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The best way to play/scale DVDs - Sweetspot & Realmagic Xcard versus software

Discussion in 'Desktop & Laptop Computers Forum' started by Nicky, Mar 11, 2005.

  1. Nicky

    Nicky
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    Just about getting ready to build an HCPC. It's going to be primarily for DVD playback.

    I'm wondering what method of DVD playback gives the best picture quality. As far as I can tell there seem to be two possible routes. First is Sweetspot + realmagic Xcard. However this seems a little like overkill as sweetspot's main job is as an image scaler. I don't have a big need for one of these at the moment.

    The alternative seems to be a software solution - TheaterTek seems popular.

    On one hand I quite like the idea of Sweetspot + the realmagic card. Nice all hardware solution, but it's £200ish and two PCI slots. If TheaterTek works well this seems a bit of a waste. The machine's got going to be short of processor power as I want to make sure it can handle hi-def.

    Other factor is heat. The sweetspot solution would let the CPU run cooler I would guess. Less heat = less fan noise. So this would be good.

    Any recommendations very handy.

    Cheers,

    Nick
     
  2. KraGorn

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    The 'best' option depends on several factors, not least what display device have you got, how you will be connecting to it and if you already have a PC what processor and graphics card it has.

    The X-Card+Sweetspot IMX gives good results but a player like TheaterTek and FFSHOW are better, but there's a trade-off between ease of use and software complexity which doesn't always pay off .. it all depends on thse basic questions.
     
  3. curry-kid

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    Nicky,

    If you don't need a scaler, then why buy one??

    I have an X-Card which I use via s-video lead to the TV. I use the TVedia software (see www.8dim.com ) which is much better than that supplied with the card.

    I am certainly in favour of a hardware solution for DVD playback, as my HTPC is my old PC in a nice case and the CPU is only Athlon 900. But with the X-Card I get excellent DVD video and sound quality.

    Talking of sound, the X-Card has SPDIF connection to your Dolby processor or receiver. This means you don't need a separate sound card.

    However as I use my HTPC for music as well, I found I needed a separate SPDIF output to my Dolby processor. TVedia will playback music, but you have to have the TV on to select the tunes.

    I use J River Media Centre which is controlled by Net-Remote on a Pocket PC. I have also set Net-Remote up to control TVedia, so I don't use infrared remote control for the HTPC at all.

    Cheers
    Chris
     
  4. David PluggedIn

    David PluggedIn
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    Hi Nicky

    as Robin mentioned one of the factors is your display. If you are planning to use a "conventional" display (ie one without VGA or DVI inputs, just regular SCART) then the Xcard is without doubt the best option for quality. If you have a higher quality display in terms of connectivity, then the TT/FF option produces the best you can get from an HTPC on its own, but it is complex. Finally if you want to go for a hybrid solution of an HTPC and standalone video processor then again Xcard is the only option that allows you to do this.

    .. so many choices :)
     
  5. Nicky

    Nicky
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    Thanks for the replies. I'm going to go the theatertek route initially. I don't think I'd apreciated from the other threads how good the theatertek quality is meant to be. If set-up proves to be too complex then I might add sweetspot/x-card later.

    Cheers,

    Nick
     
  6. KraGorn

    KraGorn
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    Remember TT offers a 7-day refund.

    Using just TT alone, using hardware mode, will prove easily enough as it'll install like this and you should be able to watch DVDs right away. Depending on your graphics card you may want to change oneor two settings, such as using VMR 9 instead of Overlay, but basically you'll get something watchable.

    The real fun/pain comes when you decide to start tweaking and then FFDSHOW comes into view .. but again, since you haven't listed your PC hardware or display it's not possible to say whether such playing will be useful.

    The X-Card is a nice half-way house to an HTPC, with the conveniences of tools like AnyDVD for region-free, ad-free, copyright-free etc. viewing without the problems of getting graphics drivers, software DVD player and post-processor all playing nicely together .. and that's even before you try to set up a custom resolution and multiple refresh rates for NTSC and PAL. :)
     

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