Avivo HD

Avivo is the name of the 2D enhancements provided by ATI chips on their Radeon X1000 series. These 2D enhancements include things like MPEG2 decoding (for decoding DVDs using the video card instead of the CPU) and de-interlacing (to enhance quality of videos originally aired or created for TV). Click here for full description of the Avivo engine.

Now with the new Radeon HD 2000 series AMD is introducing the second generation of Avivo, called Avivo HD, privileging HD (high definition) contents, making it possible for the graphics chip (GPU) to decode HD-TV, HD-DVD, Blu-Ray and MPEG-4 (a.k.a. H.264) contents (just for the record, HD-DVD and Blu-Ray use a compression algorithm called VC-1).

Why putting DVD, HD-DVD, Blu-Ray and MPEG-4 decoding on the graphics chip is so important? Because it lowers the CPU load, meaning that the computer will work more “light”. It is not only that. When the CPU reaches its maximum load when decoding a disc or video file, it will start dropping frames – i.e., you start getting less than 30 frames per second. What happens is that you see that something is wrong with the video and that the characters movements are somewhat “robotic”.

The problem decoding HD standards is the first decoding stage, entropy decode. On both Avivo and Purevideo HD (the technology equivalent to Avivo on NVIDIA world) this stage is still done by the CPU. With Avivo HD AMD was able to put this stage on the graphics chip as well, as you can see on the comparison chart shown in Figure 14.

Avivo HDFigure 14: Comparison between Avivo HD and other decoding technologies available.

According to AMD, even new NVIDIA products known today by their codenames G84 and G86 won’t be able do fully decode HD-DVD and Blu-Ray discs, still relying on the system CPU for the first decoding stage, entropy decode. These future chips will be able, however, to fully decode MPEG-4 contents using the graphics chip.

Avivo HDFigure 15: Comparison between Avivo HD and future Purevideo technology that will be used on G86 and G84 products from NVIDIA.

Another advantage pointed out by AMD is that using the GPU for decoding video the system draws less power and with the new Avivo HD you will be able to watch a full-length HD-DVD or Blu-Ray disc on a laptop running on batteries.

A new feature introduced by Avivo HD refers to HDCP, the encryption mechanism to allow playing protected contents such as HD-DVD and Blu-Ray discs. Normally an external ROM chip is needed to store the encryption keys. On the Radeon HD 2000 series these keys are stored inside the chip, lowering the cost of manufacturing video cards compatible with HDCP and improving compatibility with HDCP standard.

At last but not at least, the new Radeon HD 2000 family has HDMI with audio on the same connector without the need of connecting any audio cable to the video card – the video card re-routes digital audio information from the chipset directly to the video card using the PCI Express bus. Other video cards when having a HDMI connector only provide digital video and not audio (there are some video cards with HDMI supporting digital audio, but you need to install an external cable connecting the motherboard SPDIF connector to the video card). Click here to learn more about HDMI.

To use the HDMI connector on any video card from the ATI Radeon HD 2000 series you just need to install an adapter on the DVI connector, like shown in Figure 16.

HDMIFigure 16: HDMI output on a Radeon HD 2900 XT.

Gabriel Torres is a Brazilian best-selling ICT expert, with 24 books published. He started his online career in 1996, when he launched Clube do Hardware, which is one of the oldest and largest websites about technology in Brazil. He created Hardware Secrets in 1999 to expand his knowledge outside his home country.