TV and HTPC upgrade to BluRay 3D: advice needed

Discussion in 'Home Cinema Buying & Building' started by neilbell, Sep 11, 2012.

  1. neilbell

    neilbell
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    I will (hopefully) soon be christening a new house with a new TV. I am looking for LED-backlit 3D and I will also need to upgrade my current HTPC (current one is ION based, for anyone that knows what that means, and doesn't have hdmi 1.4 or the graphics/processor power to handle blu-ray).

    My questions for the hive mind are:

    Active vs Passive 3D - favouring Active, as I understand that passive is not full HD due to alternate polarized lines. Resolution is important to me, as is viewing angle, which is apparently also less for passive, from what I have read. Is this a valid choice?

    Size - 40-42" should be enough but does anyone think that 46-47" will be noticeably more immersive? Prefer not to have it hogging the loung unless it really makes a massive difference (plus cost).

    Refresh rate - assuming that 400Hz should reduce eye strain and generally be better.

    With this in mind I am looking at the Samsung 40" 6710 (the HTPC precludes the need for spending more on the dual-core for smart TV).

    Does anyone have any alternative suggestions?

    Cheers,

    Neil
     
  2. offitmassive

    offitmassive
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    Afaik plasma screens give a much better 3d effect, less flickering.. I had a Samsung c7000and tbf 3d movies gave me a headache, but now have a 50" plasma Panasonic set and have no such eye strain or headaches. FYI the Samsung was a 46" screen and I'd also say a larger screen gives a better 3d effect. The 400hz you mention isn't really 400hz, its normally 50hz with the tv cpu 'guessing' where the image should be so creates the image 8 times to give you 400hz. I think that's how the led sets go. With plasma its 100hz as a benchmark and you may see 600hz but that's the same its just an image created 6 times but as a plasma in general the image is smoother when moving especially in 3D where you want 3d full hd... Get me?
     
  3. neilbell

    neilbell
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    Thanks for the reply, offitmassive. Having read your comments I am slightly more tempted by plasma than I was but I think that other factors outweigh the image benefits for my requirements: cost, power usage, visibility in a well-lit room, size and weight of TV... I don't really want to spend more than about £800-900. I was going to have a look at current sets in a store to compare sizes and I will do an LCD vs plasma comparison as well now. I want a decent picture but I am assuming that current LED LCD sets will be sufficient for my requirements.

    Adding to my initial questions, I have a question about upgrading my HTPC but not sure if I should be asking here or in another section of the forum. Anyway, my HTPC is based around an ION motherboard (the Asus AT3IONT-I Deluxe, for those that care). This generation of the ION (first gen rather than second) can't handle 3D BluRay (lack of HDMI 1.4 or 3D hardware decoding). It is a mini-itx motherboard in a low-profile case, but does have a 16x pci-express expansion slot for an add-on graphics card, so I can upgrade to handle BluRay, although it will need to be a low-profile card and have low TDP, because the PSU is a built-in pico-psu and can only manage 90watts (the atom processor that the ION is built around is very low TDP, something like 8 watts). After a bit of research I am favouring the new NVIDIA Geforce GT 610 (basically a rebadged GT520), which is only 25watts tdp and has hdmi 1.4 and bluray decoding, so should be fine. Not a powerful graphics card, but not playing games on it (have another PC for that) so it only needs to handle bluray & bluray 3D. Another option is the GT 430, but this is higher TDP and I can't find a fanless version (my HTPC is virtually silent. Quiet fan would be fine but don't trust small graphics card fans to be quiet). Does anyone have any info on low-profile graphics cards for bluray 3D decoding (connected to a 3D TV, not using the NVIDIA 3D Vision thing, which needs NVIDIA glasses)?
     
  4. offitmassive

    offitmassive
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    Cost of a plasma set is cheaper to buy than a similar sized led set. I paid £1159 for a 50" gt30. Came with 2 pairs glasses and 5 year warranty. Weight of my tv is 28kg but think all wall brackets can hold 60kg? I have no issues in a well lit room tbf and there is an option called cats or something which measures light in the room and adjusts brightness of tv. Not necessarily saying get a gt30 but try opt for a plasma instead if u can. I have an amd 6770 gpu which supports bluray and 7.1 but not sure on 3d though. I but have a Panasonic hd 3d bluray player connected to tv anyway. I always try chose amd by the fact they carry audio as well as video down one hdmi cable thus less mess and cables behind tv and its digital lossless sound etc
     
  5. neilbell

    neilbell
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    Yeah, I used to favour ATI (now owned by AMD) but changed allegiance due to NVIDIA having CUDA (basically a way of using the GPU to run certain programs, such as graphics acceleration) and there being more info about Bluray 3D for NVIDIA. If I was sure that the ATI cards could now do the same stuff (and I could get a suitably low power and low-profile ATI card) I would look at their cards, but the numbering is even more confusing with ATI than NVIDIAs, so it's hard to judge what card can do what. ;) I'm pretty sure that the newer NVIDIA cards also have audio pass-through via HDMI 1.4. However, my audio setup doesn't have HDMI inputs, just optical and coax digital.

    My audio actually goes direct from the HTPC, via optical cable, to my 5.1 surround setup, a Logitech Z-5500. At some point I should upgrade my audio but, for something originally designed for PC use, the Z-5500 is a really great value setup: only about £200 for surprisingly high quality 5.1, built-in dolby dts decoding (so doesn't have to be from a PC), optical and coax digital inputs plus a few 3.5mm mic inputs and outputs. So far it has been great for my needs. Can't do TrueHD audio but I don't have the acuity to tell the difference between AC6/3 or DTS, let alone TrueHD.

    I like the idea of a wall mount (one of the ones that can either fold flat against the wall or come out on an arm at various angles) but my wife has veto-d it for some reason (she likes furniture. Not sure what the issue is with an invisible wall mounting). Still, all the newer screens seem to be MUCH lighter than even the previous gen LCD screens. I will def giv plasma some thought. Basically I will look at something equivalent to the Samsung 40" or 46" 6710 and weigh up pros and cons. I am quite eco conscious (well, as eco conscious as an IT guy with a cinema setup and permanently-on fileserver can be) so the much higher power usage is a bit of an issue but I assume that the standby power is basically the same as an LCD. Is screen-burn a thing of the past for plasmas, because I use my htpc and screen for web browsing and some general PC usage, so the screen can be the same for long periods of time?
     
  6. byngo

    byngo
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    I have a Samsung D series 46" 3D LED Smart TV and a HTPC supporting 3D bluray playback from disc or back-up.

    I watched a Gadget show 3D review last year which overall praised active over passive (they both have pros and cons and I dont think Id get hung up over that choice) but also added that larger screen size was better and the very slim edge of the Samsung helped with the 3D emersive effect.

    i cant help you much with your specifics on HTPC hardware because mine is built with moderate gaming in mind so demands a high spec and relatively tall graphics card (ATI Radeon 6700 1TB) and standard PSU so the case is huge and was actually the decider on the choice of AV cabinet.

    However the GFX card has HDMI 1.4a (feeding my Sony AVR) and overall it works quite well with bluray and 3D. The problems and annoyances come with your choice of playback software. TMT5 and PDVD 11 are the two Ive toiled with.
    TMT5 was good in recognising a 3D title a playing it back without any fiddling with options but had audio glitch problems with some titles.
    PDVD has been the overall winner for me but you have to choose the 3D option in settings for a 3D title and that annoys me since you have to turn the option off again to watch a normal disc.

    What would concern me in your situation is the 3D video and HD audio and your surround system.
    You seem to be looking for a low profile HDMI 1.4 GFX card that can audio pass-through, that makes sense but wont you have to send the HDMI to the TV and then optical out from TV to your surround system. In that case be careful that the Tv can do this. There is considerable variance in what a TV digital output can pass on (and of course not HD but you know that).

    Otherwise you are asking for HDMI video to TV (of course) but audio to remain separate and output in standard 5.1 over S/PDIF or Toslink. Your HTPC motherboard or separte sound card capabilities (and playback software) will all come into play there and Id be nervous of the outcome.

    It may be a thing of the past now, but about 3 years ago, i bought a Graphics card that supposedly supported high definition playback, but with a DVI port not HDMI. I then discovered that the manufacturer had not implemented HDCP on the chipset so I had no HDCP handshake with the display.
    Check out the HTPC thread. There's a guide to building by Theydon Bois that's very informative.
    Here: -http://www.avforums.com/forums/home-entertainment-pcs/798205-htpc-faq-building-configuration-your-htpc.html
     
    Last edited: Sep 17, 2012
  7. neilbell

    neilbell
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    Thanks for the very helpful reply, Byngo. Great to know that I'm not the only person using an HTPC for blu-ray 3D. HTPCs just seem to offer so much more than using Smart TV or blu-ray 3D players.

    From what you and offitmassive are both saying, sounds like it is worth shelling out a bit extra for a larger screen (46" would be my limit, I think) to improve immersion and avoid future disappointment (I hate spending a chunk of cash and then wishing I had spent just a bit extra to get the better version, but hard to balance that with budget). I like the Samsung screen design as it can blend in nicely but great to know it helps with the immersion.

    Hmm, at the time, the Asus AT3IONT-I Deluxe seemed perfect (very low power) but now it shows it's limitations, due to built-in low wattage PSU (90W). Hence my limited choice of graphics cards, but the GT610 has HDMI 1.4 and bluray 3d acceleration, so should be fine. I have a full version of PowerDVD 11, so not a problem there.

    Hmm, I am also limited in audio, as the Asus MB doesn't have enough pci slots for a pci sound card as well as the add-on graphics card that I will need. I currently have TV sound muted to prevent HDMI carrying sound and thesurround sound is via an optical TOSlink out from the PC to the speakers. It may well be a limiting factor and I have been suspicious of glitchy movies being possibly due to sound more than graphics card limitations. Still, it is all I have at the moment. The only ways around it are external audio (no idea what usb audio is like: not very keen) or a new setup entirely (would rather wait for now).My speaker setup can do hardware decoding of DTS but I'm not sure how that combines with the on-board sound or how it deals with TrueHD conversion. It may well be taxing my on-board sound beyond it's limits. Any suggestions for relatively small and not overly priced audio/AV setup that can accept TrueHD passthrough over HDMI? I'm not keen on a massive AV box or huge speakers. I like surround sound but not wanting it to be the focus of my entire living room (yeah, sacrilege, I know ;) ).
     
  8. byngo

    byngo
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    I would also bear in mind that you might find 3D a bit of a let down in itself and it will quickly become a once in a while attraction after the initail WOW factor with certain movies for the kids being the only time you'll use it.
    I keep one or two favourite Wow factor disks to demonstrate to friends and most say its like the image looks like a window in the wall.

    You didn't say if you have any high definition Tv or source hardware already but if you dont and are going to 42" plus in size and full HD, you will be more appreciative of the difference between DVD and Bluray for example than you would of bluray2D to bluray 3D.

    The ones I have enjoyed the most are the fully CGI animation ones like Monster vs Aliens, Cloudy with a chance of meatballs etc that the kids enjoy probably becuase I enjoy that "pop out of the screen" effect with those films and the depth of field. David Attenborough BBC titles have been good too.

    Other "proper films" with actors have always been just "O.K" with no real benefit over just watching the 2D version in bluray TBH.
    I really looked forward to watching the latest Harry Potter in 3D for example, but it was a rubbish transcode to 3D (Not filmed in 3D) but I only read the reviews after id bought it & watched it. I actually thought something had gone wrong with my set-up it was that bad in 3D.

    Im minded to think that you should be OK to use your toslink audio in the same way and in power DVD you would be choosing that device as the sound and making sure that the output format is set to downmix (to DTS for example).
    In my old house and set-up I used to have simialr to you although I had a Bluray drive in the HTPC but a DVI output GFX card so the sound & video had to go seperate ways via DVI and digital co-axial (S/PDIF) with PDVD set to downmix the audio tracks to DTS since my old surround sound system was not HDMI then either. Mind you, the motherboard and C2Duo 3.0ghz CPU were the ones I re-used to make my HTPC that I have now (for gaming) so the basic power available was plenty for bluray video & sound transcoding even without a good graphics card.

    Overall, I still enjoy my HTPC and most of the time I like to tinker but ive come to learn that once you get it working ok, dont mess with it and DVD was a lot more staright forward than Bluray.
    I must admit though, i found myself also having a Samsung 3D bluray player because when the missus is off with the kids school holidays and she wants to put a film on, she struggles with the HTPC. So to put a disc in the bluray player is just like it used to be when we had a dvd player and she can cope with that. Especially since when the bluray player gets switched on, the TV and the AVR come on as well via HDMI CEC control.

    I have no reccomendations for USB audio devices and I would be very sceptical.
    If I was you i would pose carefully thought out specific questions on the Home Entertainment PC's thread about your hardware concerns and whatever you decide you need to buy, try to bear future proofing in mind becuase I can see eventually that you will be going all HDMI including a 3D compliant AVR to put everything through.

    The most important choice right now though is the 3D TV because you might have to spend extra on it and wait to upgrade the HTPC. You might even find a deal with a 3D bluray player thrown in or maybe a discount on an all-in-one 3d bluray surround system (to answer your last point, a 3D bluray all in one surround kit is what you would be looking at there, try Argos or better still Richer sounds.)

    Feel free to ask any more questions though I and I will help if I can.:thumbsup:
     
    Last edited: Sep 18, 2012
  9. neilbell

    neilbell
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    Yes, agreed with 3D not being the "new way to watch films". I just pick up some CGI and animated films with Bluray 3D as a bonus to the standard bluray (I like the multiple options of the 3 or 4 format boxsets that are coming out at the moment, with DVD, bluray and bluray 3d and even then, only for films that would benefit). TBH, for a lot of live action stuff without CGI, I still stick to DVD (easier to lend to people). I'm not sure that Downton Abbey 3D would be all that great and I don't really need to see those outfits in HD. It is mostly just because I am already upgrading my TV (currently a Samsung but not actually full HD, just 1366 by 768, something like that) and figure that most decent TVs now include 3D so might as well do the minor changes to have that available. The new graphics card to handle bluray 3D will only be £35 or so but I need it as the atom processor can't handle the load of bluray 3D.

    For tinkering, I have my own machine, which I play PC games on. That has a much better graphics card (Nvidia GTX 560 Ti II iirc) but I made a mistake of thinking that I could fit it all in an matx case and still get suitable cooling. In future I might upgrade the HTPC and move to my matx case and upgrade my main pc to a full size tower. Just wish there were more options for reasonable size cases that have decent airflow but don't need to hold 20 hard disks. I have SSD as primary disk in all three of my machines and everything else is stored on my fileserver.

    Once I get the kit I might raise a thread to check that I have my audio set-up correctly, because I'm not sure that I do. It plays fine but I need to reduce audio strain as much as possible as it is just on-board audio. As mentioned, I think the occasional glitches might be due to audio struggling rather than video.

    I would be happy with a free bluray 3D setup but if I have to pay money for it, I would probably rather upgrade my HTPC. Not always the smartest option but I like building the thing as much as anything. When most people ask me about my htpc setup and whether they could do one I just suggest getting a PS3. My setup was more hassle and more expensive. I just enjoyed the challenge.

    Okay, showing my audio ignorance: I recognise a lot of the names of things (TOSlink, digital coax, spdif) but I don't get the interactions between them. Why is downmixing good? Come to think of it, is my optical out TOSlink or spdif? Will it just send DTS straight to the hardware DTS decoder in my Z5500 speaker setup or will it be doing pointless work converting it and then sending it? If so, how can I get it to send in a way that allows the z5500 do the bulk of the work?

    Cheers,

    Neil
     
  10. byngo

    byngo
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    digital coax are also called S/PDIF (Sony/Phillips Digital Interface) and look like standard red and white (L & R) audio cables. ( A round plug with a pin in the middle) but they are capable of digital frequencies.
    Toslink is fibre optic cable with an almost square fitting on each end.
    Both can perform the same function and you buy the one that matches the outputs / inputs of your hardware.

    Downmixing is not actually "good" but often a necessity according to your hardware capabilities. If you were to play a bluray disk it will most likely contain a high definition audio track like dolby true HD or DTS master audio (these days its common).
    Without HDMI hardware you cannot utilise the HD audio track so the digital audio connection from motherboard to amp (via toslink or S/PDIF) will be capable of 5.1 dolby & DTS as a maximum format.
    Therfore, you would need to ask your playback software to downmix the audio track to something your hardware can understand.

    In my set-up (All HDMI) I had originally set the HTPC to output in bitstream format which sends the RAW data to the AMP, undecoded for the amp to do the work.
    Then, as part of solving an issue with bluray being in 24Hz and matching the display frequency so I get smooth playback (like problems when the film shows a panning shot across an horizon and the picture judders along every so many frames) 3:2 pulldown I think they call it, I decided to use a program called "reclock" which re-aligns the video and audio with the display frequency and smooths out playback.
    Now, becuase reclock needed to tinker with my audio (to keep it in sync with the video it was adjusting) I could not be sending it in Bitstream to my AMP, so it had to be decoded on board by the HTPC 1st. To acheive this the setting in the software player option is called "PCM" (Pulse Code Modulation)
    It solved my problem and my only dissapointment now is that when I was bitstreaming the Amp display showed me all the "bells and whitsles" of DTS Master Audio or "True HD" as the film started but now it just says "PCM". There are arguements as to which provides the better quality of sound but i cannot hear the difference on my set-up.
     
    Last edited: Sep 18, 2012
  11. neilbell

    neilbell
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    Ah, okay that explains a lot, although I was confused by s/pdif (because my TOSlink calls itself s/pdif on the computer's sound settings). I just wikipedia'd it and s/pdif is a protocol for audio that can use either TOSlink or Digital coax as the cable type.

    Anyway, I am definitely going to have to sort out my audio settings. That glitch you mentioned sounds similar to what I am sometimes seeing so maybe I should have a look. In tended to be in sweeping vistas during the latest BBC David Attenborough series on blu-ray or even DVD. Doesn't happen often, though and don't think I have seen it in a while. Thanks for all the info and I will come back once I have moved house, purchased the new TV and graphics card and got it all setup. :)
     

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