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LCD to HTPC users

Discussion in 'LCD & LED LCD TVs' started by jackylad, Oct 19, 2004.

  1. jackylad

    jackylad
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    Hi All,

    I've finally setup all the bits and bobs to have a living room HTPC running to a large LCD.

    I'm still playing around with a few things (like the front end UI, looks like it'll be meedio now coz of MCE 2005's ****e hardware support), but overall its all there.

    A few people over the weeks have expressed an interest in LCD's that can display there native resolution via DVI from a PC. Most of these were interested in the Philips 9986 models. I said that once I'm up and running I'd post how I got on.

    Well, here is the kit that I've got:

    DISPLAY
    Sharp LC-M3700 LCD Screen (37", 1366x768, this is a monitor not LCD TV!!!)

    HTPC (from www.entertainmentpc.co.uk, more on that later in another thread, I'll take some pics etc as finding the right HTPC was a right ball ache until I saw EPC advertised on the forums)
    AMD 64bit 3200+ Processor
    Asustek K8V Deluxe
    1GB 3200 DDR RAM
    3 x Samsung Spinpoint 160GB Hard Disk
    128MB DDR ATI Radeon 9600 with DVI
    Liteon 8x DVD DUAL /R/RW IDE Drive
    Creative Audigy 2 ZS sound card (with the Megaworks 5.1 speaker system)
    Sweetspot RGB video input card (this takes the SKY digital input then processes it through Dscaler)
    Freeview tuner (not sure which one, will have to check)
    Gyration Ultra Wireless Keyboard and Mouse


    FIRST IMPRESSIONS
    1. The picture quality from Sky through the sweetspot card is first class, best I've ever seen!

    2. The freeview picture quality is really good to, especially when I get my tv aerial sorted.

    3. DVD's are fantastic, the system uses Theater Tek and its amazing, even better when I've got them ripped to the Hard Drive and don't have to get of me arse to get the DVD!

    4. Music and pictures are great too but thats probably not worth talking about on this part of the forums.

    So, getting the screen to display at 1366x768 via a 128MB DDR ATI Radeon 9600 with DVI. The best I can get so far is 1280x768 which is what all the comments above are baed on. So, as Sharp assured me that I can run a 1366x768 resolution to the LC-M3700 LCD Monitor, can anyone help with figure out how to do this via powerstrip? The Sharp mauual says that the screen will take a 1366x768 res @ 60Hz only via DVI, which is what I'm using. It's not the end of the world if it can't but I'd like to use as much as is possible.

    I can confirm that at 1280x768 the picture is full screen from the EPC unlike the philips 9986 which left me with a small bordered window in the middle. All the scaling that the EPC does is obviously doing the trick as I said above SKY, Freeview and DVD's are spot on. The only thing I can complain about regarding the screen is that gradients were not as smooth as I'd like in SKY, but I was really looking for problems and won't notice that when watching it normally. Maybe someone has a perfect Dscaler setup that I could use to get an even better picture????

    I haven't tried the PVR stuff yet. But all in all I'm really impressed with it all.

    Well worth the investment.... :thumbsup:

    Buying reference:

    EPC were great, prompt, helpful and it looks cool, its also really quiet. They even let me customise a few bits which was nice. Maybe I should have just gone with the recommended setups but I wanted to do some work on it to.

    BE-Direct.co.uk were also brilliant, they even specially ordered my Sharp screen as they don't normally carry that stock item.
     
  2. Only777

    Only777
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    How much better does sky look?

    I'm interested in improving my sky picture without spending hundreds on one of those de-interlacers / scalers.
     
  3. jackylad

    jackylad
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    Well it looks much better than on a 20" DELL LCD I was previously using and even better than a LG LCD TV I was using before that. The LG LCD was not using the EPC though, just direct connection via scart to scart.

    The only bit that doesn't look perfect is the SKY guide pages, they are absolutely fine, but close up the edges look a little blured on the fonts and the other graphics on the interactive guide pages.

    If you're using a large screen then I'd recommend it. On some channels it isn't to far off DVD quality! That's in my opinion though before you all start to kick off :)
     
  4. sofa-spud

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    If its any help this is what I had to do for my GA3E screen...

    I used powerstrip to set a custom res of 1368*768(couldnt get 1366), left all the timings etc as they were for the current (1280) setting, then unchecked 'hide modes this screen cannot display' in the screen settings for the PC and selected the 1368 res. In the menus in the LCD told it to expect 1366*768 and set it to dot by dot mode. I found if you send 1280 and the screen is set to 'full screen' rather than dot by dot in the menus it gave slightly fuzzy screen fonts.

    John
     
  5. jackylad

    jackylad
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    Hi

    I tried dot for dot mode on the screen and then setting 1366x768 via powerstrip, but the screen said it was out of range.

    In the manual it looks like 1366x768 dot for dot is only available with a analogue connection from pc. I'll email sharp to see if thats true. If it is then they've told me a fib when I bought the screen :mad: as the guy said yes with compatible graphics card the screen will take a dvi input at the native resolution.
     
  6. Toine

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    Jackylad,

    I read that you first owned a pf9986 but returned it because it didn't play with the reolution you wanted.
    From this post i don't understand the big advantage from the philips above the sharp. Is it only the 43 pixels left and right?
    If you get now full screen with putting 1280x768 in, the screen is scaling this and i don't think this is good for PC monitor?


    regards,

    Toine
     
  7. jackylad

    jackylad
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    The differences to me are screen space being used.

    The PF9986 via DVI gave a fantastic picture @ 1280x720 but it had black bars around the whole screen. About 3 inches either side and 2 inches top and bottom. So with the design of the PF9986 having a number frames built into the design, ie. the silver frame, then the speakers then the glass edge, it just looked weird having that little picture stuck in the middle. DVD's were really small on the screen due to this, bear in mind I'm only running an EPC HTPC to this screen not a DVD player or other AV equipment. BTW, it's probably something I've done when I tried it but the WMP Hi Def terminator 2 demo was jerking all over the place on the Philips via DVI ???

    What I like about the Sharp lcd monitor is that I can (so far) run 1280x768 full screen and get the same picture quality as the Philips. This is also complemented by a simple 2" ish black frame which is perfect for the decor in my living room, subtle if you know what I mean. Saying that the amblight was excellent, but hey!!

    I'm not to up to speed on scaling, but all I know is the EPC HTPC is doing a fine job of producing a cristal clear picture from Freeview, Sky (using sweetspot card) and especially on DVD's. I just wanted to use as much of the screen as I could via DVI and a PC.

    So on the Sharp, I've got full screen 16:9 Sky pictures, crisp and clear and Freeview 16:9 too. Then when playing music the WMP10 visualisations really create an nice atmosphere in the room, again full screen.

    I'm just screen greedy :thumbsup: , but like I say I can't see any problems with the picture quality even though scaling is taking place.

    I'd love a powerstrip expert to set it all up perfectly at 1366x768 in dot for dot mode but unless someone already has one of these screens I'm buggered!

    BTW dot for dot mode on the sharp does obviously result in larger black bars but an even better picture!!! So if I can get the screen to stop saying out of range when I send a 1366x768 res to it in Dot for Dot mode I'd be a happy chappy.
     
  8. ianh64

    ianh64
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    You are definately sending 1366x768 at 48.4KHz horizontal frequency and 60Hz vertical frequency ? I have never used powerstrip but I must assume that these values are configurable.

    Also, you talk about just DVI but dont say of you are feeding an analogue or digital signal - DVI-I which I assume the Sharp has takes both. If you output an analogue signal, you should get access to the phase and other adjustments. These may not be available when using a digital feed.

    -Ian
     
  9. jackylad

    jackylad
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    I've got a DVI-D from HTPC to DVI-D on the Sharp Screen.

    I'll try setting the resolution via powerstrip that you stated in your last post and let you know what happens. Is there any other setting that I should be aware of? The manual says that the screen can take a analog res of 1366x768 at @60 and a 1366x768 pc digital signal input, but it does not refer to refresh rates. I've tried setting the resolution at the setting in your post but the screen just displays 'out of range' :(

    The Dot by Dot mode gives me the best picture I can get so far but @ 1280 x 768 it leaves an inch either side of the screen as black bars. Full mode look good too but font are very, very slightly blurred when about 1m from the screen.

    Does anyone have any ideas how I can make a screen that clearly takes a native resolution input, use the bloody thing. :suicide:

    Please help!!!!
     
  10. paulgardam

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    Excuse Ignorance but what is 'EPC HTPC'?
     
  11. jackylad

    jackylad
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  12. paulgardam

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  13. Sulis

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    Hi Jacky - your setup sounds great. I've been very interested in the 3700 screen, but there's no-one around here (Bath) that can demo one. Since I'd be mainly watching SKY+, I'd be interested to know what the PQ's like without the Sweetspot card (ie. just straight from the Sky box as I won't be using a PC). Have you tried this?

    Also, why did you buy your screen from BE Direct?
     
  14. jackylad

    jackylad
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    Well, sky is really nice via sweetspot, however, as I haven't tested sending sky direct to the TV to compare. But I can say that some SKY channels are amazing. I do have problems with Dscaler keep asking for card settings ??? I have messed around with things though so we can't blame the EPC or sweetspot or Dscaler for that.

    What I'd really like to know is exactly how to set up Dscaler's setting to achieve the best possible picture from SKY. It is great now but I bet I could get better!

    The reason I bought the screen from BE-Direct was I'd initially orderd the Philips 37PF9986 in the hope that it could be force to display a PC input full screen via DVI. That never worked out :( , then an AV forum member called MAW said that I should really be looking for a LCD monitor rather than an LCD TV, to get the results I was looking for. Which included, full screen PC input via DVI, high quality video etc etc. So, rather than asking for a refund, as they were really nice to deal with, I asked if they could order the Sharp LC-M3700 37" monitor for me. They didn't carry this model in there normal stock options, so after a few phone calls they agreed to try and get me one. It did take four weeks but in the end they came up with the goods. I paid £2949.99 inc VAT which was significantly more than it is advertised on http://www.av-sales.co.uk/html/sharp_lc-3700.html £2697.02, but I didn't mind as they went out of there way to let me try the Philips in the first place, and that obviously incurred them extra delivery charges (which was probably the reason for the price increase!! :) ). You may think that spending £300 quid to find out if the Philips would do a full screen native resolution picture from a PC is steep, well it is, but hey! Also I later found someone on the forums saying that they could get the Philips to take a 1366x768 res, but I still don't think that it was full screen.

    Anyway, it turns out that I still can't get the Sharp screen to take a 1366x768 res from my Radeon 9600 via DVI, but the manual says it will??? How ? Who the :censored: knows. So that is very annoying at the moment. However, I have two choices to go with in the meantime until I hear back from Sharp technical support.

    1. Set the Sharp monitor to Full Mode, and the EPC HTPC to 1280x768. This gives me an excellent full screen desktop and freeview & sky have slight 1cm black borders left and right and more or less the same top and bottom. I think Dscaler could rectify that but it's all a bit complicated at the moment. Especially all the differenct deinterlace modes????

    2. Set the Sharp monitor to Dot by Dot mode, and the EPC HTPC to 1280x768. This give me an even better picture quality however it has an inch left and right on the desktop. It does go top to bottom on the Desktop though

    ps. DVD's on any setting are the best picture quality I've ever seen. The DVD playing software is Theater Tek for reference. I've heard some people saying that other programs are better but I wouldn't know.

    But for £2697.02 (that 2p must make all the difference to their bottomline eh!) the Sharp screen is great for HTPC users and to me is the best solution for this sort of size LCD taking PC input only.

    Actually, I'm thinking of changing the Radeon 9600 graphics card the Nebula freeview card and the sweetspot card (even though I've only had then a few weeks) due to seriously thinking about moving over the MCE 2005. Yes, I know that the picture quality and issues with using SKY (PVR problems in MCE 2005) will not give me the true Home Theatre Experience I've currently got. But, myHTPC, Meedio and all the rest of the interfaces you can use are just not a userfriendly, slick and out of the box as MCE 2005 is. It'd be alright if it was just me using the system but as everyone always states the family have to use it to. Even if that is only my girlfriend, I don't need the "Why's that not working?" "We've spent £5000 on a new AV setup and I can't use it without you here" conversations (arguments :zonked: )

    And, to be honest I need to get this system finished once and for all, as I can't be bothered to sit reading several forums every couple of hours to see how I get the perfect HTPC setup and experience. It's just lost its fun if you know what I mean.

    But don't let that put you off as the results are clearly fantasic.

    ps. you may want to buy the sweetspot card off me. ;)
     
  15. mark88

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    This sharp model is a monitor you say, not a TV? it seems low res for a monitor, an I can't find any sharp LCD monitor model currently in their range with a size anything close to that. For example, a 30" Apple Cinema Display is native 2560 x 1600.

    I'm considering a similar setup to yours, but the only difference being I really need an LCD monitor that allows me to use the PC @ resolutions no less than 1280x1024(for work). I've been thinking about a 23" cinema display(1920 x 1200), just not sure how it would work as a HTPC monitor, the resolution is huge and considering DVD res is roughly a quarter of it's full size, there be lots of upscaling to do I imagine.

    How are you connecting Sky to the capture card exactly?
     
  16. jackylad

    jackylad
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    www.pluggedin.tv/sweetspot card. It comes with an rgb scart to RGB component lead that plays sky tv through your htpc via Dscaler. The picture quality is really good.

    the screen that i've got which is running at its native resolution of 1366x768 (well actually 1368x768 with a pixel chopped off either side) is on the sharp website. just go to the aquos bit then range and you should see an option for a LC-M3700, or do a search on google.

    Mind you I don't think its going to do a high enough resolution for your needs. it will go higher but it's not as crisp on fonts and stuff.
     
  17. jimbob19

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    Hi , I have been considering a similar setup but have been looking at the Aquos TV range . I will be using input via a htpc (mce2005) , why did you go for the monitor over the aquos sets of the same price ?
    Also do you notice any ghosting etc on fast action . All the LCD sets I have seen the PQ looks terrible (agrred they have all been in currys etc) but none of them have managed to look anywhere near as good as plasma. Looking for some guidance before doshing out double the price of a panny pw6 !!! :eek:

    Thanks
     
  18. jackylad

    jackylad
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    One of the forum members 'MAW' suggested that I get an actual PC LCD monitor rather than an LCD TV. This was due to the fact that I wanted it to display full screen using it's native resolution. I'm not sure if you can run the screen you mentioned at full native resolution via a DVI connection, which would mean that I could have maybe went for a normal LCD TV. But to save all the researching I opted for a one that would definately do what I wanted it to do.

    Basically, if you want an LCD screen that works flawlessly with an HTPC then get an actual PC monitor rather than an LCD TV. It's something to do with resolutions ?? :zonked: I don't know how to explain it but if you look through some old posts regarding a DVI connection to the Philips 9986 then you'll see how I came to end up with the Sharp monitor over a TV.
     
  19. ianh64

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    The Sharp TV's will perform in the same way as the Sharp monitor. Native resolution @60Hz is supported on both. The problems that affected the Philips is due to its apparent inability to zoom a non native DVI-D input to 16:9 full screen, which the Sharp range and many others can definately do (unless running in PC dot for dot mode), or accept full screen native input via DVI-D which is less common but can be done by the Sharp G series and Loewe's plus maybe some others.
     
  20. cwick

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    Could be wrong here, but I seem to recall from messing around with HTPCs on my panny6 that the Radeons (& nvidia) only support resolutions exactly divisible by 8 - so 1368x768 would be the closest the card can support. That may just work if you can adjust the image on the LCD so that you have 1 pixel overscan each side (so the bit that you do see is dot-for-dot).
     
  21. jimbob19

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    mmmm some food for thought there . So it looks like the Aquos tv range will do the same as the LCD monitor version then . Good to know so if the htpc goes tits up I can still get a signal in (via scart or whatever). Now the only thing I need to do is confirm that the PQ on an LCD (correctly set up) is not as ****e as they look in currys et all :)
     
  22. jackylad

    jackylad
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    I'm sure that the sharp monitor is doing dot by dot with 1 pixel overscan each side. As soon as I set the monitor to 1368x768 the screen format options (wide mode, cinema mode etc) are no longer available. So do you all think that means the screen is in dot by dot mode?
     
  23. cwick

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  24. zoobs

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    Jackylad :lease: I have a very basic HTPC setup. I use a normal 32" CRT tv as the monitor and although the pc is almost unusable because of the CRT monitor, MCE 2004 works great. The reception is via a sky digibox into a Hauphauge PVR 350 and it's quite acceptable. Anyhow here's my question, I've just convinced my wife to let me buy a PW6 which I would then use to replace the 32" CRT. Is this not a good idea? If I bought a sweetspot card what kind of PQ would I get from the PW6 both in terms of tv reception, playing dvd's and also as a monitor for the pc.
    Cheers Zoobs :thumbsup:
     
  25. bad robot

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    Im wondering if the problem is anything to do with you trying to output the Sharp to 1280x768 / isnt this 15:9 and against the 1366x768 native res the LCD has which is 16:9

    Try doing traditional 720p 1280x720 16:9

    Like many here I looked into LCD Tvs for a truely usefull all-in-one display for all forms of entertainment but couldnt find a solution. I had the cheap and cheerfull medion 30" LCD which was a better monitor than a TV but I just dont think the technology has matured enough. Maybe when 1080 screen resolutions are available will they truly benifit both Pcs and general entertainment.

    Ive opted for a TFT and Projector layout comprimising of rather stylish models 2x Samsung 193p and 1x Panasonic AE 700. Although the TFT are limited to 1280x1024 they are good for most PC duties and I will be connectiing them as a 3 way monitor display via AGP and PCI graphics using the AE 700 for multimedia and the TFTs for apps/utilities and www.
    Although a PJ may not be to everyones taste this is part of a HTPC /Modified Xbox and mutlisystem console lan. One advantage is that all this can be had for a simular price range to many LCD tvs being talked about here.
     

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