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HDCP: The graphic card and monitor nightmare.
by Vincent Alzieu
Published on January 6, 2006

HDCP from the graphic card point of view
From the monitor point of view, HDCP is a horror story incompatible with current monitors. We wanted to reassure....uh, warn you, that graphic cards are in the same situation.

However, if we look at the graphic cards specifications, all ATI and NVIDIA cards in stores since 2003 are HDCP compliant.

It doesn´t mean that they are HDCP ready. It only means that the design kits have been developed with the possibility to add a Silicon Image or Texas Instrument chip to have HDCP compatibility. No manufacturer has done that yet.

To have a better understanding of the manufacturers´ situation we logically turned to the major actors on the market, ATI and NVIDIA, for a better understanding of the subject. The first gave us much more information than the other.

The first ATI Radeon X1000 desktop and mobility differs from the previous series. This time the Silicon Image chip is no longer necessary. These new families have been designed to be included in HDCP environments if the management of security functions is wired on the card (key encrypted in the bios, for example).

Four conditions have to be met for HDCP to be validated. The eeprom size must be adapted, flashable, the chip or the GPU must be capable of encoding movie data instantly, and the manufacturer has to buy HDCP compatibility table from the consortium (approximately 1$ or even a little bit less).
According to ATI France, the first HDCP Ready cards will be sold as such. It would represent an easy selling point, which isn´t the case for any card currently on the market despite the X1000´s announced characteristics. It won´t be possible to update current cards to benefit from this compatibility. The reason is the lack of HD protected content. Manufacturers don´t have any demand from customers and estimate there is no need to reduce their margins a $1.

NVIDIA didn´t communicate as much information. The bios are ready, and the cards are HDCP compliant since the FX. The dialogue with Windows COPP drivers seems OK, the only thing missing is the encoding confirmation. NVIDIA doesn´t want to make any comment on this part for now. Can or can´t they encode directly? They certainly can. The Media Center Sony VGX-XL1, which includes HDMI output is HDCP and includes a "special" GeForce 6200 TC. There will be more information later.

If we take stock on the situation, no ATI or NVIDIA graphic card, whatever its price is HDCP ready and consequently HD Ready for now. None allow the watching of HD protected movies in full resolution and without downsizing when they will be released. This is true for any type of support, download, DH-DVD or Blu-Ray. What about a possible update? For now it doesn´t seems to be on the agenda.

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