Upgraded my Media center to play Blu-ray using motherboard graphics

Until recently its been quite a challenge if like me you have a low height media center chassis and wanted to find a motherboard that had sufficient oomph onboard to play HD-DVD/Blu-Ray.

The original motherboard in my MSI Media*Live did pretty well with Windows Media based hi-def content but flaked out when it came to anything h.264.  Now with a normal sized box the obvious thing would be to add a discrete graphics card but that is not an option with the media*live unless you are prepared to sacrifice your one pci slot and find a flexible right-angled pci-express adapter.  In anycase my pci slot is used for my tuner card so that was not an option.

I had been looking at this for some time and had almost decided to give up and get a new case as none of the motherboards could do exactly what I wanted. However there are a new set of AMD based motherboards on the market based on the AMD 780G chipset which come with integrated ATI 3200 series based chipsets which support Avivo decoding and pretty good GPU benchmarks. I found a really nice ATI/AMD Matx motherboard from Gigabyte which did everything I wanted and claimed to have the fastest benchmark for an onboard graphics set yet tested. It was a pretty easy fit in the MSI box although I did have to do some minor surgery to the support bar for the horizontal pci slot to stop it touching one of the heat sinks. I lost some ports I do not use (like scart) but I can now play HDVD/BluRay on the integrated GPU and it looks great. What really impressed me is how much improved Live TV appears to be with Avivo doing its magic than the same content did on an Nvidia chipset. It also seems to run a lot cooler than the original motherboard did – so lots less fan noise. Highly recommended.

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