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EPIA MII 12000 Review
Posted on May 18, 2004 Jump to:

Video Playback Tests

Many people purchase EPIAs as multimedia playback devices. There are several different media formats widely available for purchase and download. Different formats are encoded at varying degrees of compression - some easier to decode than others. CLE266 EPIAs are optimised for MPEG2 decoding in hardware.

We chose 6 representative samples and checked the CPU utilisation whilst playing back a movie at full screen in 1024x768 resolution, with default playback quality settings for DivX and XviD content. We watched for stutters, loss of audio sync, bad picture quality and general nastiness. We didn't test with all the boards, instead choosing the EPIA MII 10000 and EPIA MII 12000 to see if the additional horsepower was beneficial.

We used Cyberlink PowerDVD and the Core Media Player for playback, and the Windows task manager to measure CPU utilisation. Anything peaking at 100% is bad, causing loss of picture or audio quality.

VCD Playback

Neither of the boards had difficulties playing a VCD at full screen. VCD is a very loosely compressed MPEG1 format, requiring little CPU.

DVD Playback

The EPIAs all had no problems, delivering a smooth, clear picture - as you would expect from a chipset optimised for MPEG2 decoding. Remember to turn the hardware acceleration in PowerDVD *on* before playing DVDs for the first time on your EPIA.

SVCD Playback

Task Manager - SVCD Playback

SVCD is an MPEG2 based codec, and PowerDVD was happy to use the hardware decoding of the EPIAs. SVCD and VCD are both well defined formats, with standardised bit rates for video and audio. CPU utilisation was low here, with the classic peaks and troughs that come with fixed bit rate video playback. We opened our SVCD almost half way along this graph, after opening and closing a few windows first.

DivX3 AVI Playback

Content in the DivX format abounds on the internet and varies widely in quality and bit rates. There are no fixed standards - one encoder might use the default settings in their ripping program, another might perform all manner of processing wizardry to squeeze the best picture onto a 700MB CD. The EPIAs had no such problems, producing smooth video straight from the CD.

DivX4 with AC3 AVI Playback

Our next choice was a DivX4 encoded movie with an 1810 kBit/s video stream and 384 kBits/s AC3 audio stream. To pass this test, the CPU not only had to decompress the video, but decode the surround sound too. Again, the EPIAs managed without any loss of quality. This was probably the trickiest DivX movie we could find, most movies are encoded at under 1000 kBit/s.

XviD with AC3 AVI Playback

XviD with AC3 AVI Playback

Finally, we chose an XviD encoded movie with AC3 to see what the differences were. Both boards produced excellent results. CPU utilisation was near-identical on both boards - the graph above shows the peaks when opening a movie, and resizing it to full screen after a few seconds.

Optimising Video Playback

Video codecs are increasingly efficient and encoding bitrates have become more standardised - we got better results playing back the same type of content than we did a year ago on the same boards.

Problems can still occur on any machine - but most video playback problems such as skipping and freezing are resolvable, often by some fairly simple software tweaks. There are several troubleshooting guides out there - these our current favourites for DivX and XviD:

DivX FAQ at divxmovies.com

XviD FAQ at xvidmovies.com

Measuring Audio Quality -->

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