A little over a year ago, we put AVIVO video processing head-to-head with PureVideo. At the time, we talked about pre-release drivers which unlocked the power over the programmable PureVideo Processor, an additional processing unit inside the GeForce 6 and 7 series GPUs. When combined with the GPU shaders, NVIDIA’s processing remained the gold standard for the rest of 2006. To date, no one else is as reliable when it comes to content-based 3:2 pulldown for high-definition on the PC. Go with something other than NVIDIA, and if you’re watching 1080i ATSC HDTV on your Media Center PC, you’re going to be losing half your resolution.
As we approach the halfway point of 2007, the world of PC video is beginning to shift. HD-DVD and Blu-Ray are beginning to attain the critical mass they once lacked. Today, HD-DVD drives can be found as low as $200 while Blu-Ray burners have finally crossed the $500 mark. By Christmas, you can expect prices to be half that as more OEMs (Dell, HP, Sony) begin to market PCs with high-definition optical drives… and as the OEMs get on board, the economies of scale drive costs down for the rest of us.
If manufacturing more drives will help drive prices down, why is it that OEMs haven’t done so yet? It’s not HDCP. Now that 20” widescreen LCD monitors are mainstream, you can easily find HDCP-enabled monitors for under $300. The problem has largely been computational expense.
With some of today’s ultra high-bitrate content, even an Intel Core2 Duo 6600 is stressed to close to 100% CPU utilization when running a full software decode of Blu-Ray/HD-DVD. Enthusiast-grade software such as CoreAVC can help to minimize the CPU utilization, however this comes at the expense of image quality (even compared to ffdshow) and CoreAVC lacks the ability to work with protected content. As a result, OEMs have been slow to adopt high-definition optical media.
Last November, NVIDIA demoed PureVideo HD
. With the latest drivers, the H.264 acceleration was finally enabled for HD-DVD and Blu-Ray PCs. With the PureVideo Video Processor, those same movies that brought a Core 2 Duo E6600 to the limit, now only required 60% utilization… With PureVideo HD, it was finally possible to have high-quality HD-DVD and Blu-Ray playback on the PC – you just needed substantial CPU power.
Now, things have changed.
With the GeForce 8500 and GeForce 8600, NVIDIA has now introduced a second-generation PureVideo HD product. In 2005, I called ATI AVIVO the biggest improvement in PC video quality since the original Mach64VT. In 2007, GeForce 8500 and GeForce 8600 will take PC video quality to the next step.