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Some questions (graphics cards, sweetspot, and general HTPC related)

Discussion in 'Desktop & Laptop Computers Forum' started by onewingedangel, Nov 22, 2004.

  1. onewingedangel

    onewingedangel
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    I'm considering building a new pc, that will be mostly used for internet browsing, and prehaps occasional gaming, but was thinking about adding a sweetspot card and turning it into a video processor as well. The screens it will be feeding will be a 17"tft via either vga or dvi, and a jvc p37 or d40 via component, at 576p or 1080i. Now the questions:

    What graphics card would you reccomend for flexibility, image quality, and connectivity? Some games performance would be nice, but as I rarely play games this is not a major factor. Really its the x700 or 6600 ranges I'm looking at. The 6600gt seems to have an advantage with its onboard video processor, but I haven't seen any comparisons of the two in regards to HTPC use. PCIeX would be the format utilised.

    Would sweetspot create any lag? In other words, would the audio prove to run out of sync with the video? The proposed setup I would be using would run the rgb scarts to my pioneer 301 amp, which would handle the audio as well as acting as a scart switch, then have the rgb scart output to rgbs input on the sweetspot, which would then process the video and output to the TV.

    Would using an x card to input the sweetspot, and using dscaler to process, be that much better than using a software dvd decoder and nvidias onboard video processor in the 6600 series?

    The rest of the system would be based around an overclocked 939 winchester A64 3200/3500+ at 2.4-2.6ghz,1gb or ram at approx 250-260mhz (500-520 effective ddr) at reasonable timings, and a large NCQ enabled 7200rpm HD.

    Also what software should I be looking at?

    Thanks in advance for any suggestions you could put forward.
     
  2. KraGorn

    KraGorn
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    I've not seen any comparisons between video cards from an HTPC perspective, but I don't see any mention of X-series cards, whether that's because people are following the herd of course is another matter. :)

    Lag has been mentioned very recently here, try searching on "lag" (it shouldn't be too common), IIRC someone posted they'd seen lag in some contexts, I had a Sweetspot to watch an NTL STB and that didn't lag.

    An X-Card is not better than a good software DVD player, even David from Sweetspot admitted that when they first started to sell the cards, it's designed for ease of use among other things since it has its' own video output and therefore doesn't need a high-end video card to offer good quality rendering. The NVidia decoders with a 6600 and FFDSHOW processing will be a LOT better, even without FFDSHOW it'll still be better.

    For software the DVD player of choice is often TheaterTek, which comes with the NVidia decoders, or perhaps buy the decoders separately and go with ZoomPlayer. FFDSHOW as I mentioned is a video processor, primarily used for scaling and processing such as sharpening, de-noising etc. Beyond that, I use AnyDVD to make the DVD drive region free, ad/trailer free etc., and DVD Shrink to rip DVDs to hard disk to play. Finally, Powerstrip to manage screen resolutions and refresh rates.

    Any other sorts of application you're thinking of?

    HTH
     
  3. onewingedangel

    onewingedangel
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    Thanks for the advise.

    What is the cost of theatretek, and how much better would it be than say powerdvd5 which is often bundled free or could be bought for £3?

    Also how much of the software that you mentioned is freeware and what are the costs of the rest?

    Also any thoughts on Windows Media Centre 2005. It is £110 including remote control, compared to £60 for xp home or £95 for pro. I wouldn't mind paying extra for added functionality, but if the quality is worse than using xp home and extra software then I'm certainly willing to sacrifice a little ease of use for added functionality/quality.
     
  4. KraGorn

    KraGorn
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    TheaterTek is about £45 IIRC, varies slightly with exchange rate of course. PowerDVD really doesn't make it for large-screen viewing IMO, when I compared it to TT 1 (using the Sonic decoders) it was noticeably grainier and less detailed, whether version 6 is any better I've no idea but I doubt it will approach the NVidia decoders.

    FFDSHOW is free, as is DVD Shrink (which can also be used to rip DVDs in lieu of AnyDVD), AnyDVD is $39 and money well spent IMO.

    I have no experience of MCE, my HTPC is 99% used for playing DVDs and I don't find the need for an easy-to-use front-end, however a growing number of people are using it in HTPC circles. I have no idea what DVD playback features it has, which codecs it uses etc I'm afraid.
     
  5. KraGorn

    KraGorn
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    I just came across this thread on AVS which provides a LOT of information about setting up an HTPC using mostly free software .. as far as I can see this guy still has to pay for ZoomPlayer Pro for DVD playback, but everything else looks freeware.
     
  6. David PluggedIn

    David PluggedIn
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    its now actually more complicated than that :)

    Xcard however has a couple of tricks up its sleeve, for example it can be run on low power mini-itx type boxes which can be used to build silent running PCs. Also, it comes complete with a remote control, and an electrical digital audio output built in.

    Xcard also has the best interlaced video output of any video card. This means that if you want to drive a standard television via either SVideo or RGB, then the picture you get from an Xcard is much better than a Radeon say via SVideo. This means that if you have a SweetSpot/XCard combo then you can drive the TV via the SVideo output connector of the Xcard, and your projector/plasma from the XCard->PDI->SweetSpot->Radeon output.
    Also, the 3rd party TVedia application for XCard (http://www.pluggedin.tv/item--TVedia-XCard-enabled-media-player--8DIM-TVEDIA) supports playing ripped movies from hard disc, including menu support, so it makes centralised video jukeboxes possible (basically a bunch of discs in a box on the network with hundreds/thousands of GB of storage). For users that favour standalone video processors then the XCard can even be modified to output SDI!

    cheers
     
  7. KraGorn

    KraGorn
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    My apologies, I was going on my experience with one this time last year. :)
     
  8. jhkanguk

    jhkanguk
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    Which of these is better for showing DVD on HDTV?
    1. PC-DVD drive + X-Card + SweetSpot + Graphic card DVI output -> DVI in of HDTV
    2. DVD player with DVI -> DVI in of HDTV

    In other words, should i go for HTPC or DVI dvd player if only DVD quality on HDTV is concerned.
     
  9. David PluggedIn

    David PluggedIn
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    Hi Jhkanguk

    A DVI DVD player with good onboard scaling will give good results. A PC solution though whether it is SweetSpot/XCard/DScaler or a software DVD player will usually still give better performance, because it can be configured more precisely to suit your display. With configurability and flexibility though comes complexity, so you really need to decide how important that is to you as well.
     
  10. jhkanguk

    jhkanguk
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    What is resolution of DVI output from DVD player? Can it be adjusted to match SD/HD TV?
     
  11. jhkanguk

    jhkanguk
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    David,

    Will X-card work with future DVD format such as Blue-Ray?

    1. PC-DVD -> X-card -> SweetSpot -> dscaler is the only way to do upscaling of PC-DVD.
    2. PC-DVD -> PowerDVD route cannot use dscaler. So Picture quality totally relies on software dvd player.

    Is this right?
     
  12. KraGorn

    KraGorn
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    It varies from player to player, but even cheap players like a Momitsu or Yamakawa can do 720p via DVI, some can do more, my Pioneer 868 for example also does 1080i.

    And yes, you're right in that last post about scaling, up to a point .. PowerDVD can't be used to front-end a scaler, but something like TheaterTek can, you can use FFDSHOW as a post-processor instead of DScaler, or perhaps with one or two of its' moudules.

    So as far as I see it, as far as DVD playback is concerned the question is: is X-Card+DScaler (Sweetspot is simply a signal source for DScaler in this context) as good or better than, say, TheaterTek+NVidia MEPG decoders+FFDSHOW?

    Of course, X-Card comes with a remote whereas you'd need to add a 3rd-party one if using some other player.
     

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