HTPC Blu-Ray essentials

Page 1: introduction

why writing a new article?

There are already many reviews out there which claim to measure the performance and image quality of graphics cards for Blu-Ray playback. So why did I see a need for a new article? The reason for that is simple: Most existing review limit themselves to measure CPU utilization numbers and HQV scores. Now for Blu-Ray movie playback both measurements are IMHO practically worthless. There are other things which need to be tested, which are much more important, but which most reviews totally ignore.

why are CPU consumption tests worthless?

What we need for a good Blu-Ray playback experience is fluid playback without any motion judder and skipped frames. So obviously the PC must be fast enough to decode the Blu-Ray video and audio streams in realtime. However, that's all we need. It doesn't really matter much if the CPU is at 10% during playback or at 60%. As long as the playback is smooth, CPU usage doesn't really matter much.

why are HQV benchmarks irrelevant (for Blu-Ray movie playback)?

Well, they're not generally irrelevant. But most of the HQV tests are about *deinterlacing* performance. And Blu-Ray movies are all progressively stored. So deinterlacing is not needed for 99% of the Blu-Ray content. If you skip the deinterlacing tests, what else does HQV test? Noise reduction. Now please think, guys: The studios (usually) know what they're doing. If a movie really needs noise reduction, don't you think that the studios have much better algorithms for that available compared to what a cheap PC graphics card can do? So in my book HQV benchmarks are mostly irrelevant for Blu-Ray playback.

now what kind of tests *are* important?

That's what this article is all about and which is explained in detail in the next few pages.

Page 1 - introduction
Page 2 - resolution and refresh rates
Page 3 - PC levels vs. video levels
Page 4 - color spaces
Page 5 - post processing features
Page 6 - HDMI audio transport
Page 7 - conclusion

total (out of 500)
ATI XP 140 28%
ATI Vista 180 36%
NVidia XP 275 55%
NVidia Vista 255 51%