Picking up the best possible graphics solution for home-theater personal computer is hardly an easy task, given all the aspects that can influence the final choice. But let us at least try. There is no ideal choice that suits everyone, so instead of giving advice, we will just remind you what you have just read in our article.
Based on the scores achieved by the evaluated graphics cards in the HQV 2.0 Blu-ray and DVD benchmarks, ATI Radeon HD 5700/5600/5500 graphics cards offer the best video processing quality in both formats.
Although Nvidia GeForce GT 240 provides top-notch DVD playback, it somewhat disappoints in Blu-ray playback and competes only against low-end or morally outdated solutions.
Nvidia GeForce GT 220 and 210 are complete disappointments when it comes to both BD and DVD video processing. Even the low-end ATI Radeon HD 5400-series provides decent Blu-ray playback quality albeit delivering unsatisfactory results in HQV 2.0 DVD test.
Low power consumption means less noise, but it also means less performance in 3D games and maybe even low quality of video playback.
If one wants a graphics card that would consume below 10W of energy maximum, then ATI Radeon HD 5400 and Nvidia GeForce 210 are the only options to choose from. Neither of them offers decent performance in video games, neither can offer truly high quality of video playback and both will only be able to decode HD video. If this is the goal, then they are the best for this task.
On the other hand, there is Radeon HD 5700-series, which presents excellent quality video playback, decent performance in even modern games, but graphics cards in this family consume up to 60W or 77W of power depending on the model. Perhaps, there are models with advanced passive cooling and they are just what the doctor ordered for a performance-hungry HTPC user.
The midrange HTPC solutions – ATI Radeon HD 5600/5500 and GeForce GT 240 – seem to offer the right balance between features and power: up to 30W in case of products from AMD and up to 44W for the product from Nvidia. The former support bit-streaming of lossless audio via HDMI and will eventually support Blu-ray 3D, whereas the latter supports BD 3D with the help of Nvidia 3D Vision kit right now.
Our tests showed that the CPU load was low with every contemporary graphics adapter when it decoded video content from Blu-ray discs. In short, any of the tested graphics cards is going to be good for a HTPC in terms of video playback performance unless you have some specific requirements. For example, if you plan to equip your HTPC with a stereo-3D screen, we would still suggest installing a more powerful CPU since nobody knows how well modern GPUs will decode BD 3D content.