Today at HotHardware, we will be looking at two video cards from Asus. They don't necessarily scream "power user" and they aren't adorned with the flashiest packaging. Instead, these two cards are more like the utilitarian work-horses that one might expect to find in a mid-range PC, or even a DYI build that's catered more to function than fashion. That doesn't mean we won't run any benchmarks with our favorite games to see how they compare to each other, as well as to another mid-level card, but don't focus strictly on the benchmark results in this article. These two cards aren't designed to set records in Half-Life 2, but rather offer some uncommon features not found on many competing products.
With our introduction out of the way, we present to you the Asus EAX1600PRO and the EN7600GT:
As their boxes suggest, these cards are not the flashiest of sorts. One shouldn't be so quick to judge them, however, before noticing that each box prominently displays a large badge declaring them HDMI ready.
So, what's the big deal about HDMI you ask? Let's take a quick refresher course to catch up on this technology before continuing on with a closer look at each of the cards.
HDMI, short for High Definition Multimedia Interface, is the first industry supported digital-only interface, that requires only a single cable to connect an output source to an HD device, such as a television or monitor. HDMI supports standard, enhanced, or high-definition video, plus multi-channel digital audio on a single cable. It transmits all ATSC HDTV standards and supports 8-channel, 192kHz, uncompressed digital audio and all currently-available compressed formats (such as Dolby Digital and DTS). HDMI 1.3 adds additional support for new lossless digital audio formats Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD with bandwidth to spare to accommodate potential future enhancements. Although still growing in popularity on video cards, it is considered the modern replacement for older cable types, such as S-Video, Co-axial, Composite, VGA, DVI-A, and DVI-I.
HDMI brings along some big advantages for the home entertainment aficionado. Video and audio are both sent into one cable, eliminating the mess of cables that are typically situated on or around A/V components. Both audio and video are sent uncompressed, digitally, without any loss resulting in the highest quality picture and sound. All versions of HDMI will also support playback of HD-DVD or Blu-Ray content, although other constraints might come into play here, including some DRM headaches for PC users.
HDMI 1.3, the latest revision of the spec, delivers a few new features including Deep Color Support. Deep Color can accommodate 10, 12, and 16 bit color depths, which at its highest level offers over five times more color that standard HDTV systems. The proliferation of colors reduces on-screen color banding by allowing more subtle graduations, as seen below: