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Most of my friends are still using Pentium 4 or the outdated dual core CPUs (e.g. Pentium D) … I did some tests, I use a Pentium D 3Ghz CPU to play H264 or X264 high definition movies / MKV files… It is not smooth and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:
Pure Codec Setting

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!

You can download the latest version of
Pure Codec / Pure Codec / Pure Codec




Add comments
Oct 01

19 Responses to “Enable hardware acceleration for watching H264 movie / HDTV, zero CPU usage”

  1. Patrick Says:

    Can you date this article? And tell us how to stay up to date on the codec? Is the main site only in Chinese?

  2. admin Says:

    Thanks for your comment. Yep ~ PureCodec is made in China…. in the settings, you can find in “Details Print” > “Check new version”

  3. John Dekker Says:

    The answer to your question: Can we use old CPU to watch H264 / X264 high definition movies?, yes I use a pentium 4 2,8 with about 0-5% cpu usage(1080p)
    Its the graphics card that makes the difference.

    Do we really need powerful CPU to play H264 / X264 movies? NO
    like you said a graphics card with hardware acceleration does it.
    At first mine was also not good working, you have to find the options
    in the player, after i changes the options(MPC HC) its working fine.

  4. hdtv Says:

    I’m using the settings above and 720p movies play good but 1080p are not I get pixelation tried to change settings but I can’t get it right. I have a pentium 4 3.06Ghz and nvidia geforce 9800gt. Can somebody post some settings for me to try see if I can play 1080p movies?Or do I need some other hardware?

  5. geroge Says:

    You are grate,
    thanks for this nice article. The Codec is amazing!

  6. Moh'd Says:

    thanks.. 720p files works fine.. but still 1080 files stutter.. why ?

  7. admin Says:

    Would you mind to tell me which display card are you using? I use GF9600 GSO to play 1080P x264 MKV, the CPU usage is less than 9%.

  8. dean Says:

    many thanks. I used your settings and manage to watch 1080p with 50-60% cp usage. Sounds too much. but my graphic card is g-force 7600 gt and cpu athlon64 3200+. thanks again

  9. admin Says:

    Good to hear that!

    I also find out that CoreAVC can play 720P movie with single core CPU, and can play 1080P movie with Dual Core CPU. (Purely using CPU)
    and, seems that GF7xxx cards dose not support hardware acceleration.

    Happy High Definition Movie Watching!

  10. 100% Free Iphone Says:

    There is obviously a lot to know about this.

  11. tinu Says:

    I got it working with a pure codec pack with cyberlink (DXVA) as the H.264 decoder & windows media player as the player. I had to manually associate windows media player with .MTS files (1080p) H2.644 files I had. I have windows vsita 64 but used the 32 bit codec pack & 32 bit windows media player. I can watch the v1080p video on intel 4500MHD (GM45) with just 25% cpu util now & no pauses & perfect lip synch!!!! Hope this will help all the other intel 4500 MHD owners.

  12. htpcfreak Says:

    I tried the setup with 8400GTS – PCI (not PCI-e) card. CPU (Athelon) usage is low 50% for mkv-x264 but looks like it is playing at very low frame rate. And Audio is way ahead of the video. Any help?

  13. Don Says:

    i have nvidia 8400m gs with core 2 duo 2ghz processor, i can play 1080p with 10-20% cpu usage. i m using power dvd player with default setting(nvidia pure video hardware acceleration enabled).

  14. bobalazs Says:

    Works!
    Amazing!
    Tried it with ffdshow and all kinds of other codecs and settings, and i never before achieved 2% CPU utilization while watching a 1080p movie.
    Excellent stuff!
    :)

  15. Garry Says:

    Fantastic.Have been scouring the internet for something like this. Worked 100% with great picture quality on my P4 3Gig. So much misinformation on the internet, it’s great to find something like this (and it’s free)

  16. Leandro Says:

    I love you!
    I have a pentium 4 3ghz + geforce 9500gt, and I was unable to play any 1080p video here. After doing this… everything is perfect now!

  17. Lautaro Says:

    THANKS!!!!!!!!!!!! my CPU usage used to go up to 100% and even my notebook restarted because of this!!!
    great article!!
    where can i learn more about this stuff? (Video and Audio Codecs + containers, etc)

  18. Roland Fernandes Says:

    Hi,

    Thanks for such a FAB article. However would appreciate your advice on my HTPC im trying to build to connect my PC to my Samsung LCD 32 inches

    Currently im using the VGA cable i got with my 22inch View sonic Monitor and the resolution is set at 1920 *1080 . Im getting very good quality video however would like to know if HDMi would enhance it further. Im running mkv movies at 20-02 % utilisation and want ot connect my pc to my Onkyo Home theater using optical or coaxial cables

    Current Setup

    Processor : Intel Core 2 Duo E6850 3.0 GHz
    Ram: 2 GB Corsair
    Graphics Card : On-board Intel G33/G31 Express Chipset Family
    Sound Card:- Onboard

    Which graphics card and sound card would you recommend ?

  19. admin Says:

    Roland, Thanks for your comment!

    DVI / HDMI would enhance a little, because VGA cable serve “analog” signal, DVI / HDMI cable serve “digital” signal. But the different is very small.
    If your current on-board graphic card can play the 1080p mkv files smoothly, you don’t really need a new graphic card. But if you really want one, any current generation Nvidia card would be fine.

    For sound card, if your on-board sound didn’t come with any optical connection, you can get a sound blaster card, USB version is also ok. I am using this one http://us.store.creative.com/Sound-Blaster-XFi-Surround-5.1/M/B0017QQQAE.htm

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