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nVidia PureVideo HD - HD DVD Preview

The HD DVD drive was actually taken from a notebook Toshiba Qosmio and basically shoved into the Shuttle case via an adaptor. It looked a tad Heath Robinson but was in keeping with the early nature of the demo, with early discs, and beta software.

I was told that the driver will soon be available to the public and also feature image quality improvements that will greatly increase its score in the HQV benchmark, an area where it has up to now fallen behind ATI. We’ll have to wait and see.

The display was a Viewsonic VP231wb with a native resolution of 1,920 x 1,200 with HDCP and 24in screens such as the Samsung 244T and the Dell 2407 would also do the job nicely.

The major difference with PureVideo HD to the previous version is that it can now handle the AACS encryption employed by HD DVD and Blu-ray. The other development is in fact that PureVideo HD will not be available for the consumer to buy directly from the nVidia web site. In a smart move, nVidia has decided to work with leading movie player vendors such as Cyberlink and Inter Video to integrate its codec directly into their players. So instead of having to buy PureVideo and a file player, (though admittedly they tend to come free with graphics cards), you just have to get a player designed for HD content. At the very least it’s one less thing to install.

As you can see from this slide, PureVideo doesn’t handle all the functions at this time though this may change with future revisions and may off load work from the CPU even more.

Cyberlink is pretty much the first name that comes to mind when you think of movie playback software for DVD so it’s no surprise it’s right there at the cutting edge, working closely with nVidia. I was a little surprised to find out that you’ll need a separate player for both HD DVD and Blu-ray but hopefully that’s something that Cyberlink can sort out at some stage.

The choice of films is obviously pretty limited right now, but there were some high octane visuals on some of these discs such as Chronicles of Riddick and Swordfish. Interestingly the discs were labelled as being encoded at 1080p/24 even though first generation HD DVD consumer players will only output 1080i. Bit-rates were fairly modest for the next gen format, at 12-18Mbits/sec.

So what was using HD DVD actually like? The first film that was demoed was a Japanese version of The Chronicles of Riddick, encoded in H.264 and therefore the most demanding. First this was played with PureVideo HD disabled. In task manager the CPU was clearly pegged at 100 per cent, yet the film was essentially a slideshow.

With PureVideo enabled the result was a smooth and intensely detailed experience. It was sharper, crisper and more detailed than even the h.264 trailers I’ve seen from the Apple web site. CPU usage was still pretty high at around 70- 80 per cent though, so far higher than the Apple H.264 content. This means that on firt generation hardware at least you won’t want your PC to be doing anything major while you’re watching, otherwise it could seriously dent the smoothness of your enjoyment.

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