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Intel’s Second-Gen Core CPUs: The Sandy Bridge Review

Quick Sync Vs. APP Vs. CUDA

For now, we have a few media playback apps (decoders) and a couple of media conversion titles (encoders/transcoders) to play with.

CyberLink’s MediaEspresso has already been optimized to take advantage of AMD’s Stream (now called APP) and Nvidia’s CUDA API. Taken in the context of a machine without any hardware-based acceleration at all, you get a really freaking nice speed-up.

But the Quick Sync optimizations put Sandy Bridge in another league entirely. Converting an almost-500 MB source to 1024x768 for playback on an iPad takes a scant 22 seconds.

MediaConverter 7 presented more of a challenge. The pre-release version optimized for Quick Sync also accelerated AMD’s Stream API, but it wouldn’t recognize our GeForce GTX 570. Swapping out to the currently-shipping demo version didn’t give us a drop-down to turn on CUDA either, but it at least yielded results that show acceleration is definitely turned on. Arcsoft’s app has the added benefit of giving you a utilization monitor.

The result is fairly compelling. Without acceleration enabled, the iPad profile transcode took 1:35, tying up a Core i7-2600K at roughly 30% utilization. With Nvidia’s card installed, utilization jumped to 50%, but the job finished almost 20 seconds faster. A Radeon HD 6870 turns back lower utilization numbers and better performance results. But the Quick Sync-optimized path is most impressive, wrapping up in 41 seconds and barely touching the processor cores at all.

Unfortunately, you have to be using Intel's integrated graphics core in order to take advantage of Quick Sync. Neither MediaEspresso or MediaConverter are able to recognize the pipeline with a discrete card installed. So, if you're doing media work on a gaming PC, Quick Sync might not be an option for you.

Chris Angelini
Chris Angelini is an Editor Emeritus at Tom's Hardware US. He edits hardware reviews and covers high-profile CPU and GPU launches.