Matrox CompressHD Test Drive

millimeter by Jan Ozer

A funny thing happened on the way to this installment of Affordable HD. Psyched by the arrival of the outstanding liquid-cooled HP Z800 (read about the Z800's liquid-cooling system), I has scheduled a review of Matrox’s hot, new H.264 co-processor board, CompressHD, figuring if the card could outperform HP’s 3.2GHz dual-processor, quad-core Intel Nehalem-based system, it was really something. Unfortunately, as sometimes happens in this business, Matrox’s delivery of the brand-new Windows-based drivers slipped. So, I had to console myself testing a beta sample of Matrox’s upcoming 1.6 Macintosh-compatible CompressHD release on my 2.93GHz dual-processor, quad-core Nehalem-based Mac Pro system (read about the Mac Pro's performance).

By way of background, CompressHD costs $495 and is based upon a chip from ASIC vendor Ambarella. Matrox started shipping CompressHD for the Mac soon after NAB Show 2009, but version 1.6 of the software debuts support for Apple Final Cut Pro 7 and Compressor 3.5. Matrox also updated the internal operation to maximize overall compressed quality and changed how you work with the card in Compressor.

In my tests, CompressHD performed much faster than Compressor 3.5, delivered superior H.264 quality and output HD H.264 footage compatible with Blu-ray authoring for both Apple and Adobe Encore CS4, though not at first. De-interlacing quality, which is critical when working with interlaced source footage, was very good. read more...

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