IntroductionIntroductionRecently I had a look at some HDMI graphics cards, and discovered that getting your computer to display a proper HDTV signal isn't simply a question of having a card with the right connectors.When you connect a computer to your TV using a digital signal like HDMI, the process isn't as seamless as connecting a dedicated piece of AV hardware, like a TV tuner or DVD player. This is because AV equipment makes automatic allowances for overscan whereas graphics cards don't. To fix this, there's a certain amount of manual tweaking required in the driver.I wanted to compare AMD and nVidia's driver capabilities to get your system up and connected properly to an HDTV. The two cards used were an MSI NX7600GT Diamond Plus and Sapphire X1600 Pro HDMI. Both cards have native support for HDMI.
HDMI, HDTV and PCsHDMI, HDTV and PCsWhen you connect a PC to a TV using an HDMI connection, the edges of the displayed image are just off the screen. This is because the HDTV image standard being applied uses a technique called overscan.Overscanning has been applied to all TV signals for at least four decades. It's a technique used to compensate for early TVs' inability to display a clear picture all the way to the edge of the display. The picture broadcast is actually about 5-15% bigger on all sides, which ensures that the entire display real estate is taken up and there are no visible black borders. If you were able to zoom the image back, you'd actually see a fair bit more of the image than you normally receive.LCD and other fixed-pixel screens have essentially eliminated the need for signal overscanning, but not everyone has the luxury of a fixed-pixel TV in their living room. So television standards are still targeted at the lowest common denominator, and overscanning will be with us for a while yet.PC video standards like VGA and DVI have the ability to detect the native pixel resolution of the monitor they're connecting to, and generally have no problems matching the exact pixel resolution. HDTV standards don't work the same way - they're not trying to match the screens supported pixel depth, they're just displaying the image as defined by the particular standard (composite, HDMI), assuming that no adjustment is necessary. So a computer attached to a TV by HDMI displays a full HDTV image with overscanning applied and the edges off the screen.Plus there's the consideration of resolutions. HDMI's effective resolution at 1080p is 1920x1080 pixels, but there are only a few LCD or plasma TVs which offer this as the native resolution. My TV, a Sony Bravia V40A10, has a native pixel resolution of 1366x768 or 768p. However, unlike LCD PC monitors which tend to display an "out of sync" error message on a black screen when the intended resolution is too high, LCD/plasma TVs are quite capable of displaying images at resolutions above their native resolution. However, the image is not that great - it's certainly nowhere near as sharp as the native resolution - edges are not clearly defined and the image looks rather squashed and fuzzy. So when deciding to connect a computer to your TV, there's a trade-off between using it as a computer on a really big screen, or as a high-definition media input. If you want to use it as a computer, then the best visual results are with the VGA/DVI outputs. If you'll only be displaying digital media such as movies, then using the high-def component or HDMI outputs is the way to go.If you want the best of both worlds though, then some correction is necessary. The computer will only display what it's told to display, and the TV assumes that there's nothing wrong with the incoming signal, so this is where vendor drivers from nVidia and AMD come into play.
nVidia ForceWarenVidia ForceWare- Test System SetupProcessor(s): AMD Athlon 64 3500+Motherboard(s): Biostar 6100-M9Memory: 2 x 512MB PC3200 RAMGraphics Card: MSI NX7600GT Diamond PlusHard Disk(s): Seagate 80GB SATAOperating System Used: Microsoft Windows XP SP2Drivers Used: nVidia ForceWare 93.71 and DX9cAdjusting the display on an nVidia graphics card is done via the nVidia Control Panel. Access through the desktop right-click context menu, or from the Windows Control Panel. Then, select Video and Television.
AMD CatalystAMD Catalyst- Test System SetupProcessor(s): AMD Athlon 64 3500+Motherboard(s): Biostar 6100-M9Memory: 2 x 512MB PC3200 RAMGraphics Card: Sapphire X1600 Pro HDMIHard Disk(s): Seagate 80GB SATAOperating System Used: Microsoft Windows XP SP2Drivers Used: ATI Catalyst 6.12 and DX9cControlling the display on an AMD / ATI graphics card is handled via the Catalyst Control Center - access this via the desktop, the desktop's right-click context menu, system tray icon or Start Menu folder.
So, Which Was Better?So, Which Was Better?Although using both drivers achieved the same end results, nVidia ForceWare was much, much easier to use. Although I don't mind having to go through various advanced settings in a driver to get the right result, many people do and won't be impressed at the level of manual tweaking you have to do with Catalyst.The biggest problem with the Catalyst approach actually had more to do with something I mentioned earlier in the article - resolutions. Because HDTV resolutions are greater than the TV's native resolution, the desktop image isn't very clear. When using the nVidia Control Panel this isn't much of a problem because the images are large, there's not much detail on each screen, and all the components are well laid out. With Catalyst Control Center, there's a huge amount of information to sift through, and when the image isn't particularly crisp it makes life much harder.So for me, nVidia's implementation of HDTV support in its drivers is better - simpler, clearer and easier, and achieves exactly the same end result.
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