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BadaBOOM Media Converter, Folding@Home

Nvidia GeForce GTX 260/280 Review
By , Florian Charpentier

BadaBOOM Media Converter is a video transcoder developed by Elemental Technologies that converts Video DVDs (MPEG2 only) to H.264 for the major PMPs, essentially iPhone, iPod and PSP (via predefined profiles only). Optimized for CUDA (via the RapiHD video platform from ETI), it makes good use of the power of compatible GeForces (all GeForce 8 and 9 cards) to accelerate this very calculation-intensive task – which incidentally had been introduced by AMD via the AVIVO. However, Elemental’s transcoder is less buggy and has better compression speed.

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With the preview version, unfortunately compatible only with the GT 200, we were able to compress our test video (400 MB) in iPhone format (640*365) at maximum quality in 56.5 seconds on the 260 GTX and 49 seconds on the 280 GTX (15% faster). For comparison purposes, the iTunes H.264 encoder took eight minutes using the CPU (consuming more power overall but significantly less on peaks). Remember, though, that it’s far from being the most optimized H.264 compressor and that BadaBOOM’s lack of flexibility is painfully obvious, even if the results are good.

Folding@Home

We also had access to a pre-beta client of Folding@Home using CUDA, whose final version should be available a few days from now, but which unfortunately was also able to run only on the GeForce 200.

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Here again, Nvidia has over a year’s lag behind ATI, whose Radeons are included in the project, but the GeForce 200 (since we weren’t able to test any others) still showed superior performance. We measured our test configuration at 560 ns/day with the 280 GTX and 480 ns/day with the 260 GTX. For comparison, PS3s generally score performance in the neighborhood of 150-200 ns/day, compared to less than 10 for the processor and 200 for a simple Radeon HD 3870.

What needs to be understood, though, is that performances can easily vary depending on the optimization of the client for a given architecture (code optimizations were far from complete in the case of the ATI and Nvidia clients). Mike H feels that the same HD 3870 should be able to reach 300 ns/day, and at least 250. Another problem is that with a change of protein, which is necessary in the case of the GeForce client, performance also changes. In short, for the moment we have to stress the random and temporary nature of the results given above. What’s certain is that the arrival of a client that supports CUDA-compatible GeForce cards (all the ones from GeForce 8 on, including entry-level cards) is an opportunity for the project, since the installed base represents approximately 7,000 TFlops.

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