The Cards

For this HDCP roundup, we have a large number of cards, both from ATI and NVIDIA. NVIDIA is a little more well-represented here, but the final cards we ended up with are the result of the companies providing us with cards they had available for this review. We invited as many companies as we could to participate in this review, and we were pleased with the turnout of cards we received. As we mentioned, we have a total of 20 cards from the following companies: Gigabyte ASUS, MSI, Sparkle, XFX, EVGA, BFG, PNY, Leadtek, Powercolor, and finally Sapphire. Below is a rundown of the cards, prices and their clock speeds.

Graphics Card Prices
NVIDIA Gigabyte GeForce 7600 GS HDMI 400/400 $150*
NVIDIA ASUS GeForce EN7600 GT HDMI 560/700 $200
NVIDIA MSI GeForce NX7600 GT Diamond Plus 560/700 $195
NVIDIA MSI GeForce NX7600 GT 580/750 $160
NVIDIA Albatron GeForce 7900 GS 450/660 $160
NVIDIA EVGA e-GeForce 7900 GS KO 500/690 $180
NVIDIA Leadtek WinFast PX7900GS TDH Extreme 520/700 $295
NVIDIA MSI GeForce 7900 GS 450/660 $220*
NVIDIA MSI GeForce NX7900 GT 500/765 $180
NVIDIA EVGA e-GeForce 7950 GT KO 560/725 $245
NVIDIA Gigabyte GeForce NX7950 GT 550/700 $250-300*
NVIDIA PNY GeForce 7950 GT 550/700 $289
NVIDIA XFX GeForce 7950 GT HDCP 570/730 $295
NVIDIA Sparkle Calibre 7950 GT 575/720 $300-400*
NVIDIA BFG GeForce 7950 GX2 500/600 $525
NVIDIA EVGA e-GeForce 7950 GX2 500/600 $511
NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GTX (reference) $650
NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GTS (reference) $480
ATI Powercolor Radeon X1600 PRO HDMI 600/500 $115
ATI Sapphire Radeon X1950 XTX 650/1000 $400
ATI Radeon X1900 XT 256 (reference) 625/725 $280*
ATI Radeon X1650XT 575/675 $150-250*

As is often times the case, several of these cards weren't available for purchase at the time of publication, so in place of their price, we put a general dollar amount that you would expect to see these cards if and when they become available. Also the NVIDIA 8800 GTX and GTS, as well as the ATI Radeon X1900 XT 256 and X1650 XT are included for reference, so the listed prices are what you should see on the different versions of these cards currently on sale (in the X1650 XT's case, when it becomes available). Cards that are not currently available are marked with an asterisk.

Now let's take a look at the cards we have, starting with those from Gigabyte.

Testing HDCP Compliance Gigabyte
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  • rnemeth - Friday, December 1, 2006 - link


    I personally think this article was extremely on point with the direction of media components in general. I think there will be many people out there, like me, who are planning on the convergence of the Media Center PC & Gaming PC. Vista (Ultimate) will bring Media Center to the masses and why shouldn't you be able to play your favorite DX10 "Game for Windows" on your big HDTV as well?

    This article is ahead of its time. HDPC/DRM/HDMI/DVI/BR/HD-DVD/HDTV is all in the early stages. In the future, you will be able to buy or rent your high-def movie by downloading it to your PC with DRM finally figured out. This review shows us that it is not all there yet, but gives us an idea who is doing what, and what we need to look for.

    You mentioned in the beginning of the article that you were looking for feedback to see how interested your audience is on this subject... count me as 1.
    Reply
  • thejez - Sunday, November 26, 2006 - link

    HDCP is a joke... look at how hard it is to understand and get this stuff running... not to mention you have upgrade all your hardware?? lol and who watches movies on their PC anyway?? do you people really sit huddled over your keyboard watching movies?? Why not invest in some better equipment for the family room and watch movies they way they were intended....

    but the difficulty in setting all this up makes it even more important that hdcp has already been cracked... i wouldnt let the movie industry tell you your hardware isnt good enough to buy their content... just buy what you want and "work" around the issue later... the cracks are only getting better.... we'll see HD-DVD Shrink soon enough...
    Reply
  • KalTorak - Monday, November 20, 2006 - link

    Careful - it's not safe to assume that higher bitrate content is more computationally difficult to decode than lower bitrate content. [In fact, I suspect they're weakly correlated the other way - lower bitrate is harder.] Reply
  • DerekWilson - Monday, November 20, 2006 - link

    ahh ... very interesting ...

    it would make sense to me to say that both are true.

    In the case where low bitrate means more aggressive high quality encoding, i absolutely see your point. But low bitrate can also mean lower quality (less information) at the same level of encoding -- in these cases lower bitrate will be easier to decode.

    Thanks for pointing this out.
    Reply
  • Badkarma - Monday, November 20, 2006 - link

    Hi Derek,

    Can you comment on HD audio formats like Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD for the HTPC? I know Bluray has yet to use these formats but how about HD-DVD on the HTPC. From what I understand, you could get these formats outputted via analog output on your soundcard, but I'm interested in HDMI. I know some of the HDMI video cards you reviewed have SPDIF passthrough via HDMI, however SPDIF cannot carry Dolby Digital +, TrueHD, or DTS-HD, it will only output DTS or DD. I'm holding back on a HDCP video card because HD audio is an important part of HD movies.

    Thanks.
    Reply
  • Ajax9000 - Sunday, November 19, 2006 - link

    p.13 "Both the 8800 GTX and GTS are fully HDCP compatible, and HDCP is enabled through both DVI ports" p.22 "Some of the cards, like the HDMI Gigabyte 7600 GS and ASUS EN7600 GT, were only able to play our Blu-ray movies over HDMI and not through the DVI port. Conversely, we found that with our MSI NX7600 GT Diamond Plus, the Blu-ray content wouldn't play through the HDMI connection but it would through the DVI port."

    OK, so which cards (other than the 8800s) could do HDCP over both ports?

    ----

    p.19 "The end result is that an NVIDIA card with more pipelines that is better at 3D performance will not necessarily be better at video decoding."

    In other words overclocking (say) a 7600 is likely to give as good or better HD video results than using (say) a 7950GX2?

    ----

    p.20 "In the future, we could see power consumption go down with acceleration enabled. As graphics hardware is better suited to processing video than a CPU, efficiency should go up when using hardware acceleration."

    The results for the 9750GTs already seem to show this 147W average non-accelerated >> 142 for EVGA & PNY (although Gigabyte > 148W).

    Adrian
    Reply
  • chucky2 - Friday, November 17, 2006 - link

    ...can we get it added to these results just for comparison?

    Also, you don't happen to know when that'd be, would you? :)

    Chuck
    Reply
  • BigLan - Friday, November 17, 2006 - link

    I noticed that in the cpu utilisation tests you said it was around 51% for no acceleration - was this because the player software is single threaded and so only used one core?

    Also, is click encoded in h264, or mpeg2 like the initial bluray discs?
    Reply
  • DigitalFreak - Friday, November 17, 2006 - link

    Now that the Xbox 360 HD-DVD drive is available and is proven to work with a PC, any chance on doing another round-up "real soon now" using HD-DVD? I'd really love to see the numbers for VC1 and H.264 decoding.

    Still amazed that the lowly X1600 card spanked all Nvidia cards but the G80 boards in CPU utilization.

    Good job guys.
    Reply
  • DigitalFreak - Friday, November 17, 2006 - link

    BTW, the new releases from Fox on Blu-Ray use the H.264 codec. Behind Enemy Lines, Fantastic 4, etc. I think Behind... is already out. Reply

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