Test System Setup
First of all, we will provide a summary of the system and then get right into the tests.
Processor(s): Various 65nm AMD processors
Graphics Card: ASUS EN9600GSO MAGIC/HTDP/512M (Supplied by ASUS)
Cooling: Noctua NH-U12P (Supplied by Noctua)
Motherboard(s): GIGABYTE GA-MA790GP-DS4H (F3 BIOS) (Supplied by GIGABYTE)
Memory: 2 x 2GB Corsair TWIN2X4096-6400C4DHX
Hard Disk(s): Western Digital Green 1TB SATA-II (Supplied by Western Digital)
Optical Drive: LITE-ON DH-4B1S Blu-ray Burner SATA (Supplied by LITE-ON)
Audio Card: ASUS Xonar HDAV1.3 Deluxe (Supplied by ASUS)
Power Supply: Thermaltake Toughpower 700-watt Cable Management (Supplied by Thermaltake)
Operating System: Microsoft Windows Vista SP1 64-bit (with latest updates)
Drivers: NVIDIA ForceWare 181.20, ASUS HDAV1.3 18.104.22.168.57Beta and PLX fireware update Ver 1.1
Now we have summarized the test system specifications of our brand spanking new HTPC, we are ready to hit the benchmarks.
What we are aiming to do is work out which AMD processor will work best for us - not only in terms of Blu-ray playback performance, but also with a heavy influence laying on power consumption.
As you can see above, the ASUS Xonar HDAV1.3 Deluxe had no issues passing through the HD audio from Blu-ray movies to our Onkyo TX-SR705 amp, once we installed the latest drivers and firmware.
Let's get started!
Blu-ray CPU Usage
In our first test we measure CPU usage whilst playing back the "hospital" scene from the Blu-ray movie Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle.
The swear-happy hospital scene is not super intensive, but it's probably a good indication of standard movie playback in a typical conversation type scene. Hardware acceleration was enabled in TotalMedia Theater, which means that some of the work was off-loaded to the GeForce 9600 GSO and its NVIDIA PureVideo HD engine. We measured CPU utilization (maximum and average) using Vista Performance Monitor.
Naturally the X4 9950 is out in front with the least amount of CPU cycles being required to playback the movie. The 45-watt X2 4850E does rather well for its price and power attributes and only uses up to 47% CPU, whilst also providing smooth playback.
We also tested with a few other Blu-ray titles such as Casino Royale (second scene, which is packed full of action in the dockyards!) and some music videos and playback was smooth with each CPU. Good start so far.