Nvidia has posted software that allows certain GeForce graphics chips to decode video encoded using H.264 format. But it wants up to $49.95 for the Windows Media Player and Windows Media Center plug-in.
The PureVideo Decoder software allows systems containing a GeForce 7 series, GeForce 6 series - mobile and desktop - or nForce 6150 integrated GPU to accelerate H.264 in hardware. H.264 is part of the MPEG 4 standard, and is one of the codecs mandated by both the HD DVD and Blu-ray DIsc next-generation optical disc formats.
Nvidia is offering three versions of the plug-in, priced at $19.95, $29.95 and $49.95, respectively. The basic, Bronze package offers H.264 acceleration, two-channel Dolby sound with S/PFIF pass-through and DVD/MPEG 2 decoding. The Gold bundle adds Dolby 5.1, Dolby Pro Logic II and Dolby Headphone. The premium, Platinum package adds DTS support.
Not all GeForce 7 series and GeForce 6 series GPU support H.264 acceleration, whether for HD content or standard definition material, or whether you have an AGP or PCI Express-based card. It's worth checking your card against Nvidia's checklist here. There are some surprises: the once top-of-the-range GeForce 6800 Ultra can't do H.264 acceleration in HD or SD, whereas the lesser GeForce 6500 can.
Nividia also released a beta version - release 84.12 - of its drivers, which is required for the PureVideo Decoder software. ®