Questions over High Performace Video Card for an HTPC

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swinster
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Questions over High Performace Video Card for an HTPC

Post by swinster » Mon Jul 13, 2009 4:03 pm

hi all,

I'm looking for a relatively high performance graphics card, with its main use in a HTPC (hence need to be quiet/silent), although also to be used for gaming.

I'm not sure whether to go for NVidia or Radeon given the proposed use. My surround setup will only be 5.1 and my AV Reciever is capable of accepting both HDMI and SPDIF inputs, so the lack of PCM sound over HDMI from the Nvidia cards might not be such an issue. I'm also wondering about 24fps playback on the Radeon cards on things like BluRay (1080p) content. I have read that although this is supported on the Radeons, the Nvidia playback is better - not sure how true this is?

I have been looking at the fanless Gigabyte 4850 Radeon card but am more interested in the 4870 or 4890 if there are ultra quiet versions available. In the Nvida Side of things I was possibly looking at the at 275, although again I'm not sure about cooling and noise.

I was also looking at water cooling, but I not sure if the extra hassle or cost is fully worth it.

Any help welcome.
Chris

Ch0z3n
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Post by Ch0z3n » Mon Jul 13, 2009 4:37 pm

Usually when people want a GPU for their HTPC they are look for something close to a 4670. I think it would be quite challenging to get any of those cards quiet enough for an HTPC since they all use quite a bit of power. Also, if you have enough airflow or opt for water cooler for those cards, it seems to defeat the purpose of an HTPC.

If you are willing to so a little aftermarket work, the 4770 performs about the same as the 4850 and uses a good deal less power.
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swinster
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Post by swinster » Mon Jul 13, 2009 11:40 pm

Ch0z3n wrote:Usually when people want a GPU for their HTPC they are look for something close to a 4670. I think it would be quite challenging to get any of those cards quiet enough for an HTPC since they all use quite a bit of power. Also, if you have enough airflow or opt for water cooler for those cards, it seems to defeat the purpose of an HTPC.

If you are willing to so a little aftermarket work, the 4770 performs about the same as the 4850 and uses a good deal less power.
Hi Ch0zen,

I understand the concept of an HTPC, but in this case my HTPC is going to be a good looking high performance PC capable of playing not only movies, TV or blu-ray, but also games on a decent large plasma. The case I'm using is actually quite large (OrigenAE s16v) but is also very good looking and ties in nicely with my AV receiver. It a tough task, but one that I'm sure is possible. I'm looking for the box to remain quiet under normal 2D work conditions, and am happy if it make a little more noise when stretched.

As mentioned, there is a fanless version of the 4850, but wondered if there were other cooling options that where quieter that stock fan system for any of the other cards. I don't quite understand then you say "Also, if you have enough airflow or opt for water cooler for those cards, it seems to defeat the purpose of an HTPC." Is water cooling noisy then? I was under the impression that this was not only a good cooling medium but also very quiet - but at a price.

I have also noted the 4770 (40nm die?) but OOTB figures seem to suggest it is down on the 4850 by some 10-15%. I would suspect you need to overclock is someway to achive higher thruput.
Chris

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Post by Ch0z3n » Tue Jul 14, 2009 5:16 am

What is the resolution on the plasma? I've got a 37" LCD sitting next to me but it is 720p. I'm guessing that it is 1080p or smaller, in which case your video card choices are probably a bit overkill unless you *really* want to play crysis on full settings.

You are correct, but it also overclocks much better than the 4850. Even with the passive 4850, if you look through the forums, they need quite a bit of airflow of they'll overheat. You have to remember, the cards you are looking at use about the same as a quad core processor loaded, they are going to be very hard to cool quietly.

Water cooling isn't overly loud, i've just never seen a DVR with a giant water tank on the back :D
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psiu
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Post by psiu » Tue Jul 14, 2009 5:59 am

Ch0z3n wrote:What is the resolution on the plasma? I've got a 37" LCD sitting next to me but it is 720p. I'm guessing that it is 1080p or smaller, in which case your video card choices are probably a bit overkill unless you *really* want to play crysis on full settings.
:?:

1080p is 1920x1080....not a low resolution? 720p is 1280x720, much lower.

1080p = 2 073 600 pixels
720p = 921 600

1080p is 2.25X as many pixels to render.
R.I.P. Felger Carbon & cpemma

Ch0z3n
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Post by Ch0z3n » Tue Jul 14, 2009 6:46 am

Hooray math. I never said it was a low resolution, I was more referencing that many people assume that a 'bigger' screen needs a better video card, but my TV needs less of one than my 19" monitors.

In general you don't need to run games at very high settings on larger TVs because you are going to be farther away from them. It is very uncomfortable, at least for me, to be sitting like 2 feet from my TV playing a game; I will usually be at least 4-6 feet away, which is quite a bit farther away than I am from my monitors.
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swinster
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Post by swinster » Tue Jul 14, 2009 12:44 pm

Ch0z3n wrote:What is the resolution on the plasma? I've got a 37" LCD sitting next to me but it is 720p. I'm guessing that it is 1080p or smaller, in which case your video card choices are probably a bit overkill unless you *really* want to play crysis on full settings.

You are correct, but it also overclocks much better than the 4850. Even with the passive 4850, if you look through the forums, they need quite a bit of airflow of they'll overheat. You have to remember, the cards you are looking at use about the same as a quad core processor loaded, they are going to be very hard to cool quietly.

Water cooling isn't overly loud, i've just never seen a DVR with a giant water tank on the back :D
The plasma will do 1080p and 720p, native res though is 1360x768 (I think), although at this res a lot of the picture control options are disabled. 1080p is the most likely playback res. Crysis on full - oh yeah!!!

The case actually has 3 case fans 2x80mm exhaust and 1x 92mm intake), but I haven't spun them up yet so do not know how they sound. The case is made of quite thick aluminium (5mm) with sound deadening and decoupled accessories.

I have seen some "in case" water cooling systems but I have really only been thinking about this over the past few days so don't really know too much about any of these system. I am also in the luxurious position of building a complete cabinet to house all the goodies, so I'm sure I could hide the tank if needs be.
Chris

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Post by Ch0z3n » Tue Jul 14, 2009 1:40 pm

If the native resolution is 1360x768, I am pretty sure it does 720p and 1080i, not 1080p.
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swinster
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Post by swinster » Tue Jul 14, 2009 1:42 pm

Ch0z3n wrote:If the native resolution is 1360x768, I am pretty sure it does 720p and 1080i, not 1080p.
No, it will handle 1080p - Pioneer PDP 428XD
Chris

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Post by danimal » Tue Jul 14, 2009 2:44 pm

that's a plasma monitor, and a very good one at that, but how do plasmas do with computer games? the native rez is 1024x768.

swinster
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Post by swinster » Tue Jul 14, 2009 4:11 pm

danimal wrote:that's a plasma monitor, and a very good one at that, but how do plasmas do with computer games? the native rez is 1024x768.
Oh Yeah - best thing I have ever purchased. :) Can't wait till I get the rest of the kit out of boxes and hooked into this new HTPC....

Oddly, outputting standard VGA at 1024x768 results in the wrong aspect ratio. 1360x768 give the correct aspect. My laptop has an HDMI port, but I have never managed to get it to work properly. I have run some tests using VGA and depending on the game will depend on the resolution output.

AT 1360x768, the screen will look very bright and crisp - just like a computer monitor (and you get very few adjustments in regard to screen display options). If you output at 1080p, the plasma will show a more film like quality, with all display option present.
Chris

idale
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Post by idale » Wed Jul 15, 2009 1:14 pm

Ch0z3n wrote:If the native resolution is 1360x768, I am pretty sure it does 720p and 1080i, not 1080p.
At 768 vertical, it'd be technically 768p (most "720p" TVs seem to be 1360x768, though). It may very well accept 1080i (and 1080p), but it'll be downconverting to 768p (or probably 768i if 1080i input, not sure on that).

Aforementioned downconversion leads to the "film-like" quality swinster referred to in his last post. 8)



Having a 768p monitor that accepts 1080p input at least gives you the flexibility to use a couple of resolutions that should give you reasonable quality (1360x768 for "pixel-perfect", and 1920x1080 for "softer" output).

Back on the video card side of things, from the reviews I've seen, the 4670 seems to perform well in games, especially if you were at 768p. Though it would of course depend on the sort of games you're into (and the quality options you "require" being able to have set) and how much support you want for future games before having to upgrade the card. Haven't really seen much above it being run passively (lots of power usage, generating lots of heat), but it seems like there's not much that you can't slap an Accelero on (though as mentioned already, you'd still want a lot of airflow in the case to deal with the generated heat, but case fans are easier to deal with than whiny little video card fans).

Personally I'm planning on going the 4670 route for my planned media/gaming living room PC, but I also don't tend to keep up with the latest graphically-demanding games, so even if it seems like it'll be more than enough for me, if you're one of those Crysis sorts who wants to run at 1920x1080 with all options set, it might just run home crying for mommy, as Anandtech benched the 4670 at somewhere around 15fps at 1920x1200. ;)

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Post by SoopahMan » Wed Jul 29, 2009 8:13 pm

I picked up a run-of-the-mill Radeon HD 4890 (the Diamond, non-overclocked version). Stock cooler on it is LOUD at boot but then I don't hear a peep from it - even after gaming for a few hours. I don't know how it manages to be so silent for such a massive card (the thing is a massive beast... pictures do not do it justice...) but I suspect whatever noise it did produce you could eliminate, for example, by getting the VaporX version that uses a water wicking cycle in place of a normal heatsink to get the heat dissipation up.

I use a 1280x1024 monitor, which is a similar total number of pixels to what you're targeting. At that resolution, every game I have can be turned up to max Anti-Aliasing (including Edge Detection), max Anisotropic Filtering, with Texture ("Adaptive") Anti-Aliasing, and I'm yet to see a game slow down. Definitely nice to have after the past couple years of watching games come out I couldn't play.

You'll still find games that slow down I'm sure - it looks like Far Cry 2 for example is murder for graphics cards. But it's a very strong card, and you'll get a wider range of games at max settings with it than the 4670 and its ilk.

swinster
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Post by swinster » Thu Jul 30, 2009 12:30 am

Thanks SoopahMan and all the other.

I am leaning towards a Nvida card (with third party heat sink), and an X-Fi HomeTheater HD audio card (when it finally comes out).

In this way I feel I should be able to get the best of all worlds, and it the only way I can get bit streaming audio to my receiver.
Chris

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Post by psiu » Thu Jul 30, 2009 3:11 am

It's behavior is similar to my LCD 1366x768 HDTV. Trying to send native resolution doesn't look so good, but send HD resolutions and the internal scaler knows what to do.
R.I.P. Felger Carbon & cpemma

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