In the current day and age there is more to graphics cards than just playing games. More and more non-gaming related features can and are being offloaded to the GPU. Roughly a year ago ATI introduced ATI Stream. This is a software layer that allows software developers to 'speak' with the GPU and have it process data using your graphics card. This really is the most simple & basic description I can give it. I have no idea where ATI Stream will be heading now that DirectCompute is available.
In this article we'll show you a test where we utilize ATI Stream and NVIDIA CUDA to transcode videos over the GPU.
Now I'd like to point you towards one function you should all do with your GPU when it's doing nothing.
Folding@home using the ATI Radeon series 5000 GPU Folding at home is a project where you can have your GPU or CPU (when the PC is not used) help out solving diseases, folding proteins. Over the past 12 months a lot of progress has been made between the two parties involved. And right now there is a GPU folding client available that works with Radeon 5000 series graphics processors. It is ATI Stream based, meaning that all Stream ready GPUs can start folding.
Guru3D team is ranking in the Folding@Home top 80, yes... I'm very proud of our guys crunching these numbers, especially since there are tens of thousands of other teams. The client is out, if possible please join team Guru3D and let's fold away some nasty stuff. The good thing is, you won't even notice that it's running.
Our Guru3D team number is 69411 and if you decide to purchase a 5000 series product, guys, promise me you'll use it to fold for us. By making this move my dear friends, there are now 70 million GPUs available to compute the biggest mysteries in diseases and illnesses. Again, let's make Team Guru3D the biggest one available guys, join our team.
Universal Video Decoder 2.0
Always worth a mention is UVD, short for Universal Video Decoder. With proper 3rd party software like WinDVD or PowerDVD you can enable support for UVD 2.0 which provides hardware acceleration of H.264 and VC-1 high definition video formats used by Blu-ray and HD DVD. The video processor allows the GPU to apply hardware acceleration and video processing functions while keeping power consumption & CPU utilization low.
You will have sheer decoding precision on the Radeon 5000 series. Low CPU utilization whilst scoring maximum image quality. One improvement has been made as well; you can now for example upscale your 1920x1080 streams fine to a 2560x1600 sized monitor (no more black borders).
New in the GPU architecture of the series 5000 is an updated video engine. It's really not massively different opposed to the old UVD engine, yet has two new additions for post-processing, decoding and enhancing video streams. Dual stream decoding is one of the new features. For example, if you playback a Blu-ray movie and simultaneously want to see a director's commentary (guided by video) you can now look at both the movie and in a smaller screen see the additional content (like picture-in-picture). Obviously this is Blu-ray 2.0 compatibility here, and the additional content is an actual feature of the movie. But definitely fun to see.
Enhanced UVD 2.0
Hardware acceleration decode of two 1080P HD streams
Compatible with Windows Aero mode - playback of HD videos while Aero remains enabled
Video gamma - independent gamma control from Windows desktop.
Brighter whites - Blue Stretch processing increases the blue value of white colors for bright videos
Dynamic Video Range - Controls levels of black and white during playback
A recently added feature also is Dynamic Contrast Enhancement. It does pretty much what the name says; Dynamic Contrast Enhancement technology will improve the contrast ratios in videos in real-time on the fly. It's a bit of a trivial thing to do, as there are certain situations where you do not want your contrast increased.
Another feature is Dynamic Color Enhancement. It's pretty much a color tone enhancement feature and will enforce a slight color correction where it's needed. We'll show you that in a bit as I quite like this feature; it makes certain aspects of a movie a little more vivid.
Directly tied to the UVD engine is obviously also sound. AMD's Radeon series 3000, 4000 and 5000 cards can pass lossless sound directly through the HDMI connector. This has been upgraded as it's now possible to have 7.1 channel lossless sound 192kHz / 24-bit. The HDMI audio output follows HDMI standard 1.3a and now also supports Dolby True HD and DTS-HD audio. Obviously there is also support for standard PCM, AC-3 and DTS.
To be able to playback high-def content you'll still need software like WinDVD or PowerDVD, a HD source (Blu-ray player) and a HDCP monitor or television.
For those interested in MKV / x.264 GPU based content acceleration, playback and image quality enhancements, please read this guide that we have written. We spotted this lovely little free application to manage this.
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