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H.264 encoding - CPU vs GPU: Nvidia CUDA, AMD Stream, Intel MediaSDK and x264
by Guillaume Louel
Published on August 18, 2011


ArcSoft Media Converter, Inception 1080p

While the Arcsoft encoder still uses a variable frame rate, in practice it’s as if it didn’t (via MediaInfo):

Original frame rate: 23.976 fps
Minimum frame rate: 23.976 fps
Maximum frame rate: 23.976 fps

Let’s look at the results of the various encoders included in ArcSoft Media Converter:

Use an HTML5 compatible browser to view the graph!
Click here to view the PSNR graph of this scene.


The CPU version seems to do best whether in the explosion scenes or the calmer ones. Is this borne out in practice?

Click here to display the frame comparison in a new tab.


Even if the result is far from perfect, the CPU encoder does best in terms of conservation of detail. The Radeon encoder is literally nowhere, the baseline profile having exceeded itself!

Click here to display the frame comparison in a new tab.


On more static frames, you can once again see the loss of sharpness on the face with the Intel MediaSDK encoder. This is particularly visible on the forehead. There’s a loss in grain in the background texture and increased artefacts. The Radeon encoding is of comparatively better quality, quite close to the quality with the CPU encoder.


K-On !! 1080p

Once again the Arcsoft CPU encoder uses a variable frame rate (via MediaInfo):

Frame rate mode Variable
Frame rate: 23.976 fps
Minimum frame rate: 7.992 fps
Maximum frame rate: 47.952 fps

The final 11 frames from the original video are missing which makes the scores for this encoder invalid. Let’s nevertheless look at the results on the scene we've isolated:
Use an HTML5 compatible browser to view the graph!
Click here to view the PSNR graph of this scene.


The scores are relatively high, but as we saw in practice on the 720p version, this doesn’t mean very much. Will this result in a blurred image once again with our encoders?


In terms of encoding time, there’s an enormous difference from one card to another here, and this time the Radeon HD 6970 is fastest.

Click here to display the frame comparison in a new tab.


You can find better! Once again the Arcsoft CUDA encoder does well on this scene, in which it conserves the grain best. The Radeon Stream encoder renders an artistic blur while the CPU and MediaSDK versions are slightly better, without being perfect.

Click here to display the frame comparison in a new tab.


The reason for the weaker scores for the CUDA encoder becomes clearer when you look carefully at the lines. The line above our point of interest disappears slightly, which is what makes the difference. There are still some small artefacts on the solid colours, though we’d be happy with such a result in all of our tests!

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