The WinFast PxVC1100 Video Transcoding Card: Worth The Price?

Sony, Toshiba, and IBM probably didn't put much thought into using the Cell microprocessor as part of a Windows-based PC. Those of you unfamiliar with the Cell Broadband Engine Architecture likely know of its primary role in the consumer space as the CPU platform in the PlayStation 3 game console. You may also have heard about the U.S. Customs Enforcement Cyber Crimes Center using the PS3 running Linux to crack the passwords of suspected child pornographers. Indeed, the Cell processor is a very powerful component, and every Sony PS3 is rated for somewhere around 204 GFLOPS (single-precision float).

Admittedly, a gigaflop, which represents one billion floating point operations per second, is not a perfect metric, as these processors have different strengths and weaknesses. However, the number of gigaflops does give you an idea about the Cell's compute performance. When this article was written, the world's second-fastest supercomputer, the IBM Roadrunner, was using a combination of 12,960 Cell processors and 6,912 Opteron processors.

The trio of Sony, Toshiba, and IBM co-designed the Cell broadband engine architecture. Toshiba has taken the liberty of modifying the Cell processor into something a little more appropriate for multimedia processing by retaining half of the Cell's eight synergistic processor elements (SPEs) and adding video encoding and decoding hardware, it created the SpursEngine processor:

Consuming a mere 10-20W, the SpursEngine is intended to fill the role of a co-processor dedicated to 3D and video processing. With four SPEs running at 1.5 GHz, the SpursEngine is good for about 50 GFLOPS, and capable of 8/16/32-bit integer and single/double precision floating-point calculations. The processor has one megabyte of local memory, 256KB of which are dedicated to each of the four SPEs.

I know what you're thinking: it sounds great, but what can it do for me? Well, Leadtek asked the same question and responded by placing the SpursEngine processor on a video transcoding board called its WinFast PxVC1100.

We look at this SpursEngine-equipped card to show you just what it can do. However, more importantly, we're going to compare its performance to a number of CPUs across the price spectrum to see if your hard-earned dollars are best spent on the WinFast PxVC1100 or if they are better served upgrading your host processor instead.

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  • paxiam
    I think for someone who does use their PC for encoding on a regular basis, this would certainly be a welcome addition, but otherwise, forget it.
  • paxiam
    I think for someone who does use their PC for video encoding on a regular basis, this would certainly be a welcome addition (the price is reasonable), but otherwise, forget it.
  • paxiam
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  • SpadeM
    These miscellaneous type of articles is what brightens up my day. Good to know that there aren't many products that launch and slip between the cracks of processor/graphics wars. Great job, nice article!
  • how does this compare to using ATI AVIVO to encode, with a $200 dollar card?
  • kumaiti
    Any info on future software support for this card? This card would be extremely useful if plug-ins for other video editor could be made.
  • 4745454b
    Considering AMD has all but abandoned AVIVOm, the better question to ask is how this compares to CUDA. From what I've seen there aren't any problems with the output file. $200 is a bit much but at least it comes with the software. For those that have the $$$ to spare and do the encoding work, this is a big time saver. You could get the 620, mobo, and the card for probably about the same price as the 920 and a good Mobo. The difference is this setup will encode faster, and you can use the computer to do other things while encoding. I don't remember 100% for sure about it, but I think it will use less power as well.
  • JofaMang
  • apache_lives
    hmmm get the feeling this will go the way of the dedicated physx (only) cards...

    what we need is a more GENERALISED co-processor card/device for this type of workload and many other uses, Intel's Larrabee had a good *idea* going - easily programmable, multi-purpose etc
  • g00ey
    I was rather thinking that this hardware could be useful in portable media players where it is designed to consume less power and allow playback of all video formats out there.

    Moreover, this could also be useful in HD video cameras that are either stand-alone HD video cams or fitted into mobile phones (such as the Samsung Omnia HD) or digital snapshot cameras.

    I'm also thinking about its capabilities to be used in Live video applications that is streamed over the internet, either professional or teleconference applications such as SkypeHD.
  • haplo602
    compare to CUDA/UVD2 assisted encoding please. that's what matters.
  • shubham1401
    Nice lil piece of hardware!!

    Encoders Happy B'Day!!
  • cmartin011
    We need charts with encoding on all types of video card's AMD or Nvidia. Then how they preform against this stand alone device.
  • TheDuke
    looks pretty amazing
  • agawtrip
    compare this to CUDA....
  • ecmjr
    I have an ATI 5750 and the AVIVO can't even transcode AVCHD to MPEG2. I find this card very useful (as an videographer, not a gamer). The key is will this card be compatible with Nonlinear Editing software like Sony Vegas Video or Edius Neo 2?
  • It would be nice to see "objective" quality comparisons. I know that CUDA H264 encoding has been shown to be not even close to the quality of, say, an x264 encode well done. The question of whether or not this encoder is good enough in great part depends on whether it the quality really is good or not. This type of result can be seen "objectively" using a tool like MSU Video Quality Measurement tool.
  • cknobman
    So if I constantly rip DVD's into 2gb Avi files will this board be a good option for me? I currently use a Athlon II X4 620 and a combonation of dvddecrypter and AutoGK or if those dont work(depending on encryption) I will use DVDFab(always works). And from what I read if I buy the board does that mean I wont be able to use the current software if I want to get the benefit of the board?
  • cleeve
    haplo602compare to CUDA/UVD2 assisted encoding please. that's what matters.

    I wanted to, but we can't! Please read page 4:

    "Note that we chose to benchmark the system with a GeForce GTX 260 graphics card installed. This is because we had originally hoped to compare the GeForce's CUDA abilities to the CPU and PxVC1100. Unfortunately, we learned that the CUDA enhancements in TMPGEnc. 4.0 Xpress are limited to video filters and cannot simply be employed to accelerate format-to-format video transcoding. Because if this, we left CUDA filter acceleration out of our testing as we're interested in focusing on hardware transcoding value."
  • Parsian
    I think their Super Resolution algorithm is just not good. I use Video Enhancer which runs on CPU (supports multi thread) and the artifacts are rarely visible... However, i am desperate for a GPU based Super Resolution that actually works for all video size unlike vReveal which only supports SR on videos >= 320 (or maybe less) :S
  • requiemsallure
    if you encode often, this is worth it, otherwise its not my cup of tea, when i do use video encoding ill be happy with my OC'ed i5.

    which brings up a good point, how well will this preform when put against OC'ed Processors 4ghz and above with multithreading, my guess is that the OC'ed processors come pretty close, if so why spend an additional $200 for it?

    i think it will really only be worth it for the cheaper processors on the list, that really stand to benifit for it, the 250 and the 620 are cheap alternatives if, once again your primary purpose is video encoding.

    either way it will still be just about as expensive as the higher processors, as it will be for the lower end processors with the card, if not more, and will preform just about the same if you overclock, (to my best guess) still, being able to multitask while encoding is a benifit i would say shouldnt be overlooked by heavy encoders.
  • $200 bucks pays for itself on the first day if the card works as advertised.

    Commenting as a editing/encoding professional, I demoed the trial version of TMPGEnc last month. My best recollection is the CODECs for h.264 output are x264 based; however, it can not create hinted tracks used for quicktime streaming (as opposed to progressive downloads).

    Your mileage may vary,
  • mlbreslin
    Great article! Keep up the good work.
  • ananke
    This article just made my mind for buying Athlon II X4 with good $70-ish Asus/Gigabyte mobo using my old DDR2. I have always used Intel, but they went too far with short platform lifespan. DDR3 is expensive these days. So, I will get ~80% of i7 920 platform power for around 20% of the upgrade cost. AMD processor and mobo ~ $170 vs. Intel processor, mobo and memory ~ $600.