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Over the weekend I lucked into an eBay auction running at an off-peak time where I was the only bidder in several days and won a 128mb LeadTek WinFast 6800 LE AGP video card for roughly one eighth of its original MSRP. The seller tells me that he has unlocked the unused pixel and shader pipelines using RivaTuner and got a 20% increase in speed without overclocking, so it's pretty close to a 6800GT in performance. I bought this card to upgrade from my XFX 6200 (256mb 64bit memory clock) because while that card works fine for DVD playback using TheaterTek, I've noticed it bogging down a lot in more demanding scenes playing the Titan Quest PC game and imagine it will have similar performance issues with other games like Quake 4, Far Cry, Fable, etc.... In my setup, with a relatively modest-resolution Infocus 4805 projector, I should be able to max out the settings of every game on the market and still have smooth gameplay with a 6800 card.

However, I went back to nVidia's website to look at their PureVideo feature set tables and noticed that the 6800, presumably as an older, more games-oriented card, lacks a few features including H.264 Decode Acceleration, VC1 Decode Acceleration and WMV9 Decode Acceleration that other 6xxx and 7xxx series cards have. Here's a link for the chart:


I only use my HTPC for SD DVD playback, playing computer games and surfing the internet - I use my DirecTV HD DVR for watching television. Here's my upgraded HP Pavilion a420n's current setup:

- Athlon XP3000 (2.2gHz)

- 1gb RAM (512mb pc2700, 512mb pc3200)

- XFX GeForce 6200 AGP w/ 256mb (currently)

- Rosewill 450w PS

- LiteOn DVD and DVD-RW drives

- 2 x 160gb WD EIDE hard drives

- Chaintech 710 Via Envy 24 sound card running SPDIF to Onkyo receiver

- Win XP Home (SP2)

- Infocus 4805 projector (854x480 native resolution) connected to video card w/25' Monoprice DVI to DVI-M1 cable

1) Will the decreased features on this 6800 result in lower video quality playing back SD DVD's using TheaterTek (with its included PureVideo decoders) compared to my current 6200? If so, can you give me a quantitative and qualitative guestimate as to how much inferior the 6800 will be?

2) If I start using ffDshow, will that render moot the loss of features and/or video quality (if any) I will suffer by using the older 6800 card?

3) Any suggestions on any other cheap solution to keeping or even improving on the current quality video playback of SD DVD's while boosting performance in games? I've got about a $50-60 threshhold before I have to justify purchases to my family comptroller (i.e., I want to avoid hearing "Explain why it's more important for you to spend $100 to play silly games than to put that money in our daughter's college fund?")

Obviously, the solution to my problems is getting vastly superior hardware upgrades, but a new MB w/ a dual core processor and PCI-E 7xxx or 8xxx card are not in the budget for the next couple of years and are probably not financially sensible upgrades until I move up to a 720p (or even 1080p if prices fall fast enough) projector. I also clearly don't need to worry about hardware for HD-DVD or Blu-Ray playback until I upgrade my 4805.

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