TechSpot

Integrated vs. PCI video card?

By MathTeacher
Feb 3, 2006
  1. Is DVI needed for digital photography work?

    I am considering the purchase of an AMD-based computer with an integrated ATI Radeon XPress 200 video card. The computer will not be used for gaming, simply for basic office applications, digital photography, and perhaps making DVDs. The model I am considering does not have DVI out. My question is this: will the integrated video card be sufficient for my needs, or will I need to install a PCI card in order to accomodate DVI out? I am assuming that for basic office applications, analog would be fine. My concern is mainly because I plan to use it for photographs and video. I do not have any real experience with LCD monitors, and thus have no reference for comparing digital and analog. The responses to this post will not only help me decide about the video card, but also about the monitor. If the integrated card is fine, then I'll just go with an analog LCD.
    As a follow-up, if an upgrade is recommended, how high-end should I go? (Remember, I'm not using this for gaming, just for pics and video.) I've seen basic PCI cards with 64MB of video memory for $30 or so, and more expensive ones with up to 256MB of video memory. I am just not familiar enough with video memory to gauge how much I need.
    Thanks in advance.
     
  2. JMMD

    JMMD TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 1,177

    If you're getting a new PC then it will probably have an AGP or PCI-express slot for a video card. There's no reason to use a PCI video card on a new machine. The onboard video should be fine. If you want to get an LCD, you can get one that has both analog and digital connections. You can always add a video card with DVI later on.
     
  3. seanp789

    seanp789 TS Enthusiast Posts: 113

    If you are getting a high resolution LCD (anything over 1280x1024) I would strongly recommend going the DVI route to avoid any annoying image quality issues that tend to appear appear on analog LCD connections. Analog is still an option but DVI is preferred. Of course if you get a crappy LCD then you will have other problems. Do your research before buying. Let me recommend looking at Dell branded LCDs as a starting point. I've owned 3 Dell LCDs (2001FP,2005FPW,2405FPW) and I have yet to be disappointed by them.
     
  4. MathTeacher

    MathTeacher TS Rookie Topic Starter

    JMMD,
    Yes, it does have a PCI-E slot. That helps to know that is the preferred slot for a video card if no AGP is available. The specs do not mention an AGP slot. I assumed that since the supplied video card is "integrated" that means there is no AGP slot. Is that a correct assumption?
    And your suggestion of buying an LCD with both types of inputs in order to upgrade later is a definite possibility. It seems that that would only be an extra $50-$75 compared to an analog only, at least to get to the lower-end DVI LCDs. Which leads me to my follow-up questions for Sean...

    Sean,
    I am interested in hearing more about the differences between good and crappy LCDs. Things I have been paying attention to are response time, contrast ratio, viewing angles, and brightness. And of course, reading customer reviews. Is there anything else I should throw into the mix?

    Thanks again to you both.
     
  5. JMMD

    JMMD TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 1,177

    If there is a PCI-e slot for video there would be no AGP slot. Do you have a link to the PC you're getting?
     
  6. N3051M

    N3051M TS Rookie Posts: 2,800

    dvds and digital photography just for home or as a hobby/proffession/job? i would say that the intergrated would do the job ok, just make sure you have enough ram (usualy 1gb is minimum) to pull most of the gruntwork when doing the photos and such.. but that is one view.
    if you do have a bit more $$, you can invest in a vid card, with dual outputs + DVI. a couple of reasons is this:
    1. as stated by sean, DVI is generaly better when working with lcds, especialy large size/resolution (no conversion to analogue = no signal loss/distortion)
    2. a vid card with 2 outputs means 2 monitors able to be used simultainiously (tv out is optional as well). its not only for the games and the looks but for those doing a lot of photo editing/video-animation stuff having one screen with just tools and options all layed out then the other just purely for the image, full sized is just a blessing.....
    3. it takes a heap of strain out of hte cpu when you're processing something image heavy, and generaly makes it run smoother (provided its has better specs than the intergrated)..

    Monitors:
    they usualy apply to the rule of buying one like mathteacher says, altho analouge and digital makes no difference, provided you dont push it past its limits, whether its 1280x1024 or whatever..
    whatever resolution you are planning to run on, remember the more pixel number the bigger the screen has to be (or you will have to start squinting :))..
     
  7. MathTeacher

    MathTeacher TS Rookie Topic Starter

  8. MathTeacher

    MathTeacher TS Rookie Topic Starter

    This is just for hobby purposes. I am an amateur photographer, mostly film. But with the likelihood of children soon, I am sure I will soon be getting a digital camera for snapshots (as opposed to photographs). Plus, even with film, I end up scanning many into the computer. At any rate, it is purely a hobby. And the computer I want does have 1 GB of ram, with two open slots for upgrading.

    That is very helpful to know. This is one reason I am going the AMD route, as I understand it is a smoother, cooler processor than pentiums.
     
  9. seanp789

    seanp789 TS Enthusiast Posts: 113



    Well I certainly cant tell u everything about LCDs as the standard of what is "good" changes with every new product that is released so I will try to give you some basic info and a couple links that you can get more information.

    There are many companies that sell LCD screens like dell or HP, but only a handful of companies that actually make the LCD panels.
    We are currently on 6th generation LCDs panels the two best types currently being produced by Samsung or LG. Samsung has already started shipping 7th generation LCD panels but I have yet to see a retail product available. Wouldnt expect much 7th gen selection until summer or later.


    Ok, as far as the specs for LCDs go, you want good specs but they do not guarentee the better LCD if you were to compare 2 LCDs on specs alone.

    I recommend at least:
    Response time : < 12 ms
    Contrast Ratio : > 600:1
    Brightness is not usually an issue. Most screen even the cheaper ones and plenty bright.

    You mentioned photography: LCDs do not produce the full color spectrum so response time woudl be less important to you and contrast ratio would be very important. Otherwish your pictures will have very blocky colors on screen and will be difficult to accurately edit. Trying getting a contrast ratio of at least 1000:1.

    I would highly highly recommend finding a model you are interested in and google for a review on that model "review dell 2405" something like that. Since this is your first LCD purchase you really should stick to only models that have been reviewed until you understand first hand what you need and should expect from an LCD.

    Dell tends to offer the best performance/price ratio in the 20" and above category. I've worked with smaller 15" dells and 17" NECs and while they handle all your basic websurfing and office work, I would refuse to use them for games/video/pictures partly because they are so small and partly because their lower specs were very obvious to me.

    http://www.anandtech.com/printarticle.aspx?i=1855

    http://www.sharpsma.com/lcd/lcdguide/Primer/Primer_index.php
     
  10. MathTeacher

    MathTeacher TS Rookie Topic Starter

    Thanks!

    Thanks to all for the help. I have decided to go with the HP L1755 monitor. It has digital and analog inputs, so I can use the included video card for now and still have the option to upgrade it later if I decide I need to.
     
  11. Cartz

    Cartz TS Rookie Posts: 97

    I did a few minutes of googling to see if I could find a review of your selection, but I was unable to find any reviews by major hardware sites on the net.

    You have to be careful when buying LCD panels, as the specifications listed by manufacturers range from exagerations to outright lies. There are also specifications that aren't listed that are of crucial importance if you care to do photo editting on an LCD.

    First, response time can be measured in any number of ways, the most common is the grey to grey (g2g) response time, because it usually yields the lowest number. There are many panels out there that advertise 12ms, but in reality are closer to 30 or 40 ms.

    Another is the contrast ratio, I know that for my panel (dell 2405 wfp) the advertised contrast ratio is something around 3000:1, although, when analyzed in a lab with professional grade equipment, it turns out to be more around the 550-650:1 range (can't remember exactly). So your 1000:1 rating may be just that, or it could be as low as 250:1.

    Finally, and the biggest and most important feature of an LCD screen used for photo editting, is the panel uniformity. Since LCDs are lit via a backlight, great steps need to be taken in the manufacturing process to ensure that the lighting of the panel is uniform across the entire back of the screen, if it isn't then certain colors in certain areas will appear darker then they should, and can throw off your color correction substantially. It is therefore paramount that you get a panel that has at least 75-80% uniformity across the entire panel.

    The best site I've found for reviewing LCD panels is tomshardware.com, they run the largest gamut of tests, and although it seems like they sugar coat from time to time, the data they post in graphs and charts speaks for itself. I looked for your panel there, but could not find it.

    Not saying your panel is bad, it could be an excellent choice, I'm just saying that I could not verify that your selection is a good one.
     
     
  12. MathTeacher

    MathTeacher TS Rookie Topic Starter

    Cartz,
    Yes, I know what you mean about advertised specs and actual specs. Other than a few personal reviews, I couldn't find any technical reviews for the L1755. But I did find a review for its 19" sister model the L1955:

    http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,1759,1738352,00.asp

    While there's no guarantee, I would assume the two models to be about the same in quality.
    Based on the post by seanp789, I am focusing more on contrast ratio than on response time. That is why the advertised 25ms response time does not bother me too much. And I would guess that, since 25ms is a slow response time by today's standards, that number has not been misrepresented. That is, if HP were going to fudge the numbers, it could have done a better job than 25ms. And it may be a leap, but that also makes me tend to believe their other numbers. The L1755 is in HP's upper tier of displays -- listed in the business class, as opposed to personal. It seems to be targeted toward graphic design market, not the gaming market.
    One other thing which attracts me to the HP... when browsing Circuit City, Office Depot, etc, I noticed that the HP displays were of a sturdier physical quality than most others, and they are much more adjustable. I especially like the L1755's ability to not only tilt and swivel, but also pivot. When working with photos, that will be very convenient.
     
  13. Cartz

    Cartz TS Rookie Posts: 97

    Not to mention, if you're having a family soon, little hands might be doing some damage of their own... Good to have a strong panel.

    Interesting though, that the site I saw had it advertised as 12ms response :p

    I understand response time isn't all that important to you for photo editting, but you said you did video editting, and theres nothing like video editting on a slow monitor to give you a headache, thats why I suggested that you keep it in mind...

    It's a shame really, if we could find out the manufacturer of the actual panel (I believe HP buys theirs from other makers, probably samsung, and then rebrands them) there is more then likely a tech review out there that we could reference.

    As long as you understand it's a bit of a gamble, you're good to go in my books, looks like a good panel for a good price.
     
  14. MathTeacher

    MathTeacher TS Rookie Topic Starter

    Well, the purchase is still a few weeks down the road, so maybe some more reviews will come out in the mean time.

    Hmmm... good point. I noticed that the PC Magazine review (above link) indicates "faint ghosting on analog signals" -- does that mean that response time is better for digital signals? Of course you could not say for this particular monitor, but is that generally the case?
     
  15. Cartz

    Cartz TS Rookie Posts: 97

    I've never heard of a monitor ghosting on one signal type and not the other. I suppose it is possible, but I notice equal amounts of ghosting on my monitor whether it be on DVI or Analog. It's not bad unless something is moving really quickly though...

    I'll look into it some more. I think you'd notice ghosting on either input though, thats my gut feeling.
     
  16. MathTeacher

    MathTeacher TS Rookie Topic Starter

    Cartz,
    I think I'll start a new thread to see if anyone has any experience with this monitor. I feel pretty good about it, as HP indicates it is intended for graphic designers. But I would feel much better if I have at least a few first-hand reviews.
    If you find out anything, you can post in this thread or look for the new one. Thanks again for your advice.
     
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