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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Here's my premise:

I just finished my first HTPC build, thanks to the help on this forum. Now I'd like to be able to watch some of the media on it in a different room on a SD CRT TV. Windows 7 Media Center has great sharing features, but I'd still need to be able to decode a variety of formats (OTA HD, SD DVD, BR rips) and downscale(!) it to 480i for the old tube.


I could buy an Xbox and use it as an extender, but its acceptable formats are limited and it won't do Hulu. Plus, what's the fun in that?


I have an old P4 2.4GHz with an AGP 4X slot, so conceivably I could just buy a new video card and cross my fingers. But AGP card selection is very limited (there was an earlier thread on here today about that). Not to mention there're lots of posts about struggling to get good decoding performance (i.e. DXVA) with AGP drivers that don't always work (I'm talking about you, AMD/ATI). Certainly this would be a show stopper if I can't offload some of the decoding from the P4. A bonus would be building a new machine that is a bit less noisy/power hungry.


So here's the challenge:

- Must run Windows 7 (i.e. good driver support)

- Video card with s-video (I don't think any iGPUs have s-video, so I'm looking at something like Radeon HD 3650)

- Probably 2GB DDR2 RAM

- IDE OS drive available from old P4 (mobo must support IDE)

- Intel or AMD CPU? Depends on which CPU/mobo combo is cheapest

- Gigabit ethernet PCI NIC available from old P4


Think I can do it for less than renethx's low end systems, if I don't care about deinterlacing and LPCM audio? Thanks for all your ideas!
 

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- Athlon II X2 240 2.8GHz, $60

- ASRock A780LM AMD 760G chipset mATX, $55 (don't need a PCI Gb Ethernet card)

- DDR2-800 2 x 1GB (A-DATA), $27

- Radeon HD 4350 XFX HD-435X-YAH2 , $40


If you can find a cheaper Athlon X2 processor (Brisbane, HT 1000MHz) at eBay, you could use ECS A740GM-M AMD 740G chipset mATX, $40.


Or


- Pentium Dual-Core E5200, $64

- ECS G31T-M(1.0) Intel G31 chipset mATX, $37

- DDR2-800 2 x 1GB (A-DATA ADQVE1A16K), $27

- Radeon HD 4350 XFX HD-435X-YAH2 , $40


You could use Celeron E1500 2.2GHz, $53, but its performance is considerably lower than E5200.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
renethx,


Thanks as always.


In my other scenario:

- Use P4 with 1GB RAM (Rambus, would be cost prohibitive to upgrade)

- ASUS AH3650 SILENT/HTDI/512M Radeon HD 3650 512MB, $63 AR

- Some cheap sound card that's compatible with Windows7, $10-20


This is still quite a bit cheaper than building new.


I saw your HD 3650 AGP decoding with DXVA in WinXP screen shots in the AGP thread. How well does this work in Windows Vista/7? Am I overreacting to the numerous posts describing Catalyst issues by discrediting AGP?
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by tsanga /forum/post/17024437


renethx,


Thanks as always.


In my other scenario:

- Use P4 with 1GB RAM (Rambus, would be cost prohibitive to upgrade)

- ASUS AH3650 SILENT/HTDI/512M Radeon HD 3650 512MB, $63 AR

- Some cheap sound card that's compatible with Windows7, $10-20


This is still quite a bit cheaper than building new.


I saw your HD 3650 AGP decoding with DXVA in WinXP screen shots in the AGP thread. How well does this work in Windows Vista/7? Am I overreacting to the numerous posts describing Catalyst issues by discrediting AGP?

AH3650 works fine under Vista/Win7. Just make sure your mb is supported by Win7. In general I recommend building a new system to avoid unforeseeable difficulties. Another cheaper graphics card is GeForce 8400 GS, ~$20. There are a couple of 8400 GS cards with a 7-pin mini-DIN connector. But I am not sure if it supports 480i desktop resolution (my 8400 GS supports 480p, but I don't see 480i while the display supports it).
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·

Quote:
Originally Posted by renethx /forum/post/17024555


AH3650 works fine under Vista/Win7. Just make sure your mb is supported by Win7.

I ran the MS Upgrade Advisor on the old P4 and the only 2 things it complained about were the video card (currently GeForce4 Ti) and the sound card (currently SB Live!).


I also installed Windows 7 in a separate partition on the P4 - seems to run ok, the only device not recognized in device manager is the sound card.


So that means the motherboard is fine with built in MS drivers, correct?
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by tsanga /forum/post/17026700


I ran the MS Upgrade Advisor on the old P4 and the only 2 things it complained about were the video card (currently GeForce4 Ti) and the sound card (currently SB Live!).


I also installed Windows 7 in a separate partition on the P4 - seems to run ok, the only device not recognized in device manager is the sound card.


So that means the motherboard is fine with built in MS drivers, correct?

If you get a 3650 cheap, you should be fine. You could also look on ebay and get a pre-owned HD2600pro off ebay for probably $20-30 shipped. I have one running on W7 and it works A-OK. No driver issues whatsoever.


If the SB live is an addon, can you take it out as 2 channel stereo won't be hard for the onboard audio driver to do.


Sound on W7 can be a little tricky. My old turtle beach card won't work (only 3 years old) and my daughters laptop's sound card wasn't picked up on install. I was able to hunt down some compatible drivers and it works great now. For the most part, W7 seems to be fully compatible with Vista drivers. I would install the 32 bit version just to be safe. I have 64bit on all my systems with the exception of the laptop which is for the most part 64bit compatible.... except for the sound card.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
bjmarchini,


Thanks for the tips. I was about to pull the trigger on a HD 2600 PRO but chickened out at the end after I read about AGP driver issues in the owner's thread here. Seemed to me the driver download page on the ATI/AMD website still implied AGP support for HD 3xxxx, but only the hotfix is available for AGP HD 2xxxx. Is that correct?
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
No, but...


1. The CRT is 12 ft away.

2. I don't have to spend more $ on a new TV + new HTPC. I don't have unlimited cash at my disposal.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by tsanga /forum/post/17027940


No, but...


1. The CRT is 12 ft away.

2. I don't have to spend more $ on a new TV + new HTPC. I don't have unlimited cash at my disposal.

I still have a crt in the bedroom and its fine. Dont use it for movies or anything but at night laying in the bed its totally fine.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by tsanga /forum/post/17027299


bjmarchini,


Thanks for the tips. I was about to pull the trigger on a HD 2600 PRO but chickened out at the end after I read about AGP driver issues in the owner's thread here. Seemed to me the driver download page on the ATI/AMD website still implied AGP support for HD 3xxxx, but only the hotfix is available for AGP HD 2xxxx. Is that correct?

Not sure what problems you keep seeing. could post a link?


There is a problem with nvidia's s-video out. I know from experience unless it has changed. The problem arises when you send something out via s-video from something like netflix. It is a DRM thing. I ran into that with my old 6200 when I had it hooked up to a CRT. It seemed like it was intentional according to the netflix tech (4th tech actually knew what he was talking about).


I am starting to think you should rebuild as well... or atleast get a new mobo. My only concern with picking up an AGP is that you will not be able to carry it over to your next build when you eventually upgrade it. HTPCs are like cocaine addictions.... Its hard to stop upgrading them once you start.


Could you specifically list what you have? ram? type of ram? qty? cpu? mobo? etc
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Re: problems with HD 2xxx AGP drivers, see owner's thread or some Newegg reviews. I just started reading a few posts from the most recent backward.


Re: Netflix, putting DRM on s-video would be pretty dumb. Who'd want to record that when there are high quality torrents available, if piracy is the goal?


My system specs:

P4 2.4GHz (Northwood, I think)

1GB Rambus RDRAM

Intel 850E chipset

AGP 2x/4x

(Basically an old Dell Dimension 8250 - I'm never buying Dell again, nothing's upgrade-friendly)

No onboard integrated audio


But as I said, Windows 7 installed and runs pretty well with the exception of audio (and of course the lack of DX9/10 video card)
 

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Wow, didn't realize so many people were having problems with AGP. Perhaps you should consider going with a PCI-e then?


Hmmm. Looks like you are stuck between a rock and a hard place.


I think perhaps you should consider retiring the old system.


Cheap motherboard $35, HD3650 $35, CPU $40-50, 2GB Ram $25, sata HDD $50.


Get an efficient PC Power and Cooling Power Supply for $40. Spend how much you can afford on the case. Decide if you want to get bluray now or add it later.


You are probably looking at a minimum of $300 before software.


The other option is to pick up the graphics card and see if it works. My biggest concern is that you are throwing money away on an agp card that you won't be able to use when/if you upgrade down the road.


I guess option C is to get an VGA to s-video converter. They run about $40.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by tsanga /forum/post/17023999


I could buy an Xbox and use it as an extender, but its acceptable formats are limited and it won't do Hulu. Plus, what's the fun in that?
Quote:
Originally Posted by tsanga /forum/post/17024437


In my other scenario:

- Use P4 with 1GB RAM (Rambus, would be cost prohibitive to upgrade)

- ASUS AH3650 SILENT/HTDI/512M Radeon HD 3650 512MB, $63 AR

- Some cheap sound card that's compatible with Windows7, $10-20


This is still quite a bit cheaper than building new.


I saw your HD 3650 AGP decoding with DXVA in WinXP screen shots in the AGP thread. How well does this work in Windows Vista/7? Am I overreacting to the numerous posts describing Catalyst issues by discrediting AGP?

You want Hulu. From my experience, it doesn't really play well with lower end systems. I had a PIV 1.7GHz system (Dimension 8250, too) and even 360p Hulu was unwatchable in window mode. Needless to say, I didn't even bother trying fullscreen mode on that machine. A Celeron 430 (which should more or less have similar performance to your PIV) fared a little better. I seem to recall it was able to do smooth 480p in window mode but I can't double check as I've already upgraded the CPU to a Pentium DC E5200.


By the way, as upgrade-unfriendly as most Dell systems are, I think your woes stem from the mainboard using old tech (I reckon your system's approx 10 years old). AGP+RDRAM is a darned expensive combination if you're upgrading while trying to maximize performance. Building new is considerably cheaper. Even my friends who have custom-built systems using AGP+RDRAM have the same problem with regards to upgrading.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
I tested Hulu the other day on the P4 2.4 GHz and it worked fine if the quality/resolution are both low.


In my case I'll be putting out 480i, and if I set the Flash quality (not Hulu quality) to anything but high, it'll play. The issue with CPU horsepower is if Flash has to rescale from the native resolution of the material to something much bigger.
 
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