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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi all,


I hope someone with the expertise in this subject would tell me otherwise. First, my current setup: Pioneer 503cmx with PDA-5002, Panny RP-82 DVD player into Input1 via VGA-Component breakout cable. With this setup, the DVD playback is excellent with the RP-82 being very well regarded here on this forum.


However just like many 503cmx owners, I want more as I've read many posts on this forum that with a proper HTPC setup you can achieve almost HD quality for DVD playback. Last night, I did a quick experiment with my existing PC which is a Pentium4 with GeForce3 TI 200 card and DVI output. Using the standard WinXP controls, I was able to set the card at the Pio's native res at 1280x768 @ 60Hz and connected to the Pio via a DVI-I cable. WinXP displayed sharp on the plasma as expected. Then I proceeded to pop in the Spiderman DVD which gave me one of the best PQ for the Pio. The software DVD player is Interactual. The result was rather a disappointment as the PQ was not as sharp and vibrant compared to the RP-82. Again this was straight connection to my general purpose PC using an OK software DVD player and no tweaking whatsover.


I guess I was expecting the PQ with this setup would be close to the RP-82. If this is the case then I'll take the plunge to build a dedicated HTPC with the best hardware and software such as Radeon 9700, TheaterTek, PowerStrip...


Sorry for a long post but my questions are:


1. With the mentioned DVI setup, I don't think I need PowerStrip as the video card is already running a the plasma's native res and refresh rate, and this is the optimal res I can achieve with a HTPC correct?


2. I've ordered TheaterTek which many forum members consider to be the best software DVD player. Do you think this will substantially improve the PQ compared to the Interactual player?


3. Can a newer video card like Radeon 9700/9500 give me better PQ than the NVidia I have?


4. Am I missing something with my assumption regarding HTPC DVD playback?


I expect to get TheaterTek today or tomorrow, I'll post the results.


Thanks in advance for all your inputs.
 

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Quote:
Can a newer video card like Radeon 9700/9500 give me better PQ than the NVidia I have?
dood, making that change is about as big a change as getting a new DVD player. without question, getting the Radeon will make the biggest difference- more color bit depth, yada yada yada...


software players will also make a noticeable difference. check out the htpc forum for the various recommendations.


i have been watching DVDs upconverted to 1080i via my HTPC to my 34" sampo direct view, and on well mastered DVDs, it trully approaches HD quality. a well tweaked-out HTPC will compete with THE BEST DVD playback systems for FILM-BASED material (video source is another story... cough cough... faroudja), especially if you go DVI to a DVI capable display device, like the 503cmx. Think about it, with an HTPC connect to you 503cmx via DVI, when you watch StarWarsII let's say:


-Filmed with digital HD cams -> digitzied directly from the source

-Mastered by studios in the digital domain to press the DVD version

-digital dvd read by your HTPC

-HTPC scales/upconverts digital data to fit native screen format of display device

-DVI connects HTPC to display device digitally

-Finally, within the video circuitry of the display device, the digital data is converted to analog signals and displayed


It's ALL DIGITAL from the source cameras to the display device. You can argue that analog 'in-between' adds value by adding subtleties to the image, and this is similar to vacuum tube amplifier fans use to defend their subjective tastes. In the end, it truly is subjective, but one cannot deny the *clean* path of an all digital route, assuming all stops within the route are high quality stops and no el-cheapo components are invovled.



back in the day, i used to have an old skool geforce2 MX, and when i upgraded to a radeon, there was a big improvement. no doubt. and what's kool is, when something newer comes out, just swap it in!


will be getting my 503cmx next week... can't wait to do a side by side comparo with the sampo via HTPC and HD receiver.


MMAfia
 

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I have used a Geforce4 DVI and a Radeon 7500 DVI with my 503cmx. I have not seen any difference between them. I have done little tweaking. On this HTPC I am not even running PowerStrip.


Some DVDs with DVI are unbelivable. Others I see little difference from component.


I find my kids DVDs look better, animated type stuff, than adult movies.


When I say adult I mean things like Austin Powers not Debbie Does Dallas.


-Jym-
 

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Quote:
When I say adult I mean things like Austin Powers not Debbie Does Dallas.
LOL!


hehe, yeah, from a GeForce4 to Radeon 7500, the difference isn't going to be too big... software player comes into the picture too depending on which card you use. i'm assuming our friend is not using the GeForce4 if he really was disappointed comparing the output to his RP82.


however, a Radeon 9700 from let's say a GeForce2 would be a big difference.



DVI comes into play with really Hi-Q sources, like StartWarsII or digital films such as Monsters Inc. et. al.


MMAfia
 

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I am using the Pio 503cmx and have gone through your pain. I found the playback quality most affected by the player software you use and your overlay/video settings. I have used Geforce 4 Ti4600, Radeon 8500dv, radeon 9700pro. DVI is the preferred interconnect (very clean, no noise).


Great players (in my favorite order)


1) Cineplayer (used to be ravisent now is sonic) has the best pc mpeg decoder out there...


2) Theartetek (better ui, uses the cineplayer codec for mpeg decoding)


3) PowerDVD


Get the avia set up dvd, and go through the calibration sequence.


I have found that I can get fabulous dvd quality with any of the above.
 

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Two things, I thought the 503 had a DVI-D input and not DVI-I and do not know if that has anything to do with it, also, set the refresh rate to 70 hz not 60 hz. The 503 uses 70hz. The nVidia drivers have a setting for 1280 x 768 @ 70 hz.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Quote:
Originally posted by pciav
Two things, I thought the 503 had a DVI-D input and not DVI-I and do not know if that has anything to do with it, also, set the refresh rate to 70 hz not 60 hz. The 503 uses 70hz. The nVidia drivers have a setting for 1280 x 768 @ 70 hz.
Thanks everyone for your input.

I'm not sure about the -D or -I but it worked with my DVI-? cable.

The video card can only be set at 60Hz only.

From the 5002 manual, the 503 can be set at either 54 Hz or 60 Hz, not 70 Hz.
 

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Just chiming in my two cents on what I know. If you are going to use DVI connection, I don't think you will see a difference in upgrading your video card. DVI sends the picture signal digitally. That means there are video DACs in the pioneer unit that will convert this data to the picture on the screen. You will generally notice picture quality differences between video cards when you use analog video output; this is because different video cards have different DACs, and they do vary in quality. FYI, Matrox video cards are highly regarded for the best picture quality due to their very good DACs.
 

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Quote:
If you are going to use DVI connection, I don't think you will see a difference in upgrading your video card. DVI sends the picture signal digitally. That means there are video DACs in the pioneer unit that will convert this data to the picture on the screen.
not true bro. the video card plays a big role in determining what digital bits or numbers to send to the display device. video cards (and software as well) scale, perform de-interlacing, yada yada yada that can make a huge impact on the digital bits sent to the display device.


MMAfia
 

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Some more information about DVI, including connectors:

http://www.dell.com/us/en/arm/topics...s_2000-dvi.htm


This is not true. The OS determines what is displayed on the screen, and this is stored in an array of digital pixels on the video card's memory. Whenever you do any operation on screen, e.g. moving your mouse cursor, the OS draws a fresh picture of the screen onto this array. The video card's function is to faithfully reproduce this digital array on the screen and should not touch it in any way, e.g. change any bit. The DAC on the video card will convert these bits into analog signals for analog output. However, for DVI, the video card will merely transmit this array of pixels digitally to the device. Nothing touches this array of pixels except the OS itself. As far as DVD playback, the software player will have a significant impact on the picture quality. It is the scaling algorithm written in the software that determines the picture quality. The video processor also handles some functions in decoding and scaling MPEG videos, but all modern video cards, including the Geforce 1 are able to do this fine, given you have sufficent CPU power (>PIII 500Mhz).
 

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However, for DVI, the video card will merely transmit this array of pixels digitally to the device. Nothing touches this array of pixels except the OS itself.
Er... when the OS 'creates' this array of pixels, it *can* tap into features built into different video cards, such as hardware motion compensation (if it's enabled in the software player and supported by the video card hardware). This can affect the array of pixels. Some people enable this, others don't. Depends on your setup.


If you do decide to completely DISABLE hardware features that the software player can take advantage of and go the full software route then you are correct in that all the video card is doing is passing the digital bits to the display device.


MMAfia
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
ti97,


Thanks for the Dell link.


You seem to know your stuff and since you're in silicon valley, I'm assuming you're an engineer working for some electronics company?


I'll post my impression after installing TheaterTek when I get it. This would confirm your theory.


BaN
 

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hold up phoaks....


When you use an HTPC to watch video, you are most definitely using a VIDEO OVERLAY, which is VERY different than the OS desktop video image. Using the overlay allows the HTPC to increase performance (colorspace conversion and scaling), save video ram (DVD is always stored at 720x480), and enable overlay picture adjustments (such as gamma).


The overlay essentially is a "hole" in that is serviced by the video card. As Mark Rejhon points out: If you tried to do a screen capture of windowed DVD player (printScr button), you will notice that it will be empty, as it is exists in a seperate block of video memory.


Within the overlay, the scaling and colorspace conversion is completely offloaded from the OS/computer to the video card, which has the hardware to perform the extremely intensive and specific computing required. This is where it can get interesting, and where different video cards can produce different digital bits that are sent to your display device.


While even the old GeForce cards are good (for their price) at performing these functions, not all cards are equal. For example, ATI will let you modify overlay settings such as gamma assuming you have the correct drivers installed. It is not realistic to assume that all video cards are so similar in these functions to think that it doesn't matter in the real world anymore.


Furthermore, different software players take advantage of the chipsets within different cards better- API implementation is not equal for all video chipsets.


So while you DO bypass the DACs in video cards when outputting DVI, you are still making a lot of use of your video card thanks to the overlay, and one cannot discount the differences in overlay performances of various cards.


MMAfia
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
OK, I'm back to report my findings after installing TheaterTek and PowerDVD on my test PC. I'm happy to report that I could see an improvement in PQ with these two players compared to Interactual, especially as they allow me to fine tune the brightness and contrast ratio settings. I would rate the improvement in the neighborhood of 10%-20% and this is encouraging.


As a result, I've decided to build myself a HTPC with maybe either a Radeon 9500 Pro or 9700 Pro card. I'll post the results when I'm done with my project.


Now a question for those who know. My video card already allows me to set the res at 1280x768 @ 60Hz vertical for the 503cmx via DVI port. What I can not change is the horizontal scanrate. I don't even know what horizontal scanrate the plasma is being driven at.


I know that the PowerStrip software lets me change both hor/ver scanrates. I'm planning to use it to experiment with the 720p res using the technique from John on this forum. Would it give me any improvements compared to the standard settings mentioned above?


TIA,

BaN
 
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