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Review: ATI Avivo Winter 2005 Update

by Ryszard Sommefeldt on 16 December 2005, 19:17

Tags: ATi Technologies (NYSE:AMD)

Quick Link: HEXUS.net/qaebp

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Introduction

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Along with the 3D side of things in its recently released top-to-bottom range of GPUs, ATI also crammed what they call a next-generation video and display engine into the silicon, too. Christened Avivo, it ups the drawing pixels game on consumer graphics hardware. Or so ATI claimed. The referenced technology discussion outlined what ATI had in a couple of whitepapers, rather than any empirical observation or measurement on actual hardware. Granted, it was before any Avivo-containing hardware was even launched, but even since the launch of the Radeon X1000-series of boards it's been hard to verify the entirety of what ATI were putting forward with Avivo.

Yeah, you can hook up a display that needs a dual-link DVI connection to any Avivo-able board with a DVI port, including Ā£60 Radeon X1300s, and it'll run nicely. And yeah, with the advent of the All-In-Wonder X1800 XL, we can see that the capture side and AV stream generation work just nicely (shame about the Theater 200 though). If we had a 10bpc display of some kind here in the HEXUS review pit, I'm 100% sure I could show you the dithering engine at work with the 10bpc native output versus the same images on an 8bpc display. So there are bits of what make Avivo good on paper, available and working right now.

But that's about it. I wrote about hardware transcode assist for H.264 (and others, like Nero Digital and VC-1), and I also wrote hardware decode assist for H.264 AVC HD streams. Both are big reasons to get excited about Avivo. I also wrote about the Process stage of Avivo. It takes interlaced video and deinterlaces it for display on progressive scan displays. Basic deinterlacing has been around for ages on all kinds of consumer graphics products, but basic has been the operative word. Instead, Avivo promised deinterlacing performance to rival four-figure DVD decks instead, on consumer level hardware from the dirt-cheap X1300 up.

Trouble is, transcode assist, HD H.264 AVC decode assist and the high-end deinterlacing performance have been missing to date. Not much ass-mastery or dominATIon of NVIDIA there, really, despite protestations from the big man to the contrary since Avivo was introduced. Ho ho!

Splash the cash on a Radeon X1000-series and you'll get deinterlacing performance that's equal to the last gen (and pretty much sucks on old Radeon, so some discerning tests will show you), and no real help with processing your H.264. Poopy, especially for those dropping large piles of notes on Radeon X1800 XT or XL.

Knowing that the IT press and, more importantly the consumer, knows that, and is restless to get those things in the products they've paid good money for, ATI have presents for you this Christmas. The good thing about Avivo is that it's been software upgradeable, so the driver and supporting apps can be layered on each other and upgraded to bring the missing bits to the table.

ATI have a new display driver, H.264 AVC HD decoder in conjunction with Cyberlink, and the first run out of their transcoding technology, all in a set of downloads that you'll get soon, the most important of which will show up in under a week. That's right, there's going to be a CATALYST 5.13 and some other downloads just before Christmas and into the new year. The red team plays fat Santa!

So with all that in mind, let me walk you through the new stuff from a mostly technical perspective before you lucky X1K owners get your hands on it on the 22nd.