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Help Choosing Graphics Card for HTPC

Last response: in Graphics & Displays
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February 26, 2007 6:02:17 PM

Hello All:

I have (almost) completed my HTPC build and would like some recommendations for a graphics card. My only interest is video for movies, etc. I am NOT interested in any gaming.

My rig is generally as follows:

Intel Core2Duo E6400 Conroe 2.13GHz
GIGABYTE GA-965P-S3 LGA 775 Intel P965 Express ATX Intel Motherboard
1 Gig of Memory
1 160Gig Seagate SATA drive (separate storage server for media)
Zalman HD135 box
Vista Ultimate

I currently am using an older Visiontek ATI Radeon 1300 card to feed my Halcro pre/pro to my Pioneer plasma (not a 1080p unit). Query whether I can or should try to do better, especially given the no gaming qualification above.

Many thanks for any thoughts.
John
February 26, 2007 6:49:01 PM

You could definitely do better than an X1300. It all depends on your budget. Since it's an HTPC, I would assume you want the card to be quiet. In that case a card with a heat sink (fanless) or silent pipe cooling would do fine. You could find 7600 GS's and GT's with these cooling solutions and be happy with the results. There are also a few choices from Ati if you wish to stick with them.

X1650 XT silence

7600 GS Silent Pipe

7600 GT Fatality

All of these would be good choices for just over $100. Though the 7600 GS would be the weakest of the choices. FYI there are other choices, these just stuck out to me and come with rebates.
February 26, 2007 7:01:48 PM

Thanks for the thoughts. To clarify on budget, I am pretty flexible but I would like to get away with spending less than $300.

John
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February 26, 2007 7:08:54 PM

Video or movies, if you're not gaming get the cheapest Radeon or Geforce you can find with quiet or silent cooling.

If you plan to watch protected HD DVDs/Blu-ray in the future, get one with HDCP and an HDMI output.
February 26, 2007 7:21:25 PM

Sorry to be a scrub, but i dont know what HTCP means, i assume its a media pc or something. in that case i would suggest the Ati All in Wonder x1900 as it has a tv tuner and other media features. Good Luck
February 26, 2007 7:24:18 PM

HDCP, which is a protocol along with the HDMI connector to watch protected HD DVD or Blu-ray content.

The X1900 AIW doesn't have it...
February 26, 2007 7:51:22 PM

Quote:
HDCP, which is a protocol along with the HDMI connector to watch protected HD DVD or Blu-ray content.

The X1900 AIW doesn't have it...

I knew what what HDCP was, But byt HTPC, now that i think about it, i think he meant "Home Theatre Personal Computer" i could be wrong. Aslo i am not sure but i think he said his TV is not HD, therefore he wont need HDCP, or the $500 drive to go w/ it
February 26, 2007 8:01:35 PM

Quote:
i think he said his TV is not HD, therefore he wont need HDCP, or the $500 drive to go w/ it


Yes, but if his next monitor is HDMI, it's a factor.

Optical disk technology has a way of becoming cheap very quickly, don't forget. Assuming he keeps the card for a year, HD DVD drives are likely going to be sub-$100, and if this is a home theatre PC there will be little reason to upgrade the videocard unless he wants to watch HD content in the future.

Something to think about anyway. If his budget is $300 he can certainly afford an HDCP/HDMI card.
February 26, 2007 8:03:06 PM

All:

Thanks for the thoughts. My monitor is most definitely an HD plasma display. However, it is NOT 1080p capable . . .
February 26, 2007 8:21:46 PM

Is there any particular reason you want to go with Ultimate? Home premium offers everything you'd need on an HTPC, you're only missing out on some business-related functionality. That would save you 50 bucks.

Currently there are no cards on the market that are fully HDCP compliant, don't let the advertising fool you. HDMI output from the video card is also useless, as DVI and HDMI are basically the exact same thing minus the carrying of audio. Adaptors can be had for less than $20 bucks. For now go with one of the 7600 or X1650's. If you decide you'd like to play HD content down the road you'll only be out a hundred bucks or so on your first video card.
February 26, 2007 8:33:36 PM

One of the primary reasons to have Ultimate is the easy ability to join a Widows domain, which I run in my home (both a file server and a storage server in my house).
February 26, 2007 8:55:20 PM

People tend to recommend overkill cards for HTPC duty, whereas I used a fanless 9250 on my htpc with 37" lcd for the last 6 months. I upgraded my HTPC to an onboard video Nvidia 6150! And the onscreen video performance on both is (was) more than adequate. And from what I've read the Nvidia 6150 onboard chip is capable of running Aeroglass. So buy something cheap and wait to see what the new standards end up being - then get something better.
February 26, 2007 9:11:20 PM

Ok, good, just wanted to make sure you weren't wasting money for functions you don't need.

Getting integrated graphics on a motherboard may not be a bad idea, you can always upgrade later, some of the new ones run aeroglass very well, and you don't have to worry about too much extra power and heat in your box. The new AMD 1250 is pretty darn sweet:

http://forums.techpowerup.com/showthread.php?t=25545

No word yet on pricing, but I'm guessing it'll be about 200 bucks, which would be cheaper than an S3 and comparable vid card anyway.
February 26, 2007 9:21:16 PM

Some of the ^^posters are not quite accurate in their representations. There actually are cards that are High Definition bandwidth Content Protection (HDCP) certified. They may be relying on an old, out-of-date article. Here's the current reference:

http://www.hardforum.com/showthread.php?t=1071342

HDMI, on the other hand, is somewhat in limbo as to certification, with a potential new one on the horizon. But they make converters for DVI to HDMI, so it's not that big a deal.

I also, IMHO, disagree with passively cooled cards for HTPC apps. It puts the ambient heat to the inside of the case, heating the interior and making the other fans work more, or harder. The card below exhausts its heat to the outside of the case, thereby enhancing the airflow through the case without adding additional heat.

This card is very cost effective, high performance it beats the 7900GT hands-down and actually is more on a par with the 7950GT. It is HDCP certified to the H.264 standard, and very quiet, which you want for HTPC applications.

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1681...

If you want more information on playback of high-def content, you might want to read this piece:

http://www.anandtech.com/video/showdoc.aspx?i=2886
February 26, 2007 9:36:40 PM

IMO if you want to wait until the HDCP/HDMI thing gets figured out then just stick w/ your 1300. It has AVIVO, and until you get a newer TV you won't need the HDCP. (I assume your non-1080p TV right now does not have it but I could be wrong)

For video, like cleeve said the cheapest current-gen card will do and your 1300 falls right into that spot already.

However, if you get a new card make sure it has HDCP so that you don't get bit by that later on.

my 2 bits, for what they are worth. 8)
February 26, 2007 9:46:13 PM

Quote:
Hello All:

I have (almost) completed my HTPC build and would like some recommendations for a graphics card. My only interest is video for movies, etc. I am NOT interested in any gaming.

My rig is generally as follows:

Intel Core2Duo E6400 Conroe 2.13GHz
GIGABYTE GA-965P-S3 LGA 775 Intel P965 Express ATX Intel Motherboard
1 Gig of Memory
1 160Gig Seagate SATA drive (separate storage server for media)
Zalman HD135 box
Vista Ultimate

I currently am using an older Visiontek ATI Radeon 1300 card to feed my Halcro pre/pro to my Pioneer plasma (not a 1080p unit). Query whether I can or should try to do better, especially given the no gaming qualification above.

Many thanks for any thoughts.
John



I run XPMC using the 6150 built in graphics to reduce noise/heat/space. It works fine and drives 1080 lines of resolution without any problems at all.
February 26, 2007 10:14:48 PM

Right, those cards are HDCP certified, but I was under the impression that the new DRM in Vista requires an updated HDCP cert that no cards currently support. I could be wrong, it's certainly happened before.
February 26, 2007 10:39:12 PM

Quote:
Right, those cards are HDCP certified, but I was under the impression that the new DRM in Vista requires an updated HDCP cert that no cards currently support. I could be wrong, it's certainly happened before.
The cards on the list ^^referenced are Vista certified; that means they meet all the current requirements, including DRM. What you have to be careful of is the manufacturer rhetoric. "Ready", "certified," and "capable" are the same thing. "Compatible" or just "HDCP" (as in the chip is on the card but isn't encoded to the H.264 standard), is not. And once manufactured, it can't be updated, like with bios.
February 26, 2007 10:53:39 PM

Right, but in order for HDCP to work, you need to have your video card plugged into an HDCP certified display and run an HDCP certified OS (Vista), and as far as I've heard, none of the new HD-DVD or BR titles even utilize HDCP, so it's kinda of a moot issue. It could become important in the future. Maybe they'll listen to the consumers and just do away with HDCP. Just kidding, they'll introduce a new certification that makes all existing hardware obsolete again.....sigh....
February 27, 2007 12:32:11 AM

Quote:
Maybe they'll listen to the consumers and just do away with HDCP. Just kidding, they'll introduce a new certification that makes all existing hardware obsolete again.....sigh....
A couple of companies, EMI and Apple, I think, are talking about dropping DRM. If we make enough (bad) noise, mayber they'll follow through. Hope springs eternal.
February 27, 2007 3:25:58 AM

Quote:
...like with bios.

bad analogy. Bios can be updated and/or changed, even on a video card.
a b U Graphics card
February 27, 2007 3:38:12 AM

I agree with sojrner, for now (until he moves to HD-DVD/BR) then the X1300 will be fine.

And when he does move, I have to say I really notice a fan in a PC, even the quiet AC ones, so something like that X1650XT silent would be perfect IMO, fully HDCP ready, power to spare for 720P resolutions (13x7/12x7), also enough power to accelerate H.264 media and take strain of a CPU.

One thing to consider, AVOID any nVidia card below the GF7600GT (the GF7600GS is not good enough), because you lose some of the PureVideoHD features. Also nV's video acceleration is power by specialized transistor pckage on the chip which is that same for all GF7600/7900 cards, and so the faster the core the better the acceleration (GF7600GT will do better than GF7900GS as well as the GF7600GS of course).

Personally I would say stick with the X1300 for now, and then when the midrange and low end of the next generation comes out (GF8600/X2600 and lower) then look at how they handle HDCP / video accel and things like Audio and Video through HDMI.

The X1950P is perfect if he were gaming at all, but IMO the X1650XT is better long term because regardless of even the golden silence, not having to worry about an HSF failure is a nice benefit for something like an HTPC.
February 27, 2007 2:25:44 PM

Many thanks to all for your input.

John
February 27, 2007 5:37:38 PM

Quote:
...like with bios.

bad analogy. Bios can be updated and/or changed, even on a video card. Which is exactly my point (though perhaps not clearly stated) that even though you can do bios updates on a video card, it won't change its HDCP capabilities if it was not enabled at the factory -- it is one component that cannot be updated.
February 27, 2007 5:45:49 PM

ahhhh, I understand what you meant now. I just read it wrong. My bad.


8)
February 27, 2007 6:04:35 PM

Quote:
ahhhh, I understand what you meant now. I just read it wrong. My bad.


8)
You're forgiven :wink: . Your observation helps make it clearer, anyway. Cheers.
March 26, 2007 4:00:05 PM

So - can anyone recommend a HDMI video card? I'm looking at bldg a HTPC as well and I've been holding off because of this.

Also, has anyone looked at the AMD / ATI 690G? According to what I've read it's the first chipset to offer HDMI on board.

Thanks...
March 26, 2007 9:54:05 PM

I've looked at the specs but those are too new. I always worry about compromises made to integrate stuff on the m/b. That's why people still buy add-in video cards and sound cards, etc. Why not just get a good video card with dual DVI and get a cable converter -- DVI to HDMI. Besides, the HDMI standards are changing too, from 1.1 to 1.2, just like DX is in the middle of.
March 26, 2007 11:44:11 PM

Ok...

How about a DVI option although I've seen several HDMI cards. I don't necessarily need HDMI on the M/B but those are certainly cheap. I suppose there is the chance you'll get what you pay for!
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