Originally Posted by protovision
Is it possible to get just as good, or better PQ (and AQ) from an HTPC, with the right add-ons/plugins/cards, etc, than HW-based players, such as ones with Silicon Optix chipsets?
That's a tough question to answer. You're going to have a very tough time finding anything PC-based that can match the capabilities of a Silicon Optics Realta HQV or Gennum VXP class video processor:
Scaling - doable
Sharpenning - doable
Denoising - Tougher to match
Deinterlacing - depends.
Deinterlacing really depends, there's no way anything PC based can match the HQV/VXP in terms of deinterlacing, they're just much better. Now that said, depending on what you're talking about that may or may not be an issue. For example DVD is mostly 480p (stored as 480i) and doesn't require deinterlacing, just IVTC and PCs do that just fine.
If you start getting into 480p/480i mixed content, or deinterlacing 1080i, it gets trickier.
In terms of image processing, SW can do anything HW can do right?
In theory yes, two issues that make reality different than theory:
1) Are those HW algorithms, or equivalents available as PC software?
2) Can those HW algorithms be run in realtime.
I'd guess the vast array of AVISynth scripts can come close in regard to number 1, but what I've tried as far as processing goes with AVISynth, I'd say 2 is the bigger problem, I have my doubts as to whether current PC processors can run HQV/VXP glass algorithms in realtime.