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What's the significance of the gfx card for an HTPC?

Discussion in 'Desktop & Laptop Computers Forum' started by Slinkoff, Mar 31, 2005.

  1. Slinkoff

    Slinkoff
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    A simple question I'm sure but what difference does the graphics card make in an HTPC?

    Output options aside, why why do i need decent card? On first impressions of HTPCs I would have thought that the encoding card and CPU would do all the legwork in capturing a decent smooth imagestream and the gfx card would simply be a conduit for getting the signal to a TV. Can someone set me straight please?

    Cheers
    Slink
     
  2. betamac

    betamac
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    Well i will speak for myself here, firstly a decent gfx card (i whent for 6600GT) will mean games will play and look great i personly use my HCPC for games as well they look fantastic on plasma.

    Secondly using CPU for movie playback means it has to work hard all the way through the movie which of cause means more heat, what i have found is if i use the onboard video capabilities of the 6600 (Pure Video), then the CPU is hardly used (about 5%) so that enables me to use AMDs cool N Quiet, this turns the CPU speed down in real time which massively reduces heat. So even when watching a movie on my PC the CPU is clocked from 2.2Ghz down to 1Ghz, so my 99% fanless PC keeps a nice comfortable temperature when watching movies for long periods.

    Of course if i play games i turn the rear exchaust fan on to get rid of standing heat but as games dont go quiet like movies it does not matter.

    Hope this helps :)
     
  3. KraGorn

    KraGorn
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    The main role the graphics card plays in picture quality is in the final rendering, ie. the creation of the output video stream. It has to be fast enough to ensure there are no glitches such as tearing and it has to be able to compose the image with high quality colour fidelity.

    Its' second role depends on the software player you're using and whether or not you're using hardware or software decoding .. it's not completely 'either/or' in some circumstances but that's just an added detail.

    The issue here is where the MPEG decoding and deinterlacing is done, these are far more important to the final PQ than image rendering.

    Both main brands provide hardware-assistance to the MPEG decoding task and IMX are pretty comparable (the software decoders still do a lot of work so the hardware side isn't too vital)>

    With hardware decoding, as betamac says, recent NVidia cards have a feature called PureVideo (which is the deinterlacer) which produces quite a good PQ on its' own, though IMX it's still not as good as a highly-tweaked software-only solution using FFDSHOW .. however in terms of ease of setup the hardware solution wins hands down. :)

    The downside of the hardware only soluton is that you're using the graphics card for image scaling and while okay it can easily be bettered using software poost-processing (ie. FFDSHOW).

    If you go down the software route then IMX a fanless ATI 9600 is all that an HTPC needs, using hardware only I think the latest NVidias are probably 'better' if you don't mind forking out somewhat more for one. Throwing gaming into the mix confuses the issue because it's quite clear that neither brand is 'best', ATIs run some games better than NVidias and vice-versa.
     
  4. Slinkoff

    Slinkoff
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    Great. Thanks for the info. I won't be using my HTPC for games and a fanless 9600 is exactly what I have. From what I've been reading about gfx cards I was starting to doubt it's usefulness but if I go software decode and deinterlace I should be OK it seems.

    Thanks guys
    Slink
     
  5. KraGorn

    KraGorn
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    The decoding ability of the 9600s isn't shabby at all, in the days of TheaterTek 1.5 the Soninc decoders coupled with a 9600 was considered the best setup by many. NVidia have improved their decoders but they're not tied to NVidia cards so even using a 9600 you'll see an increase in PQ. Where NVidia cards are scoring over ATIs at present is their hardware-based deinterlacing which is mainly what PureVideo is AFAIK.

    But don't worry, the 9600 is fine, you want to concentrate on the software decoders first and foremost, and for those you've got the choice of TheaterTek (NVidia), or WinDVD or PowerDVD which use their own proprietary codecs. There is no undisputed 'best' player, much depends on your setup, you'll find supporters of all three round here .. not forgetting the freeware DScaler codec but IMHO that's not a good road for someone new to this area to adopt unless they have a lot of general PC experience, like all things 'open source' it's a techies dream and a novice's nightmare. ;)
     
  6. inzaman

    inzaman
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    To confirm what Kragorn has said, i use the Nvidia decoders with my 9600 and the pq is a marked improvement over using PDVD decoders or the Sonic Decoders.
     
  7. branny

    branny
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  8. KraGorn

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    MCE 2005 certification is the usual M$-induced mess. ATI provide MCE-certified drivers, ATI's drivers are universal in that they support most of ATI's products, I can't believe therefore that 9600s don't work with MCE .. but I can't swear to it.
     
  9. paul1672

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    i can confirm that 9600's do indeed work with mce 2005 as thats what i'm currently running.....
    having said that i've just purchased the fanless 6600gt so the 9600 will soon be sold on...
     

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