ExtremeTech: H.264 has a long way to go.

ExtremeTech just posted results of their tests comparing CPU utilization across recent ATI (Radeon X1800 XT) and nVidia (GeForce 7800 GTX) cards for three codecs: DivX, H.264, and WMV9. The results?

For 720p content WMV 9 plays back at typically 25-40% CPU utilization for the clips tested. H.264 on the other hand takes 80% (using ATI’s acceleration) and on other systems even spike to 100%. Note however these are different clips than those used for WMV 9 testing. Playing back 720p DivX clips results in 50% or so CPU utilization

To quote:

“H.264 acceleration has a long way to go before it’s ready for prime time. Even with ATI’s hardware acceleration, it’s way too CPU intensive. What’s more, ATI needs to work to offer acceleration on basically all popular H.264 decoders, the same way their DVD acceleration works with DVD decoders.”

Also interesting to note DivX playback performance of DivX player vs. WMP:

“The performance of the GeForce 7800 GTX when using the DivX Player is atrocious, at 75-80% CPU utilization. Under Windows Media Player 10, it’s right around 50%.”

One thing’s for sure, there’s still a lot of work to be done in this area.

“The video landscape on the PC is still far too big a mess. There are too many codecs, and sometimes too many software providers making decoders (we found a dozen H.264 decoders and at least as many DVD decoders in 10 minutes of Google searching). Some are accelerated, some are not.”

I have some ideas on how to fix this (that don’t involve “destroying” the competition thank you) but I’m interested in your thoughts first?

7 responses to “ExtremeTech: H.264 has a long way to go.”

  1. When DVD and MPEG-2 playback started on PC’s back in the late Pentium and early P-II days there were dedicated MPEG-2 decoders initially to deal with performance problems. Then ATI started adding IDCT and other accelerating tech to video cards. Shortly there after processors got fast enough to decode on their own and every video card had decoding help built in. I would imagine the same will happen with MPEG-4 this time around shortly. ATI has made there first attempt at hardware acceleration which seems to work partially and only with particular encoding types and players. I would think that shortly the decoding support will improve and at the same time processors will speed up to where it doesn’t matter.

    My biggest question is are those WMV numbers of the same bit rate (if that is right term) and same end quality. There can be a huge difference between one 720p clip and another.

    The other difference this time around is the MPEG-4 players seem to not have same financial footing. With DVD and MPEG-2 companies like Intervideo and Cyberlink were making money directly from players, the same doesn’t seem to be happening with MPEG-4, most are free players.

  2. there are several companies that have engineered h.264 silicon for video camera and cell phone recording, as well as dvd players, so the landscape for h.264 acceptance is changing very quickly right now… do not make any decisions about it’s player overhead or encoding quality until you have worked with the nero encoder and media player.

  3. I am staring at a spiffy new ATI 1800 XT, and I can’t actually install it yet, to test some of the acceleration in our workflow! It is driving me bonkers to have that sweet of a card with its 512 megs of video ram, just sitting idle.

    I am very interested in this "acceleration for the common user" approach, rather than the specialized silicon from Inlet or Tarari, for about 20 times the price of this card.

  4. DivX playback in DivX Player may use more CPU if the post-pcrossing option is enabled. The article did not make clear whether this was enabled for both cards or just Nvidia (ATI has hardware acceleration for DivX).

  5. You don’t need hardware H.264 playback, all those codecs you’ve tried are poorly optimized.

    Just use the CoreAVC H.264 codec with the Haali Media Splitter installed and you’ll have no problems on a PC , even with 1080p output. Smooth as silk on QT7 1080p trailers.

    As an added bonus, use FFDShow’s audio filter to get realtime AAC-Dolby Digital output to your receiver for full surround. All in software, with no performance hit to playback.

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