There are some new benchmarks that imply Intel’s new CPU (Sandy Bridge) may actually match dedicated GPUs at video transcoding.
Intel today showed for the first time special new CPU instructions in action optimized for this task. Encoding performance is a tricky business and all details are not available yet, but what we have so far is Intel looking very good.
The numbers compare standard Core i7 quad-core encoding with NVidia GPU and Sandy Bridge CPU encoding performance. The encoders used were Handbrake (x264) for Core i7, Badaboom for NVidia’s GTX 260 GPU. The Sandy Bridge encoder is not known but Intel maintains its own encoder so it may be a special version optimized for Sandy Bridge.
*Units are seconds of source video, not frames
The source and target video profiles were respectively 1080p and iPhone 480x320.
Grains of Salt
Now for the caveats and uncertainties that must be understood to put these numbers in context. Consider the above numbers rough comparisons for reasons including the following:
- The encoder settings and output quality are not known to be equivalent. This can make a massive difference in results.
- I did not run the benchmarks myself. The Core i7/Badaboom numbers come from overclockersclub, and the Intel benchmarks were timed by Anand Lal Shimpi on his watch from the audience.
- We don’t know the exact clock speed and turbo mode for the Sandy Bridge demo. It could be a mid-range model or a high-end extreme equivalent.
- X-Factor: The x264 encoder runs on CPUs only and it is widely considered the best encoder available. On their team are some insane geniuses who seem to be able to optimize almost anything. So if Intel's encoder is fast, the x264 version will likely be even faster.
Caveats not withstanding we are gettting a glimpse of the CPU/GPU video encoding battle shaping up here. For a company like Badaboom the final results could determine their entire viability as a going concern. For NVidia GPU encoding has been the poster child for one of the most mainstream uses of general purpose GPU computing. For Intel it’s about staying relevant for more workloads in a new era of massively parallel computing.
So what do you think, will Badaboom or NVidia be hurt by Sandy Bridge? Or is it too little too late for Intel in the encoding battle?
The final answers will start to unfold when official Sandy Bridge review samples arrive before the end of 2010.