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My computer has a PCI Express x16 socket on the motherboard. What is the minimum graphics card I need to get smooth fullscreen 1080p playback?

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up vote 4 down vote accepted

The minimum? What a question.

I have several nVidia based graphic cards with both 512 MB and 1024 MB in different systems, and both are good for playing high definition video files. The best, of course, is the 1024 MB card, which is not expensive at all.

You may experience a better performance starting at 1024 MB video card. And I am talking to those times when you wish to play a high definition video and do something else. Or when using two monitors to extend the desktop, etc.

There are new video cards with DDR3 memory systems which will absolutely work better than DDR2 memory based systems.

I prefer the nVidia's but I know that ATI's are also good and many people prefer ATI over nVidia and I have seen an ATI RADEON with 3 GB memory system at work, owned by a gamer friend.

Take in consideration that any video card starting at 1024 MB memory system will do the work with ease.

My nVidia models are:

  1. ZOGIS GeForce 8500GT 512MB DDR2 PCI Express
  2. PALIT 9500GT Super 512MB/128Bit/DDR2 Dual Link DVI/TV-Out PCI Express 2.0
  3. PNY VERTO GT220 1024MB DDR2 PCI Express

And my favorite and the one that I am using when writing this is the:

  • PhysX SPARKLE GeForce 9500GT 1024MB/DDR2/CRT/DVI-I/HDCṔ/SLI/PCI Express 2.0

This graphic card features no fan and a big aluminum heat sink, which makes absolute silently performance and you won't face the problems when the fan fails because of the dust or typical problems on the fan.

In this link you can find a screen recording of my system when playing a RAW mpeg HD Video file when using dual monitor view. (Take in consideration that I am running in a 2GB RAM system and the screen capture may differ of what I see on this side).

The video is played windowed and full screen in my left side monitor.

For download only, at: (right click, save target as)

In VLC, Menu "Media" and "Open Network Stream", enter the url and click "Play".

The specs of the video file can be seen in the next screenshots.

enter image description here enter image description here

My current monitor config in the next screenshot:

enter image description here

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What's the difference between PCI Express 2.0 and PCI Express x16? According to my motherboard manual, I have 1 PCI Express x16 socket. – oshirowanen Feb 26 '11 at 11:33
From the Wikipedia: ** "PCI Express External Cabling [..] specifications were released by the PCI-SIG in February 2007. Standard cables and connectors have been defined for ×1, ×4, ×8, and ×16 link widths, with a transfer rate of 250 MB/s per lane. The PCI-SIG also expects the norm will evolve to reach the 500 MB/s as found in PCI Express 2.0. The maximum cable length hasn't been determined yet." ** All I can say is the difference remains in bandwidth but the majority of the PCI Express 2.0 should have backwards compatibility. You should ask the vendor or manufacturer. – Geppettvs D'Constanzo Feb 26 '11 at 16:08
The Wikipedia Link: **** Additionally (sorry, I couldn't include this in the last comment) You can find several forums where people is sharing their experiences, like this: – Geppettvs D'Constanzo Feb 26 '11 at 16:09
About pricing: I got my SPARKLE for just 85 US Dollars. What is your budget? Here is the PNY GeForce 210 1GB PCIe Graphics Card for just: $99.99 At Staples (…) and here is the Asus - NVIDIA GeForce GT 240 1GB DDR3 PCI Express Graphics Card for just $79.99 at BestBuy.… (Note this last is DDR3 1024MB). Depending on your location you can find cheaper items. – Geppettvs D'Constanzo Feb 26 '11 at 16:19
Sorry, I had to restart my computer and couldn't finish, just wanted to add this: I make professional media (graphics, audio and video) for TV and Radio stations. For my needs, those items I suggested you are really really cheap but I know that spending 100 US Dollars for a video card in order to play HD video for a hobby can be expensive. It would be nice if you say how much do you pretend to spend in this item and where in the world, in order to give you a better suggestion. – Geppettvs D'Constanzo Feb 26 '11 at 16:34

I can't provide you with an direct suggestion, but you should make sure to buy an nVidia card with VDPAU-Support. VDPAU provides hardware accelerated video playback for supported formats/codecs. I'm having a GeForce 9600 GT myself and got perfectly smooth video using SmplayerInstall smplayer.

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No need to incline to Nvidia. Just chose what performs best at your budget. I would also check out the recommended/tested list of graphics card on Ubuntu. Like ATI ones are here -

I used to play HD fine with my ATI HD 4850 512MB. And yes you would need to enable VAAPI support in a player (that has support for it), like mplayer and make sure it actually uses your GPU.

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I want to stick to nvidia because I've had a lot of problems with ATI in the passed. Is there a similar list of nvidia cards which work with ubuntu? – oshirowanen Feb 26 '11 at 11:34
ATI on linux has improved a lot since the time its support was terrible for Linux. For Nvidia, I can't find the link, sorry. – Ashfame Feb 26 '11 at 12:06
This may help:… Not nVidia officially managed but community experiences sharing. – Geppettvs D'Constanzo Feb 26 '11 at 23:43

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