Will AMD's XvBA Beat Out NVIDIA's VDPAU?
Written by Michael Larabel in AMD on 6 July 2009 at 07:15 PM EDT. 71 Comments
Going back to last year we have exclusively been reporting on AMD's new HD video decoding interface, which is called XvBA. This interface for use with UVD2 GPUs is properly known as X-Video Bitstream Acceleration, which we have already described at length. XvBA itself has been supported by the proprietary ATI Catalyst Linux driver going back to Q4'08, but AMD has yet to release the documentations to this video API so developers of multimedia programs can implement this support. Of course, they also haven't released any patches themselves to add XvBA support to any programs, thereby rendering the current ATI Linux HD video decoding support as useless. Meanwhile, NVIDIA's VDPAU video API that was introduced around the same time continues to flourish with it being adopted by most Linux multimedia programs and it offers impressive results. Finally though it looks like AMD may be prepared to launch XvBA formally this summer.

Gwenolé Beauchesne is a developer working for a French company on various multimedia APIs who through agreements with AMD has been exposed to the X-Video Bitstream Acceleration API already. Gwenolé previously wrote the VA-API support for MPlayer / FFmpeg and even a VDPAU back-end for VA-API. Recently though he published Linux video decoding acceleration benchmarks.

While each system is comprised of different hardware beyond just the GPU, there are benchmarks from Intel's VA-API, NVIDIA's VDPAU, and AMD's XvBA. Testing was done with MPlayer and FFmpeg. On the AMD side he admitted to using an xvba-video package, which is currently not publicly available. For what these results are worth, XvBA on a Radeon HD 4870 it had lower CPU utilization when decoding VC-1 video clips over a system using VDPAU with a NVIDIA 8600GT. When it came to decoding an H.264 stream, the NVIDIA API reigned superior in this set of tests. The Intel Poulsbo system also performed admirably with VA-API. VA-API, XvBA, and VDPAU were all of course well ahead of the traditional X-Video performance.

Regardless of which video API delivers lower CPU utilization and power consumption, VDPAU is supported in MPlayer, FFmpeg, MythTV, Xine, VLC, XBMC, and other programs. If AMD is to simply release some documentation on XvBA, it will still be a while before seeing widespread support and adoption.

With Gwenolé Beauchesne now coming forward with XvBA results on Linux, could AMD soon be lifting the curtain on this video API? Let's hope to see support for it within MPlayer / FFmpeg in the near future or at least some documentation. It has been a number of months since there were any particularly exciting additions to the Catalyst Linux driver, so perhaps we soon will be seeing video playback improvements.
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Michael Larabel is the principal author of Phoronix.com and founded the site in 2004 with a focus on enriching the Linux hardware experience. Michael has written more than 10,000 articles covering the state of Linux hardware support, Linux performance, graphics drivers, and other topics. Michael is also the lead developer of the Phoronix Test Suite, Phoromatic, and OpenBenchmarking.org automated benchmarking software. He can be followed via Twitter or contacted via MichaelLarabel.com.

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