VGA Makes Way For HDMI
Crossfire, IceQ cooling, HDMI connector and a Zalman HSF.
"HD" is the buzzword of the moment, be it for hardware or content. HD resolutions, HD displays, HD movies. Even the graphics card market hasn't been left untouched by the HD hype, with an increasing number of products promising HD support Compare Prices on HD Video Cards. However, a consensus regarding what HD actually means seems to be far off, both in terms of actual functionality and product advertisements.
The cards' retail boxes sport many variations on the HD theme. Colorful, for example, promises HDMI support, which should theoretically include HDCP. Its cards come without the required HDMI cable, though, shipping instead with a DVI-HDMI adapter. Thus, the company doubles the number of HDMI connectors available on its board. Also, instead of a second VGA or DVI connector, the card already features one on-board HDMI connector.
HIS also uses the HDMI logo to advertise its Radeon 2600 Pro and 2600 XT products. Sadly, neither of the cards comes with an adapter or connector on-board, making the logo misleading. The HDTV logo, on the other hand, is justified, as the bundle includes a component cable. 1080p Full HD sounds pretty good as an output format, where Full HD means an output resolution of 1920x1080 pixels and "p" signifies a refresh rate of 50 or 60 progressive frames (as opposed to interlaced). In the case of a dedicated output device such as a player, the "p" could also represent a refresh rate of 24, 25 or 30 frames.
The factors that have the largest impact on playback are the video material and the screen, either of which may offer support for only 1080i (interlaced) or 720p. In other words, the 1080p Full HD logo on the graphics card is only one link in the HD playback chain. In order for the output to work at the highest possible quality, the video material has to use the Full HD format, the screen needs to support 1080p, and the HDMI cable must be able to handle the data rate: 1920x1080p x 60 Hz = 124.4 megapixels per second plus audio. The HIS card only comes with DVI connectors, which makes dual-link a sensible choice for the 1920 resolution. However, in this case, the audio signal has to be transmitted separately. This doesn't take advantage of the capabilities of the Radeon HD 2600, which could transfer up to 5.1 audio signals via HDMI. If you already own a screen or a display with an HDMI connector, you can buy a DVI-HDMI adapter for between $9 and $20.
MSI handles the HD situation better: the retail box of its card advertises HDMI, HDCP and HDTV. The Geforce 8600 GTS Diamond Plus ships with an on-board HDMI connector, an HDMI cable, and a component output cable (HDTV) in the box. That's how things should be - clear and justifiable logos, with comprehensive equipment.