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help me build a HTPC

Discussion in 'Desktop & Laptop Computers Forum' started by keyser, Feb 28, 2004.

  1. keyser

    keyser
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    I have an IF 5700 projector, and will be using the PC for watching DVD´s, VCD and analog TV (there is no point in looping a VCR through a PC is there?)

    I´m a total newbie, but here is a list of things that I thought I might get, and some advice on any of them would be great:

    Box: Maybe the silverstone Strate (isn´t it expensive though?)

    CPU: Intel Pentium 4 2-3 ghz (maybe the new Prescott one)?

    Graphics card: ATI Radeon 9600 (that doesn´t have a fan right) or 9800 all in wonder?

    TV Tuner card: Kworld TV-Tuner card Pro (aren´t most tuner card´s mostly the same quality)

    Sound card: No idea, soundblaster live 5.1??

    Software: I currently have powerdvd, is anything better than that?
    Powerstrip so that I can send out native DVI to my Infocus(the ATI is DVI-I, the Infocus is DVI-D(I think), do I need a DVI-I to DVI-D cable)

    D-scaler: I don´t understand what this does, so an explanation would be great.
     
  2. KraGorn

    KraGorn
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    Can't help with the box, a Prescott is an utter waste of money for an HTPC :). For normal DVDs then a 2Ghz is more than enough, if you want to be able to play HiDef Media Player 9 .WMVs then something like a 2.8 is probably needed. My preference is for AMDs, they're cheaper and you can use an ASUS or similar motherboard with an nForce2 chipset which give you great sound.

    Again, can't help with TV tuner, if you get a separate one then a fanless 9600 is best, as you know.

    As for sound, what a/v receiver/amp are you using? If you have one then you don't need a separate sound card per se, all you need is an SPD/IF digital output wihch many motherboards these days have (like the nForce2-based ones) .. if you want a soundcard my choice would be an Audigy 2.

    Many prefer TheaterTek for playing DVDs, many also don't see it's superiority .. I do ;) .. depends heavily on the size of image you're viewing in my experience. The video card will have a DVI-I but a DVD-D cable is all you need, it'll plug into a DVI-I connector just fine.

    D-Scaler is a de-interlacer and image re-sizer .. if you don't know what these are and why they're needed I suggest you read the articles here, they'll tell you all you need to know.

    Having read those you'll see that D-Scaler is one reason why you may want to feed a VCR into the PC, using a grabber like the Sweetspot, which will greatly enhance the PQ from even the humblest VCR.

    HTH.
     
  3. keyser

    keyser
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    Firstly, thank you for the helpfull reply.

    1. I have a Denon 3803(but will get an 05 when it´s out), so I´ll look for a motherboard with spdif out.

    2.I´m sitting close to an 106" screen, so I should go for Theatertek I reckon.

    3. Dscaler is a scaler/deinterlacer, but if I don´t use that then what does the scaling/deinterlacing in the PC, is the software DVD player? Since the projector does 4:3, 16:9 and stretching.. what good does an image resizer do? I also thought powerstrip would do the scaling?

    4. I do still do not understand what good it would do to loop a VCR through a PC. If I don´t loop it, then the infocus´s Fli23xx will do the deinterlacing/scaling/CCS/DNR.. surely the PC doesn´t offer any benefit to this?

    5. How many fans are there in a PC, if I get the 9600(SE??)(does the 9800 all-in-wonder do anything that the 9600 doesn´t?) then there is no fan for the graphics card, but I do need a fan for the pentium and another one for the whole box, is that correct? Any tips for keeping it silent?

    Thanks again.
     
  4. KraGorn

    KraGorn
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    1. Nice amp .. I have one too. :)

    2. In my experience TT produces a clearer, sharper image than PowerDVD with a Radeon 9600 on my 92" 16:9.

    3. D-Scaler isn't useful when playing DVDs on the PC with a software player, as you suspect it's the player that does the de-interlacing and scaling .. D-Scaler is used with external sources like VCRs, TV tuners, set top boxes etc., or perhaps something like the X-Card when connected to a grabber like a Sweetspot.

    Powerstrip doesn't do image processing, it allows you to switch the video card into resolutions/refresh-rates which Windows doesn't know about, eg. 1280x720.

    The point here is that you want the PC and NOT the projector to do all image processing, you feed the projector de-interlaced, aka. 'progressive scan', video at its' native resolution thereby bypassing the projectors video processing which is generally, in low/mid-range projectors, inferior to that from a PC.

    4. See ( 3 ), it all depends on the relative quality of the projector's de-interlacer/scaler and that of D-Scaler .. many would say D-Scaler wins hands-down, I personally wouldn't know.

    5. AFAIK the 'Wonder' cards include a TV tuner, I don't use that sort of thing so don't know, as you're right you don't want a fan on the graphics card if you can help it.

    There are makes of fans which are known for being very quiet, I use 'Vantec' but there are others, you need to look at the fans available from wherever you buy your bits and pieces from .. look for noise levels of 20dba or thereabouts.

    In my HTPC I have a fan sitting over a large heatsink sitting on the CPU, a 120mm fan extracting air from the box and a silent 80mm fan, slowed down, drawing air in at the front .. the noisiest fan is in the 'quite' CPU.
     
  5. Yandros

    Yandros
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    Forget the Prescott, the architecture is designed for faster clock speeds. At 3.4 Ghz it's barely faster than the older generation, and a LOT hotter.

    Best bet at the moment is something like a 2.8 or 3.0 "Northwood" (and even those are overkill to be honest)

    For an HTPC, if it's going in your listening room, take noise reduction seriously.

    To answer your question about fans, nearly all PCs today have at least 3 fans - CPU, exhaust and Power supply. Your motherboard may also have one on the "northbridge" controller chip. High end cases usually have 1 or more intake fans on the front, and some power supplies have an intake from the inside of the PC as well. Almost all high end graphics card have a fan, and the very top end ones sound like vacuum cleaners when under load.

    I would recommend the following for optimum noise reduction:

    Choose a motherboard with passive northbridge cooling (I would recommend the Asus P4C800-E Deluxe)

    Fit a low noise CPU fan - The Zalman 7000A AlCu is excellent

    Make sure your case fans are at least 80mm (some low noise cases now use a 120mm exhaust). If the stock fans are noisy, replace them with low noise versions (Papst thermally monitored ones are almost inaudible)

    Fit a low noise power supply (I've been very impressed with the Zalman 400W silent power supply).

    Put a sheet of Acoustipack lining inside the side panels
    I've just built a system with the above components (with 2 intake, 1 exhaust Papst fans) and the result is VERY impressive.
     
  6. keyser

    keyser
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  7. keyser

    keyser
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    Can dscaler be used with a software player like theatertek.. or does the theatertek have a standard deinterlacer/scaler that must be used?

    That would only make sense though if the dscalers deinterlacing/scaling is superiour.
     
  8. KraGorn

    KraGorn
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    No, software players can't use D-Scaler as they have no way to feed their output into it ... well, you COULD loop-back the output VGA possibly but that's unlikely to be useful. In any case, AFAIK all software players de-interlace automatically since that's one of the main things they have to do so even if you could use D-Scaler it'd not be worthwhile.

    As for that link you gave, it's unclear exactly what they're selling but the description makes them seem to be image processing modules which would be integrated into DVD playing software. They don't appear to be usable by end-users, the description talks about 'integrators', and the downloads are simply demos.

    The three modules they describe are simply the normal sorts of processing you expect to find in a DVD decoder/player and which PowerDVD, TheaterTek etc. already have to some extent .. the Sonic decoders used by TheaterTek for instance probably have a better implementation of 'motion adaptive' processing than some others which would be by they produce better images.

    This is all guess-work on my part, but I see nothing on Phillips' web site to indicate those products can be used 'as are'.
     
  9. keyser

    keyser
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  10. Yandros

    Yandros
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    The numbers are misleading. AMD chips make better use of each clock cycle, so can match the Pentium performance with lower clock speeds. You'll notice AMD use 2 speed ratings, the actual clock frequenty, and more prominently the equivalent Pentium frequency.

    Personally I prefer Intel. AMD are better value, but run hotter generally and are more prone to hardware gremlins in my experience.
     
  11. keyser

    keyser
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    Now I´ve come to the conclusion of getting a Nvidia card, what´s the difference between 5700 TD, 5700 ULTRA TD, 5700 VTD?

    Do they have loud fans?
     
  12. keyser

    keyser
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    Now another choice has come up... a matrox p650 card. Matrox 650, nvidia 5700... which one and why?

    This is driving me nuts.
     
  13. KraGorn

    KraGorn
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    That's a single report, as against large numbers of HTPC owners on here that use this card.

    I have never seen banding on 5 Radeons I've owned nor have I seen any report other than this one .. IMX Radeons are the best and I don't consider Matrox in the game as far as an HTPC is concerned, and no nVidia comes as cheap as a 9600 non-Pro with the same quality as far as I've ever read about.

    However, it's your choice. :)
     
  14. Jeff

    Jeff
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    I'm trying a 5700 ultra at the moment, it's a lot better than older Nvidia cards but I'm having quite a few issues, like I can't get the damn thing to do a simple 50Hz without stutter. The DXVA decoding is also flawed.
     
  15. keyser

    keyser
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    So it can´t to propper PAL?

    5700 can´t to 50hz, Radeon 9600 suffers from banding... what card should I get?

    I´ve been reading that HTPC´s are awesome etc., but after doing research I can´t find anything that isn´t seriously flawed.. what´s going on?
     
  16. Jeff

    Jeff
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    The Radeon 9600 doesn't suffer from banding.
     
  17. keyser

    keyser
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  18. Jeff

    Jeff
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    Digital is always tricky, there are only 8bits per colour so its easy to run into problems, it can happen with ANY source or display. I could see banding on all the displays running HDMI at the bristol show.

    With HTPC's you need to be careful with the choice of video settings and decoders. Products like Theatertek have the wrong settings by default...

    Yes, I do recommend the 9600. It's still the card of choice for HTPCs.
     
  19. keyser

    keyser
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    Then 9600 is what I´ll get, but how do I avoid the banding?
     
  20. Jeff

    Jeff
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    1) Use DXVA decoding
    2) Use default overlay settings (adjust the display, not the card)
     
  21. keyser

    keyser
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    Heres what I´m thinking of getting then, please let me know if you think I could do better for the buck anywhere...

    Pentium 2.x ghz processor

    Radeon 9600 graphics card

    Silverstone strata box

    Motherboard... not a clue, it must be some MicroATX one for the silverstone?? And Digital audio out would be good(then I wouldn´t need a sound card would I?)

    Theatertek for DVD,VCD

    TV Tuner card... don´t know, something that supports Dscaler?

    Thanks for your help.
     

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