It's been a long time since several pioneering companies bridged the gap between the TV and the PC. What initially started out as a novelty is now driving the industry in a new direction with the merging of TV and Radio with the personal computer. Today, thanks to faster hardware, and the advent of the mini-PC, manufacturers and users alike continue the push to merge the PC into our lives as a complete media device.
One of the components needed to make this possible is a TV/Video card. Without a solid video card and TV card solution, the "home theater PC" could not exist. While each component can be bought separately, space constraints can make a combination TV/Video card a much more attractive solution.
When we think of an all-in-one solution, most of us think of ATI's "All-In-Wonder" product line. The All-In-Wonder series has been around for years and has matured into a solid offering, backed by the seasoned Multimedia Center software. Being pioneers in the TV/Video combo market, ATI has garnered the majority of the market, with little competition for the most part. But that isn't to say there isn't competition, in fact, indeed there is.
While the All-In-Wonder family is arguably the most popular solution by name recognition alone, there are viable alternatives. One of these choices is eVGA's "Personal Cinema" line of TV/Video cards. The product line may not have the long history that ATI has, but it does offer various feature and performance levels to stake its claim as a solid contender. As we've seen in the past, just because you're on top doesn't guarantee you'll stay there. As we take a look at eVGA's latest offering, with a review of the eVGA Personal Cinema FX 5700, we'll show you that ATI is not the only game in town.
|AT A GLANCE
•256-bit GeForce FX 5700 (425MHz clock)
•128MB 128-bit 3.6ns DDR Memory (275MHz clock - 550MHz effective)
•AGP 8X/AGP 4X Compatibility
•DVI-I Connector for Analog/Digital Display
•Philips SAA7133HL for Video Capture In/Out
•Philips NTSC TV Tuner (coaxial out)
•FM Tuner for FM radio input and capture
•Digital Media Hub for Audio/Video Input/Output
•Supports component video (HDTV)
•8.8 GB per second memory bandwidth
•NVIDIA Accuview™ Antialiasing - includes: FSAA(2X, 4X, 4XS, and Quincunx)
•Integrated Hardware Transform and Lighting engine
•NVIDIA Shader Rasterizer™
•True Reflective Bump Mapping
•Cube Environment Mapping
•32-bit Color with 32-Bit Z/Stencil Buffer
•DirectX(R) and S3TC(R) texture compression
•High Performance 2D Rendering engine
•Multi-Buffering (Double, Triple, Quad)
•2 dual-rendering pipelines
•4 texels per clock cycle
•NVIDIA nView™ multi-display technology
•NVIDIA UltraShadow Technology
•NVIDIA Intellisample (HCT)
•Video Mixing Renderer (VMR)
•NVIDIA Forceware (USE)
•Integrated Dual 400MHz RAMDACs
•NVIDIA Digital Vibrance Control™ (DVC) 3.0
•Video Acceleration (DirectShow, MPEG-1,MPEG-2, Indeo, MS Bob and Weave)
•True color 64x64 hardware cursor with alpha
•Optimized for 32, 24, 16, 15 and 8-bppmodes
•Integrated Full Hardware MPEG-2 Decoder
•Architected for Cg
•AutoInstaller with ADM* Technology
•NVIDIA Unified Driver Architecture (UDA) (Windows 98/ME/NT 4.0/2000/XP)
•Direct Draw • Direct3D
•DirectVideo • DirectX
•Full OpenGL ICD for All Supported Operating Systems
eVGA packed the Personal Cinema FX 5700 with everything you could need to take full advantage of the card's capabilities. To start, eVGA included excellent documentation for installing and using the graphics card's entire line-up of features. For a quick start, a large fold-out Installation Guide offered a complete breakdown of the package contents as well as step-by-step installation instructions for installing the card and connecting the various inputs and outputs. Additionally, the Installation Guide included blow-up images of the card and the included NVIDIA Remote Control, highlighting the key components of each.
For greater coverage of the card's features, a User's Guide is included that breaks down the information clearly. There is a recap of the installation process and a detailed breakdown of ForceWare Multimedia, the main component that ties all the functions together into one software package. Two CDs are included with Drivers and ForceWare Multimedia along with ULEAD Studios DVD MovieFactory 2.5 SE and VideoStudio 7 software for capturing and authoring DVD media.
eVGA not only provided a Breakout Box to handle the card's input/output needs, they included all of the cabling needed too, including a composite A/V cable, S-Video Cable and Component Video Cable. Additionally, a fully functional RF Remote Control and USB receiver were included to easily control ForceWare Multimedia from up to 60' away, with 4 AAA batteries included. Lastly, the package came with an FM-Antenna for the integrated FM Tuner and a DVI to DB15 VGA adapter for connecting the card's DVI out to a standard analog monitor. And let's not forget two eVGA case stickers so you can proudly advertise what graphics card is in your system.
Overall, eVGA did a beautiful job of compiling a comprehensive package to accompany the Personal Cinema FX 5700. Not only will the card bring TV to the PC, it includes all of the hardware and software you could ask for to make your PC the centerpiece of your home entertainment system. Next we'll take a more detailed look at the Personal Cinema FX 5700.