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Calling all experts: HTPC laptop advice needed

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 
I am looking to build a HTPC on a laptop. Okay, not a dynamic out-of-this-world HTPC, but something decent. My needs are fairly simple, and wanted to hear from the experts...I absolutely need a laptop for the sake of convenience. I already have a pretty healthy PC.

I am fortunate to have a DVR with my cable system that does no have 5C implemented, so in a nutshell, I am able to copy, via firewire, my HDTV programming to my PC. I have a collection of over 200 D-VHS tapes, and though this is okay, I really want a convenient way to start archiving some of the HD material off of my DVR. My hope is in the future to author HD-DVD or Blu-Ray discs when the software improves and the price of the hardware etc...declines.

So, what I need in a laptop is:

1. One that will have enough power to display HDTV material in 1080i. What video card will be sufficient? What processor is recommended?

2. Obviously, a firewire port.

I really do not plan on watching much HD material on the laptop, but would atleast like to be able to test the material that is saved on it, before I take it to my HTPC for archiving/dumping the data to hard-drives.

Thanks in advance!
post #2 of 17
Thread Starter 
Anyone???
post #3 of 17
The problem with using a laptop in this situation as you say, strictly for convenience, might be storage. It sounds like you are trying to avoid running a firewire from your cable box to your HTPC, and instead will be using the laptop to record/transfer videos from the cable box and then move them onto your HTPC. Laptop hard drives aren't very large, maybe up to 250GB. Some HD movies can wind up being a 20GB file. For viewing the movies, many laptops have the ability to handle HD quality video. Take a look at some of the Media Center laptops from HP. Also, Toshiba has one or two laptops that ship with HD-DVD drives, so they'll be able to play HD video. And just about every laptop I've seen includes a firewire port, just check the specs before you buy.
post #4 of 17
Thread Starter 
I recall reading on a few websites, that a 3.2Ghz processor is the minimum when playing back HD material. Is this overstated. If not, a 1.6 Ghz Duo probably would not do the job, would it?
post #5 of 17
My 1.86 Pentium-M powered I9300 can playback MPEG2 .ts files fine with a mobility x300 gfx card. Don't really know about other HD formats like H264.

-Suntan
post #6 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by djdrock View Post

I recall reading on a few websites, that a 3.2Ghz processor is the minimum when playing back HD material. Is this overstated. If not, a 1.6 Ghz Duo probably would not do the job, would it?

The Core 2 Duo processor is a better option to choose for almost no increase in price. That will give you plenty of horsepower for decoding MPEG-2 HD video.
post #7 of 17
Thread Starter 
Here is what I was looking at:

Intel® Core Duo T2050 (1.60GHz, 2MB L2 Cache, 533MHz FSB)
256MB ATI MOBILITY RADEON® X1400 HyperMemory
1GB Shared Dual Channel DDR2 SDRAM at 533MHz, 2 Dimm

I can upgrade to Intel® Core 2 Duo T5500 (1.66GHz, 2MB L2 Cache, 667MHz FSB) for $75 more.

What exactly does the upgrade to a "2 Duo" get you as far as speed. As I understand it, it is a 2 core design vs single core.

Thanks again!
post #8 of 17
Thread Starter 
Well this is just great...I was reading on notebookreview.com and NONE of the Inspirons have a working firewire port. Something is screwed up with the chipset. Great. Atleast I saved myself a ton of money!
post #9 of 17
you can always get an additional Cardbus/PCMCIA->Firewire card.

-Suntan
post #10 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by djdrock View Post

I recall reading on a few websites, that a 3.2Ghz processor is the minimum when playing back HD material. Is this overstated. If not, a 1.6 Ghz Duo probably would not do the job, would it?

The 3.2Ghz requirement is for software playback of HD-DVD and BR-DVD movie disks. You don't need so much CPU unless you plan to play such disks using this machine.

If you DO want to play such movies, save yourself much grief and buy a laptop ready to play the HD/BR disks.

For USB-attached ATSC tuners, see the CPU requirements for the tuner itself, some require more than others.

Gary
post #11 of 17
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gary McCoy View Post

The 3.2Ghz requirement is for software playback of HD-DVD and BR-DVD movie disks. You don't need so much CPU unless you plan to play such disks using this machine.

If you DO want to play such movies, save yourself much grief and buy a laptop ready to play the HD/BR disks.

For USB-attached ATSC tuners, see the CPU requirements for the tuner itself, some require more than others.

Gary

Gary, I noticed that the Sony Vaio VGN-AR290G Laptop comes with a Blu-ray recorder, player, and the chip is only 2.0 Ghz (Intel® Centrino® Duo mobile technology with interrelated Intel® Core2 Duo processor T7200).

Please help me understand this.
post #12 of 17
All Core Duo machines have two cores; the single-core ones are Core Solo. The Core 2 Duo is faster than a Core Duo.
post #13 of 17
Doug is correct, the dual core CPUs can be slower than single CPUs. The HD player software determines what the CPU requirement is, for example CyberLink PowerDVD HD Edition lists these CPUs:

Pentium EE - 840(3.2Ghz), 955(3.4Ghz), or faster.

Pentium D - 945(3.4Ghz), 950(3.4Ghz), 960(3.6Ghz), or faster.

Core Duo - T2500(2Ghz), T2600(2.16Ghz), T2700(2.33Ghz), or faster.

Core 2 Duo - E6300(1.8Ghz), E6400(2.13Ghz), E6600(2.4Ghz), E6700(2.66Ghz), E6800(2.93Ghz), or faster.

....plus specs for AMD CPUs. The clock speed, number of CPUs, cache size, and number of caches varies among these various CPUs. The graphics board may also have a performance requirement.

This is why you save grief by buying a laptop that the manufacturer has setup HD playback on. You will have the right hardware, the right driver software, the right player application, and all of the above configured for playback when you open the box.

Gary
post #14 of 17
I'm sure you're not looking this way, but any Mac notebook will have FireWire, some have FireWire 800, and most or all have enough CPU power to do 1080i.
post #15 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by djdrock View Post

Well this is just great...I was reading on notebookreview.com and NONE of the Inspirons have a working firewire port. Something is screwed up with the chipset. Great. Atleast I saved myself a ton of money!


I have an Inspiron E1505, and the firewire port works fine. I use it as an HTPC also.

EDIT: I just read the thread you were talking about on notebookreview.com, and those issues were fixed in a bios update. That thread started in February.
post #16 of 17
I have the non-HD-DVD equipped Toshiba Qosmio AV-600 w/ MCE '05 and its very nice.

Only issue I'm having, and one that folks here might be able to address to the benefit of the OT is...how do you get proper playback on an HDTV from a laptop? I can't get playback to work other than mirroring, which is contrary to what EnTech, makers of Powerstrip, suggest--and they further say they do NOT officially support laptops. What's the trick for proper full-screen playback of DVDs and HD .TS files from a laptop?
post #17 of 17
I simply disable the laptops display, enable the external output, and make it the primary display.

Whenever I turn on the laptop and it's connected to my HD display, it use the external output.

If I turn on the laptop without it connected to my HD display, it uses the laptops display.
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