Performance Leap: NVIDIA GeForce 6800 Ultra

Video Acceleration Tests

In the following tests we have attempted to assess the performance and benefit of the new video processor. After all, the NV40 has received a lot of advance praise for this feature. And let's not forget that hardware encoding and decoding is a very powerful argument in the HDTV-hype that is starting to brew.

However, our measurements quickly showed that NVIDIA is still at the beginning of their efforts. Decoding Microsoft's WMV9 isn't really accelerated all that much. Quite the contrary:

Here we tested the CPU usage while playing back VCD MPEG videos. All cards reduce the CPU load to almost nil.

In DIVX playback, the FX5950 and the Radeon 9800XT are practically on the same level. The 6800 Ultra, on the other hand, leaves a bit more of the decoding work to the CPU.

While the FX5950 and the 9800XT are once again neck and neck, the GeForce 6800 is clearly the "laziest" by far, letting the CPU do the work.

When asked about these results, NVIDIA explained that the driver we had received for the review does not support all of the features and capabilities the video processor offered yet. While MPEG decoding was implemented in hardware, the driver developers are still working on WMV9 and other formats. For the upcoming launch, the driver team had concentrated its efforts on 3D performance instead. So it looks like we'll have to wait for a launch driver before we see what the video processor can really do...