High Definition content is the future of entertainment;
heck Sony is betting on HD massively by timing the release of the PlayStation 3
for 2006 when HD is set to fully explode into the lexicon of techno-geeks
everywhere! Playing High Definition content on current generation PCs can boggle
down even the fastest processors, mainly because there is more data to
handle. Similar to the need for DVD accelerators a few years back, nVIDIA
PureVideo enables computer users to view MPEG-2/DVD and WMV HD formats without
slowing the PC to a crawl.
The PureVideo standard incorporates a hardware
accelerator for the afore mentioned MPEG-2/DVD, and Microsoft Windows Media HD Video standards (WMV HD). According
to nVIDIA's documentation on PureVideo, the GPU (GeForce 6 and 7
series GPUs) takes on video decoding tasks from the CPU, and
the end result is smoother, shutter free HD playback. nVIDIA PureVideo also supports most current
and future high definition formats. The system seems to be built with a
good degree of future proofing for upcoming standards - as it should be
if we as consumers are spending $400-$500 on videocards right now.
PureVideo is more than just a media accelerator; it
also includes features to improve video picture quality. If you believe
the marketing; DVD, cable, and satellite video provide poor crispness, clearness
and smoothness that consumers are desperate to be "saved from." nVIDIA's
PureVideo technology applies spatial temporal de-interlacing to apparently
deliver a better image than traditional de-interlacing can muster. PureVideo
also fixes the 3:2 pull down problem that can arise from 24 fps video being
converted to 30 fps for viewing on TVs or monitors. By recovering the original
24 frame content, PureVideo apparently allows for a clear crisper image.
PureVideo can also
scale videos to any resolution, while maintaining a relatively detailed picture.
This means users can view lower resolution videos at a high resolution without
suffering too much from blocky or blurry pictures.
To test PureVideo's HD accelerating capabilities, we
decided to play one video through Windows Media Player 10, which was downloaded
from Microsoft's WMV HD Content Showcase. The
Discoverers (IMAX) video is available in both 720P
and 1080P formats, and CPU utilization was roughly read through Task Manager
to give a general indication of load.
After loading up The Discoverers 720P video, there was an
immediate spike in CPU utilization up to 100%, after a second however, that dropped
down to roughly 13%. During the next two minutes, CPU utilization jumped between
When playing the 1080P version of the "The
Discoverers" video, it is interesting to see that it puts more load on the
system. It really should not be a surprise since more data needs to be decoded
and CPU utilization jumps between 29-45%.
If we play both 720P and 1080P versions of The
Discoverers video without a PureVideo compatible videocard, CPU utilization
stays at roughly 100% the full time. In fact the
1080P The Discoverers video was laggy even with an
Athlon64 4000+ based PC chugging below. If you want to play High Definition content on
your PC without a HD accelerator, better be prepared for lag. It is nice that
nVIDIA has built in HD acceleration into its entire product line, and this is something
that users will definitely appreciate come 2006 when HD content is more common than a
Starbuck's in San Francisco!