AMD Radeon HD 7950 Launch Review

Product: AMD Radeon HD 7950 Video Card
Company: AMD
Author: James Prior
Editor: Charles Oliver
Date: January 31st, 2012


The media features of AMD's Radeon HD 7900 series are identical to the 6900 series, except for one additional piece of fixed function hardware inside the GPU. Now accompanying the 3rd generation universal video decoder (UVD 3) is a video codec engine (VCE), designed to accelerate the encoding or transcoding of video to H.264. This massively common standard is used for video streaming, be it for one-way streaming of pre-encoded video, or on-the-fly video conferencing. AMD's VCE is faster than realtime at encoding 1080p60 video into H.264, with two modes - full fixed or hybrid.

Full fixed mode only uses the VCE hardware for conversion, and does offer variable compression quality. In full mode, the image or reference frames are processed, with the CPU aiding in rate control. Hybrid mode allows the video to be processed using compute techniques, as defined/decided by the application, before the VCE performs the final entropy encode to create the final compressed H.264 output.


New and updated applications will be able to improve quality or speed of video streaming or encoding by using the VCE and GPGPU techniques. Additionally, the new Quad sum of absolute differences instructions allow techniques like stereoscopic conversion of flat images to be processed much faster, in real time. QSAD acceleration allows for faster motion estimation, too, to improve the quality of hand-held videos and remove handycam shake.

Despite the roadblocks and stalling by various industry companies and organizations, digital content delivery is increasing at an ever-growing pace. Fixed function hardware to decrease the time spent waiting for video to be prepared for upload to social media is becoming more prevalent, and more important. The decoding and processing of images to display on user displays is also increasing, as telecommunications is gradually transitioning to internet protocol based applications capable of video conferencing with multiple participants. AMD's UVD and VCE engines are important for these applications, as are the media instructions and compute capabilities for image post processing and enhancement inherent in the card.

Application controlled brightness/saturation/contrast and tint is the normal setting but AMD advanced settings color - vibrance and flesh tone correction - are enabled. For video quality, the default settings offer processing effects for edge-enhancement, de-noise, mosquito noise reduction, deblocking and dynamic contrast. These effects are applied to locally played video and not internet streamed sources unless the checkbox is ticked also. Both automatic deinterlacing and smooth video playback are enabled by default, which drops frames or adjusts settings to maintain framerate rather than juddering or halting. The deinterlacing options are currently very useful for standard definition and some high definition video content, but interlaced content is becoming rarer. AMD's Vector Adaptive deinterlacing is the best quality option today, once smooth playback and auto selection of deinterlacing method are disabled.

AMD Steady Video is not available on processors other than AMD's, so most people will not get to enjoy the benefits of Steady Video 2 new improved algorithm taking advantage of Tahiti's QSAD capabilities. On all-AMD equipped platforms however, Steady Video 2 can be applied to both internet streaming and locally played media, with varying levels of adjustment and compensation including an IE9 plugin. It works pretty good, with the level of zoom and compensation real time adjustable to give the best flexibility for different levels of shakiness.