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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have a few dollars burning a hole in my pocket and I wanted to know what the state of the union was w/r/t the "Best In Class" components before I go wasting money:


How about an update for the following HTPC hardware categories:


-> Mobo/CPU/RAM/Case: Not as important, but, please comment with respect to minimum power required, compatibilities


-> Graphics Card (Display): Gaming and general video output?


-> Capture Card : Best for general capture and compat with dscaler?


-> Audio Card: Gaming (DirectX9/EAX is important) and 24/96 audio as well! Halflife2 and Beethoven are inseparable!


-> DVD DRIVE: got to play those discs (especially the DVD-R discs I will be burning)


-> HDTV Card - there are three main ones (HiPix, AccessDTV and MYHD) -- but which one is the best in class




Thanks



Jeff
 

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For the HD card you forgot about SW based cards (like the Fusion II). I went that route so I could use the (modified) video output of my Radeon. If you use DVI this might be a good idea as well...
 

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I've had nothing but stability with the following configuration:


Case: Kanam Accent HTPC Case

Power Supply: 350W Enermax Whisper PS w/adjustable Fan

Motherboard: Asus P4PE motherboard

Processor: Intel Pentium 4 2.8MHz CPU

CPU Cooling: Thermaltake Copper CPU cooler with variable speed fan and temperature sensing control

Case Cooling: Thermaltake Smart Case Fan with temperature sensing control

Hard Disks: Western Digital Caviar 10 GB IDE HDD (OS and programs only);

Seagate 120 GB SATA HDD (10 GB partition for system backup; 110 GB for data and HD recording)

Video Card: Radeon 9500 with Catalyst 3.6 drivers

Sound Card: M-Audio Delta 410 with latest drivers

HDTV Tuner Card: MyHD MDP-100 Card

Holo3D Video Processor Card: version I

DVD Drive: Sony 510 (multiformat read/write)


- Ken
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Pardon the ignorance, but are you able to play directX games and get the full sound quality from those games with DirectSound? I thought that the MAudio cards (except for the Revo) weren't capable of that.


Second, that Holo3D - what is that card used for?


And finally, what is your opinion of the Nforce2 motherboards?


Thanks
 

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Three questions, but only 1.25 answers:

1. I'm not a gamer, but I think your understanding of the capabilities of M-Audio cards is correct.

2. The Holo3DGraph card is a video processer (with DCDi) designed to take analog (composite, svideo, component) or digital (SDI) video input an deinterlace it for output by the computer's video card. It basically allows your PC to become the equivalent of a high-dollar video processor. I use it to vastly improve svideo from my DirecTiVo box into my plasma (far better than the internal deinterlacing in the plasma). Check it out at immersive.com. I have the first generation card.


- Ken
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Slight correction =) www.immersiveinc.com


Interesting. So essentially, the card allows you to take the pure digital bitstream and send it directly to the video display, with some filtering and morphing as you wish.


If I'm correct then, you don't need a standalone set-top DVD player, as your computers DVD drive will put out the bits just fine, where the Holo3dGraph picks them up and puts them directly out to the display via DVI.


In this scenario, you avoid any analog representation of the video information, period. Sounds nifty.


But, to play devils advocate, why wouldn't I choose descaler? This is where I really get confused.


Jeff
 

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No, actually a Holo3dGraph takes an analog signal from an external source and digitizes it (with DCDi and other fun stuff in hardware) and allows you to output it through your video card (whether that be digital or analog).


For instance if you had a laser-disc player this might be a great way to feed it through your HTPC clean up the image and send it to your screen.


Another option you can find info about on the forum is Xscale/PDI cards. They don't include any of the hardware video fix-up, so with these you would use dscaler to clean things.


:)


And here's some FAQ from the site:


Q: What is dScaler?

A: dScaler is an open source program managed by a fellow named John Adcock who, as I understand it, developed the program to achieve very inexpensive deinterlacing using Conexant/Brooktree based capture cards. Today it continues to improve and new features are always added. We fully expect that some day soon dScaler will in fact surpass DCDi in video deinterlacing.


Q: Do I need to use dScaler?

A: No. The H3D ships with a very nice user interface that most of our customers prefer. However, dScaler is an alternative user interface that will in fact work with H3D in both interlaced and progressive modes. Generally speaking, if you like to tweak a lot and are always seeking out new features then you should give dScaler a try. If you are a bit skittish on using a PC in your home theater to begin with we think you will be quite pleased with our user interface and how easy it makes H3D to use.


Q: What if dScaler someday outperforms DCDi? Am I out $895?

A: No. The H3D was designed from the ground up to support both dScaler and DCDi. Within dScaler you can choose whether you want to view the progressive DCDi stream from the Faroudja chip or use dScaler’s deinterlacing algorithms instead.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Thanks for the information. Damnit, however, I'm always left with a few more questions:


1. ehr, what's DCDi?


2. Where would you use dscaler versus a hardware card?


My thought is that the ONLY real utility for descaler is for DE-interlacing INTERLACED content; in this case OTA SDTV, SVHS tapes, Laserdiscs, and some video game content.


My end unit for display is a sony W400Q - so 720p is probably my desired format at all times when possible.


I'm going nuts trying to fit all the options together. I haven't even bought a video card yet -- which isn't a bad idea considering I keep learning more and more.


Jeff
 

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Why did you pick the MyHD 100 rather than the new MDP-120 cards?


Also, do you like the Sony DVD-R better than the Pioneer 106 unit?
 

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DCDi is de-interlacing hardware.


Dscaler has de-interlacing software (and more)


As they say, Dscaler is catching up to DCDi and other hardware implementations, and will probably surpass it. As such my opinion is that Dscaler is the frugal option, and a MyHD is the bells and whistles option.


With Dscaler, you still need an input mechanism and that mechanism can be a MyHD should you choose.


Again a website quote this time from dscaler's site http://deinterlace.sourceforge.net/about.htm


DScaler packages a variety of functions, including:


* Grabbing video from a DVD player, game console, laserdisc, or VCR in a reliable fashion, in either analog or digital form;

* Deinterlacing video source, such as sports and news produced with a video camera, as well as console games;

* Detecting and removing 2:2 pulldown (PAL) and 3:2 pulldown (NTSC) for movies and filmed television programs;

* Reducing video noise on analog sources;

* Automatically calibrating video capture cards for optimal brightness, contrast and color;

* Manipulating video through gamma, sharpness and other filters;

* Viewing still images;

* Reducing judder and other video timing anomalies; and

* Presenting all of the above in the desired resolution and aspect ratio.



So uh.. yeah, it's a tough choice unless you want to spend money on it ;) With money, just do both :D
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
This is really all nifty information. But I'm (in the long run) confused in a personal kind of way. I'm still unsure of my requirements to do what I'm trying to do.


I guess I should explain what I'm trying to do!


In a nutshell, I want to have the HTPC allow me to:


-> View OTA SDTV (any antenna method or source)

-> View OTA HDTV (HDTV OTA antenna)


-> View PPV SDTV (DirecTV)

-> View PPV HDTV (DirecTV)


-> View SVHS/VHS media

-> View DVD media

-> View LaserDisc Media


-> Save all content TO computer (via PVR or whatever)

-> View stored content FROM computer (via PVR or whatever)



-> View Videogames (Sony PS2/Xbox)

-> View PC Games (DirectX Games, Halflife 2, etc)



OBJECTIVE : I want my HTPC TO OPTIMIZE those signals as much as possible for viewing on my sony w400q projector in terms of interlacing what is coming in as de-interlaced, sharpening and tweaking the color, et al., of the video signal, and finally adjusting an aspect ratio for proper viewing.


At the heart of this will be my Denon 3803 and my HTPC. To do this, I'm thinking that I need a TV capture card, an HDTV card and an excellent graphics card (Radeon 9800 pro quality).


Holy hobgoblins -- THAT is THREE (3) CARDS just for video purposes. Whew! Don't get me started on sound... :D
 

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"View PPV HDTV (DirecTV)"


nope, currently there is no real way of doing this in HD. The Holo3DGraph version 2 can input HD, but it never goes onto the PCI bus so PVR is out.


You can connect the SVideo out from the DirectTV box, but then it will only be SD.


Check that your TV capture card is DScaler compatable. I don not think that the MyHD is, but I could be wrong. MyHD is fine for viewing SD, not so great for PVR. Do a search for Haupauge PVr-250 and SageTV. SageTV can handle more than 1 capture card (requires MPEG Encoding), so there goes a couple of more PCI slots... :)
 

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-> Mobo/CPU/RAM/Case: Not as important, but, please comment with respect to minimum power required, compatibilities


Mobo- Asus P4C800-E (be careful when flashing to the latest Bios, just follow the instructions at abxzone.com)

CPU- well, the BEST, is the new Pentium 4 Extreme Edition that was just announced(estimated price $600)!!! otherwise a 2.8c is okay(around $200 after the Intel Price cut on Oct. 26).


RAM- Hynix BT-D43 (look for these chips!) (you may want to search for my posts on the hardcore overclocking sites)


Case- there is no best


Power supply- Fortron 400-60PFN


-> Graphics Card (Display): Gaming and general video output?


9800 Pro


-> Capture Card : Best for general capture and compat with dscaler?


Flyvideo


-> Audio Card: Gaming (DirectX9/EAX is important) and 24/96 audio as well! Halflife2 and Beethoven are inseparable!


Maudio Revo


-> DVD DRIVE: got to play those discs (especially the DVD-R discs I will be burning)


Sony 510


-> HDTV Card - there are three main ones (HiPix, AccessDTV and MYHD) -- but which one is the best in class


MyHD-120



Mandatory Accessories


use the Zalman 7000AlCu heatsink fan

use Artic Silver Ceramique thermal paste, following their instructions on their website

use as many Enermax Adjustable or Panaflo L1A case fans as possible (these fans are quiet)


Make sure you have more air going in than going out (keep positive pressure). This way air won't be sucked in through your optical drives, which can dirty the lens and electronics.
 

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Here's a quick explanation of how I use my HTPC (see above post for specs):


1. Watch DVDs using TheaterTek as a software DVD player.

2. Watch OTA HDTV using MyHD card (I bought the MDP-100 b/c of the lower price and b/c I have no need for the DVI output with my ED Panny plasma)

3. Watch DirecTV using the Holo3D-I card to process the svideo output from my DirecTiVo box. (I tried some of the PC-based PVRs, but nothing beats the TiVo for WAF)

4. Play music using MediaCenter 9, including routing music to my whole-house audio system. Playback uses the excellent M-Audio Delta 410 card.

5. Control over everything is achieved using Girder - it controls the HTPC applications, the DirecTiVo (via IR), the plasma (via serial), and my pre/pro (via serial).

6. MainLobby, and the rest of the Lobby suite, is the GUI front-end for everything.


For simplicity's sake, I use the SPDIF output of the M-Audio card to my pre/pro for surround sound. But, I also have the ability to use the analog outputs from the card and its bass management features to output surround sound directly from the HTPC. I use this for various reasons, usually to apply CSII decoding to music playback or for WMA-encoded material. I send the analog outputs to a separate Sony TA-P9000ES preamp for that purpose. But the default is always SPDIF.


I went with the P4 2.8 in order to handle HDTV WMA playback, such as the T2 Extreme edition. I anticipate seeing more WMA encoded material as time goes on, and I wanted to be able to play it back. I'm happy to report that the system handled it well, with no jerks or stutters.


Sometimes HTPC is not about being on the cutting edge, but more about overall system compatibility and stability. Just ask anyone who's attempted to screen a movie for guests and had their HTPC crash!


- Ken
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Bump for updates.
 

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I find that the following plays T2 HD perfectly:


MOBO: ABIT IC7 Canterwood

CPU: P4 2.6C

Radeon 9700 PRO (or even 9100)

Output via DVI to DLP projector
 
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