Can we use old CPU to watch H264 / X264 high definition movies?
High definition movies and HDTV shows is already part of our life. A lot of friends ask me the same question, they want know if they can use their current computer to watch high definition movies smoothly.
Most of my friends are still using Pentium 4 or the outdated dual core CPUs (e.g. Pentium D) … I did some tests, I use a Pentium D 3Ghz CPU to play H264 or X264 high definition movies / MKV files… It is not smooth and especially when there is fast moving scene …
So, I told my friends that in order to play HD movies, new CPU like Core 2 Duo / AMD Phenom is a must…
Recently, the new graphic cards come with hardware decoder for H264 and VC-1 codec. Some magazines talk about how to use the hardware acceleration to play mkv file. I tried some of the methods, but usually those methods are complicated and involve several different software / codec packs….
I continued to test …. finally, I find a perfect solution which is fast and easy to enable hardware acceleration! Now I can play H264 / X264 / VC-1 encoded movies with hardware decoder and very low CPU usage.
Do we really need powerful CPU to play H264 / X264 movies?
The story started at a few days ago, I decided to buy a new computer for watching high definition movies and HD TV programs. Because I believed that in order to play high definition movie files smoothly, a powerful computer is a must. So, I prepared enough budget… I bought an AMD Phenom X4 9850 Black Edition! I also bought an AMD 780G main-board… Well, I really want to enjoy the most smooth and high quality movies, so I spent extra money on a Nvidia GF9600 GSO too!
I was so happy and I ran back home, built the computer, installed Windows, then tried to play high definition movies at once! At first, I used K-Lite Codec Pack, I played a X264 mkv file with CoreAVC video codec + InterVideo audio codec. The playback was very smooth, the quality was good and the CPU usage was around 30% on average.
A friend recommended me to try another codec pack called FinalCodec… well, I tried it out too… It came with CyberLink H264 Video Codec + InterVideo Audio Codec, the result was almost the same, and the CPU usage was also around 30%.
I kept on looking and tried a few more different codec packs, I got almost the same results… My tests were done with default setting / auto mode …. At the end, I though, why don’t I change the settings myself and see if I can get a better result…. I spent another few days on trying out different settings…. finally… I got an unbelievable result!
Real power of hardware acceleration, play X264 movies with 1% CPU usage
What the…. ? I didn’t believe it… I was playing a H264 mkv file, and the CPU usage was around 1%. My 1st impression was, there must be something wrong with the Task Manager. So, I played a few different high definition movies. I also tried to play clips with most complex graphics like explosions / car race … the result was the same, CPU usage stayed at around 1%!
So, I recorded down the settings and ran to another computer with Core 2 Duo CPU, tried to play H264 mkv files and the CPU usage was around 5%!
All we need is just a VGA card that support hardware decoding / hardware acceleration
Wow ~~~ Finally I can see that real power of 3D card hardware acceleration!
The result is better than I expected, not only the CPU usage is very low, the movie quality is better; more clear and better color.
Conclusion is, friends with old CPU don’t need to buy a new computer, you just need to spend less than US$100 and get a new VGA card!
Any current generation VGA card would do the job, they all come with H264 / VC-1 hardware decoder. For Nvidia, it would be GeForce 8600 to GeForce GTX280. For ATI, it would be X2600 to X4870.
How to enable hardware acceleration?
First of all, you need a display card that support Pure Video HD or Avivo HD. It would cost you US$65 to US$100. Make sure you update to the latest driver.
The most important thing, you need a codec pack called Pure Codec. At this moment, the latest version is V2008 Build 0831.
Here is the settings that do the trick, I tested it on both Windows XP and Windows Vista. I also tested it on Vista 64 bit. Once you installed the codec pack Pure Codec, do the following settings:
- Deselect “Auto Mode”
- Video Renderer use VMR9 Renderless (Remap_16_235). This will give you better color.
- Audio Decoder choose InterVideo. Better sound quality and smoother playback.
- H.264 Video Decoder is our main concert, choose CyberLink (DXVA) for MKV. This is the one which enabling hardware acceleration!
You setting window should look like this:
In fact, there is nothing new about hardware acceleration, it is just the default setting of the codec packs are usually not working. That is why most of us fail to enable hardware acceleration… including myself…
Wish this article can help friends who are planning to upgrade their computer …. you may save you money and enjoy more high definition! Enjoy mkv files with X264 encoding!