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HTPC - better than DVD player?

Discussion in 'Desktop & Laptop Computers Forum' started by BenPremium, Aug 24, 2005.

  1. BenPremium

    BenPremium
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    Hi
    Firstly sorry if this has already been answered but I've searched and can't find much and a lot of stuff from google seems to be out of date.

    Basically my Pioneer 575 (which seems to be a big favourite over in the DVD player forum!) is going in our student living room to be used with the 32" CRT (via component).

    I scrapped my projector plans due to space/set-up plans so I'm now going with either a hi def LCD or plasma for my own room. I'm left with the choice of using my current PC (A64 3000, 1gb ram, 160gb HD, 9800 pro, sb audigy 2 card) or buying a new DVD player.

    I'm convinced that when I was playing DVDs on my PC through PowerDVD that the quality was complete crap compared to the bog standard s-video input on the Pioneer. But I've seen a lot of people talking about HTPCs as if they are a good alternative to DVD players.

    So basically the first question is should I use my PC as a HTPC with a hi def LCD/Plasma or go for a DVD player? I don't want to spend more than around £150 on either a DVD player or upgrades for the PC.

    If the HTPC would give decent quality then is there any part I should upgrade? It'll only be used for DVDs/gaming - if I want to watch Freeview it'll be in the living room.

    Do I need better hardware for DVD decoding - will this give a better picture quality?

    Do I need special software or is bog standard PowerDVD ok?

    Appreciate the replies

    Thanks

    Ben
     
  2. meansizzler

    meansizzler
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    Use your HTPC, and don't use power dvd, try windvd, from www.intervideo.com, your hardware seems fine, might want to update your drivers to the latest ones..
     
  3. DanH

    DanH
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    If you dont want to buy any software, then Mediaportal is a good route to go imho. Basically a free opensource version of MCE. http://mediaportal.sourceforge.net/
    The dvd decoder it comes with isnt the best, but its by no means crap. I use the nvidia one with it, and ffdshow for tweaking a bit and its better than any DVD player ive owned.

    Your hardware is fine too. (Same as my HTPC nearly, except i use a 3500+) You might not be able to do a lot of post processing with ffdshow etc, but using Mediaportal with a decent decoder with renderless vmr9 will be great.
     
  4. Cable Monkey

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    Making a comparison on the s-video level will leave the pc wanting. Doing the same via DVI/VGA with a more specialised setup (mediaportal/ffdshow etc) should yield good results. The key to HTPC is the willingness to experiment until you find a profile that suits you. Then it is hard to beat.
     
  5. owain_thomas

    owain_thomas
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    you could buy a fanless nvidia 6600 gfx card and a copy of theatertek for less than that, use the dvi connection into the hidef plasma/LCD and it'll be much, much better than a £150 DVD player.
     
  6. Spacecat

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    I thought Students were supposed to be Skint?

    Plasmas and LCds !!

    Shouldnt you be watching a dusty old black and white with a metal coat hanger as an aerial. Whilst living off lentil bake?

    Things have changed since my day tut tut
     
  7. BenPremium

    BenPremium
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    Students with no business drive and ability to put their skills into practice are skint, those who put in hard work and learn their market inside out can live very flush indeed ;)

    Thanks for the replies.

    I checked out the quality again (currently using my Dell 2001FP 1600x1200 tft) comparing the DVI input from the PC to the s-video input from the Pioneer and the Pioneer is currently so much better it's untrue. Guess it must be the software/setup.

    I'll try that mediaportal and ffdshow.

    If I'm willing to spend a bit of cash on software is there anything out there that will give better results? Also the native resolution of this TFT (temporary until my widescreen comes) is 1600x1200 so should I change the resolution to something more suited to playing DVDs?

    Thanks
     
  8. Acecross

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    I use the combo of TheaterTek and ffdshow and I would say that with the correct settings this will easily better most DVD players in a sensible price range.

    I have ffdshow set to upscale my DVDs to close to the native res of the LCD and it lookd great!

    You already have most of the hardware you need.

    A Zoomplayer trial can be downloaded and tested with ffdshow, so you could try it out and if you like it then maybe get TheaterTek.
     
  9. owain_thomas

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    As I mentioned above buy a copy of theatertek, it will wipe the floor with a £150 DVD player.
     
  10. philipb

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    Agree Theatertek is the way to go. The latest version ships with the Nvidia codec which IMHO makes ffdshow redundant.

    If s-video from the DVD player is way ahead of the PC quality then there is something very wrong with the PC setup. The hardware you have plus TT (or any good software package) should rival a circa £1000 DVD player. I know because I have both and it does.

    In what way is the PC derived picture worse?
     
  11. HSC

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    What's the consensus on this - is this statement true....?
     
  12. mikeaitch

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    Do a search on Urban T and there are many screenshots to prove the capability of Theatertek + FFDShow
     
  13. BenPremium

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    Cool, thanks for the advice. Think I'll look into this Theatertek.

    Are ATI cards just as well supported as the Nvidia ones?

    Also does anyone know if vga->DVI converters (those little adapters) will reduce the quality? I have a DVI output to my monitor and want to use DVI to the widescreen tv too.

    Oh and the quality when using the PC is poor because it seems darker, the colours less vibrant, a LOT grainier and just generally less crisp & detailed.

    I'll see if I can take photos that show what I mean.
     
  14. HSC

    HSC
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    yeah - but UrbanT's screenshots are'nt that revealing...(no offense UrbanT) -
    I have always used this as a reference on FFDShow etc
    http://htpcnews.com/main.php?id=ffdshowdvd_1

    but - back to my original comment - is it now redundant...?
     
  15. Xelon

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    I've got the latest Nvidia purevideo codec (Trial) installed, how would I know if TT is included?
     
  16. Acecross

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    I don't think Theatertek will be included. It is standalone frontend piece of software so you would know it was there as it opens like and other program with a splash screen, menus etc.
     
  17. Rob100

    Rob100
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    Just wanted to agree that a well configured HTPC can out perform a high end DVD player.

    On my plasma I use a Radeon 9600 gfx card (connected via VGA). Essential software (for me) - Media Player Classic, DScaler 5 MPEG decoder, NVidia DVD Codec, NVidia audio codec, ffdshow, Reclock (essential!!!) and Powerstrip. This set-up blows both my Arcam DV88+ and Pio 575 out the water.

    It will probably cost you more than £150 to make you PC as quiet as you want it to be...

    Rob.
     
  18. The Dude

    The Dude
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    yeah, you got philipb's comment the wrong way round xelon...

    theatertek include the latest nvidia codec with their software, not the other way round..

    it's not expensive, and streets ahead of winDVD etc.. :)
     
  19. Xelon

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    Thanks for that, got a bad hangover today..........

    good news though as I still have the Trial version, I might as well buy TT and have both!
     
  20. DLPMaybe

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    Personally do not agree. I think it comes down to the size of screen that you are displaying the image on. I use 50" and the difference with ffdshow running well is huge.
     
  21. owain_thomas

    owain_thomas
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    be careful, TT is not very keen on being installed on a machine which also has the standalone codec. have a look on the TT website
     
  22. rdhir

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    ok chaps, quick bit of help needed here.

    I thought I ought to see for myself how good all this is as my Pioneer 50" is crying out for good material.

    So I've downloaded Media Portal, Zoom Player Pro 4.51, FFDShow.

    Now I followed the instructions to a point from

    http://htpcnews.com/main.php?id=ffdshowdvd_1

    But I get errors. This is probably because I didn't install the Sonic Decoder pack, but none of you mention this. If it helps in my Zoomplayer configuration screen I get the following

    [​IMG]

    Cheers


    Rajiv
     
  23. owain_thomas

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    try turning off ffdshow for now. do you get it working now?
     
  24. rdhir

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    yup works fine :rolleyes:

    So what did I do wrong as I still want FFDShow to scale the image no?

    Cheers

    Rajiv
     
  25. dan1979

    dan1979
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    I had a similar problem, ffdshow stopped multilpe decoders from working - started a thread but got no replies :(
     
  26. rdhir

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    if it helps, the error is that the opendvd.out and ffdshow.in cannot connect as their pins have no format in common.

    Cheers

    Rajiv
     
  27. philipb

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    If you install ffdshow, when you launch TT2 you get a choice of which postprocessing to use - the included Nvidia codec or ffdshow. Try both and see which works best for you.

    Ffdshow has masses of tweaks and adjustments, some of which need a beefy CPU to run smoothly. It is a superb piece of software for free, but on my set up it added nothing to PQ and I didn't need the fancy features such as resize. TT2 is optimised to run with the Nvidia codec and I suspect many people will find that good enough.
     
  28. dekoded

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    Sounds to me as though you have an issue with resolution settings. I personally found using a PC gives a much better picture ( connected to my z2 ) than my pioneer dv565, even after spending loads on decent component cables.

    Have you just tried setting the resolution on your PC to the native res of the display and then connecting via the best connection available vga or better still (depending on cable run) dvi, otherwise there could be all kinds of extra processing going on!

    I would suggest if using a crt tv then use a decent dvd player with good quality scart rgb/component cables (very good picture no farting about with sttings etc), but if using a digital display the you will be better off using a HTPC via vga/dvi (you will constantly be twiddling with settings etc) :D
     
  29. rdhir

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    Problem solved!

    I should have said I have an ATI card 9800XT and so nvidia Codecs are not much use to me (unless they are ATI compatible I assumed not without checking).

    Anyway I have just ffdshow as I do not wish to purchase TT yet. I want to know if the software can genuinely scale up the picture to 1280x720 for mu plasma.

    I can then do a nice comparison between my Denon DVD2800MkII in NTSC progressive scan (component - Mark Grant Cables) and my HTPC with a decent VGA cable running at the native 1280x768.

    So the problem is that being too mean to buy a DVD codec, I used ffdshow which (I think) comes with OpenDVD anyway it appears that OpenDVD does not output anything which ffdsow (RAW) Video processor will recognise hence my errors. So after playing and surfing the world wide web, I found nothing much to help so I thought I would try DScaler as my video codec for DVD and lo and behold it produced something that the ffdshow RAW video processor could take.

    So I'm busy playing. The only thing that seems a problem is lack of CPU as my scaling is eating 100% CPU. So more tweaking required.

    If you like I've always considered HTPC to be a bit of waste of time unless you are a geek (I'm including HiFi and PC geeks here). I need stuff that is "significant other" proof (I hope that's non sexist). That's why a long time ago I bought a Philips Pronto as it was the only way anyone else could remember to sort out the video switch and the amp and the TV at the same time.

    So if I can get happy output and I really think its cool I think I actually will devote some time to building something that's useful.

    Thanks for the help in solving the problem peeps.

    Cheers

    Rajiv
     
  30. jackuzi

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    Hi all, interested in giving this a go on my MCE PC. I currently have just PowerDVD installed to get the codec for MCE and I installed an XVID only codec as well. All is fine but I'd like to try the TT and ffdshow route.

    If I install TT and FFdshow and configure as per the guide, will it have any knock on effect to my MCE setup?

    Is there any way of getting the post processing to work on my TV picture as well? (running a Hauppauge PVR150MCE) the current pic is slightly worse than watching the Sky+ over RGB scart.

    Thanks
     

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