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Video Cards, is there any point in upgrading?

Discussion in 'Desktop & Laptop Computers Forum' started by SimonInd, Nov 22, 2004.

  1. SimonInd

    SimonInd
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    Having recently upgraded my projector from an AE100 to a BenQ8700 the option of a DVI connection presented itself and I thought I'd try it out. For some reason the DVI port on my FX5200 wasn't playing ball and despite some helpful suggestions from both here and the Avsforums, I couldn't get any life out of it. I then connected the misses' PC up, installed WinDVD and compared the picture quality ( DVI-D vs. 1:1 mapped DVI-A/VGA ) and there was a small but significant improvement. Given that both were nVidia cards, I swapped them over, re-installed the latest forceware drivers and everything worked beautifully.

    Now here's the question, I'm now running a lowly 64MB MX440 rather than a 128MB FX5200 and it looks great, is there any point in upgrading to a better card? Would a Radeon 9600 offer a better picture - I'm using the Overlay display surface? I'm not interested in gaming, it's just DVD and TV performance that I'm interested in. I'd also prefer to stick with nVidia as I've setup their desktop manager to switch between TV and Projector mode ( changes resolutions and the destination of the overlay video ) , depending on which device I'm using - I don't know if the ATi drivers have a similar facility?

    Does a better graphics card get you anything in terms of video quality over DVI-D ? I'm guessing my CPU is doing most of the work?

    Cheers

    Simon
     
  2. KraGorn

    KraGorn
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    I'm pretty sure the 9600 would give an improvement in PQ, Overlay is generally considered better on ATI while NVidia are better for VMR.

    As for the part the video card plays, assuming you're not using any post-processing like FFDSHOW then it's the video card that does the scaling, and ultimately it also does the rendering. Clearly if you use DXVA for hardware-assisted MPEG decoding then that too is influenced by the card.

    Given your liking for NVidia then I think the upgrade you should be considering is to a 6600GT. I know that's more than a 9600 but that card seems to be the 'must have' for HTPCs especially for those not using heavy post-processing, all reports seem to indicate better decoding, scaling and rendering.

    Whether it's worth the £150 or so for one right now I really couldn't say of course, too many factors to take into account. You'd probably achieve a noticeable inprovement if you switched to the new NVidia DVD decoders, either stand-alone with ZoomPlayer or with TheaterTek 2 .. though there aren't any special features on the 5200 for them to make use of they're certainly an improvement over the Sonic decoders which used to be generally considered the best.
     
  3. SimonInd

    SimonInd
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    I am doing some post-processing using FFDShow to re-size, sharpen and denoise although this is obviously all done by the CPU - it's fine in Overlay Mode but stuttery with VMR9 (windowed or windowless). Having compared WinDVD6.0, PowerDVD6.0, DScaler5 and the nVidia decoders that were 'released' over the summer I have found that WinDVD with FFDShow onto Overlay using ZoomPlayer looks best. One thing the BenQ does is clearly highlight the differences in decoders!

    The FX6600 has a hairdryer/turbine/fan on it does it not? Given my DELL 8300 is pretty much silent at the moment, I'm loathe to introduce and actively cooled one. I presume the prices will drop over the next few months and we may even see a passively cooled one?

    If I went down the ATi route, does the driver software allow various 'desktop configurations' where you can switch resolutions and primary displays using hot keys? This how I switch between TV and Projector mode at the moment and I see this as crucial?

    Thanks again

    Simon
     
  4. KraGorn

    KraGorn
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    I don't think the fan on the 6600 is very noisy, someone posted a reply to a query from me in the last couple of days indicating that. The NVidia decoders have been updated since they were leaked and various problems such as blocking in Smart mode have been fixed.

    I've only seen 1 6800 non-Ultra passively cooled, Zalman still haven't got a 6800 version of their heat-pipe cooler out.

    I don't use ATI's multi-monitor features, simple 'clone' mode does me as I don't use anything other than the projector most of the time, but a brief encounter with an FX 5900 a few weeks ago made me think that NVidia's handling is more flexibile.

    Ultimately, since PQ is very much a personal thing, for example I find WinDVD too soft for my liking, then the improvements you'll get with the ATI (if any) will be subtle more than night/day. A supposed benefit of a later NVidia is better VMR9 handling.
     
  5. SimonInd

    SimonInd
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    So a sensible first step would be to buy the nVidia decoders and see if they improve things? If they do then possibly move to a 6600?

    However, if my PC is currently struggling with VMR9, is it going to work with a 6600? Will that be taking the strain?

    Thanks

    Simon
     
  6. KraGorn

    KraGorn
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    If you look around you can get *cough* an evaluation *cough* version of the NVidia drivers if you want to try them. ;)

    AIUI the problem with VMR typically is 'tearing', that's caused by lack of memory bandwidth on the graphics card .. the 6600GT seems to have more than enough in that respect.
     

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