This post is split into two parts, the first part is for those looking to see if their Graphics Card supports hardware-decoding of video (H.264/AVC and VC-1), whereas the second part is for those looking to buy a new graphics card that supports hardware-decoding.
The term DXVA (DirectX Video Acceleration) is often used and refers to hardware-enabled playback under Windows. Many of the graphics cards presented here also supports hardware acceleration on other platforms, but those will not be taken into consideration by me for the time beeing.
Part 1: List of graphics chipsets that support Hardware-decoding (DXVA) of H.264/AVC and VC-1
Wikipedia lists most compatible cards that decode video on the GPU, each manufaturer has their own solution.
- ATi cards have a feature called Unified Video Decoder (UVD), if you have an ATi card you should click this link to check if your card is compatible. The latest version of UVD is verion 3.0 and includes support for DivX and Xvid via MPEG-4 Part 2 decoding and Blu-ray 3D via MVC.
- Nvidia cards have a feature called PureVideo, which is currently in the 4th generation. This link lists compatible cards. PureVideo does not support DivX and Xvid hardware-decoding at the moment.
- Intel also support HW-decodeing on their graphics chipsets, but there are no official lists. I’ve instead listed the cards I know to be compatible here:
- Intel G45
- Intel GMA500
- Intel GMA600
- Intel GMA X4500 (Not fully)
- Intel GMA X4500HD
- Intel GMA 4500MHD
- Intel HD Graphics (GMA HD) (Included on Core i3, Core i5, and Core i7 processors)
- Intel HD Graphics 2000
- Intel HD Graphics 3000
Part 2: Recommendations for graphics cards that support Hardware-decoding (DXVA) of H.264/AVC and VC-1
For the Home Theater PC
If you are still at a planning stage for your HTPC, I recommend getting this book. I wish I had this book when I started out as it would have saved me a lot of time. Of course, if you are not interested in setting up windows media center, this book should be more suited for. I will use http://www.silentpcreview.com for most of my HTPC recommendations, check out their page and forum!
Fan VS. Fanless
While noise can be an annoyance, removing all cooling components can become quite hazardous. Most graphics cards are equipped with low quality stock fans that makes quite the impact on overall noise levels. These can easily be swapped with better coolers from Zalman or Arctic Cooling. I used the Zalman VF1000 on my Ati 4850 with good results. If you are considering a fanless card, make sure it keeps a stable temperature and that the case fans helps cooling it.
List of recommended cards
Fanless and little to no gaming:
Fanless and low profile cabinet: Asus ATi Radeon HD5450 Silent
With good fan for gaming: Sapphire ATi Radeon HD5770 Vapor-X