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How reliable is a HTPC?


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#1 of 7 OFFLINE   Neil Joseph

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Posted October 15 2002 - 03:53 PM

Please educate me more on HTPC and using your computer to upscale the resolution the a TV/Projector's maximum native resolution. Just how much control does the PC have. Are you guys using your computers with built in DVD players and outputting from a video card to your display device, or are some of you using an external DVD player, sending the video to the computer to upscale, and then sending the upscaled video to a display device? The reason I ask is we all know how reliable computer software is (or is not)! The actual hardware is usually rock solid but when watching movies, do software glitches make regular annoyances?
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#2 of 7 OFFLINE   Chris Tsutsui

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Posted October 15 2002 - 11:18 PM

That would be my one concern with HTPC video is the occasionaly "hiccups" that occur during movies. I use an internal Pioneer 106S slot load DVD player outputting video directly to a 19" Cornerstone P1460 monitor. WHen software decoded by WinDVD or PowerDVD, the picture is more than acceptable. (My biggest concern is that it always skips at the beginning of a film and maybe once during. Also the noise from the spinning DVD rom can get annoying at low movie volumes) On a friends HTPC, he uses a Radeon 8500 Retail outputting a signal from the video card to a TV via S-video cable. The problem is the computer doesn't boot sometimes unless the S-video cable is unplugged. Also there are occasional lags during movies. We use the TV's calibrations to adjust the picture, the only control we had on the PC was moving the position of the screen around. To answer your question in short, I don't have much control of the upscaling unless I spend some $. I also don't plan on upgrading because of the software glitches that may still occur.

#3 of 7 OFFLINE   Vince Maskeeper

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Posted October 15 2002 - 11:58 PM

I know this is not a popular view point, but IMHO if you're using the TV out on one of these cards, you're not really using a HTPC. The TV output is lower quality than most stand alone players, and misses the point of Radeon entirely. So, Neil, I think the answer to your question is that it can do nearly anything you can imagine-- and as long as you're willing to play around a little, you can get the right combinations of harware and software to create a rock solid and "hiccup free" system. -Vince
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#4 of 7 OFFLINE   Neil Joseph

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Posted October 16 2002 - 04:21 PM

What would be the specs/components of a decent up-to-date HTPC by today's standards?
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#5 of 7 OFFLINE   Chris Tsutsui

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Posted October 16 2002 - 05:11 PM

Vince, I have the drive utility PIONEER DVD-ROM DVD-106 1.22 2001/08/01 Even at its slowest setting the 106S is still noticeable as the seating location is rather close to the system unit. (I'd say it's only about 3 decibels or less louder when turned on) I'm glad to hear that what I've been experienced isn't an HTPC because I havn't really been impressed. I guess all it takes is money and hardware. From what I heard, the capabilities of a dedicated HTPC are very rewarding and can outperform even the best of stand alone players.

#6 of 7 OFFLINE   Vince Maskeeper

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Posted October 17 2002 - 12:18 AM


Well- I'd check out the Meta FAQ over at AVS which links you to some common documents about HTPC (including a Best-in-class hardware list).

The standard accessories seem to be:

M-audio card: The Audiophile 2496 is a good one for SPDIF pass though of digital sources. There are a few multi analog output cars that people are using to decode DD/DTS in the PC and pass 6 channel analog. I prefer to let my preamp have that duty, so I use the 2496.

Radeon based video: Really, many people have stuck with the 7500 series cards as the 8500 had some sort of grayscale problem and the newest cards are still a bit finicky with latest drivers/lastestos/certain software. It looks like Theatertek 1.5 will solve incompatibility issues with the 9000 series stuff- so I might finally move forward to a new card. But, I currently have the LE card, which will probably go down as the most popular Radeon HTPC card (all the options, half the price, heatsink instead of fan)-- and it would still be well suited for the application if they weren't impossible to find.

Input card: A Brooktree (now Conexant) chip based video input card to work with Dscaler. Will allow scaling of external sources (also works a TV tuner).

System and Processor fans like those offered from Pc Power & Cooling: silent system fans.

For HD I use Seagate Berricuda drives which is fast and very quiet. There have been a few new models that have come along with similar silent performance- so AVS might be a good place to consult.

For Mobo and Processor- previously I was using a Epox Epkha8+ with a AMD 1600XP and 512 of DDR. I had some phantom problems with it (refusal to see the network, occasional frame stutter)- so this went into desktop duty (where oddly it has been pretty solid). I am now building around a Asus board and a P4 Northwood processor. I have heard too many HTPC horror stories about AMD/VIA chipsets mucking things up (but to be fair, I have heard as many success stories)-- so I thought I would try to go over to the dark side and see what happens.

Again- the MOBO/Processor stuff evolves pretty fast- and many different configurations have been used.

Some docs which might help (get some coffee first):
http://www.avsforum.....22&perpage=999
http://www.avsforum.....14&perpage=999
http://www.avsforum.....50&perpage=999
http://www.avsforum.....threadid=31225
http://www.dtvmax.com/radeon_guide.htm

-V
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#7 of 7 OFFLINE   Chris Tsutsui

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Posted October 17 2002 - 12:37 PM

Here's a nice bang per buck system: Processor - AMD Athlon XP 1700+ (1.47GHz) - $66 Motherboard - MSI MS-6380E KT3 Ultra2 - $80 Memory - 256MB Crucial PC2700 DDR SDRAM - $74 Video Card - ATI Radeon 8500LE 64MB - $87 Hard Drive - Western Digital WD400BB 40GB - $70 (The Barracuda is quieter by about 2 decibels but it's also one of the slowest.) This one like many mobos has an onboard integrated 6 Channel Avance Logic ALC650 AC'97 codec. I don't know how the two spif outputs work on it but I think it's be worth a shot. (Afterall, it's free)




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