, we enabled noise reduction at the auto setting.

HQV Benchmark 2.0 Results
Test
Nvidia Ion 2
Intel HD Graphics
Test Class 1: Video Conversion


Chapter 1: Video Resolution 18/2018/20
Chapter 2: Film Resolution 5/105/10
Chapter 3: Overlay on Film 5/105/10
Chapter 4: Response Time
5/105/10
Chapter 5: Multi-Cadence
0/30
0/30
Chapter 6: Color Upsampling Errors
10/10
0/10
Test Class 2: Noise and Artifact Reduction


Chapter 1: Random Noise
20/20
20/20
Chapter 2: Compression Artifacts
0/20
0/20
Chapter 3: Upscaled Compression Artifacts
0/20
0/20
Test Class 3: Image Scaling And Enhancements


Chapter 1: Scaling and Filtering
15/15
15/15
Chapter 2: Resolution Enhancement
15/15
15/15
Test Class 4: Adaptive Processing


Chapter 1: Contrast Enhancement
20/20
0/20
Chapter 2: Skin Tone Correction:
0/10
0/10
Total Score:
113/210
83/210


Nvidia’s Ion 2 solution scores 113 out of 210 here, which sounds a lot worse than it is. The Ion 2 is only really missing a handful of relatively obscure cadences and the ability to remove compression artifacts. The Intel HD Graphics chipset scores similarly to Ion 2, for the most part, but it doesn’t manage to perform flawless luma and chroma scaling, and has no adaptive contrast enhancements or skin-tone correction that I could find in the driver (only absolute adjustments). As a result, the Core i3-330M and its Intel HD Graphics chipset achieved a final score of 83 out of 210. Still, despite the relatively low score, both of these platforms offer great quality playback of Blu-ray discs. The test suite simply gives Nvidia's Ion 2 an edge in adaptive processing.

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