HTPC video cards


I'm on the hunt for a mid to high end graphics card to replace the one currently in my system, and am open to suggestions as I have been going completely cross eyed searching for "current" reviews and articles.

Here's what I'm working with currently....

Gigabyte M59SLI-S5 (2 PCIe16)
AMD X264 2.0Ghz
ATI All-In-Wonder X1900 (Don't get me started)
Vista Ultimate 32bit (Wish I would've gotten 64)
Mitsubishi 65" 1080p

I got caught in the HDCP controversy with the AIW card, the fact that it's not capable when they said it was. You can do 1080p, as long as your not trying to watch a movie. They won't do anythng for me support wise. Now that I have switched to Vista I now have just an expensive video card. The FM tuner doesn't work (not that I used it), the video cature doesn't work (including DVR functionalities), etc. ATI won't put out the software to support these functions of this card under Vista. I actually like Vista and am not willing to go back to Media Center. So I must move ahead and resolve this with hardware.

I figured I could forge ahead at 1080i for a bit and suffer watching BluRay like that until I could replace the card. No such luck. It looked great when the video wasn't choppy (CyberLink). So here I am, forced to track down a new video card.

So my questions are, with my current setup (let me know if you need more info), what card (model) would be the best bang for my buck (Not much of a gamer, but would like to have the ability)? What is the minimum amount of memory I should look for in this card (Speed too)? I know ATI and NVidia are the two kings at the moment, but they have so many vendors. Which one is better?

I think that's enough for now. More questions will probably emerge as your answer pour in. :lol:

Thanks in advance for all your help!
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  1. Like you, I'm stuck with an AIW X1800XL sitting in a rig running Vista. You've got a couple of options here:

    1) Get a TV Tuner Card to pair with your X1900 (just use the AIW X1900 as a graphics card)
    2) Replace your AIW X1900 with the new (Vista Compliant) ATI HD All-In-Wonder (based on the HD3650 series card).


    The benefits of going with a stand alone HD TV Tuner card is that you can later replace your graphics card and still keep the TV Tuner capabilities. The benefits of going with the All-In-Wonder card is that it only takes one slot (two if you also get the optional daughter card).

    -Wolf sends
  2. Thanks for the response. It's always comforting to know I don't suffer alone. :lol:

    1) This would be fine if I could get the X1900 to play a BluRay movie at 1080p or even 1080i without choking.
    2) I'm a little hesitant to consider another AIW card after this experience. This is my second AIW card and the second time I've had issues with them. Third times a charm? :pt1cable:
  3. For an HTPC, I'm not sure whether you want a 4850 given the power and heat issues. If you can hold off a bit, and don't need as much gaming HP, you might consider the upcoming 4670. It's not nearly as powerful as your 1900 or the 4850, but both it and the 4850 support both 1080p with HDCP and Dolby True HD 7.1 via HDMI. You won't find a better way to get Dolby True HD out of your computer than one of the 4x00 series from ATi.

    For TV tuner cards, you really should consider getting a hybrid or a dual-tuner card with ATSC and clear-QAM capabilities. With Feb 2009 coming just around the corner, all of those analog NTSC tuners in the US will work for only SDTV via cable. AverMedia makes one with a driver (Beta, possibly) that can be used with VMC, if you're willing to put in a bit of effort to make it work. Check for more info about that.

    I would not bother with an AIW card at all, in particular since they can only receive SDTV (NTSC) via S-Video or RF at best.

    The 4670 should be somewhat better than the 2600 XT, which is listed on Toms as being near, but perhaps not quite equal to the 1800 XL, and somewhat less than the 1900. So if that info helps you make a decision, there you go.

    FWIW, I am considering constructing 4670-based system for VMC use.
  4. Your problem i think stems from the fact that your ATI All-In-Wonder X1900 isnt taking the load from your CPU like the newer HD cards do and to be honest its not the fastest CPU out there, this link gives a breif summary,review-2362-7.html The 3650 is basicaly a revised 2600 and i beleive it has some improvements in the whole HD/video decoding area.
    Your card wasnt made with 1080 or HD in mind. the card in wolfs link was. Now if you want the best then its a stand alone TV tunner card of some sort, personally i would get the new HD AIW card. In fact i have a rig that would be very suited to it if only they made an AGP version. (I may change the mobo just to get one).

    Mactronix :)
  5. Anandtech and other sites have reviews out on the 4670, and it's priced on newegg now. ~$80 (and that should come down quickly), and performance is near (but less than) a 3850. Much better than the 2600 series. Potentially better even than your 1900 AIW. Single slot. No power connector. Low heat generation and power consumption. Low cost. For an HTPC with mild gaming, sounds good to me... if you can stand the added power, heat and noise, want the extra FPS and don't mind the extra cash, then 4850 is for you. I would not consider any card for an HTPC that cannot push 7.1 thru HDMI. No sound cards can (S/P DIF can't, and no cards have HDMI out yet). NVidia can't (input is S/P DIF). So for now ATi is your only choice.

    I still stand by my "no AIW cards" statement.
  6. Thanks guys for your input. Sorry I haven't responded, but hurricane Ike had other things in mind for me. :fou:

    So based on what I have been reading the ATI 4670 is the mid range choice, and the 4850 if I want some gaming power.

    I'm pretty sure I will be staying away from AIW cards. I haven't had much luck with them, as much as I'd like them to work as advertised.

    So based on the two choices above, I have a few more questions, that are actually from my original post.

    1) What vendor has the best card (MSI, Diamond, etc)?
    2) How much memory do you think is necessary? (256, 512, 1024)
    3) My board supports PCIExpress. I have noticed some of these cards are PCIExpress 2.0, can my board handle/support that?

    Thanks again for all your input! :D
  7. 1) I like Sapphire (since ATI doesn't manufacture cards anymore).
    2) 512Meg should be more than enough since you're "not much of a gamer".
    3) All PCI-Ex16 2.0 cards are backwards compatible with PCI-Ex16 1.0 slots, so yes, your board can handle it.

    -Wolf sends
  8. Dont know first hand but i have heard Visiontec (think thats how its spelt) do a lifetime warranty.
    Card wise its a 4670 all the way, dont remember if we touched on power supplies but the 4670 dosent need any more power than what comes out of the pcie slot. The 4850 on the other hand does need extra power.
    For what you want it for 512 as wolf says is plenty.

  9. This topic has been closed by Mousemonkey
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