Hardware or Software Decoding for HTPC DVD?

Charles Bober

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Which is better and why? Please support with any and all reference material as I can't find any.
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Vince Maskeeper

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Charles,
I tried to ask a similar question here:http://www.hometheaterforum.com/uub/Forum8/HTML/000313.html
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Charles Bober

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Thanks Vince. That was pretty helpful but some questions do remain. Hopefully we'll have some more replies here to clear the air.
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Vince Maskeeper

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quote: the simple answer is software for viewing on monitor or hd/progressive capable tv, hardware (hollywood plus) for 480i on tv.[/quote]
Not true- My friend has a dell PC and got a dvd rom drive and was not able to playback discs until he got a decoder card that ran inline with his monitor output.
He plays DVD back to the computer monitor, and has to use a decoder card. I assume this was due to processor issues, or possibly video card?
-Vince
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Jim A. Banville

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You "need" hardware decoding if your processor is less than 400MHz or so. If over that, your CPU has enough processing capability to use software decoding. My understanding is that software decoding can look better as long as you have a "good" video card.
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Matt DeVillier

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Vince,
Please forgive my oversimplification
As Jim said, any CPU over 400MHz has enough power to do the MPEG2/AC3 decoding without hiccupping. And the video card isn't really an issue, unless is is more than 3 generations old (2 years+?). As long as it can draw an overlay surface correctly, is can display the video just fine. Now, the Geforce2 and Radeon cards go a little above and beyond that and certainly look better than 'pure' software decoding, but to the average user it's sufficient (I'd venture to guess half of HTF's membership couldn't tell the difference without being told)
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quote: Not true- My friend has a dell PC and got a dvd rom drive and was not able to playback discs until he got a decoder card that ran inline with his monitor output.[/quote]
If his PC was 500mhz or faster, I'd say your friend either had a driver problem and/or was fed a line of bull by somebody in tech support.
Any 'fast' PC with a DVD/ROM drive can and should use software decoding, as long as the drivers and software are configured correctly.
 

Carlo Medina

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I'm a member of ARS Technica, and over there they say that if your processor is PIII/Athlon 500Mhz or faster, then a software solution with a good graphics card is the best. Decoder cards are for slower/weaker PCs that use all of their resources playing a DVD.
I have an Athlon 850 with an MSI GeForce2 GTS Pro (64MB) card and use PowerDVD 3.0. It looks as good or better than the Hollywood Plus card systems I've seen. And my graphics card has S-Video out. You can get graphics cards that have DVI out and other stuff to suit your needs.
Plus, if you get a GeForce2 or better, you can also game on that rig.
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