crookedvulture writes: "For years, AMD, Intel, and Nvidia have hyped the hardware-accelerated video transcoding capabilities of their CPUs and GPUs. Some implementations use dedicated logic, while others leverage the arrays of shader processors in modern graphics chips. Turns out all this hardware-accelerated mojo may be no better than old-school software transcoding. This look at video transcoding on the PC provides a detailed comparison of the latest solutions, and software transcoding consistently produces the highest-quality results. If you can live with artifacts, the QuickSync logic built into Intel's recent CPUs is easily the fastest of the hardware-accelerated solutions, though the output quality varies widely with the software used. A beta version of the hardware-accelerated x264 encoder produces consistently good results on multiple hardware configurations, but it's not much faster than pure software transcoding on a modern CPU."
crookedvulture writes: AMD is slowly trickling out GPUs based on its new Southern Islands architecture. We've already seen the $550 Radeon HD 7970 and its slightly discounted brother, the $450 7950. Now, AMD is rolling out the Radeon HD 7770 and 7750, which start at a much more reasonable $160 and $110, respectively. AnandTech, HotHardware, and Tech Report all have reviews of the first truly new mid-range GPUs to be released by AMD in more than two years. These 28-nm chips have low power consumption, allowing them to be paired with extremely quiet coolers. They offer smooth frame rates with the latest games, too. There's just one problem: older cards like the Radeon HD 6850 deliver similar features and better performance at lower prices. The pricing picture may change over time, but right now, last year's cards are better deals than AMD's new hotness.
crookedvulture writes: Installing a budget graphics card is a good way to bolster the gaming chops of a low-end system with integrated graphics. However, some cards aren't much faster than the IGPs they were designed to replace. Take AMD's freshly minted Radeon HD 6450, for example. This $55 card offers DirectX 11 support and should wipe the floor with an Intel IGP. The thing is, the Radeon isn't much faster than Sandy Bridge's built-in graphics. The Radeon is quite a bit slower than a similarly priced GeForce GTS 430, too. And the real kicker? Both of those budget cards look a bit silly considering the vastly superior performance offered by graphics cards around the $100 mark. Integrated graphics implementations are more potent than ever, and that makes meaningful upgrades costlier than they've been before.
crookedvulture writes: Nvidia has uncorked another mid-range graphics card, the GeForce GTX 560 Ti. Every tech site on the web seems to have coverage of this new $250 offering, and The Tech Report's review will tell you all you need to know about the various flavors available, including how their performance compares to cards from 2-3 years ago. Interestingly, the review concludes that pretty much any modern mid-range graphics card offers smooth frame rates while playing the latest games at the common desktop resolution of 1920x1080. You may want to pay closer attention to power consumption and noise levels when selecting a new card.
crookedvulture writes: Nvidia continues to trickle its Fermi architecture into more affordable territory by today introducing the GeForce GTS 450 at just $130. AMD covered this ground a year ago with the Radeon HD 5700 series, and The Tech Report has put together a thorough analysis of the GTX 450's performance, power consumption, and noise levels to see if it was worth the wait. The verdict: although the GTS 450 can play a surprising number of recent games with little compromise, it's really no faster than the old 5700 series. But the new GF106 graphics chip that underpins Nvidia's latest GeForce also has some extra capacity held in reserve; we could see beefier versions of the card if rumors that AMD is slated to update its budget graphics lineup hold true.