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Plasma PQ: PC DScaler or Lumagen

Discussion in 'Plasma TVs' started by machu, Jun 23, 2004.

  1. machu

    machu
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    About to buy a 50" Plasma (Pio 50MXE1 or Panny) and wondering which setup will give me the best PQ (watching 80% Sat TV, 20% DVDs):
    1. DVD, STB - Lumagen - Plasma
    2. PC (theatertec DVD, SAT TV Card, DScaler) - Plasma
    3. PC (theatertec DVD, SAT TV Card) - Lumagen - Plasma

    Any thoughts or (better yet) experiences?
     
  2. David PluggedIn

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    Hi Machu
    The picture quality between an HTPC/DScaler setup and a good quality scaler is pretty close, the real deciding factors are ease of use, upgradability, whether or not you want to use your plasma as a multi-media/web display or just TV, and of course budget. If you contacted us and wanted 'the best' we would advise a Crystalio video processor, and a Denon 2900 DVD using SDI, and then routing your Sky box through RGBS in to the Crystalio (note: afaik the Lumagens are still in final beta so final pq reviews are yet to be made)
    However you could get much more functionality for much less money with an HTPC based system but you lose the ease of use of a dedicated high end system. The last point you should be aware of is that that you cannot get a PC card to decode Sky, you can however get PC based video processors to manage the video output from Sky using Dscaler (SweetSpot)
    hope that helps!
     
  3. Liam @ Prog AV

    Liam @ Prog AV
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    Option 3 isn't really worth it - the point of the PC being to take over scaling and deinterlacing duties that the Lumagen would otherwise do.

    There will be little difference in PQ between a very well built HCPC, and the Lumagen partnered with a decent DVD player. But the ultimate HCPC requires the best of everything not just an expensive graphics card, big CPU and some trick software.

    I would likely go Lumagen for the best PQ, but would consider a HCPC an alternative option if I was going to make worthwhile use of it as a recorder, media server, Internet browser etc.
     
  4. Liam @ Prog AV

    Liam @ Prog AV
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    Oh, beat me to it :hiya:
     
  5. philipb

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    I've had only limited experience of set top scalers so calibrate what I say accordingly. I had a pretty brief flirtation with an Iscan pro and had a very limited demo of the previous generation of Lumagen.

    My current set up gives me what I believe to be the best PQ I've ever achieved with one small exception which I'll mention when I get to it.

    Sky+ goes via RGBs into the Seewtspot card with Dscaler. IMHO the only way to improve on this would be to use SDI, but can't convince myself the improvement would be worth a few hundred quid. The PQ is tremendous, limited only by the quality of the broadcast.

    DVD is a SDI modded Denon 2900 into a PMS SDI capture card also with Dscaler. PQ is superb. I have also used Theatertek with ffdshow and that is probably marginally better than the 2900 (also TT has very useful features such as AR control) but the convenience of the Denon plus it plays every shiny disc in Christendom means I use it virtually all the time.

    If I didn't have a HTPC already set up then I would go for a set top box, and the one I would go for I suspect would be the Lumagen Vision with SDI option. At about £1200 reasonable value. But if you have a HTPC already then I do not believe the improvement if any that a Lumagen or Crystalio or whatever would give would justify chucking out the HTPC and replacing with a box.

    My display BTW is the Pioneer 433MXE. Of the two you mention go for the Pio - no contest IMHO.

    David - not sure I agree that a HTPC could be done for a lot less money than say the Vision. If you do a good HTPC from scratch it will set you back well over a grand. A lot less than a Crystalio maybe but comparable with the mid range Lumagen or the Iscan Pro ( which I do not believe is a serious contender any longer).

    Before I get savaged by the set top box guys - who certainly do know a lot more than me - I have to repeat I've had no serious try at say the Lumagen or the Crystalio. I'd love to though - any demo boxes available?
     
  6. Joe Fernand

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    machu

    I guess the first question to ask is how familiar are you with messing around with a PC - much as the PC (or Mac) based systems can work wonders they are (for me) only relevant if you are good with PC software - otherwise avoid them and go with a 'black box' solution.

    Also I guess you have to factor in who else will be using the system and will they love you or not when your HTPC crashes mid way through a favourite TV show!!!

    The Pioneer 50MXE1 is very new - though our initial findings are very positive and once we get to grips with what you can and cant achieve with the FRC function that one function alone may elevate this to the head of the class as far as 50" displays go.

    Best regards

    Joe
     
  7. zAndy1

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    Well, I have a HTPC using Theatertek at the moment, connected to my Sanyo Z2 via DVI. I also now have a Panny TH42PHD6 plasma which I want to get the best out of as well. I can't hook the PC up to both the projector and the plasma as it won't output 2 different resolutions at the same time (one DVI and one VGA). So I'm now getting a Lumagen VisionHDP and plan on routing my PC through it, the beauty of the Lumagen is I can then output it to my projector over DVI at 1280 x 720 and also route it to my plasma at 1024 x 768. A future firmware upgrade for the lumagen will add a passthrough mode so the DVI from the PC is passed through to the DVI output of the lumagen untouched (currently it's processed but I suspect it won't have a very detrimental effect on the PQ). I guess what I'm saying is that there's room for both , I considered the sweetspot route with my HTPC but decided in the end to get a Lumagen as it gives me the option to use my PC on the projector and plasma at 1:1 pixel mapping (I hope anyway!). I'll post my opinions next week when I get the lumagen, I've run Sky through a PB TV100 and dscaler but didn't think that looked very good at all, I've no doubt the sweetspot will be a considerable improvement on that however.

    Cheers,
    Andy.
     
  8. Nic Rhodes

    Nic Rhodes
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    As an owner of video processors (4) and HCPC (2), I would look at the new Lumagens, they look mighty fine to me.
     
  9. andy572

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    I'm not picking fault, philipb, I'm just genuinely interested in your comments and opinion as to what constitutes a 'good' PC.

    So... with that in mind, what would you consider to be typical components within what appears to be a rather expensive box (to me! :blush: )?

    Most of this is financially waaaaaaay out of my league; but nonetheless, I remain interested in the hardware available and possible solutions within the HTPC fold. Here's to a little more knowledge! :beer:

    Heh heh, I suppose we're always learning... :lesson:
     
  10. philipb

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    A well specced HTPC can cost well over 2 grand, but I'll describe mine which I would say is mid-range but works well. Its worth remembering that for HTPC you don't need the fastest processor or the latest graphics cards - just good ones will do. I can't remember what all the bits inside mine cost but this would be about right -

    M/Board with decent on-board sound £100
    Processor - P4 2.4GHz £200?
    HTPC case with PSU £150+
    Graphics - Radeon 9600 say £100 ish
    Sweetspot card £180
    SDI card £150
    Windows XP Home £80
    Theatertek £60?
    Gyration mouse and KB £100

    Dscaler is free, but other bits of software may not be. Add an X-card, and/or a decent soundcard (M-audio say) and another couple of hundred goes on the cost. No doubt you could do it cheaper.

    So I think you should budget for about £1200 to £1500 - as I say maybe a lot less than a Crystalio, but comparable to the Lumagen vision. so if you don't have a HTPC, go for the Lumagen and make your life simple. If you have a basic PC already, then adding the Sweetspot etc is a much cheaper route but involves more hassle.

    I must say that Dscaler is an amazing bit of software - it really smartens up the picture displayed on the screen, has more tweaks and adjustments than even the geekiest of us could want or begin to cope with (in fact you will not use anything near all of them but have endless hours of fun trying them; oh and BTW its performance with PAL signals kicks the Immersive software into the long grass) - and its free :)
     
  11. philipb

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    I forgot hard drives and DVD ROM, but these are so cheap now - say another £150 combined.
     
  12. zAndy1

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    I'd go for a slightly beefier processor than that to make sure it will play hidef stuff (WM9 etc), a 2.8Ghz P4 or 3Ghz P4 will be fine. I'd recommend the following:-

    Motherboard - Asus P4P800SE or similar, expect to pay around £70
    CPU Intel P4 3Ghz 800FSB £140
    Soundcard, something like the Maudio revolution or Soundblaster Audigy 2 (this will give you dvd audio playback too) - budget £60 - £70 . If you're more serious get something like the RME 96/24 but then you're talking £300 ish I think, is supposed to sound bloody fantastic though!
    Graphics card Radeon 9600 would be a good choice, Sapphire Atlantis 128MB DVI out approx £70. If you want serious gaming get a 9800Pro for approx £130, noisier but more powerful for games if that's important to you
    Sweetspot card £200 or SDI capture card £150. If you get the sweetspot you can pipe Sky etc RGB through it and other sources. If you get the SDI card you'll need an SDI modded dvd player or Sky digibox, personally don't see the point of getting an SDI modded dvd player as the HTPC dvd playback will be as good anyway
    Windows XP home OEM £60
    Theatertek £50 (well recommended, new version imminent I believe)

    HD - Get the biggest you can afford. Seagate Barracuda are excellent and very quiet, a 200GB one will set you back £90 , money well spent though.
    DVD ROM - £20 that's all. Unless you want a DVD RW drive then budget £60 odd perhaps for a good one e.g. NEC 2510A dual layer 8x burner.

    Then you can spend as much or as little as you like for the cosmetic/useability stuff like the case/keyboard but a budget of £150 will get you a nice HTPC case and then allow £60 odd for a good PSU (get 400W minimum). Or something like the Antec Sonato is nice and £90 odd with a PSU. Gyration is probably worth investing in to be honest despite it's £100 price tag.

    So what are we talking, £1200 maybe for a very good spec machine that will be an excellent dvd player / scaler / media centre etc

    Hope that helps
    Andy.
     
  13. Gordon @ Convergent AV

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    I would add to all this that the new Lumagens have service menu adjustments that allow ISF calibrators, or those with knowledge and tools, the ability to get extremely accurate colour and greyscale adjustments for increased picture quality. These are not limited to, reg.green.blue saturation and hue as well as 5 point gamma and cut off/gains adjustments.

    I agree with everything said in this thread.

    Phil,

    When everything is tip top with Lumagens I'll try and get you one to look at when I have a demo model free. Could be a while as dealers are calmouring to see them first!
     
  14. bartbs

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    Philipb,

    When you feed the Pio433MXE native from a HTPC, how do you handle the framerate convertion problem ont he Pio's? Don't you get judder?

    Bart
     
  15. philipb

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    Gordon

    Thanks. Looking forward to it.

    Bart

    Yes it is a problem on the 433. I set the output refresh rate to 72Hz, ie do the conversion on the PC and feed the screen at its native rate. All I get then is a small amount of jerkiness on some horizontal movement. So with a fixed camera and an object (a car or a train say) moving across the screen the movement is largely smooth but then it gives a little jerk. Mostly I don't notice, but I will now after this post for the next couple of days. A bit annoying but not a showstopper. At least there is no tearing or serious judder that you can see at other refresh rates. Camera pans are fine.

    I wonder if the hardware/software combo has influence on this. The Showshifter/Dscaler set up is better than the H3DII card with its own drivers was - but then the holograph performance with PAL is ropy anyway IMHO.
     
  16. bartbs

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    Thanks for the info Phil. I just hope the new 50mxe1 won't have the same problem. There seems to be no info yet on the mysterious frame rate convertion mode in the integrator menu. Hope it works to stop this stange convertion thing of the Pio's.

    Bart
     
  17. saabfan

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    philipb,

    would you mind posting the settings you have to achieve NR. I would be interested in comparing to what I use for my Lumahen HDP into my MXE 433. (in addition, are you at 72hz or 71.928 ?). Thank you.
     
  18. philipb

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    The 433 is actually showing 71.8. I might fiddle around in Powerstrip to get something closer to 72.

    Should sau I'm using VGA - might play around with DVI as well.
     

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