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Which Video Card is Best for Viewing Movies?

written by: Debasis Das•edited by: M.S. Smith•updated: 8/31/2009

Selecting the best video card for viewing movies must take into consideration the processing load imposed by playing of latest HD movies via DVDs. With MPEG4 and H.264 coding the processing load is heavy and an independent GPU with sufficient memory is the solution.

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    High resolution movies of place a very high processing demand. The video data is usually in MPEG4 compression with the latest version of H.264 encoding. Though the H.264 encoding/compression is the most efficient, the video would still be flowing at about 1.5 Mbps rate on an average. This decoding has to be done on-the- fly in real time, otherwise you will see disturbances in the movie that is playing. Sometimes you may need transcoding to be done between a NTSC DVD out to your TV PAL in or vice versa. Comparatively that is a small burden, except this too will have to be done in real-time. Typically HDCP support will have to be provided.

    Even assuming a powerful processor like the Core 2 duo family and RAM in the range of 2 to 3 GB, you need a very capable video card on the system to be able to play a movie without problems from a DVD drive. Your PC with a suitable video card can easily drive that giant HDTV screen that you have. Both ATI and nVidia have products aimed at this segment.

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    Good Video Cards for Movie Playing

    It is hard to pinpoint one specific best card for playing a movie from an internal drive on a computer. What we shall try to discuss is good choices among available video cards that’ll give you good playback. We are assuming here you’d be interested in playing commercial DVDs in HD format and issued on media such as Blu-ray. We also assume you would want watch high definition at 1080p resolution. Two major manufacturers that have products in this specific area are nVidia and ATI.

    NVidia recommends their Pure Video HD technology that is a combination of a dedicated video processing core on the NVIDIA GPU and software in the NVIDIA ForceWare drivers. These together deliver the desired video quality at low power consumption. CyberLink PowerDVD 9, a program that will let you play Play DVDs, Blu-ray Discs and the latest HD video formats, is recommended by nVidia. You are able to the watch the media on the PC or your HDTV home theater set up. True Theater technology lets you up-scale the older format videos to the HDTV format.

    ATI Radeon HD 4300, 4600 and 4800 series cards are recommended for 1080p full HD movie playing. Like the nVidia cards these too can do up-scaling of older movies into full HD display on your home theater. HDCP support is provided. ATI also includes energy saving features and CrossFire X multi GPU technology can be used. These cards provide multi monitor support. The cards also use ATI Power Play technology. This technology helps reduce power consumption of the product.

    A by-product of using these cards is enhancing the gaming power of your machine. For dedicated serious gaming you may need even more powerful video cards, but these cards provide you very good gaming power in your machine.