Recommendation - NON-gaming, Vista Media Center box graphics solution

I am being given a system for dedicated use as a Vista Media Center box. It will drive other media center extenders in the house (24x7) and a local 24" LCD for TV played from Media Center and DVDs.

This box will NOT be used for anything else - no productivity, no gaming, no other unattended processes (eg Bittorrent). I have other boxes to do that and want to keep the machine stable.

The box provided will have a GeForce 6150SE nForce 430 which I believe is integrated into the motherboard. I believe it has 128MB of dedicated memory. (The system will have 4GB of memory.)

My question - since this is a non gaming system, will an upgraded graphics card help either my local playing of movies/DVDs or the transcoding that I assume Media Center will do with video for PVR and sending video to the Extender boxes? Should I upgrade the card and if so, what is the least I can get away with?

Any comments or experience appreciated!
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  1. well that depends. the onboard graphics will probably be fine as long as you are not decoding blue-ray or HD dvd's. on a onboard graphics card the cpu is doing most if not all of the decoding so it is best to make sure you have a good processor. is this computer only running one display? if you are running multi-display system you will definantly need a graphics card. you might possably need just a low end graphics card just to offload the graphics from the processor.
  2. I just built a media center around the 780G integrated MB/graphix chip.

    It runs circles around the one you have, especially in HD, as it offloads the coding to the gpu from the cpu.

    Cheap effective solution would be the AMD/ATI 3450 card, around $40 or so. It excells at the HD/video stuff, and would be a worthy addition. Don't attempt to game on it, though. HDMI, DVI, etc

    The AVS forums has a whole thread on this effective little card.
  3. What I would use is something like this:

    This card enables you to use HDMI with 5.1 sound, Blu-ray and HD-DVD playback (HDCP), Transcoding via GPU, and better HDTV support than Nvidia cards. It also is passively cooled.

    In my experience with an HTPC setup (My main computer is HTPC style), ATI seems to work a lot better with HDTVs than Nvidia cards. Their overscan compensation method is vastly superior to that of Nvidia, and the added Native HDMI support is a huge bonus.
  4. I do not know about the extender boxes, but for playing video on the system itself it should be fine - unless you are doing HD video on the LCD. If HD video, I believe that an ATI 3450, 3470 or 3650 would be best for your situation. Depends on the power supply. Here is one that might work good.

    I have not heard of any 6150's with dedicated memory. They usually share some of your 4GB, which should not be a problem. Is that what you meant?
  5. I'd go for an ATI HD3450. As stated before, ATI is better for HTPC, and you don't need a lot of power. The 3450 runs fairly cool, takes little power, and decodes HD video and has HDMI out.

    If this isn't for HD, the onboard should be fine.
  6. Choose one of the following:

    HD 2400XT
    HD 2600Pro
    HD 2600XT
    HD 3450
    HD 3470
    HD 3650 (in DDR2 or DDR3 form, does not matter)
  7. Passive cooled 3650 all the way.
  8. The 3650 may be more than he needs, and it takes more power - most of the manufacturers recommend a minimum 350W power supply for it, some recommend more.
  9. Hi everyone. Wow, excellent recommendations. Such a pleasure to deal with folks who are just focused on the requirements - like surgeons! :->

    Got the message re ATI vs NVidia preference.

    I won't have blueray at first but HD content in general is where we are all heading in the long run so I will probably pick up one of these options. They are all affordably priced and excellent suggestions!

    A followup question - in the 90% case, the media center box will be streaming to the media center extenders (ie. no local video rendering to the local monitor). Will any GPUs or external video cards enhance this process or is that all covered by the CPU. Is Media Center smart enough to do 'outboard' decode/encode enhancement? I thought I read somewhere that because they want all HD content streams to be protected you couldn't take advantage of non-software decoding/encoding.

    If that question is out of scope, no worries. Thanks all.
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