NVIDIA GeForce FX Personal Cinema Roundup - Asus, Chaintech, eVGA, and MSIby Andrew Ku on December 23, 2003 10:48 AM EST
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NVIDIA GeForce4 and GeForce FX Personal CinemaThe GeForce2 and GeForce3 Personal Cinema took the same approach with an external box that enabled most of the functionality behind Personal Cinema. While some manufacturers of the first and second generation of Personal Cinema used GeForce4 GPUs, this was a very small percentage of the actual Personal Cinema cards that went to market. Personal Cinemas based on GeForce4 GPUs weren't really mainstream until NVIDIA partnered up with eVGA for the development and deployment of the next generation of Personal Cinema, which underwent a design change.
Unlike past Personal Cinemas, NVIDIA decided to go with a TV tuner built directly on the card. This doesn't have the same advantage of a TV tuner on an external box because now two cards must be produced for two different purposes. Video in and video out functionality, meanwhile, is still supplied via an external breakout box, which is of a completely new design.
The only launching partner for the new Personal Cinema design was eVGA with their GeForce4 MX 440 based card. The GeForce FX type Personal Cinema cards are based on a similar design, but there are a few logistical differences. The GeForce4 based Personal Cinema from eVGA uses DVI output, which only the GeForce FX 5600 based Personal Cinema cards (and greater) use. GeForce FX 5200 cards will utilize a VGA connector on the card.
NVIDIA decided to make a tuner change on the GeForce FX line, choosing Microtune tuners instead of those made by Philips. ATI chose the Microtune MT2032 single chip TV tuner for their All-in-Wonder Radeon 8500DV, but they have since dropped this due to power consumption and heat issues. The GeForce FX 5200 and 5600 GPUs don't require the extra power draw of an additional power source, so NVIDIA won't run into problems on this end. However, it will be interesting to see the choice of TV tuner once the higher end GeForce FX based Personal Cinema cards hit the market.
In the first batch of GeForce FX based Personal Cinemas, NVIDIA is using the Microtune MT2050 single chip TV tuner, which is concealed under some metal shielding. The vast majority of TV tuners are analog based, meaning they use analog components such as resistors, inductors and capacitors to create band-pass filters that allow certain frequencies to pass through, thus “tuning” to those channels. Therefore, these cards have a digital TV tuner (this doesn't mean it can receive HDTV channels, it just means it uses digital circuitry instead of analog), which in theory, can offer better quality as a result of decreased interference and faster tuning. The quality argument is generally one that isn't noticeable because of the poor quality of cable TV. However, on extremely high quality cable TV feeds, you may notice a quality improvement courtesy of the silicon based tuner.