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HTPC Upgrade/What to buy?

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Juan Castillo, Mar 1, 2002.

  1. Juan Castillo

    Juan Castillo Second Unit

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    I want to upgrade a PC that I built to incorporate it into my HT setup. The PC consists of :

    Mobo? Intel BX chipset Model M6TBA Slot 1

    Intel Celeron 500 on a Slot 1 converter board

    256 Mb PC100 RAM

    WD 13 Gig HD 7200

    WD 20 Gig HD 7200

    Pioneer DVD Drive

    HP 12x CD-RW

    ATI RAGE IIC Graphics Card

    Phillips Rhytmic Edge Sound Card

    Generic 56K Winmodem

    Kingston 10/100 NIC

    I will obviously need to upgrade my video card to one that supports TV out, but I don't know if that will solve my problems alone. As is, I am not satisfied with the quality of DVD, or other video media playback. So.. My question is...

    1. Should I buy a top of the line Graphics Card, and a DVD decoder card to use instead of software decoders? or..

    2. Buy a decent but not so expensive graphics card with tv out, and spend the real money on upgrading my Mobo/Processor?

    I know of some very good avenues to get good pricing on computer peripherals, so my question is not how best to spend my budget, but rather, with a limited amount of money, what would my computer benefit from more????

    Thanks for your advice.
     
  2. Matt DeVillier

    Matt DeVillier Supporting Actor

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    Juan,
    the whole point of HTPC is to use the PC as a scaler, and scale DVD (and other video sources) from 720x480 to some HD-compatible resolution. This requires a HD-ready monitor/projector though (and is achieved using the regular VGA output of the video card). If you only have a regular NTSC set, and will be using the TV-out of a video card, you're going to be compromising on image quality a lot. The encoder chips on all of these video cards do an average job at best, and even in the best case you are still limited to 480i.
    given that, if you are looking to use your computer as the main source for dvds, and mainly for dvds, then I would take a good look at Sigmadesigns' new Xcard. Their Hollywood Plus card was the only DVD decoder card to have decent TV-out (it was as good as any 1st/2nd gen set top player).
    otherwise, go with something like an ATI Radeon LE (the radeon cards have the best tv-out currently, and top-notch video quality overall) and step up to a Duron CPU (you would need a new motherboard but could reuse your RAM) so you could use software decoding for DVDs.
    hope this helps
     
  3. Juan Castillo

    Juan Castillo Second Unit

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    I wouldn't go so far as to say that its the "whole" point. I mean, maybe for you?? I plan to use a direct view monitor with the tv out for most of my viewing for the time being. Until I can get a fp setup, in which case I would use the VGA output to a RGB setup and then use or benefit from the scaling of an HTPC. I am looking to the HTPC for now, as an addition, not a replacement of my component DVD player. I transferred a lot of my old VHS tapes to MPEG2 format and will use my puter as a mega jukebox, as I have ripped all my Cd's. I prefer this method to buying a mega changer for CD's, as I would prefer to buy a SACD player instead, and obviously new CD's. My point about not being satisfied with playback, is not so much video quality as the picture being jumpy and at times pixelated. So.. in this case, would more Main CPU power be absolutely necessary, or would more Video card Power be sufficient. I have also heard that for slower processors, a hardware decoder is better to use than software decoders, because obviously you aren't relying on the CPU to decode... So, a good video card, and hardware decoder is one choice, or a Fast mobo and CPU and decent but not top of the line video card is the other..
     

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