HCPC Noodlings



Just been pointed at the forum by av-sales.com - a very helpful bunch!

I've had an HCPC for several years, coupled to a Philips 800*600 LCD projector but decided it was time for a major overhall. The old version was build in an 19" rack industrial PC case painted black, ran a 200MHz Pentium, a creative DVD card and a Matox video card. Did the business - but only just. Its taken me 6 months to source all the bits and I'm still looking (hence this message).

Cool case was essential, but also by far the most difficult component to find (case manufacturers - this is a big hint!!) so bought the coolermaster ATC-600 - brilliant looking but instantly restrictive as it only takes MicroATX motherboards.

Next the motherboard and processor. Really wanted to use a Pentium III processor as the MIPS/watt rating is 2x both the Pentium4 and the Athlon, but could find no motherboards to support it with decent functionality. Then came across the FIC AT31 Fusion in Frys during a trip to California - has an ATI northbridge chip with inbuilt Radeon graphics but also LAN, USB (Frys lied - it was not USB2, only 1.1), DDR333, Athlon socket, 1x AGP4x and 3 PCI. I chose an Athlon 2200 as it was the only one I could guarantee was 0.13u and underclocked it by turning the front side bus downto 100MHz to make it run cooler. Unfortunately with this motherboard you cannot tweak the voltage down to save even more power. Used a Zalman cooler with fan attached directly to the support strut on the case, and running in silent mode.

PSU was an old one I got with a PC case - no brand name but it had proved to be very quiet (has variable speed fan linked to the output power- which in this case is quite low). I took the lid off to improve air flow (checked that the heatsinks had no hazardous voltages on them first). I have an enermax dual fan PSU in my desktop, but its probably running at 2x the power so is not as quiet.

PCI cards were next - one had to be a 4 port Firewire with 1 internal port to connect to the front panel connector - managed to find one during a recent trip to taiwan, second was the soundblaster live platinum sound card and live drive from my old homehifi PC - works great providing you use the digital out (analog out is noisy as hell) and a proper 5.1 decoder (have one in my Sony AV amp ;) ). Third one is the Hauppage Digital Terrestrial TV decoder for "proper" digital TV. Now I had run out of slots and had no Video in.....

This is the problem I am left with and have solved it for now with my original Radeon DDR VIVO out of my desktop (replaced recently with a Radeon 8500). It has video in and Svideo out (though I used the RGB mini-D to go to the screen). So now I can watch Sky and SVHS videos through this. So whats my problem - well I originally wanted a dual-head system - one for the LCD projetor and a separate LCD screen for the control panel, and for music selection (so I didnt need to use the projector to use it as a hifi). I did hope that I could run the motherboard graphics and the AGP graphics simultaniously but there seems to be no way of doing this. ATI do many dual head graphics cards now but seem to have stopped doing VIVO functionality unless you go for the All In wonder cards - clearly they would acheive the desired result, but they do so with an ugly dongle coming out the back of the case which I wanted to avoid if possible (having spent so much money to make it look nice!!). The video out of the Radeon cards is fantastic compared to my old matrox card - the DVD playback is very stable with little or no decompression artefacts and the RAMDACs produce a wonderfully vivid colour range with zero pixel jitter.

I'd love to hear from anyone else who has possibly solved this in a different way - its difficult to come up with the definitive solution to this problem though had I know about this forum earlier I might have saved alot of personal research :). Am going to treat myself to the Epson TW100 LCD projector having read the reviews this morning - which confirms my research that this is the best display for the job - will be a major step forward...

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