AVIVO HD vs. Purevideo HD Part 3: Midrange and Low-end Card Performance

A Few Words About The Radeon 2x00 Series

When the topic of discussion is HD video playback, we would be remiss not to dig into some exclusive features of the Radeon 2x00 series: the standard-equipment HDMI outputs, and the integrated HD audio controller with multi-channel 5.1 AC3 support.

Supporting an HDMI output as standard equipment across the board is fairly impressive. To the end home theatre user, this means that pretty much any 2x00 series Radeon is ready to drive a modern HD television in the simplest method possible: a single HDMI cable that carries both video and audio signals.

Which brings us to the integrated audio controller on all Radeon 2x00 series cards. When using the HDMI output, there are two main advantages to having an audio controller on the card itself. First, the integrated audio controller can channel the appropriate audio signal through the HDMI output without attaching separate audio cables from the PC's sound output. For example, other video cards (without an audio controller) require audio cables to be routed from the sound output of the motherboard or sound card.

This ties into the second advantage of having the audio controller on the video card. If HD audio outputs are routed into the video card, then those outputs are dedicated to that video card, meaning they cannot be used for other external speaker options while the HDMI output is being used.

Having said all of this, it's important to keep in mind that most PC users are happy to keep audio separate from video. All new PC monitors have the common DVI input for video, and audio is sent separately to amplified speakers. DVI cable offers the exact same video quality as HDMI cable, as both utilize digital signals. These features are only important if the HDMI cable is going to be used, which is more likely if the user plans to have a dedicated home theatre PC attached to their HDTV.

To summarize the point: if HDMI outputs are an important part of your home theatre plans, the Radeon 2x00 series has benefits that are hard to ignore. Conversely, if you never use the HDMI outputs, the integrated audio controller in the 2x00 series is moot.