Good and bad video cards for HTPC

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Mike_G, Sep 17, 2002.

  1. Mike_G

    Mike_G Screenwriter

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    Hi all,
    Rather than continue on with this discussion about video cards in the TheaterTek thread, I thought it would be better to start a new one.

    I got an ATI Radon 9700 over the weekend. Like I said before, it has no 16x9 TV out support like the 64MB DDR did. For $400, you'd think they'd support it?? Anyway, last night, DVD playback using PowerDVD 4.0 XP bluescreened my XP machine. People on the rage3d forums have been reporting the same thing. Turning hardware acceleration off fixed it, but I don't know if software decoding would become a performance problem in the future. I have 30 days to bring this thing back and I can't wait for ATI to fix it.

    Also, Zoomplayer exhibited the same problems as PowerDVD - playback had large, green pixels in it, then the PC crashed hard.

    I've bought ATI products simply because they worked well in the past, but I have no loyalty to them.

    To anyone specifically with an nVidia 4600: can you get 16x9 output on your TV out without tweaking the drivers/registry, and how is DVD playback?

    Mike
     
  2. Vince Maskeeper

    Vince Maskeeper Producer

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    I'm still confused about this. Are you looking specifically related to the TV output? If so, I'm curious why you bother with HTPC at all? TV output on these cards is lackluster at best- the true reason for HTPC is unlocking DVD scaled resolutions to HD levels.

    For scaling DVD and output of VGA signal DVD- Radeon is king. Geforce is a gaming card- does better with polygons and shading- not as well with MPEG decompression. Although I would imagine the engine for TV output on each is the same.

    If you're looking for 16x9 NTSC compt TV output- I don't see any reason for a HTPC.

    -Vince
     
  3. John Parris

    John Parris Stunt Coordinator

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    Ive heard a lot of negative comments about all the nVidia boards in regards to HTPC... keep in mind that nVidia generally has one thing and one thing only in mind when they design a board-- 3D benchmark performance.
    I say give it time on the compatibility issues of the 9700....this is a brand spankin new card... just give it a month or so and some of the solutions should be available via a little tweaking. Unfortunately, the issue may never be resolved on the ATI side of things... they really could care less about what us HTPC guys say about thier gaming-oriented cards... sad but true, i think. [​IMG]
    If your ONLY conscern is HTPC, then by all means drop the 9700 for a much cheaper and better solution-- the 7500 series card. If you still require the card for gaming, etc. then I guess you'll just have to tough it out for a while... this type of thing is precisely why I'm holding off on my upgrade for a while.
     
  4. Mike_G

    Mike_G Screenwriter

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  5. John Parris

    John Parris Stunt Coordinator

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    Well, the S-video on most (all?) graphics boards is just really sub-par. A standalone player would give you better picture via s-video is what he was getting at.
     
  6. RobertR

    RobertR Lead Actor

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    Agreed, John. Mike, there's no reason to get angry. Vince was simply pointing out that if you're going to use the TV out on an HTPC, you're not getting the most out of it picture wise.
     
  7. Mike_G

    Mike_G Screenwriter

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    But I already know that. I don't have any other choice. I had already stated several times I only use my PC for showing trailers until I get a real projector, but I still need 16x9 support. I switch to the set-top box when the trailers are over.

    Mike
     
  8. Chad Ellinger

    Chad Ellinger Second Unit

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    I haven't been too impressed with the TV-outs on video cards. For DVD, however, Sigma Design's Hollywood Plus DVD decoder card gave me excellent results. Their new product is the Xcard, and it seems right up your alley for only $99. The S-Video performance should blow away the TV-out on your video card, and it supports 16:9 modes as well. One problem is that you have to use their player software, so that may not be for you.
     
  9. KrisK

    KrisK Extra

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    Vince,

    Do you see any PQ benefits of going w/HTPC on a HD-ready RPTV?

    = Kris
     
  10. Vince Maskeeper

    Vince Maskeeper Producer

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    Absolutely- in fact this is one of the main uses for HTPC. If your TV can sync to higher resolutions like 720p or 1080i, you can use a HTPC to scale DVD to these resolutions- which will result in a much smoother picture than you would get with set-top DVD or budget scalers. SOme HD-ready sets have a DB15 (VGA type) input already- so you could hook a computer directly to it and experiment. Some only have HD component inputs- in which case you need a box to convert the DB-15 VGA output from the PC into the TV's component format.

    But- dpending on the sync rates your TV supports (some do 720p, some don't)- you should have several timing and resolution options to try out!

    -Vince
     
  11. John Parris

    John Parris Stunt Coordinator

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  12. Vince Maskeeper

    Vince Maskeeper Producer

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    Hd-Ready simply means it doesn't have a built in tuner.

    It must still sync to 1080i (and therefor likely will sync to 540p)- the only real wildcard is 720p- but the majority of HD sets don't support the resolution "HD-ready" or not. But this set should still do 1080i and 540p without issue.

    -Vince
     
  13. Ray_H

    Ray_H Auditioning

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    I just getting into the HTPC thing and currently just use my computer as a media server. I have ripped all my DVDs to hard drives and using a front end my family can just click (touch screen soon) the picture of the movie and it will play. I do the same thing for music CD's.

    My TV is a 32" direct view and I'm connecting to it with composite (bad I know) and my sound system is connected to the computer using digital coax.

    I'm thinking about getting a better television and need help in the selection. My viewing distance is only 7-feet and my budget is under about $1500 (could stretch a bit). What are my choices in televisions that will take advantage of being connected to a HTPC?

    Also, are most of you using dedicated computers or are they serving other purposes? Are you using the television as the only monitor?

    Thanks,

    Ray
     
  14. Vince Maskeeper

    Vince Maskeeper Producer

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    I prefer to avoid potential problems by running my PC strict HTPC duty (with the web being opened now and again to acquire drivers and patches and whatnot). Some people also run games and other stuff- but I personally opt for Strict media playback: TheaterTek, Winamp, Dscaler.

    I have my projector as the only monitor- however have a monitor in the back of the rack in case needed for diagnostics.

    -Vince
     
  15. Mike_G

    Mike_G Screenwriter

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    Vince,
    Fair enough. It just struck me the wrong way.

    Mike
     
  16. John Parris

    John Parris Stunt Coordinator

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    Vince-- Could Ray (this also applies to me and my budget,too [​IMG] ) actually get a decent FP for $1500 or so? With a decent screen? Seems like it would be a stretch...
    Ray- the more you add to the HTPC as far as software, the more likely you are to run into conflicts and potential problems... this is one of the largest pitfalls of HTPC and computers in general, but if you're a skilled user, most problems can be dealt with and corrected fairly painlessly. What you may NOT be able to deal with is the fact that great gaming cards generally don't go hand-in-hand with dvd playback... I'm considering more and more to build two seperate boxes, one for HTPC (using a Radeon 7500 card) and one for gaming and other apllications (9000 or 9700 in that one).
    If you wanna go HTPC-exclusive, you can actually afford to cut a few conerners on the performance end of things (7500 seems to be the most popular pick for DVD playback even though it's an older and much cheaper card)... you could also scale down the raw speed of the entire system to save some money (Duron 1Ghz and 256MB of PC-2100 on a standard 266Mhz FSB motherboard would be sufficient in this case I think), while a high-end solution would cost almost three times as much (new Athlon XP 2Ghz+ chips, 512MB of PC-2700 or PC-3000 on a corresponding KT-333 or KT-400 board would be quite a step up). If you're like me and need a file server anyway, you wont need much of a hard drive in the hypothetical media box, since you can keep most/all of your music and movie files on that... but that'd be an added expense if you didnt aleady plan on the file server.
    It's a trade-off, I guess, but a sufficient media-only style box can be much cheaper and less of a headache than a top of the line box.
     
  17. Vince Maskeeper

    Vince Maskeeper Producer

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    I guess it all depends on your personal situation and openess to options. The short answer is, YES, you can find FP setups, at an entry level, that rock.

    The first option is CRT displays. The 3 gun projectors, excellent ones, go pretty cheap since the advent of smaller digital projectors. The downfall is the size and work it takes to get them happening. If you're willing to invest some time and lern how to work with these bad boys, the pay off is significant. I started with a Sony VPH-1252 7 inch CRT that I picked up for about that price (I've seen them less than $1000 more recently)- and built my own screen for about $35 in parts. The setup was excellent- bigger picture with much more control than any RPTV I had ever seen. Picture quality was top notch!

    Secondly, you could look for one of the higher regarded LCD or DLP projectors on the used. I know I've seen used NEC LT-150s and Older Sony 10HT projectors sell at around this price point.

    Again- you can maximize your performance to dollar rating- but there is a trade off. Are you willing to deal with used gear? Are you interested (and have room) for a CRT projector? Certainly these issues are trade offs, but with the right combination you could end up with an EXCELLENT setup for around $1500 (plus cost of HTPC).

    -V
     
  18. Ray_H

    Ray_H Auditioning

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    Space requirements and the multi-use of the room require something besides FP. My viewing distance is only about 6 feet as this is a "great room".

    I am using this particular computer for HTPC, home automation and general email and web. It's also located in my office but I had my house wired VERY well so I have quad shielded coax (8 runs) from my office to my wiring closet and 8 runs from the wiring closet to my entertainment center. This has allowed my to run the ATI AIW output and santa cruz digital output from my computer to my entertainment center. I know that I not getting a very good PQ because it's composite but until I build a entertainment center friendly HTPC, it has to be this way.

    I think that I will word first on building the HTPC then focus on the display.

    Ray
     
  19. Brae

    Brae Supporting Actor

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    Vince,

    What would be the cheapist ATI video card that could be used for HTPC while still offering the performance and features one would go looking for when mated with both TT and a PC composed of a [email protected]_on_ATA100?

    No, I am not poor, but I am curious. I do not see to climb into the 'newest is best' box and was wondering where the bottom of the barrel starts. I would be feeding and NEC XG135LC 8" CRT with this DVD solution.

    Transcoder for standalone DVD player is $350 and scaler starts at $1500. Hmmm.
     

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