HD Video Playback: HQV Blu-ray Benchmark
One of the tasks that the cards in this price segment will be expected to perform is home theater PC (HTPC) duty. To asses that, we used the HQV Blu-ray quality benchmark with the following results:
|Radeon HD 4670/4650||100|
|GeForce GT 220||100|
|Radeon HD 4550||100|
|GeForce 210 @ 720p||100|
|GeForce 210 @ 1080p||75|
First, the good news: all of these solutions are able to achieve superlative image quality enhancements, delivering HD noise reduction (25 points of the total score), video resolution interpolation (20 points), jaggy reduction (20 points), and inverse telecine (35 points).
To get these scores, we had to enable noise reduction in the Radeon drivers (at 60), and both noise reduction (at 70) and inverse telecine in the GeForce drivers. These noise-reduction settings produced similar ideal results to my admittedly subjective eye.
The only test I could discern any difference in as far as quality was the jaggy-reduction test. Both the Radeon and GeForce cards did a fine job with this task, but the GeForces seemed to do it just a bit better. I gave them both full marks because the difference didn't seem enough to warrant extra points for the GeForce cards. The point is that any of these products offer the same level of HD-video playback quality as a standalone Blu-ray player.
There was one card that did have trouble performing all of the quality enhancements at the same time if tasked to do so beyond 720p: the GeForce 210, which stuttered during playback with noise reduction enabled at 1080p. With noise reduction turned off, the GeForce 210 was able to play back video without stuttering at 1080p (or 1920x1080).
The rest of the cards, including the GeForce 210's competition, the Radeon HD 4550, were able to play back Blu-ray video with noise reduction enabled and no skipping at 1920x1080. They could even play the video smoothly when the desktop resolution was set to 2560x1600.
The only other limitation we could find was that the Radeon HD 4550 driver doesn't allow noise reduction to be enabled at the same time as the dynamic contrast feature. Since I'm not a fan of dynamic contrast, this isn't much of an issue for me, but for those of you who put it high on the list, it might be a notable limitation.
If you are wondering why I haven't tested Blu-ray playback CPU usage with these cards, it's because it has become almost completely irrelevant. As I demonstrated in the last Avivo Versus PureVideo Versus Clear Video review, even today's lowest-end CPUs can play back Blu-ray movies on a relatively weak integrated GPU utilizing 20% or less of its available resources.