MCE2005 Setup Configuration Guide, Part 1.

Discussion in 'Computers' started by Chris, May 6, 2005.

  1. Chris

    Chris Lead Actor

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    Over the next six days, I'm going to try and summarize the guide we began handing out to smaller shops. This guide tested over 400 hardware configurations, built on different price points and goals of the consumer. But most importantly, it works to help develop a set of guidelines for system builders on "known good" configurations, and typical problem-resolution.

    Before we get to the heart of the guide with regards to construction, there are certain things that need to be said up front in constructing your MCE2005 system. Some components are, by design, eliminated because of their complete lack of functionality. So, before we discuss products that you can use, configurations, goals, etc. let's talk about where NOT to start.

    VIDEO CARDS:

    NVIDIA:

    Any Nvidia card lower then 5200 in series (not speed; thus the 4600TI/4200TI are also eliminated), as well as all MX series cards, and motherboards with the Nvida MCP built in (GeforceMX Graphic integrated). Note: even with a valid video card installed, it is strongly recommended AGAINST using any Nvidia chipset based motherboard that has integrated video to this point (that would be the Nforce2 MicroATX format w/video). Should also be noted: while the Geforce6200 is functional, the 6200 "TurboCache" cards are recommended against.

    ATI:

    ATI cards lower then the 9250 are specifically not supported (NOTE: the 9200 is not functional, the 9250 is, and is the lowest card with functionality). ATI Integrated motherboards are functional (see RS200 motherboards) however, there is some trickery, which we'll get to in part 3.

    S3:

    Only the S3 Gamma Chrome S18 tested as feasible for Windows XP Media Center. It should be noted, however, that this will take some driver configuration changes and the right monitor.

    XGI:

    Mixed functionality. Recommended strongly against; only XT models managed to work fair.

    Matrox:

    No functional card at this card at this point (none planned).


    To Powerstrip or Not to Powerstrip?

    This question is asked most frequently by shops. Will we need to purchase powerstrip in order to make MCE really functional with a TV? Our answer: No. Thanks to newer drivers by ATI and Nvidia, which specifically support HDTV as well as over/underscan and alignment, in a test of over 40 different monitors over component, S-Video and HDTV over DVI, we were very pleased with the results. While powerstrip can be a requirement for specific configurations, using driver configurations provided by the manufacturer alone, we were able to successfully configure all monitors provided without the use of powerstrip. It should be noted: if you are running a PC that is not Media Center edition, some of the options available to you in tuning a television settings, looks, and layouts will not be present.

    What DVD Decoders are really functional?

    Because Media Center needs a MCE compatible DVD decoder, there are a few options out there: the ATI DVD decoder; the Nvidia DVD decoder; PowerDVD6. Of those, if you have a 6600 Nvidia or higher, the results from NVDVD were better then other products, otherwise, the PowerDVD6 decoder proved both more stable and with a solid picture.

    While there will be recommendations for FFDShow and others, they do not integrate as smoothly or flawlessly as the above decoders, so therefore, we did not recommend them. This does not mean the results from those products would not be good, however, it means that for what we felt were minimal improvements, the difficulty level handed to the shop would be considerably greater.

    What other decoders should I add? Should I add DiVX?

    This is the other question submitted most often. What alternative CODECs should be added, and should we install freely downloadable "CODEC Packs" (like NiMO) into Windows XP MCE 2005.

    After testing the performance both before and after installing CODECs in clean installs, as well as video performance, I want to note that most third party plugins do more difficulty then good.

    However, we had one CODEC which we do recommend shops install, that's 3IVX. (http://www.3ivx.com/) Cheap, 3iVX supports both DIVX and MP4 formats (as generated by Nero Digital and others) which provides a broad approach to content media centers may have present on them. The CPU performance of 3IVX as well as picture quality and integration exceeded that of installing DiVX and other CODEC packs with fewer hiccups in the way.

    In the next six steps, I'm going to run through the highlights of:

    Part 2: What Makes a Low-End Media Center successful, at what cost, and what can I expect?

    Part 3: A Mid Range Media Center: Dual Tuners or HDTV? Controlling Cable Boxes, Satellites, HDTV input.

    Part 4: High End Media Centers: Managing whole home automation, from security camera management to DVDs to ordering food.. while sharing content in multiple rooms.

    Part 5: Build Goals: how to lower the heat and make my HTPC dissappear.

    Part 6: Build Goals: Minimizing troubleshooting: test shop should conduct before selling Media Center 2005.

    Part 7: Build Goals: AMD vs. Intel; comparitive looks at 90nm designs, AMD Venice, and Centrino desktop MediaCenters.
     
  2. Christo Ramo

    Christo Ramo Stunt Coordinator

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    Awesome - keep me posted, I am getting ready to do the install as soon as my sound card arrives.
     
  3. Chris

    Chris Lead Actor

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    I'm trying to synthesize down a short, 37 page guide into multiple posts. I'm typing up the next one in word now [​IMG] I'm going to save the graphics until the end and then post pictures of finished models of multiple installs.
     
  4. Bob_C

    Bob_C Agent

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    Nice! I've been waiting for this!
     
  5. Parker Clack

    Parker Clack Schizophrenic Man
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    I am going to keep this and your other threads on your HTPC guide stuck at the top so that it doesn't get buried.
     
  6. Vince Maskeeper

    Vince Maskeeper Producer

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    Chris,

    IS it possible to set up MCE as a dual boot on a machine with XP Pro? Which should you install first (I assume XP PRO).

    I plan to have 3 partitions with 3 OS for my new machine: one MCE, One HT non-MCE and one specifrically for gaming and desktopping-- i"m hoping it's possible to set this up with MCE and XP Pro.

    -V
     
  7. Chris

    Chris Lead Actor

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    Yes.

    FYI, I'm still working on translating these, but I've pretty much got hammered with how many graphics/views we have from here on out, so I just gave up trying to type into one thing, import into HTF.. So, I'm just going to scan, edit, and then convert as a whole. I'm almost finished and then we'll just post everything at once.
     
  8. Steve F M

    Steve F M Screenwriter

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    Chris when can we expect Part 3? I'm anxiosly waiting.

    Thanks
     
  9. Chris

    Chris Lead Actor

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    I'm doing them all at once; we had a big delay because I decided to scan and do JPEGs as well as to change the way some of this was written, because a big part of it is about install routines for shops, etc. and that's not really relevent; one portion of it is in regards to a piece of software we're using that would be heavily frowned upon by the HTF, though it is a truly killer app, and so on. So, I'm cleaning it up. There is going to be about 3 parts go up tomorrow night with JPEGs, and three more Tuesday night.
     
  10. Steve F M

    Steve F M Screenwriter

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    great to hear. Can you e-mail me what app you are talking about that you can't post.

    [email protected]

    Thanks for all the great info. Loving my HTPC and I'm getting ready to take the next step with some tuner cards.
     
  11. Mike_J_Potter

    Mike_J_Potter Second Unit

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    Great guide, it was helpful in my build of a HTPC. I have one question though you mention the Geforce 6200's are working. I have a cheap 6200 (LEADTEK GF A6200) but I notice that the desktop is distorted sometimes, but the video looks perfect, when watching HD or SD content. Is this the same issue you have had with the turbo cache? Also I may replace it with a radeon 9600 or 9800 in the future, what adaptor do I need to output it to component video (I don't have DVI or HDMI on my TV)?
     

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