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Nvidia's partners confirm HDCP compliance

Nvidia's partners confirm HDCP compliance

A furor erupted last month when the enthusiast Web sites FiringSquad and Ars Technica detailed the confusion surrounding HDCP and ATI's and Nvidia's graphics cards. HDCP stands for High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection. It's an emerging standard that is supposed to secure every component of the digital video food chain, and it will apply specifically to Blu-ray and HD-DVD movies and drives. If your monitor, your disc player, or your graphics card aren't HDCP compliant, that high-quality video output you spent so much money on will down-res, ostensibly to hinder piracy by allowing it access to only low-quality content.

The problem emerged when it came out that despite the fact that both ATI's and Nvidia's graphics chips have been HDCP capable for more than a year, neither manufacturer nor their board partners have been selling HDCP-capable graphics cards. To do that, you'd need to add a flashable CryptoROM chip to the card that can be updated to support the to-be-determined AACS (Advanced Access Content System) standard when it's finalized. So while many people may have purchased a new graphics card for a home-theater PC, none of the cards on the market have had the flash ROM chip to receive the AACS information. It's not a feature you can add post-purchase, and you can't fix it with a software patch.

We asked Nvidia about it, and while the company wasn't shy about trumpeting its cards' HDCP compliance, it said it was leaving it up to the board partners to determine whether to sell the cards with the CryptoROM chip. A round of calls to Nvidia's partners garnered a handful of confirmations that while the first batch of GeForce 7900 and 7600 cards will not have the CryptoROM chip, future shipments will. None of Nvidia's partners have specified timing yet, but it's nice to know that you'll soon be able to find both Nvidia and ATI-based graphics cards that really are ready for the future of home theater. Just don't rub it in to the guys that bought supposed HDCP-ready cards last week.