Originally Posted by mateatworld
I was trying to decide between a 8600 gt(s) or X2600 pro for my HTPC. Now with 3850, will prices for the other ones go down? Which of the three should I get? Looking to spend under $200.
Mostly will be used for watching/recording HDTV on 42" 1080p HDTV, playing light games like World of Warcraft or Counter Strike Source. Would like to some day put a HDDVD or Bluray player in it.
I have another PC for higher end gaming. I would like the HTPC to remain quite and cool.
In your case I would go with an HD 3850. I'm typing this message to you on my 720p projector on an e6300/2GB/500GB pc running an Asus 8600gts and I'm telling you that HD video is handled MUCH better by an ATI card in this class--and I've had this card for 4 months and an 8800gts for a month before that (now relegated to a friend's strictly gaming rig). I had an x1950pro and an XTX in this machine before and both were better for displaying text and for video processing and pushing via DVI connection to my DLP projector. The ATI colors were also better. All of this despite the fact that the 8600gts provides better CPU offload and runs cooler than the x1950 cards did. Same exact computer with no software or hardware changes except video cards and drivers. Personally, I'd rather take the CPU hit and have better overall text, smooth running video and more dynamic color display than CPU offload any day of the week. If I can have all that AND have a cooler running card that offloads work from my dual cores, it's a no brainer... This card will be replaced by next week.
In some small defense of the nVidia cards and PurevideoHD, they do have a bit more control over noise reduction than the more basic approach taken by ATi's drivers. However, ATi's still works great and (to my eyes at least) allows smoother playback and crisper, sharper looking video while still doing a good job of noise control at standard settings. This is all before playing with any non-standard settings in or extra processing with ffdshow and the like.
Sometimes (dependent on the capabilities of your display) you will have slightly better options for pixel mapping and overscan correction with the nVidia cards as well. Using strictly LCD monitors and a front projector, overscan and 1:1 pixel mapping have never been problems in my case at all.
To give you better perspective, I've been running both nVida and ATI cards since the days before the Ti series and the ATi 8500 in multiple PCs. I've been a system builder for years and still build for friends and others on occaision. I've had "HTPCs" in my house since first TV tuners and DVD decoders were availabe, so I've had a great deal of experience with both gaming and HTPC equipment. NVidia has made huge strides in recent years to catch up to ATi in image quality in games and video, and of course their latest highend cards are still tops for speed in most games, but I still think that they have a ways to go in the video processing. Their Purevideo technology works very well--especially for DVD video--and their newest cards work great with my ATi 650 HDTV tuner; but, for h.264 encoded video and other types of HD media, I think they still have some catching up to do.
Bottom line is, if all you care about is top speed, then go with NVidia. If you want crisper text (which is important when displaying on a large screen) and better video pocessing and scaling (and, yes, even image quality in a wider variety of games) with a variety of HD sources and types, you might want to give the ATI cards a try.