Do I need two video cards for a multi-purpose HTPC?

I built a "silent" PC to sit in our living room and serve as the main family PC for browsing, downloading, photo and video editing and a bit of gaming. See below for spec. I now want to turn this same box into a HTPC to connect to a new HD LCD I'm planning to get, but don't want to compromise its availability as a general purpose PC.

I thought that the only upgrade I would need to make is to get a HDMI PureVideo card like a 8600 GT\GTS, and maybe a TV Tuner for PVR.

But I want to be able to use Vista Windows Media Center or MediaPortal to find and play content through the TV with the remote while my wife is browsing the web. I want to be running MCE full screen on the TV and Firefox, for example, full screen on the PC display.


1. Is the PC really suited to this dual role?
2. Do I need two video cards to have totally independent displays? I don't want clone or extended display, but want to run MCE on the TV without tying up the PC for normal use.
3. If I need two video cards eg. current 7600 GT plus the 8600 GT, I guess I would also need to upgrade my MOBO to one which supports two PCI-E x16, right? Any recommendations?
4. I know contention might be an issue, but can anyone see any other major problems with what I'm trying to do?

Thanks in advance

Current spec:

Antec Solo Quiet Mini Tower Case
Core 2 Duo E6300 1.86ghz
Arctic Cooling Freezer 7 Pro CPU Cooler
MSI GeForce 7600 GT PCI-Ex16
430w Seasonic S12-430 Silent PSU
Corsair 2GB (4x512MB)TwinX XMS2 DDR2
Lite-on LH-18A1H-488C dual DVD+/-RW
3 x SATA II HDDs combined 1Tb
Neovo F-419 19" monitor
Vista Ultimate Edition
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  1. Interesting project. Basically what needs to be done is you simply need to configure your PC to display content on two screens, that's all. No need to buy a second video card at all. I'm sure your current card has two DVI ports. You simply use one port for your main monitor and one port for your TV. In your vid card settings you simply select the option to "Expand your desktop" which will split content across both screens or allow both screens to indipendently display thier own individual content. On one screen you'll run your web browser and such and on the other (the 2nd screen being your TV) you'll your movies.

    If you were to get two vid cards you'll run into a few issues. First off your mobo isn't a SLI board. Now, you won't be doing SLI (cause the point of you using two cards isn't to game) but your 2nd PCI-e port will run slower at 8x instead of 16x. But who cares i guess since the 2nd card will be used soley to port over content from your PC. But from what i explained above, you won't need to do that cause you can do that with a single video card. Secondly even if you did buy two vid cards your PSU wouldn't be able to handle them. Yes your not doing SLI but your still simotaneously powering two video cards. And this needs more power that your 430w Seasonic won't provide effeciantly. Minimum power for a SLI machine is about 500 to 550w. So scrap the 2nd video card idea cause you may have to end up buying a new PSU and a new mobo (a SLI one so that 2nd vid card can run at full 16x).

    Only issue i can think off is cord length. Cause your basically looking to run a wire from your PC to your TV. I have no idea how far apart the two are but you way want to dig around and try and find a cord long enough to reach it. Also what ports do you have on your TV. DVI? D-Sub? VGA? If so you may need a vew adapters (no worries cause your video card should have come with at least two DVI to VGA adapters. Hope you didnt toss them away). Also will you be running the movies in HD on this TV from the PC? If so you'd need special cabeling for that. Like a DVI to HD cord or something. And also you said PVR for the tv tuner. You looking to use your PC as a DVR as well?

    As for upgrades. Hmm, i know the 8800 GTS/GTX cards are great HD cards. I have not looked hard enough at the 8600 cards to see if they have HD capibility or if so, on par with the 8800 cards. You may want to look into that. Your PC may run a bit slow since now your really mutitasking it. You've already got 2GB of memory (why 4 x 512's?) so if you fall into any issues i'd say a cpu upgrade may be in order to handle the extra processing (since your wife may be surfing away on one end and your watching movies at the other end of the room. And you'll be using media center and such will will be a resource hog in itself).

    This is an interesting project and i'm curious to see if you get it off the ground. Mind keeping this thread posted of your progress? I'll follow along and answer whatever questions or issues you come up with.
  2. The 8800GTS/GTX are not great HD cards because they have no hardware for HD video decoding. Only the 8500/8600 series has this ability which will allow a lot of the decoding overhead to be shifted from the CPU to the video card itself.

    While all 8800 and 8600GTS have HDCP for de-encrypting copy protected Blu-Ray video not all 8500 and 8600GT video card will have HDCP.
  3. wingsofzion said:
    Basically what needs to be done is you simply need to configure your PC to display content on two screens, that's all.

    You're absolutely right about this. I can't believe I discounted this as an option. I didn't realize that if I extended the desktop across two displays, I could run the media player full screen on one and another app full screen on the other.

    I'm testing it now with my current TV connected over S-Video and although the quality isn't great the concept seems to work fine.

    wingsofzion said:
    Only issue i can think off is cord length.

    I'll need a 5m cable to connect the PC to the TV. I'm thinking of getting the Sony KDL-40D3000 which has 3x HDMI and "VGA" (D-SUB) PC Input. If I get a card with native HDMI out then I can just use a standard HDMI cable to the TV, right?

    I've been looking at the Sparkle 8600 GT with native HDMI

    but then I just found this article about NVidia's poor support for DualView (extended desktop) mode in Vista. The article recommends ATI cards.

    The article is from June 2007. Can anyone confirm if Nvidia have resolved these problems now?
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