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AMD's Avivo HD slide material specifically details AMD UVD as a subset of the Avivo HD family (Source: TechReport, Scott Wasson)

AMD guide highlighting the lack of UVD from the same presentation as above (Source: Beyond3D, Geo Rule)
Regardless of what you may have heard, ATI's newest Radeon does not have hardware or software HD acceleration

AMD has hit another obstacle with its ATI Radeon HD 2900 XT. After constant delays, weak performance improvements and questionable benchmark tactics, AMD’s Universal Video Decoder is the new source of controversy.

The ATI Radeon HD 2900 XT lacks AMD’s highly touted UVD hardware video processing engine, a feature highlighted in roadmaps. Not only that, AMD continues to tout its entire ATI Radeon HD 2000-series as having UVD, when in fact it is only the 65nm HD 2600 and HD 2400 series that possess the hardware decoding capabilities.

Scott Wasson from TechReport came across the issue while testing the UVD features. "True to my word, I set out yesterday to test HD video decode acceleration on a Radeon HD 2900 XT using an HD DVD drive and a version of PowerDVD supplied by AMD for such purposes," he said. "To my surprise, CPU utilization during playback on our Core 2 Extreme X6800 test system ran between 40 and 50%, well above what one would expect from a solution with full HD video decode acceleration."

Wasson proceeded to contact AMD with his results. AMD confirmed the ATI Radeon HD 2900 XT does indeed lack UVD hardware processing capabilities on the GPU and offers video decoding performance on par with the last generation ATI Radeon X1000-series, according to Dave Bauman, technical marketing manager, ATI.

AMD advertises the ATI Radeon HD 2900 XT features Avivo HD support, despite the lack of UVD. AMD’s Avivo HD page lists UVD as part of the Avivo HD feature set.
Smooth HD Video Playback with UVD
ATI Avivo HD technology is designed for high-end, high definition video playback in home theater systems. Free your CPU to power other applications with new UVD (Unified Video Decoder) hardware processing of HD video formats.

UVD is a dedicated video decode processing unit on ATI Radeon HD 2000 series graphics processors that offloads both CPU and GPU rendering pipelines. UVD technology reduces power use, decreases system noise and increases notebook battery life during HD video playback.

Wasson was not the only journalist fooled by AMD’s presentations and guides, Marco Chiapetta of HotHardware and Ryan Shrout of PC Perspective have become victims as well.

AMD public relations, speaking off the record, tells DailyTech that all trade publications should have known UVD was not present on the 2900 XT.  One representative cites the Radeon 2900 family introduction (PDF), claiming, "ATI Avivo HD is a technology platform that includes a broad set of capabilities offered by certain ATI Radeon HD 2000 GPUs. Not all products have all features and full enablement of some ATI AvivoHD capabilities may require complementary products."

Geo Rule from Beyond3D points out that other AMD guidance did indicate UVD was not present on R600.  More specifically, he adds that the UVD feature slide never explicitly states UVD is present on Radeon HD 2900, while the same slide states UVD is present on Radeon HD 2400 and Radeon HD 2600.

When asked why AMD never contacted any trade publications to correct the misconception that UVD was included in Radeon 2900, our contact declined to comment.  He did add that full HD acceleration is present on the R600 ASIC, and it will eventually be enabled via driver updates.

“Unfortunately, try as we might, we could not get UVD to work with the current drivers provided by AMD and the PowerDVD release that is supposed to enable the hardware acceleration on HD 2000 series parts,” states AnandTech Senior CPU and Graphics Editor Derek Wilson. “We will have to take a second look at hardware decode when AMD and CyberLink or Intervideo get their software in order.”

AMD has not released a driver that takes advantage of the ATI Radeon HD 2000-series multimedia features nor has a software company released a player that takes advantage of the hardware.

Last year ATI made false claims of HDCP compatibility with its Radeon X1900-series graphics cards, despite the lack of HDCP keys.  Eventually ATI was sued over these claims under false advertising pretenses.

ATI board partners potentially face the same false advertising claims.  Today, no less than four AIB partners claim UVD support on their Radeon HD 2900 XT boxart.  Surprisingly absent from that list: Built-by-ATI boards.


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RE: That Hurts
By drebo on 5/25/2007 6:45:59 PM , Rating: 3
Uhm, didn't we already know this? I distinctly remember seeing an HD DVD benchmark that had the 2600 outperforming the 2900 and pointing to this as the cause.

Strike one for the sensationalists.


RE: That Hurts
By drebo on 5/25/2007 6:49:22 PM , Rating: 2
I stand corrected. The article I was thinking of was for the 8600 series.

Still, though. Why is this a bad thing when it's AMD leaving it out of the high end card, when none of the 8800-series GeForce cards have full hardware decode accelleration?


RE: That Hurts
By gramboh on 5/25/2007 6:52:31 PM , Rating: 2
I know it isn't in my 8800GTS and I think that is stupid, the technology was there and for the price of a higher end card they should include hardware decoding, even if most machines using the card are powerful enough to do it CPU.


RE: That Hurts
By Christopher1 on 5/26/2007 9:43:23 AM , Rating: 2
I have to agree. What about the people who are running a MM system with more than one monitor, and want to do something else while their kids are watching a movie, or something similar?


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