This year sees the start of a format battle on a scale similar to that of the VHS/Betamax era. We're referring, of course, to Blu-Ray and HD-DVD high-definition video discs. Both are being pushed by major companies and both claim to be 'the one' for next-generation media storage. On HEXUS.lifestyle you'll see many a report about how the two technologies are faring, but until they're both readily available, we simply won't know which the majority of people will plump for, if they plump at all.
What we can be sure of is that with the new generation of high-definition discs comes a new form of digital rights management. High-Bandwidth Digital Content Protection (HDCP) could be the most restrictive form of DRM yet. This review isn't the place for us to discuss our views on it, however, so let's just cover what it does. Put very simply, HDCP involves the disc, the player's graphics subsystem and the display device. The protected content isn't just encrypted within the computer or media player; it's encrypted over the interface to the display too.
HDCP is in a close (but not exclusive) relationship with the new High-Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI), which is designed to carry high-definition video and audio to the latest HD displays. Cutting to the chase, if you want HD content from next-generation media on your new HD display, you better have HDCP support, or you might end up with standard definition playback and nothing much better.
In recent months there's been quite a kerfuffle over which graphics cards support HDCP. However, we are seeing cards that definitely do support it (and HDMI) trickling through slowly now.
Today we have two such cards on test, both from Info-Tek's GeCube brand and both from the ATI Radeon X1000 series.
We're going to take them for a spin, see if their bundles give any assistance towards HDMI connectivity and find out how they perform, including at HDTV resolution.