NVIDIA GeForce4 and GeForce FX Personal Cinema

The 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.

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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.

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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.

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Index NVIDIA GeForce4 and GeForce FX Personal Cinema Breakout Design


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  • Webgod - Sunday, January 11, 2004 - link

    Where's the review? Where's the comparison of screenshots of live TV with both the Personal Cinema and ATI AIW cards? How does it compare to your TV set side by side? How do the ATI AIW's compare to the Personal Cinema cards with PVR functions, etc.? Go more in depth, this is Anandtech. Reply
  • bschuler2004 - Monday, December 29, 2003 - link

    Nvidia sure does make some crappy AIW imitators! I thought they'd be worse than ATI, but not THIS bad. It's shocking to say the least. I'd rather have an original AIW rage IIC card then one of these garbage cards.
    How on earth do they honestly intend to sell this junk with a straight face? It's laughable.

  • jruff - Wednesday, December 24, 2003 - link

    PC CLub recommened the nVidia card which is what I built for my mothers computer. Going over tomorrow t o run thru the software. For my wife's machine I just bought a AIW 9600 Pro that I will be installing tomorrow. Shhhh, its a christmas present ;)
    I couldnt find much on the nVidia when I put her new system together I was just going on what PC Club said. Ill get a chance to use both here in the next week putting together the 6 Digital 8 tapes I have managed to make in the last year of my sons life (birthday jan 8, 1 year)
    We will se how it goes and which makes the easiest final product.
    Stay tuned :)
  • LoneWolf15 - Wednesday, December 24, 2003 - link

    Interesting, but I do get a little tired of bundling all of these products with the video card. I want to keep a TV tuner/PVR for the long haul, and every time graphics technology changes, buying a new all-in-one card would break my budget. That, and the fact that NVidia only offers these features on their low-end cards means I'd rather choose one of ATI's solutions, despite some issues with their software. The All-in-Wonder line now spans from the entry-level AIW 7500 and 9000 on up to the top. ATI has a much better tiered structure, and also has standalone tuner/capture cards (TV Wonder Pro). Reply
  • morcegovermelho - Tuesday, December 23, 2003 - link

    Good review. Very good info on breakout box, remote control, and Dual Display Support.
    Maybe should be included in the review some info about video-capture.
    What capture format? MPEG2? AVI? Other format?
    If capture is mpeg2, what resolution? what bitrate? Is it DVD-compliant?
    If capture is avi, what is the codec? Can it be uncompressed? Can we use DivX? It's a proprietary codec?
    How about dropped frames?
    Audio capture - 44khz or 48Khz? Uncompressed, mp2 or ac3 ?
  • sandorski - Tuesday, December 23, 2003 - link

    I just kinda skimmed the article, but I saw enough to support my conclusion(I think ;) ): Nvidia has a long road to catch up to ATI in regards to Multimedia/Multifunction vidcards. It's not just in technology though, but also reputation.

    It wasn't too long ago when Multifunction was all ATI had, they certainly weren't selling their cards for Gaming Performance reasons. No serious Gamer would even consider them.

    OTOH Nvidia and 3DFX were engaged in a bitter battle for the Gaming Performance crown. We all know how that turned out ( :( ).

    Nvidia won the Crown and all seemed good....until ATI released the Radeon 9700 Pro. That one card turned the video card world on its' ear and NVidia has been trying to catch up since.

    ATI's time relying on and perfecting their AIW and lesser MultiMedia functioning cards had allowed them to focus on Gaming Performance. They acheived that and the Marketplace is begining to turn on to the whole Multimedia/Multifunction idea in a big way.

    Nvidia has a long road ahead and seems to be trying to desperately catch up on a number of fronts. Hopefully they can for Competitions sake, but ATI is turning into a Juggernaut.

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