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What is the BEST card for HD playback on htpc? Using 7100 IGP now

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August 5, 2008 11:53:46 AM

I want to upgrade my nvidia 7100 IGP (630i motherboard) to a dedicated card. The 7100 will do 720p, 1080i, and I beleive 1080p, but it is kinda choppy sometimes. My projector is 720p. I am looking at the 9800GTX+ but I am wondering if the 8500 GT will do just as good as far as HD playback is concerned. I know the biggest thing is CPU offload. I would like to do some gaming on it (hence looking at the 9800GTX+) but I need a another reason besides gaming to get the 9800GTX+. Will it do better at HD playback than the 8500 GT?



Intel Celeron 430 Conroe-L 1.8GHz OCed' at 3GHz. (I know this is a crappy single core, but it does OC very well to 3GHz)
Windows MCE
630i motherboard
IGP 7100
2 tb storage
MediaPortal for HTPC playback
Ultra X3 600w modular PSU
August 5, 2008 12:07:44 PM

If you want decent HD playback in an HTPC, it looks like you don't have an alternative to AMD 780G chipset.
August 5, 2008 12:12:48 PM

An nv 9500gt or ati 3650.
The 3650 has the benefit of it's own onboard sound.
(assuming you don't want to game alot)
Related resources
August 5, 2008 12:33:04 PM

I don't know about 9500GT, but 3650 has cooling fan over it. I want my HTPC to be slim sleek and silent. ;)  At home I got rid of all fans in my rig. ;) 
August 5, 2008 12:44:49 PM

So is this what you're saying:

9500 GT is better than 8500 GT (at video playback) obviously better at gaming

but 9500 GT is equal to 9800GTX+ at video playback?

Fans do not bother me either

And what do you mean about not having alternative to 780G chipset? Thanks for the replies!
August 5, 2008 12:58:00 PM

The Ati 3450 will do HD playback better than the 9800 will.

You have to seperate gaming and HD playback for most purposes.

Most gaming cards are adequate at playback, while the playback cards mostly stink at gaming.

The 3800 series is a good mix of HD quality playback, and gaming goodness up to about 1680 x 1200.

The gpu renders the bulk of the HD content vs offloading it to the cpu like most of the nvidia cards do.

My gaming pc has a 790i mobo, Q9450, and 2 x 8800 GTX's on a 28" lcd.

My HTPC has a 780G mobo(onboard great HD graphics), a 5000+ BE, and a 3870 for light gaming use on a 42" plasma.

The 3870 is a Gigabyte card that came with a zalmon cooler, it is silent and very cool at use.

Different setup for different uses.
August 5, 2008 1:23:54 PM

ATI 3xx0 series hands down. Especially if you want full acceleration of MKV x.264 (L4.1) movies. Theres no other solution that will currently FULLY accelerate that format.

If you are only concerned with Blu-ray, then the nvidia cards will suffice.
August 5, 2008 1:26:15 PM

duzcizgi said:
I don't know about 9500GT, but 3650 has cooling fan over it. I want my HTPC to be slim sleek and silent. ;)  At home I got rid of all fans in my rig. ;) 


sleek and silent is good and all, but is it worth frying your computer? you should never go passive anything unless you have good airflow in your case, which i'm guessing you dont.

back to the topic at hand...if you're going to spend the money for a 9800gtx+, then just get a 4850. it comes with a dvi to hdmi dongle (i'm guessing your projector has an hdmi input). then all you gotta do is go to monoprice.com and pick up an hdmi cable. just my 2 cents
August 5, 2008 1:28:03 PM

I don't recall what the HD 3000 series added over the 2000 series, but if you're looking for a really cheap option, there's a Radeon HD 2600XT for $30US. It should have enough power to handle full decoding, as well as packing enough math power to handle some decent filtering, more than you'd get out of the likes of the 3450/3470 cards.
August 5, 2008 1:30:23 PM

If you want both HD video and HD sound through a receiver, then your only options are the 4850, 4870, and I believe the AMD 780G. But the 780G won't game well for modern games, the 4850 is loud, and the 4870 is loud, hot and a power hog. Maybe a 780G and a 4850 (some kind of hybrid arrangement?), if they can run the 4850 in low-power mode while you're watching video?

I agree with Granite3. Gaming = loud, large, hot GPU. HTPC = quiet, small, cool GPU. Unless you can put your computer in a different room or a well-ventilated cabinet to mask the noise, it's tough to do both well with just one machine. The hybrid crossfire / SLI capabilities coming out might finally change this, if the GPU can power down while the IGP does HD video. Just watch out for lack of HD audio support when you do your design.
August 5, 2008 1:31:47 PM

There is reason to pick nVidia over ATI products (dispite higher CPU usage): dual-stream decode.

The 9500GT and 9600GT have this feature.

I believe the HD 48x0 have the capability of decoding two streams as well, but you don't need a card that powerful, even for gaming at 1280x720

The HD 3650 or 2600Pro/XT are also very good choices (I have the 512MB DDR3 HD 3650 in my HTPC - Celeron 420 @ 2.6Ghz, 4GB, Zotac 7100 MB, 640GB HDD - and I like it). Any of the cards I've mentioned is a good choice.

Edit: There is absolutely no reason to change out his entire platform from Intel to AMD, so please stop suggesting it.
August 5, 2008 1:43:00 PM

re: nottheking, The HD2600 XT (which is what I use) does indeed do a nice job decoding HD-DVD in 1080p (haven't tried BR yet), but it only puts out DD 5.1 sound. It does not do DTS, and it does not do Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby True HD, or any of the DTS HD audio formats. I haven't tried multi-channel PCM yet, so I don't know what it can do with that. I believe the 3800 series has the same limitations. Only the 48xx series and as I noted I believe the 780G can do the full HD audio signals via HDMI.

As I understand it, the NV cards get a digital audio link from e.g. S/PDIF. So that also limits them to only DTS or DD, with no HD audio.
August 5, 2008 2:01:36 PM

KyleSTL said:
I believe the HD 48x0 have the capability of decoding two streams as well, but you don't need a card that powerful, even for gaming at 1280x720

Unless you want to play Crysis at 60 fps. :kaola: 

TeraMedia said:
I believe the 3800 series has the same limitations. Only the 48xx series and as I noted I believe the 780G can do the full HD audio signals via HDMI.

Ah, okay then.
August 5, 2008 2:42:38 PM

regchamp said:
I would like to do some gaming on it (hence looking at the 9800GTX+) but I need a another reason besides gaming to get the 9800GTX+. Will it do better at HD playback than the 8500 GT?


9800gtx+ is not any better than 8500GT in terms of HD playback......but any ati 3xxx or 4xxx is better. no need to change platform 2 amd jus to play HD. if u don wana do gaming, get 3450. if u wana do gaming get 4850(same performance as 9800gtz+ but cheaper)....but for "some gaming", i believe 3870 would be a better choice,
August 5, 2008 3:19:38 PM

sarwar_r87 said:
9800gtx+ is not any better than 8500GT in terms of HD playback......but any ati 3xxx or 4xxx is better.

In regards to what? Read reviews, because it's not a black-and-white issue as to which has 'better' playback.

Lower CPU usage: ATI
Dual decode: nVidia/ATI 48x0
Quality: I've seen it go both ways, also depends on generation (i.e. 8000 vs. 2000, or 9000 vs. 3000/4000)
August 5, 2008 3:46:23 PM

Well lets just keep it simple - the best card for HD playback. My entire collection consists mainly of MKV files (using the CoreAVC Pro HD decoder and MediaPortal player). I don't play blu-ray or HD-DVD discs, I play all the MKV files off of my HDD. I don't care if it is ATI or Nvidia (although I have always preferred Nvidia). I simply want the best for playback and quality - so I can quit using my IGP 7100 and start using a dedicated PCI-E card. I have an Auzen sound card to do my audio - and i use a DVI-to-HDMI cord for my video into my projector. Thanks again for help.
August 5, 2008 4:01:22 PM

MKV files can only be accelerated if they are L4.1 compliant.
August 5, 2008 4:04:35 PM

could you please explain what l4.1 compliant means? And how do I tell if a file is l4.1? All of my MKV files are HD, if thats what it means. They all play in 720 or 1080 - and it is obvious when you play them - because of their clarity - they just stutter sometimes which I beleive is my hardware.
August 5, 2008 4:16:53 PM

L4.1 is a standard that defines several things, maximum resolution, bitrate, and reference frames. Most of the 1080p encodes found on the net are NOT L4.1 compliant because of too many reference frames.
Most of the 720p encodes ARE L4.1 compliant and will work just fine with DXVA.

However, many encoders realize the advantages of DXVA, and are now trying to comply with L4.1 with their 1080p encodes.

Just having a DXVA compatible card isn't enough. You must be decoding the stream with a DXVA enabled decoder.... like cyberlinks decoder, or MPC-HC internal decoder. Both require that the video stream is L4.1 compliant.

Do google searches for MPC-HC, DXVA, and L4.1

also read this thread: http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showthread.php?t=972503
August 5, 2008 4:21:32 PM

If you want DXVA decoding of L4.1 MKV files, you will have the least headaches with MPC-HC and an ATI 3000 series or better. Nvidia's compatibility with MPC-HC is spotty.
August 5, 2008 5:07:29 PM

if you want the best video play back it has to be ati plus for the price of the 9800GTX+ you can get the ati 4850 and it decodes two video streams at ones
August 5, 2008 5:15:08 PM

regchamp said:
Well lets just keep it simple - the best card for HD playback. My entire collection consists mainly of MKV files (using the CoreAVC Pro HD decoder and MediaPortal player). I don't play blu-ray or HD-DVD discs, I play all the MKV files off of my HDD. I don't care if it is ATI or Nvidia (although I have always preferred Nvidia). I simply want the best for playback and quality - so I can quit using my IGP 7100 and start using a dedicated PCI-E card. I have an Auzen sound card to do my audio - and i use a DVI-to-HDMI cord for my video into my projector. Thanks again for help.


Im buying a ATI HD3850 512mb for that effect. Cant remember from the top of my head what was the name of the technologies, but the HD3xxx series are superior even to the GTXs just because that technologies. Im working atm so this will be a short post.

Search in google for "3850 Toms hardware review". Toms review was excellent, and the 3850 nowadays a dirty cheap. there is a sapphire version with a huge passive cooler, so it would fit your no-noise demand.

i know it fitted mine.
a b U Graphics card
August 5, 2008 6:33:55 PM

If you were building new or already on an AMD CPU, and you're not gaming, my recommendation would've been an AMD790GX mobo, since it have all the benefits of Dual-stream and 7.1 audio.
However because you are on an intel platform, it'll depend on whether you want BD1.1+ profile. Dual stream VC-1 isn't too taxing on an AMD GPU since one stream is already accelerated unlike the nV cards, but for BR only the H4K have that option.

So if you're looking for powerful enough to upconvert and post-process and have all the features, then a GF9500 would be a good starting point. The HD3650 would be equal or better in everything but that aspect of the BD1.1+ option.
If you're looking at protected audio though, like DTS-HD-MA, then the HD4K and 780GX options are your only choice.
August 5, 2008 7:40:16 PM

radnor said:
Cant remember from the top of my head what was the name of the technologies, but the HD3xxx series are superior even to the GTXs just because that technologies.

Correction, it is ONLY superior to the 8800GTX (and Ultra and G80-based 8800GTS) cards because the G80 does not contain any kind of decoding function. All other 8000 and 9000-series GPU contain video decoding capabilities.

Again, ATI has lower CPU usage (with the exception of decoding two streams simultaneously - edit: 9000-series only).

Articles of interest:
Driver Heaven review of Avivo HD vs. PureVideo HD April 2008
Tom's Part 3 Avivo PureVideo review October 2007
Tom's Part 2 HD Video Intro June 2007
August 6, 2008 4:54:43 AM

Ok I am currently using Core AVC Pro decoder to do my H.264 files. It sounds like it is only a "software" solution though. http://www.coreavc.com/index.php?option=com_frontpage&I... I am using MediaPortal for my player and ffdshow to upconvert regular dvd files. Should I use something other than coreavc?
a b U Graphics card
August 6, 2008 6:19:52 AM

regchamp said:
Ok I am currently using Core AVC Pro decoder to do my H.264 files. It sounds like it is only a "software" solution though.


Yeah they've been promising support for GPU acceleration as 'planned to be added at a later date' for over a year now.

Quote:
I am using MediaPortal for my player and ffdshow to upconvert regular dvd files. Should I use something other than coreavc?


It fine if all you're doing is playing downloaded content, but for commercial discs you want something that does the decryption and decoding on the fly with GPU acceleration. But if all you do if play downloaded content it's good enough.

KyleSTL said:

Articles of interest:
Driver Heaven review of Avivo HD vs. PureVideo HD April 2008


I wouldn't put much weight in that one, major flaws in that review even ending the discussion section with a locked thread and the proposition of revisiting the review and updating the testing methods. Seems they forgot about nV's expansion bug (which is documented on their sites) which essentially crushed the hell out of the blacks. For people watching on an LCD it won't matter much, they already have little black detail. But looking at those images on a CRT (or Plasma or DLP) makes a huge difference and their idea that monitors don't matter makes me laugh because you wouldn't see much difference on a device that has terrible black detail to begin with. It also reminded me of the typical Sony ViVid reaction where people love the oversaturation, not necessarily a faithful output. Also why would you test only one set of enhancements, the 'default' issue is ignorant to the theory of the review (people won't calibrate their computers but they're going to contact an IHV to tell them if they should try out features?)

And unfortunately like even Cleeve's reviews, they are out of date with later driver releases and hardware changes.
August 6, 2008 7:03:22 AM

OK, I think I am going to get a 3870.

So, if I am ONLY playing downloaded .mkv files in 720 and 1080 - what HD decoder should I be using w/ MediaPortal?

Like I said, I am using COre AVC Pro right now, but it is only software.

What HD decoder would work best /w the 3870 and MediaPortal?

Also I don't have to use MediaPortal's internal player - I can use another player with it.

Money is not an object - If I have to pay for a decoder thats fine. If I have to play for software to play the files, that is fine. I just want the best for the 3870.

Thanks again for everyone's help!!!
August 6, 2008 12:13:46 PM

Sorry to sound like a brokenrecord, but MPC-HC and Cyberlink are your only choices for a decoder with full acceleration (which you need with that slow CPU)

I have extensive experience with this, as my CPU is also too slow to play back 1080p mkvs. So i bought a 3850. I found that its not that easy to get your video card to offload much work.
Either the movie is DXVA compatible, and it offloads all the work.. or it isnt and it offloads nothing.

Truly if you want to play every 1080p mkv movie you can find.. You need a CPU that can handle the load. I reasonably good X2, or a low end Core2 would be enough. GPU acceleration isn't perfect in practice because much content is NOT COMPATIBLE.

If you're using mediaportal, i'd suggest you get the decoder thats built in to the open source MPC-HC. You can get the stand alone decoder from sourceforge. Otherwise you could buy cyberlinks decoder.
August 6, 2008 12:47:42 PM

Thanks GGA, you're always on top of your game.
!