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macrumors bot
Original poster
Apr 12, 2001
54,972
17,356


Tonight, forum user MGLXP noticed that playback of 1080p high definition trailers from Apple took far less CPU time on his new aluminum MacBook (28% CPU) as compared to his old MacBook Pro (100% CPU). Both computers shared the same CPU speed, but the new MacBook includes the NVIDIA 9400M integrated graphics chipset, while the old MacBook Pro uses the NVIDIA 8600M GT.

This suggests that the version of Mac OS X on newly released MacBooks, MacBook Pros and MacBook Airs based on the new NVIDIA chipsets now offers GPU-accelerated h.264 video decoding for the first time. While Apple has previously included graphics cards (such as the NVIDIA 8600M GT) that have contained hardware support for h.264 decoding, the company has apparently had not previously taken advantage of it.

Multiple readers have confirmed similar findings on their new MacBooks and MacBook Pros, though it appears it can be movie-specific, as one video showed little difference between the machines. We assume the new MacBook Air would share the same advantage as it is based on the same graphics chipset as the new MacBook, though we haven't heard from an Air owner yet.

These changes could be based on improvements planned for Snow Leopard. Apple had previously announced that "QuickTime X" would be a feature in Snow Leopard to offer optimized media playback:
Using media technology pioneered in OS X iPhone™, Snow Leopard introduces QuickTime X, which optimizes support for modern audio and video formats resulting in extremely efficient media playback.
Readers should be reminded that without official confirmation from Apple, we are only speculating as to the reason behind the CPU usage difference. If true, however, we would hope that Apple would incorporate support for older Macs that have the necessary hardware in a future software update.


Article Link
 

cwcarr

macrumors newbie
May 19, 2008
7
1
Different decoder?

Did anyone else notice that the old MacBook uses the term "H.264 Decoder" in the "Format:" details, whereas the new MacBook simply says "H.264"?
Given that they are both Mac OS X 10.5.5 and everything is otherwise the same, that small difference may be an indication that the decoder module QuickTime is using is indeed different.
 

arn

macrumors god
Staff member
Apr 9, 2001
16,262
5,472
Did anyone else notice that the old MacBook uses the term "H.264 Decoder" in the "Format:" details, whereas the new MacBook simply says "H.264"?
Given that they are both Mac OS X 10.5.5 and everything is otherwise the same, that small difference may be an indication that the decoder module QuickTime is using is indeed different.

Ya... well, the new machines do have new versions of Mac OS X (still 10.5.5, but a later build). People always get confused about this, but Apple has to issue a "special" version of Mac OS X when they introduce new machines, since there is new hardware in the new machines that didn't exist when 10.5.5 was first introduced.

I also asked the poster. QuickTime was a bit higher build too (249.24) vs (249.13), though copying QuickTime from one machine to the other didn't transfer the benefits.

arn
 

Rocketman

macrumors 603
All I know is on a PB G4 867 PPC 10.4.11 I cannot play a HD video I took myself essentially at all.

On a MacBook 2006 Intel it barely plays. Somewhat choppy at times. Not h264 in either case.

It seems we are only barely getting hardware up to the task of playing common modern TV.

That is a bit disappointing.

Rocketman
 

Pigumon

macrumors 6502
Aug 4, 2004
441
1
Great!!!

I hope this makes it into the next Mac Mini... a cheap mac that can play full FPS HD content.

Also.. can't wait to see what the NEGATIVE posts will be... always 20% negative to any story, minimum.
 

hanschien

macrumors 6502
Oct 2, 2006
337
13
Houston, TX
Ya... well, the new machines do have new versions of Mac OS X (still 10.5.5, but a later build). People always get confused about this, but Apple has to issue a "special" version of Mac OS X when they introduce new machines, since there is new hardware in the new machines that didn't exist when 10.5.5 was first introduced.

I also asked the poster. QuickTime was a bit higher build too (249.24) vs (249.13), though copying QuickTime from one machine to the other didn't transfer the benefits.

arn

So if one were to run the OS from the Late 2008 MBP via Target Disk Mode on an older MBP, will there be a noticeable difference?
 

Omni Geno

macrumors regular
Apr 8, 2005
118
1
Los Angeles, CA, USA


Multiple readers have confirmed similar findings on their new MacBooks and MacBook Pros, though it appears it can be movie-specific, as one video showed little difference between the machines. We assume the new MacBook Air would share the same advantage as it is based on the same graphics chipset as the new MacBook, though we haven't heard from an Air owner yet.

Article Link


Maybe it depends how the video was encoded as well. Not too familiar w/ the technical details of encoding h.264, but I'm sure there must've been some technical differences between the video streams that were apparently offloaded onto the GPU and those that weren't.
 

arn

macrumors god
Staff member
Apr 9, 2001
16,262
5,472
So if one were to run the OS from the Late 2008 MBP via Target Disk Mode on an older MBP, will there be a noticeable difference?

I guess someone will have to try it. I don't know how similar the various NVIDIA graphics cards (from the perspective of the OS) and if the support is built in that generically.

arn
 

840quadra

Moderator
Staff member
Feb 1, 2005
8,836
5,077
Twin Cities Minnesota
Great post. I was really curious as to why this MBP running only 800Mhz faster than my previous Macbook, was using so much less CPU when watching some previously encoded HD video.

I think I am going to start playing with this now too!

840
 

termite

macrumors member
Oct 30, 2003
96
7
I'm surprised that H.264 acceleration is new: Apple has long had MPEG-2 acceleration, and H.264 is based on MPEG-2.

I've noticed on both Macs and Windows that Quicktime decode of h.264 depends upon who encoded it. Decode of FFMPEG-created 264 takes much more CPU than Quicktime-created 264.
 

refulgentis

macrumors regular
May 14, 2006
114
0
I'm surprised that H.264 acceleration is new: Apple has long had MPEG-2 acceleration, and H.264 is based on MPEG-2.

I've noticed on both Macs and Windows that Quicktime decode of h.264 depends upon who encoded it. Decode of FFMPEG-created 264 takes much more CPU than Quicktime-created 264.
H.264 isn't based on MPEG-2 in other sense then they're both video compression technologies.

There is no GPU acceleration of MPEG-2 decoding and there never has been, its not needed at all. My old 333 mhz Pentium II used to encode MPEG-2 in real time, much less decode.

That isn't true either: it's like saying reading English written by me is harder to read than English written by you if we're both selecting from the vocabulary. It's just flat out impossible, though it is possible that you ask me/the encoder to use more complex words (compression) that is harder to decode.

EDIT: Turns out I'm wrong, there are generic video decoding wrappers for GPUs that support MPEG-2, but that's not their primary purpose, any GPU decoding work nowadays is done solely for accelerating H.264, though they may use a more generic abstraction.
 

Peace

Cancelled
Apr 1, 2005
19,546
4,555
Space The Only Frontier
It's true..

Below is the movie Push on my iMac 3.06 , 2GB RAM with the 8800GS 512 VRAM compared to my Macbook 2.0 with 2GB RAM

Big difference.
 

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SydneyDev

macrumors 6502
Sep 15, 2008
346
0
It's more likely to be an improved NVidia driver than anything to do qith QuickTime X. Finally, decent NVidia drivers for the Mac. I wonder what would happen if someone copied the .kexts to a Mac Pro with Geforce 8800.
 

cwcarr

macrumors newbie
May 19, 2008
7
1
It's true..

Below is the movie Push on my iMac 3.06 , 2GB RAM with the 8800GS 512 VRAM compared to my Macbook 2.0 with 2GB RAM

Big difference.

This backs up the original article then (which is good): a change from "H.264 Decoder" to "H.264", and dramatically reduced CPU usage.
 

dolphin842

macrumors 65816
Jul 14, 2004
1,172
29
This is good news... hopefully they will add this support to other capable Mac GPUs. I'm wondering how this specific h264 decoding support might differ performance-wise from OpenCL-accelerated decoding, should the latter come with Snow Leopard?
 

arn

macrumors god
Staff member
Apr 9, 2001
16,262
5,472
It's more likely to be an improved NVidia driver than anything to do qith QuickTime X. Finally, decent NVidia drivers for the Mac. I wonder what would happen if someone copied the .kexts to a Mac Pro with Geforce 8800.

While that may be true, Apple has intimate involvement on what drivers are available for Mac OS X, so in the end it's in their hands.

arn
 

MGLXP

macrumors 6502
Sep 29, 2005
271
26
It's true..

Below is the movie Push on my iMac 3.06 , 2GB RAM with the 8800GS 512 VRAM compared to my Macbook 2.0 with 2GB RAM

Big difference.

The same point in the movie on my MacBook 2.4GHz, gives only 19% CPU usage.
 
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