Thursday, 5 April 2012

Intel Graphics really do leave a lot to be desired

Sapphire HD 4350
In the Plex setup post, I noted that I'd observed some stutter on content being played on this machine. In viewing more content, I realised it was actually pretty bad, SD content would have skips and stutters on long pans, zooms & tracks. HD content would hardly play at all, dropping a lot of frames.

I'd configured the machine with the onboard X3500 graphics which provide HDMI and VGA outputs. With the HDMI connected to my Sony Bravia and with the latest Intel drivers, no settings in driver control panel or inside Plex seemed to have any affect.

I decided to try a discrete video card to confirm whether or not it's a problem with the intel video chipset.

I have a few PCIe cards lying around, specifically Sapphire Radeon HD4350, 4850 and 4870s. I popped in the HD4350 as it's a silent model (no fan) and requires no additional power connections. It sports 2x DVI outs and 1GB memory. It didn't come with a DVI-HDMI adapter but I had one lying around.

Finding drivers was not very straightforward. The AMD site does not yet have catalyst drivers for Windows 8 so I went ahead and downloaded the Windows 7 drivers and installed them. All seemed to go well but no dice. The Catalyst Control software would not start (stating there was noting to control) and the Device Manager showed the video driver as the bog-standard microsoft one.

I clicked Update Driver on the device manager properties screen and pointed to the AMD directory where the drivers had been unpacked as part of the install proces. Viola! Both outputs sprang to life, the native resolution of my Bravia was recognised and Plex HD content runs smooth as silk. Result.

Even better (and unexpected), the DVI out on the card pushes audio when the DVI-HDMI adapter is connected. I wasn't aware this was possible so it's a nice surprise!

I've connected up the other output on the card to my Sony Projector via VGA and mirrored the outputs so I now have the same picture on two screens, one in the lounge and one in the home theatre. Nice.

While this solves the problem of smooth video playback, it's taken up a PCIe x16 slot leaving me with just two 1x PCIe slots remaining free. I had intended putting an 8 port  PCIe SATA  controller card in this machine but will now need to be content with a pair of 4x cards in the 1x slots.

And that will fill all expansion slots as I've got the Delta 410 card in the PCI slot. Maybe I need a better motherboard.

No comments: