Quirks, Frustrations, And Compliance Woes
One quirk on the Gigabyte 780G board is that during testing HCDP compliance didn’t seem to work over the DVI connection. Reader comments suggested that this is an isolated problem with our test configuration so we’re asking Gigabyte for clarification.
Thankfully, when HDCP compliance is having a problem, there are a few options. One option would be to shell out another $115 to Slysoft for its excellent AnyDVD HD app that is able to decrypt HDCP playback in software, so you don’t need an HDCP-compliant monitor or graphics card. This is a pretty hefty expense for folks who have a great high-resolution monitor with no HDMI connection (like myself) and it could have been avoided by simply making the DVI output on the motherboard HDCP-compliant.
Of course, there are much cheaper options. The issue can also be avoided by purchasing a cheap discrete card with DVI and HDMI output like the 2400 PRO.
The cheapest alternative is to use an HDMI cable with an HDMI-to-DVI converter on one end. We tried the DVI-to-HDMI converter bundled with a separate Radeon HD 4870 card, but we weren’t sure this would work. Its purpose is to convert the DVI output from the Radeon card into an HDMI cable format—the exact opposite of what we were doing. Luckily, using the HDMI output of the motherboard and attaching the DVI-to-HDMI converter directly to the monitor seemed to do the trick. HDCP compliance was achieved and the system had no trouble playing back protected Blu-ray disks.
The ECS GF8200A board avoids the issue by offering only an HDMI connection with an analog output instead. Of course, the analog output doesn’t support HDCP, and wouldn’t let us go higher than 1650x1080 for Blu-ray playback. Of course, using an HDMI-to-DVI converter is an option, as it is with the Gigabyte board.
Now, I can understand the argument that these boards are targeted at home-theater PC users who are much more likely to have an HDMI connection, but it still doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me that those with HDCP-capable DVI monitors are left looking for workarounds. What about students relying on their PCs for entertainment ?
Apart from this, everything went fairly smoothly with Blu-ray playback, but there were a few other issues. First of all, the most recent WHQL-compliant Nvidia 175.19 driver proved MUCH slower than the newest 177.92 beta drivers in our testing. People who assume WHQL is the way to go will experience much choppier Blu-ray playback than intrepid folks who install the beta software.
Also, a CrossFire test using the Catalyst 8.7 drivers seemed to muck up HD playback capabilities until the newer Catalyst 8.8 drivers were installed. Using the 780G platform, we did experience some rare quirks where PowerDVD would sometimes refuse to play back a disk. After running the Cyberlink Blu-ray compliance tester, which would show everything was okay, playback would work fine.
ECS GF8200A Motherboard And Stuttering Video
We encountered an irritating, but very easy-to-fix issue with our ECS GF8200A motherboard.It seems that in some cases, the board will default to a 200 MHZ HyperTransport speed. This low speed won’t really demonstrate itself in regular system operation and the machine will seem to work fine until any graphics power is required, such as a game or Blu-ray playback. If HyperTransport is left at 200 MHz, game and HD video will stutter like it’s running on a 15-year-old computer.
Happily, the only fix required is to go into the BIOS during start-up and set the HyperTransport speed to “Auto” instead of “200.” After that, the machine will run smooth as silk. It’s nice that the fix was this simple, but it was a real pain trying to diagnose the issue.