A month ago NVIDIA had introduced the Video Decode and Presentation API for Unix (VDPAU) that brought PureVideo-like features to Linux. Our initial benchmarks of this video decoding API within NVIDIA's binary driver were quite favorable as it was able to dramatically cut down on the CPU usage when playing H.264 video files. To see how well NVIDIA's VDPAU really is though, we have carried out some more thorough testing now and our hardware consists of a CPU we purchased for $20 USD and a NVIDIA GeForce graphics card that retails for just $30. Can this very low-end hardware manage to play high definition videos under Linux?
The testing in this article is similar to our original NVIDIA VDPAU benchmarks, but we have now benchmarked not only H.264 but also WMV3 and MPEG acceleration and our test system is very economical. The CPU we used for this latest round of testing is an AMD Sempron LE-1150. The AMD Sempron LE-1150 is a single-core "Sparta" processor clocked at 2.0GHz and built on a 65nm process. There is only 256KB of L2 cache unlike the newer AMD Phenom CPUs that have 512KB of L2 cache for each of its four cores or even some of the Athlon 64 CPUs that have 1MB of L2 cache. One nice feature though about this processor is the 45W thermal design, which makes it ideal for small form factor PCs and media center PCs where minimal active cooling is preferred to keep a low noise level. The voltage range for this low-end processor is 1.20/1.35/1.40V. We purchased this processor brand new for $22 USD with its stock heatsink.
Our $30 graphics card was an ASUS GeForce 8400GS, which actually cost $32 USD with shipping. The ASUS GeForce 8400GS has 256MB of GDDR2 video memory with a 64-bit interface and memory clock of 333MHz. The core clock for the 8400GS is 500MHz. This ASUS graphics card uses a passive aluminum heatsink for cooling the GeForce 8400GS. The power consumption for this graphics card is about 38 Watts. The GeForce 8400GS is available in a PCI model for those wanting to use this low-end graphics card on say an Intel Atom system, but we were using the PCI Express x16 version. The 8400GS core is built on an 80nm manufacturing process and has 16 stream processors.