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Faster CPU or new graphics card for DVD's (1 Viewer)

Ray Chuang

Screenwriter
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Jan 26, 2002
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Folks,
Currently, I am playing back DVD movies on my computer. My current configuration is as follows:
Abit AB-BM6 motherboard
Intel Celeron A 466 MHz CPU
256 MB PC-100 SDRAM
Matrox G400 Dualhead 32 MB AGP graphics card
10 GB Maxtor ATA-33 hard drive
Sound Blaster PCI 128 sound card
Windows 98 (original release)
I am using Intervideo's WinDVD 3.1 to play back DVD movies. While it works most of the most of the time, I get occasional stutters on-screen. Yes, I have made sure I'm not running CPU-cycle hogging programs like VirusScan 6.0 when I'm playing DVD's. :)
I'm thinking about two ways to see if I can cure the stuttering problem:
1. Replace the current CPU with an Intel Celeron II CPU (cB0 stepping) and bump up RAM by at least 64 MB.
2. Replace the graphics card with an ATI Radeon 7000 AGP, a card that has HWMC and IDCT support to lower CPU usage during DVD playback.
I'd like comments on the merits of either method. By the way, I'm not interested in getting the Sigma Designs Hollywood Plus decoder card because several customers have expressed issues about picture quality, the fact I have to sacrifice one PCI slot to use the card, and unknown compatibility with PowerDVD 4.0 XP and WinDVD 3.1 with the Hollywood Plus card.
 

DonRoeber

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I'd probably go with the CPU upgrade. It's probably less expensive, and it'll help out the entire system.
 

Ray Chuang

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I'd probably go with the CPU upgrade. It's probably less expensive, and it'll help out the entire system.
Unfortunately, I've heard that because all-software DVD decoding uses a lot of CPU cycles, going to a faster CPU might not exactly solve the occasional stuttering problem I'm experiencing. I should note that I do have DMA mode enabled in Windows 98's Device Manager setup.

My guess is that with the ATI Radeon 7000 card much of the decoding will be done with the graphics card itself (thanks to HWMC and IDCT support), so CPU cycle use will be much, much lower, which may alleviate the stuttering issue.
 

Colin Dunn

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I'd go with the faster CPU first. The Matrox G400 was the 'hot' HTPC video board just last summer! DVD decoding is a very CPU-intensive operation. The newer boards, like the Radeons, may have some hardware assist for DVD decoding, but a Celeron-466 is no longer considered a leading-edge multimedia CPU.

I'd look into getting the fastest Socket370 CPU your board will support. Pentium IIIs in the 1.0-1.3GHz range shouldn't be much more expensive than a new video board. A Pentium III will perform better than a Celeron II of the same clock speed. With 256MB of RAM, you aren't likely to run low on memory unless you have lots of other apps open. To assure yourself stutter-free DVD playback, close down all the extra apps, tray utilities, etc. that suck up CPU cycles and distract your computer from DVD playback.

You've already got DMA turned on for your DVD-ROM drive; also make sure it's turned on for your hard disks (unless that causes system crashes). Update your system BIOS and device drivers to get the latest bug-fixed and performance improvements. Defragment your hard disk to minimize access times to system files.
 

Kimmo Jaskari

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Feb 27, 2000
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Actually, the new Celeron II tualatins are basically Pentium III's. I bought a 1200 myself just the other week. Great cost/performance ratio.

However one has to make sure the motherboard is compatible with these.
 

Ray Chuang

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I'd look into getting the fastest Socket370 CPU your board will support. Pentium IIIs in the 1.0-1.3GHz range shouldn't be much more expensive than a new video board. A Pentium III will perform better than a Celeron II of the same clock speed.
Alas, the fastest CPU my AB-BM6 motherboard will support easily is the cB0 stepping Celeron II 600 MHz CPU. That's because Intel (in its infinite wisdom :rolleyes:) changed the pinouts of their newer Socket 370 CPU's and made them incompatible out of the box with the AB-BM6 motherboard. :angry: I could get faster Celeron CPU's into the 800-850 MHz range but that means I'll have to get the Powerleap Neo370 socket adapter, and there goes US$25.00 (glyph of dollar bills sprouting wings and flying away :frowning: ). I think I can support the faster Celeron's because I do have installed the final version TZ flash BIOS that was released in August 2000.
By the way, DMA is enabled for both the Toshiba M1202 DVD-ROM drive and the Maxtor ATA-33 hard disk. Maybe I should consider getting an ATA-33 compatible DVD-ROM drive first? (Mind you, I doubt it'll help, though.)
 

Hugh M

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Dec 31, 2001
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hard drives are cheap, and unless I am mistaken, each IDE transfer speed uses much less CPU time then the one lower than it. ATA 100-66-33

for instance PIO mode uses an amzingly high amount of CPU cycles. DMA modes are much better, but I bet there is a good difference among them as well.

stutters are something that are very hard to get rid of. is this just an occasional stutter, like a pause in the playback, or are you talking about stuttering during panning?
 

Ray Chuang

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for instance PIO mode uses an amzingly high amount of CPU cycles. DMA modes are much better, but I bet there is a good difference among them as well.
Hugh, the drive I'm using is only a 5400 RPM drive and the on-drive memory cache is relatively small (only 256 KB). Maybe I should switch to a 7200 RPM drive with a 2 MB cache and see if that helps?

I think given the fact I want to reduce the CPU cycles being used the Radeon 7000 AGP card installation is the way to go.
 

Adam

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I would go with the Video card first. Then the Hard drive. Because these items can be used in a new system. If you need to change the processor, you might as well get a new board too. Otherwise you are just throwing out money on obsolete parts that can not be used in an up to date system.

IMHO.

Adam.
 

Todd Hochard

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More than 256MB is probably not going to help you for DVD playback.

The Radeon 7000 should help quite a bit. You'll probably want to switch to a DXVA-compliant player (PowerDVD XP works well for me, as does the ATI player with the card), and snoop around the web for the DXVA drivers for Win98.

My first DVD-PC was a PII-300, 2xDVD, and on board MPact2 video(4MB for video). I never had any stuttering. So, even with a relatively slow processor, with hardware decoding of a video card, it can be done.

I use the Radeon 7000 on my current setup, and it works fine. With PowerDVD XP, it averages about 20% CPU utilization (WinXP, and PIII-667, 256MB).

Todd
 

Kevin Coleman

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Jul 3, 1999
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I had stuttering with a Riva TNT2 video card with a 500MHZ Pentium III. I switched to a Radeon 7000 about a week ago with Power DVD XP and haven't had a single studder.
Kevin C. :)
 

Francois Caron

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By any chance is there an Ethernet card inside the computer? If it's not attached to some kind of network, it could cause the stuttering problem in the DVD playback.

Aside from that, a whole new box may be in order. Your computer's current configuration is at least four years old, and support for the operating system will eventually be discontinued. I believe support for Windows 95 has been terminated or at the very least has been put on hold.
 

Hugh M

Second Unit
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Dec 31, 2001
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oh, and 800x600 should be fine for DVD playback. don't bother too much going for more, unless you use non-standard resolutions like 1440x480, or 960x540 or something like that.

a fun thing to try is use a 4:3 resolution and if you can squeeze your monitor down to a widescreen size (menu buttons) then play a widescreen DVD at 4:3 output. should be maximizing the resolution.
 

Ray Chuang

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The Radeon 7000 should help quite a bit. You'll probably want to switch to a DXVA-compliant player (PowerDVD XP works well for me, as does the ATI player with the card), and snoop around the web for the DXVA drivers for Win98.
Actually, according to Intervideo's web page, they said that WinDVD 3.1 does support DxVA. :) Given that the ATI Radeon 7000's Win98/ME driver is DxVA compliant, that means I should be able to play DVD movies with just about all stuttering gone because the CPU cycle usage to decode DVD movies is around 35-40% less than my current configuration.
By the way, I may eventually put Windows XP Home Edition on this computer, but only after I get a CPU upgrade. ;)
 

Hugh M

Second Unit
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Dec 31, 2001
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324
newer drivers should be DXVA compliant.

hardware accel should help alot, but if you decode the multichannel audio you will be using alot for that.

I'm not sure which uses more CPU cycles, downmixing 5.1 to 2 channels, or sending the full digital signal out to an external decoder. I guess you'll find out.

windvd 3.1 might need a registry entry changed to enable DXVA. if you try it, and don't think you are using hardware accel, I think the setting is UseHVA or something similar, maybe with a DXVA in it. Look inder intervideo in both the local_machine and current_user branches in your registry.

I believe that windvd 3.1 will have a capture function available. if you can use the capture function, and get an image, then I think you are not using hardware accel.

honestly windvd uses the highest amount of cpu cycles of any of the players. I think you could try out some of the trials first and check them for cpu usage. Powerdvd is pretty low under hardware accel.
 

Ray Chuang

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honestly windvd uses the highest amount of cpu cycles of any of the players. I think you could try out some of the trials first and check them for cpu usage. Powerdvd is pretty low under hardware accel.
In that case I might just ditch WinDVD 3.1 and replace it with PowerDVD XP 4.0. Let's see if that helps things. ;)
 

Todd Hochard

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Jan 24, 1999
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I had a microstutter with the ATI 5.0 player that I just couldn't get rid of, even at about 25% CPU Utilization. I switched to PowerDVD, CPU dropped to 20%, and microstutter has not reappeared. So, I've stayed with PowerDVD.

Todd
 

Ray Chuang

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Jan 26, 2002
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An update on the original problem--I may have found the solution. :)
I recently got a copy of Cyberlink's PowerDVD XP 4.0 DVD player software, and borrowed a low-cost ECS AGP graphics card that uses the SiS305 chipset (which has hardware motion compensation support).
By installing this card and its associated drivers, plus installing PowerDVD XP 4.0, I got full HWMC acceleration for DVD decoding. The results have been phenomenal--the stutter on playback has just about vanished, and PowerDVD's screen controls are definitely top-notch. :emoji_thumbsup: However, the card's graphics display quality is inferior to my original Matrox card, and I have to manually switch between bob (30 frames per second playback) and weave (24 frames per second playback) in PowerDVD, otherwise if I play a DVD that is primarily sourced from video I get really bad anti-aliasing artifacts.
Question for folks out there: now that I have found that I only really need HWMC on the graphics card to cure the stuttering problem, any suggestions on a which chipset has better display quality at 1024x768 32-bit color? I have to decide between ATI Radeon 7000 and nVidia GeForce2 MX400 to see which one is better.
 

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