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?
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:
And my favorite and the one that I am using when writing this is the:
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: http://geppettvs.servehttp.com/resources/desktop.ogv (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.
My current monitor config in the next screenshot:
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 Smplayer.
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 - https://help.ubuntu.com/community/RadeonDriver
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.