One of our constant laments has been the apparent lack of synchronization between the consumer electronics world and the PC industry. Home theatre PCs (HTPCs) have gone mainstream and solid but hardly cutting edge PC vendors like Hewlett Packard are selling them like hotcakes. Yet how many of these consumer-oriented HTPCs actually support your latest HDTV standard fully, i.e. HDCP ready? The answer is probably close to zero. Chances are that even the typical enthusiast-assembled HTPC will not be capable of watching HDCP protected content without sacrificing some functionality (lower resolution) or jumping through a lot of hoops. Even your expensive widescreen LCD monitors suffer from this, with HDMI inputs lacking in most consumer models until recently. In short, the next generation devices like HDTV and Blu-ray DVDs are already here but the PC is still not up to supporting them completely.
The reasons are many and probably enough for a whole new article but things are a-changing now, with the graphics chip makers provoked into action at last. The NVIDIA GeForce 7950 GX2 was one of the first HDCP ready graphics cards available in retail and this has been followed by other models from both ATI and NVIDIA. The latest such product set to debut is the Gigabyte GV-NX76G256HI-RH, a GeForce 7600 GS which is not only fully HDCP compliant but with its HDMI output, looks to be a graphics card truly meant for a HTPC. Is this the last piece of the jigsaw for a truly future-proof HTPC configuration? We got an early preview of this new card so here's a picture of it sans the retail packaging: