As I'm more of an audio/home theater guy and less of a computer guy (although very literate by most standards), I need some help from the computer gurus. My HTPC (an older Sony Vaio) needs to be rebuilt in order to make it more useful as a home theater PC. I bought the computer on ebay and installed Windows XP Media Center and Cinemar DVD Lobby Pro to control my Sony ES 400 DVD changer. Everything works great, but I definitely need to replace the sound and video cards so that it will be a more effective media source. I also want to pick up an HDTV tuner card (does this replace my digital cable box or just connect to it?)to record shows and movies to the pc. Can anybody provide me with some recommendations that won't break the budget? It just seems that there are so many options and price ranges that I can't pinpoint what brand or specs I want or need.
It would be nice to be able to accomplish what I want for $400 or less. I have a tigerdirect.com outlet in my neighborhood, and they have great deals on just about everything. I was looking at the Turtle Beach Montego sound card. It gives me 7.1 surround (which I will be set up for soon), S/PDIF digital out, and some awesome looking software for only $54.99. I'm more confused about the video card. Every card talks about gaming, gaming, gaming. I just want component outs and 1080p. What the hell does memory have to do with any of this? What do I get for $800 that a $100 card can't do? Does it justify the huge increase in price?
Unless you are playing games or using 3D applications, a cheap graphics card will be fine... you are paying for faster 3D performance with a more expensive card. Picture quality and stuff like that should be the same with a cheaper card. Similarly don't worry too much about how much memory the card has.
I'm not aware of any commonly available graphics cards with component output. It's funny because it would be really useful for the large amount of people who have TVs or receivers with component inputs (no HDMI etc).