On the PC HTPC front, we have AMD and NVIDIA’s flagship video processors: the Radeon HD2600 and GeForce 8600GT. Although the HD2900 and GeForce 8800 offer better gaming
performance, the HD2600 and 8600GT offer the most advanced video processing within each manufacturer’s portfolio. Both manufacturers claim full MPEG-4 AVC hardware acceleration as well as advanced post-processing in high definition.
The benchmark for video processing has historically been “Hollywood Quality Video” from Silicon Optix. These processors are found across a wide range of products ranging from the $500 Toshiba HD-XA2 (ReonVX) as well as in dedicated video processors starting at $5000 (Realta). To test the upscaling and detail enhancement performance of the Realta, we used the PlayStation 3 as our source with all sharpening and noise reduction disabled.
Finally, we included the Sony PlayStation 3. Although the Xbox 360 offers a wider selection of games than the PS3, Sony’s console is in a completely different class when it comes to home theatre and hi-fi performance. Like many premium audiophile CD players, the PS3 is able to resample conventional music CDs to 88.2 kHz (optical out) and even 176.4 kHz (via HDMI). As a Blu-ray player, the PS3 is one of the fastest players on the market in terms of BD-Java performance and compatibility, and even features high-end capabilities such as 1080p24 output. Although the PS3 can convert 1080p24 recorded films (i.e. Hollywood movies) to 1080p60, it cannot deinterlace 1080i60 to 1080p60 at this time. Sony engineers have stated that they are assessing 1080i60 to 1080p60 deinterlacing internally. Since 1080i to 1080p upconversion is compute intensive, Sony needs to make sure that there is enough hardware resources available to accommodate updates to the Blu-ray specification. At the moment, however, Sony does use the Cell processor to provide advanced DVD upscaling beyond the traditional bilinear filtering.
Although we had planned to include the Toshiba HD-XA2 (HQV ReonVX processor and HD DVD player) and the Microsoft Xbox 360-HDMI with the HD DVD upgrade in this comparison, neither company was able to provide us with a sample in time for participation. We hope to revisit Toshiba’s HD DVD players and the Xbox360 in a future article. By that time, we hope to include a comparison between several dual-format players.
Sony PlayStation 3 (Firmware 1.9)
NVIDIA GeForce 8600GT (ForceWare 163.67) on Windows Vista Ultimate x32
AMD Radeon HD2600 (Catalyst 7.9) on Windows Vista Ultimate x32
Silicon Optix Realta HQV Stand-Alone Engineering Sample (PlayStation 3 as 480p and 1080i source)
Cyberlink PowerDVD 7 Ultra (based upon NVIDIA and AMD recommendation)
These machines were tested with FiringSquad Reference Home Theater #1. A companion piece describing our hardware selection process in greater detail will be available shortly.
Display: Sony VPL-VW50 Projector (1080p24@96Hz 3-chip SXRD front projector)
Room: 2000+ cubic ft, ~115” screen size, 45 degree horizontal angle of view
Receiver: JVC RX-DP20VBK THX Ultra2 Receiver (5.1)
Front Speakers: Polk LSi9, Bi-amplified, modified with Dynamat reinforcement
Center Channel: Polk LSiC
Rear Speakers: Insignia NS-B2111
Video Cables: Monster Cable M1000 and M850 HDMI
Audio cables: Monster Cable Z2 Biwire (LCR), Monster Cable Navajo White (Rear), Monster Cable Lightspeed 100
Line Conditioner: Monster Power HTS1000 MKII
Sources as above