Graphics card for a budget HTPC
Shopping for a computer to connect to our 1080i 52"Sony Wega rear projector TV (bought in ~2008). We will be using it for dvr from our antenna, watching hulu, and netflix. We have an onkyo system for 5.1 surround sound. Looking to spend $300-$400 and hoping I can snag a good deal with the upcoming pre-christmas sales. Considering the Acer Aspire Revo 3700, HP slimline S5610F, and emachine EL1352-07e. Trying to figure out if the pre-installed graphics card will be suitable for our needs. A friend told us we need a graphics card w/ at least 256MB. I really like the Acer which comes w/ a Nvidia Ion card but having difficulty figuring out how many MB it has (the online sources I've found aren't very specific). The Slimline and emachine come w/ a GeForce 6150. Having difficulty understanding the graphics card comparison chart on Tom's. The revo has an HDMI output, the others have a little more RAM and hard drive. Also interested to know which tv tuner card you'd recommend. the Acer might need an external b/c it's so compact, I've heard the internal cards are better and Haupage is a good brands. Thanks for any advice you can give.
For 1080 resolution video's, make sure you get a dual core cpu; I noticed there are quite a few cheaper prebuilts that use single core processors. 1080p(which I presume 1080i* would be the same) needs a single 3.0GHz processor or better.
If you really want, ram won't make a difference in video performance, so 1-2gb will be fine depending on the OS (Windows Vista or 7, you'd be better suited with 2gb.)
Integrated gpu's share with ram, so if you could get a dedicated card, a 4350/5450 would be a good solution at a cheap price(generally around 30-50$)
For an internal TV tuner, I recommend the Hauppauge HVR-2250. It's a dual ATSC tuner, which means you can record one channel while watching/recording another at the same time. It requires a PCI-express x1 slot, so make sure your prospective system has one.
thanks for all the responses. I narrowed my choices down to the Acer Revo 3700 and Playstation 3 as HTPC possibilities. I think Im going to go w/ the playstation 3 b/c it offers some other possible uses and will have a better graphics card. I should be able to get it cheaper b/c of the upcoming thanksgiving and christmas sales. Found this article which helped seal the deal: