HTPC enthusiasts are often concerned about the quality of pictures output by the system. While this is a very subjective metric, we have been taking as much of an objective approach as possible. We have been using the HQV 2.0 benchmark in our HTPC reviews to identify the GPUs' video post processing capabilities. The HQV benchmarking procedure has been heavily promoted by AMD, and Intel also seems to be putting its weight behind that.

The control panel for the Ivy Bridge GPU has a number of interesting video post processing control knobs which earlier drivers lacked. The most interesting of these is the ability to perform noise reduction on a per-channel basis, i.e, only for luma or for both luma and chroma. More options are always good for consumers, and the interface makes it simple enough to leave the decision making to the drivers or the application. An explicit skin tone correction option is also available.

HQV scores need to be taken with a grain of salt. In particular, one must check the tests where the GPU lost out points. In case those tests don't reflect the reader's usage scenario, the handicap can probably be ignored. So, it is essential that the scores for each test be compared, rather than just the total value.

The HQV 2.0 test suite consists of 39 different streams divided into 4 different classes. For the Ivy Bridge HTPC, we used Cyberlink PowerDVD 12 with TrueTheater disabled and hardware acceleration enabled for playing back the HQV streams. The playback device was assigned scores for each, depending on how well it played the stream. Each test was repeated multiple times to ensure that the correct score was assigned. The scoring details are available in the testing guide from HQV.

Blu-rays are usually mastered very carefully. Any video post processing (other than deinterlacing) which needs to be done is handled before burning it in. In this context, we don't think it is a great idea to run the HQV benchmark videos off the disc. Instead, we play the streams after copying them over to the hard disk. How does the score compare to what was obtained by the Sandy Bridge and Llano at launch?

In the table below, we indicate the maximum score possible for each test, and how much each GPU was able to get. The HD3000 is from the Core i5-2520M with the Intel drivers. The AMD 6550D was tested with Catalyst 11.6, driver version 8.862 RC1 and the HD4000 with driver version

HQV 2.0 Benchmark
Test Class Chapter Tests Max. Score Intel HD3000 AMD 6550D (Local file) Intel HD4000
Video Conversion Video Resolution Dial 5 5 4 5
Dial with Static Pattern 5 5 5 5
Gray Bars 5 5 5 5
Violin 5 5 5 5
Film Resolution Stadium 2:2 5 5 5 5
Stadium 3:2 5 5 5 5
Overlay On Film Horizontal Text Scroll 5 3 5 3
Vertical Text Scroll 5 5 5 5
Cadence Response Time Transition to 3:2 Lock 5 5 5 5
Transition to 2:2 Lock 5 5 5 5
Multi-Cadence 2:2:2:4 24 FPS DVCam Video 5 5 5 5
2:3:3:2 24 FPS DVCam Video 5 5 5 5
3:2:3:2:2 24 FPS Vari-Speed 5 5 5 5
5:5 12 FPS Animation 5 5 5 5
6:4 12 FPS Animation 5 5 5 5
8:7 8 FPS Animation 5 5 5 5
Color Upsampling Errors Interlace Chroma Problem (ICP) 5 2 2 5
Chroma Upsampling Error (CUE) 5 2 2 5
Noise and Artifact Reduction Random Noise SailBoat 5 5 5 5
Flower 5 5 5 5
Sunrise 5 5 5 5
Harbour Night 5 5 5 5
Compression Artifacts Scrolling Text 5 3 3 5
Roller Coaster 5 3 3 5
Ferris Wheel 5 3 3 5
Bridge Traffic 5 3 3 5
Upscaled Compression Artifacts Text Pattern 5 3 3 3
Roller Coaster 5 3 3 3
Ferris Wheel 5 3 3 3
Bridge Traffic 5 3 3 3
Image Scaling and Enhancements Scaling and Filtering Luminance Frequency Bands 5 5 5 5
Chrominance Frequency Bands 5 5 5 5
Vanishing Text 5 5 5 5
Resolution Enhancement Brook, Mountain, Flower, Hair, Wood 15 15 15 15
Video Conversion Contrast Enhancement Theme Park 5 5 5 5
Driftwood 5 5 5 5
Beach at Dusk 5 2 5 5
White and Black Cats 5 5 5 5
Skin Tone Correction Skin Tones 10 0 7 7
    Total Score 210 173 184 197

A look at the above table reveals that Intel has caught up with the competition in terms of HQV scores. In fact, they have comfortably surpassed what the Llano got at launch time. Many of the driver problems plaguing AMD's GPUs hadn't been fixed when we looked at the AMD 7750 a couple of months back, so it is likely that the Llano's scores have not budged much from what we have above. In fact, the score of 197 ties with what we obtained for the 6570 during our discrete HTPC GPU shootout.

Testbed and Software Setup Video Post Processing in Action
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  • Midwayman - Wednesday, April 25, 2012 - link

    Have you ever seen a 4k display on a uncompressed signal? The clarity is just astounding.

    I'm more concerned about the ability to deliver content with that kind of bandwidth requirements. We already get hdtv signals that are so compressed that they're barely better than a really really good SDTV signal.
  • MobiusStrip - Friday, April 27, 2012 - link

    Most of what you see labeled "HD" (or variants thereof) is marketing bullshit. You're not getting HD when the bitrate is 3 megabits per second, especially when anything on the screen is moving.

    You can blow a VHS picture up to "HD" resolution, and it won't be HD. That's exactly what's happening in most consumer devices today.

    "4K" is rapidly emerging as the next fraud. We'll see the same crap blown up to 3840 x whatever (barely even 4K by any standard), but containing 1K of real resolution if you're lucky.

    The era of increasing quality is over, as consumers prove over and over that they don't care about quality.
  • A5 - Monday, April 23, 2012 - link

    "Otherwise, the Ivy Bridge platform has everything that a HTPC user would ever need."

    I'd like an open-source (or at least) free encoder that supports QuickSync and not having to be picky with my DRAM purchase to use GPU-accelerated decoders before I say that.

    Other than that, it seems to be good enough for the basic HTPC functionality - can't wait for the new i3s and Pentiums to see if the low-end parts are good enough!
  • ganeshts - Monday, April 23, 2012 - link

    You can use GPU accelerated decoders even with DDR3-1333 DRAM. You need to go high speed / low latency only if you want rendering through madVR.

    Use QuickSync Decoder or DXVA2 Native in LAV or MPC Video Decoder + EVR-CP to get full decode and rendering acceleration without worry about the DRAM.
  • babgvant - Monday, April 23, 2012 - link

    DVRMSToolbox (DTB) has included a QS capable transcoding solution for over a year. The main benefit to using it vs. the other retail options is that it supports EDL files during transcoding.

    DTB is FOSS, the QS dlls are just FSS.
  • A5 - Monday, April 23, 2012 - link

    Cool stuff. Hadn't heard of your tool before today, I'll make sure to check it out when I get my HDHR Prime from Woot.
  • shawkie - Monday, April 23, 2012 - link

    I've experimented with madVR a bit but in the end the problems with playing back DVDs and Blu-rays with menus has so far stopped me from using it seriously. However, I've seen reports claiming that Ivy Bridge includes higher quality upscaling within Windows Media Player (as part of the EVR I suppose). Any evidence of this?
  • ganeshts - Monday, April 23, 2012 - link

    You can take a look at the PowerDVD chroma upscaling screenshots linked in the text. I was really surprised at the quality (until I zoomed to 300%, I couldn't actually decipher the difference between PowerDVD and madVR!). Similar behavior with MPC-HC using MPCVideoDec.

    Btw, can you link me to the reports that you mention?
  • shawkie - Monday, April 23, 2012 - link

    This was one of them. I also found a comment from one of the engineers that explained that they were using a higher quality upsampling algorithm too but I can't find it now.
  • ganeshts - Monday, April 23, 2012 - link

    Andrew @ MissingRemote just refreshed my memory about this post by Eric Gur:

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