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HCPC advice needed

Discussion in 'Desktop & Laptop Computers Forum' started by spanx, Aug 19, 2003.

  1. spanx

    spanx
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    Hi guys,

    I have been thinking about buying a new PC for quite a while, but after picking up on the concept of HCPC's have decided that this could be a good direction to go. I am planning on purchasing a new home cinema set-up once I move in to my new house, and have already demoed the Themescene H56 along with several amps and speaker packages, and the HCPC is the final piece of the puzzle. However , I am struggling to cut through all the bit and pieces of information available on the web to work out exactly what I need.

    Firstly, what I would like from an HCPC:

    1. Quality DVD playback (obviously!). I would like to take advantage of the DVI socket on my projector for the very best picture.

    2. Video/Photo editing and playback from my Sony Digicam.

    3. TIVO style TV recording/pausing from my ntl digital box.

    4. Potentially PC gaming, although the DC, PS2, Gamecube and Xbox should really suffice :D .

    Now, What I would really like to know is what components I need to enable this, beyond a base PC specification. And also whether all the above is possible from one box. Also, an indication of a minimum/preferred PC spec would be handy.

    If anyone can advise me I would be most appreciative.

    Cheers guys.
    Steve


    P.S. If this information is available in a previous thread I apologise - could someone link me up. I just feel as though I have searched the entire Internet for a decent HCPC "beginners guide".
     
  2. SeaneyC

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    The US forums www.avsforum.com has a great HTPC section, and a fairly comprehensive "Meta-FAQ"

    I'll try to answer a few of your points though. Personally i use the HTPC as a DVD player primarily as there's no way i could have got as good a picture from any set top player for the money. In my mind there's no doubt even the most conservative outlay on a PC can outgun pretty much all but the very best DVD playback solutions. You'll need a decent graphics board for the best playback quality, card of choice at the moment is the fanless Radeon 9600, fully supports DX9 and VMR9, and is available for well under £100. If you really wish to venture into hardcore PC gaming, you may want to invest in a Radeon 9800, and modify it so that it is fanless. Both of these have the DVI ports on. Software to play the DVD however is more of a minefield, and much more of a personal preference also. I currently used the DVD codecs from Sonic, inside of an interface called Zoomplayer. This has given me the best picture that i have seen on my system so far, but i don't have the money to try out the new WinDVD and PowerDVD codecs, both of which are said to be very good. I've never seen NVDVD either, but this is also touted by many to be the best DVD software.

    Video/Photo editing: I don't do this on my HTPC, as i like to keep it as lean as possible, but it's certainly doable. I assume you already have the applications you need to do this, so shouldn't pose much of a problem.

    Tivo style recording: I have no experience in this field at all with reference to recording external sources, although i do have a Nebula Electronics DigiTV card, which is absolutely great, and records the digital terrestrial signal straight onto the hard drive with no loss of quality (much like the Sky+ box). I have heard of products that do this, PVR350 has hardware encoding and decoding to make timeshifting a breeze, but i'm not sure how well it does it.

    PC gaming: I only play CS on my HTPC, so don't really know much about other games, but the Quake 3 engine can be modified with custom resolutions, very useful for HTPC. Have you considered how you will feed your consoles to the projector?

    If you fit a capture card into your PC, you can then use the PC as a scaler to accurately re-size the image and turn it into a progressive signal, which will be much better than the scaler built into the projector. The (free) program that does this is called DScaler, and the guy who wrote it still posts on here a lot, it's still a work in progress and improves all the time. Otherwise, you should try and feed the projector directly with progressive signals from your consoles, which will give a better image further still, however not all games support prog scan.

    On the PC front, i recommend something with at least P4 2.0/AMD XP2000+ performance these days, although i tend towards AMD because of price. 512mb ram is enough to comfortably run windows XP, although you may want 1Gb or more for more intensive gaming and/or video editing. Depending on the sound kit you're feeding, you might want to buy a good soundcard, i use the onboard digital out on my NForce motherboard to my Denon amp, and have no desire to upgrade soon. Clearly if you have some more expensive gear, upgrading the soundcard could pay dividends.
     
  3. spanx

    spanx
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    Cheers Sean,

    My plan with the PC (and one of the major strengths of this solution) is to get a decent vanilla HTPC up and running, with the ability to process and edit my own footage (I have my first kid on the way in under a month!), and potentially upgrade later on to allow TIVO style recording and gaming at a later date.

    As far as consoles go, I'm hoping that my Panasonic Q GC, modded Xbox and PS2 can feed directly in to the amp via component or S-Video, and then out to the H56's VGA socket (which accepts component via an adaptor), leaving the HTPC using the DVI socket.
     
  4. SeaneyC

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    If you're feeding the PJ by s-video, you'll almost definately get a better picture by sending it into the PC and letting it do the work IMHO, but if you can feed the PJ progressive video from the consoles, you'd be better off doing that, rather than going the PC route. You could always try the s-video route and if you don't like the results, sell the capture card, it'll only cost you about £10-15 to try it out.
     

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