Sapphire has reportedly showcased at CES a new graphics card that offers two outputs, a VGA and an HDMI. But desides that, the graphics card takes advantage of the HDMI interface to deliver a unique feature: sound.
Of course, the HDMI interface is capable of passing through both audio and video digital information. The HDMI interface has been proposed for next-generation DVD devices, for PC displays in a slightly different version and of course, in consumer electronics devices such as TVs, recorders, players etc. But Sapphire's graphics card is the first that is equipped with an HDMI interface, as well as with a SIL chip that outputs sound.
The idea is unique but it was an option from the technical point of view, if you consider that the future graphics cards would have to deal with the next-generation HD content and thus, support the HDCP content protection schemes. The HDMI-equipped graphics cards could be a solution in order to bridge consumer electronics with the PC.
ATI has already announced that it will incorporate the SiI 1390 transmitters from Silicon Image, to interface directly to the video and audio interfaces of PC platforms and enable secure access to high definition content. But ATI's Technical PR Manager for Europe, Mr Rene Froeleke had not hinted at the possibility of equiping graphics cards with an HDMI interface when the question was posed to him in an interview
with CDRInfo last September.
Sapphire seems to have taken the step and uses the HDMI capabilities to give sound to its HDMI X1600Pro mid-range card. However, it is not certain whether the card will be available comercially anytime soon.
Sapphire's card is not the first PC related device that uses the HDMI interface. The new Toshiba Qosmio notebook uses an HDMI interface to output video/audio content coming from its HD DVD-ROM drive. As a sidenote, the specific device did not support the Managed Copy function of the HD DVD format.