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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi,


i´m an absolute newby. And an all live Mac user. I have also a LS 110.

Now I am about to build a HTPC. Not only to get a better picture, but also to have other advantages as Internet connection, Photoslideshow, divx, Computer games, etc.

I'm know Mac´s perfectly, so I´m more confident with them that PC´s.

My Mac is very old and slow: G3/300 Mhz, no DVD, ATI Rage 16 MB...


My Question: What Mac do I need: Is there someone who has REAL experiences or

should I go for a PC HTPC?? I have small experience with PC´s... but not big problems to learn. The only thing is that I have to switch my mind every time I go from one Computer to the other!


When doing HTPC. What is the actual "state of the art" equipment? What is the minimum requirement?


THANK YOU!
 

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What kind of display will you be using?


If it's a display that supports 1080i via component then you should get a G4 tower that supports the ATI 8500 Mac Edition AGP video card so that you can use the ATI component adapter, which will support 480i, 480p, 720p and 1080i.


Dennis
 

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Here's the thing. If you're a Mac User, you probably don't tweak very much. Right now, building a Home Theater PC is about tweaking, period.


Tweak = mess around with the hardware and continually reconfigure software.


(Note to Mac Tweakers -- I know you do exist, but you're a rare breed when compared to the PC Tweakers...)


I bought a G4 Cube about 2 years ago to try to make an HTMac (fanless was so attractive!) While I couldn't bring the performance to where I needed it for Home Theater, it continues to serve me well as a Unix environment and video editing station--FinalCut / Combustion reign supreme.


Can you do it NOW with a Mac? Hardwarewise, all the parts are out there, if kinda pricey. I've played with the Apple DVD player enough to know that it has resonable Picture Quality but isn't very flexible. Applescript could probably be used in place of Girder for a lot of stuff. There is a USB AC3 decoder, the name of which escapes me. But it could be done.


The concept of an HTMac is a newborn while the HTPC is just reaching puberty. None of this is truly mature. Just fun.


One more homage to Macs --- Most Mac Tweakers do it for the enjoyment while us PC Tweakers don't have a chioce...


To answer your ORIGINAL question -- grab a G4 1GHz+. Get lots of memory and the Radeon untimate mentioned in the previous post. There are several PCI audio cards that are cross-platform.
 

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Has anyone tried the other videolan DVD player available on the maudio.de site?


They seem to have a new version modified for AC3 with the Delta/Audiophile cards called "vlc_AC3_Delta.dmg." I'm not about to rip open my HTPC again.(what a mess) The build is 9/31 versus 8/5/02. Still version 4.3, but apparently another option until videolan v. 5 appears.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Thank you very much for the answers.


Do you really think I need a 1 Ghz Mac for doing HTPC?? Of course it´ll be great to have such a powerful machine!

The graphic card could also be a Radeon 9000. Which is the best for HTPC.

I have a Toshiba MT5=INFOCUS LS110. My intention is to connect it via DVI. I thought this is the best connection.

I heard something that the Mac makes software decoding for DVD. Is this right? and if it´s right. is it enough, or is this a reason to go fore PC HTPC.


Another interesting thing is the Audio. I thought the only way is the sonica USB adapter. Is there a PCI audio card with DTS, DD for MAC???


The good thing is that OS X is UNIX based, and that there is a lot of software coming out now! Probably also drivers for audio cards!


probable Mac HTPC:


G4 800 mhz min. (my suggestion)

ATI 8500 (or Gforce 4 MX???)

lots of RAM( 512 or 1 GB??)

M-sonica (another PCI card???)


Software

Vlan Player

MPlayer (new released software!)


But some interesting links. This card is discontinued, but... is there some light??
http://www.xlr8yourmac.com/Graphics/...dvd/index.html


Please all Mac users. Lets build up a competitive Mac HTPC. We can do it!
 

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Your biggest issue will be getting 5.1 audio out of the HTPC. Currently, the only DVD player on the Mac that comes close to allowing this is the hacked version vlc that M-Audio distributes with the Sonica. (And I think it only does Dolby Digital, not DTS).


Everyone from Apple has been very quiet about whether there will ever be true "digital out" from the Apple DVD player.


I don't know if the .43DD version of vlc supports other audio adapters, but if not, you are locked in to at least those 2 products.


Best,

Brad
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
I´ve read for the last while a bit about HTPC in this forum.

I have a 800x600 DLP PJ.

The real question is, if it makes so much difference from a good HTPC PC to a working MAC HTPC? (only SVGA)

Now i see DVD over an interlaced player, and it looks quite good, as my PJ hac DCDi from Faroudja. But I want to improve it.

The other sources (TV over s-video, Sat TV over s-video, PS2) I still intend to send them directly to the Pj, as I think that even with H3D it is the same thing as the internal DCDi. Is that right?


I think DVD as a digital source, geting it to the PJ absolutely digital over DVI, must be a real advantage! The problem is, that i´ve never seen a HTPC!


So please, is there a REAL experience with MAC HTPC, in terms of PQ?

It seems that sound goes with M-sonica.


About Apple, it is possible that they are planing to bring out a special divice fore HTPC??? I´ve heared some rumors!
 

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I currently have a G4 dual 500 Mhz with just an additional Radeon 7000 to drive my Hitatchi 5500 PJ. PQ looks fine, and I imagine that w/ the newer graphics cards it would be even better.


I also am using the Sonica by M-Audio and running the AC3 version of vlc.


When things are working, it looks and sounds great. However, the vlc program is a bit flaky and sometimes will lose sound (like switching between .vob files from disk). I don't think I've had any issues playing movies straight from DVD however.


Another issue you may have is the limited number of video resolutions you can generate. There is definitely no way to tweek this like you can on the PC, you only can switch between a set number of resolutions/frequencies.
 

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Quote:
The graphic card could also be a Radeon 9000. Which is the best for HTPC.
In general, the 8500 is a better card than the 9000, but the Mac version of the 9700 will be better still. The reason I mentioned the 8500 is that ATI is working on supporting the HDTV 1080i component adapter for that card whereas it isn't and won't be supported on the 9000 card. I'm not sure about the 9700 card.


Since you're doing DVI, though, that shouldn't be an issue for you in picking a card, but it would be nice to see what resolutions are supported on your particular setup. I have a first-generation OEM Radeon that came with my G4/500DP along with a Radeon 7000 for my two additional displays and all perform very well for DVD playback. With my projector, I can now get thesee 16x9 resolutions: 864x480, 1072x600 and 1376x768. I also have a Tibook/667 and it gets 1376x768 and is decent enough for playback on my projector. The new 1Ghz Tibooks have 64mb of VRAM, a DVD burner and DVI output, which means they're approaching a point where they could double as a HTPC.


The only reason to get 1Ghz G4 is because that's what'll be available and you might want 4x AGP for the 8500 card. Frankly, the dual 867 would be fine for DVD playback, but you could also look around for a used Quicksilver. The new models are pretty loud, though. DVD playback is definitely better on the ATI cards.

Quote:
Another issue you may have is the limited number of video resolutions you can generate. There is definitely no way to tweek this like you can on the PC, you only can switch between a set number of resolutions/frequencies.
ATI is definitely working on this issue and I believe Apple realizes the importance of resolving both the DD 5.1 output and wider support for 16x9 resolutions on third party displays. DVD Player for Mac OS X has been somewhat neglected since it was released and they need a major update to resolve at least audio issue soon.


Dennis
 

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I'd really like to use a Titanium powerbook as a replacement for a current cheap dvd player, line doubler and extron, but unfortunately the projector is an old crt and only accepts a negative sync signal. Has anyone discovered a way to configure a mac so it outputs this signal similar to Powerstrip? This is the only thing holding me back from a much better picture. I downloaded SwitchRes, but as I understand it it only can do limited things in X. Plus this projector will olnly do 32kHz. Thanks
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Hi,


thank you for all tour answers! This really a professional forum!

My idea to get the special resolution of the LS 110 (848x480) is to set the computer to xga, and tell the PJ to show native resolution, so the pixels which are out of this area simply are not displayed. Now the only thing is to get a DVD applcation to display exactly this resolution.... It´s just an idea!



The idea to get a 1 Ghz Powebook for videoplayback, is tentating. Not only for Homecinema, as to get a good portable computer. If you have also the Airport, you can have an internet connection all arround the house!

Did anyone know how good the ATI Mobility Radeon 9000 is for Homecinema? Daoes it compare to the 8500 or not?
http://www.apple.com/powerbook/graphics.html
http://ati.com/technology/hardware/m...000/index.html

another idea is to get a new ibook. It has a 800 Mhz G3, and a Radeon 7500 Mobility:
http://www.apple.com/ibook/graphics.html

The problem I see ist that it doesn´t have Digital output.:(

Thank you all

Goldplata
 

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I am also contemplating the powerbook HTPC option. I am very glad this thread is taking off. I am a hairs-breath away from pulling the trigger on the 1GHz G4 with superdrive and M-audio sonica for digital output, but am also concerned about picture quality. It would be nice to have a shootout with PC and MAC versions of the ATI cards to compare picture quality, but I don't think it will happen as most HTPC people are PC.
 

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Quote:
Originally posted by avdoc
I am also contemplating the powerbook HTPC option. I am very glad this thread is taking off. I am a hairs-breath away from pulling the trigger on the 1GHz G4 with superdrive and M-audio sonica for digital output, but am also concerned about picture quality. It would be nice to have a shootout with PC and MAC versions of the ATI cards to compare picture quality, but I don't think it will happen as most HTPC people are PC.
I've done some very informal comparisons. I've farted around with a couple of players on Windows boxes (WinDVD and PowerDVD) and the OS X player, both on desktop monitors and an Epson XGA projector, and I think PQ is pretty comparable overall. I'm speaking in very general terms, here. One area the Apple player lags behind the two Windows players I've looked at is deinterlacing of video-sourced material. It's pretty badly combed most of the time. Film-source playback is quite nice, however.


A month or so ago, I had some friends over, and we watched Lord of the Rings on my old Pismo (G3/500) PowerBook, connected to the same Epson XGA (mentioned above) projector, and overall I was quite impressed. The only thing I noticed was a little judder in some sequences, which I attribute to the 60hz refresh of the LCD projector.


The major concern I have with the Mac as an HTPC (for DVD playback, anyway) is digital audio. A friend has the M-Audio Sonica and VideoLAN, and he's had all sorts of problems. It seemed to work, then Jaguar broke it, then it worked, now it doesn't work. I've played around with VideoLAN (without the Sonica), and I haven't been too impressed with it. I certainly wouldn't invite friends over to watch movies and rely on it.


I want solid Dolby Digital and DTS playback and I want to watch OTA HD, so I'm going to build a Windows box for my HTPC. I am a Mac head and if sometime in the future I can do everything I want on the Mac, I'll "switch" back. Do note, I still use my Mac every day to do my work (video, animation, and web design).


Thought I'd chime in with my two cents.


SC
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
ecrabb,

more or less I´m comming to your same conclusion! For the money of a simple Mac without HTPC accesories, you can build a great PC HTPC, aund you know it will work... and you have all the info on this great forum!

My problem is, that I have an old Mac at home, and I have to buy a new one... So if it coouyld be a Powerbook, and I can use it also for HTPC... all right!

BUT, the powerbook has no PCI, so I can´t have a tuner card, or similar inside!

I´m so tentated by a PC HTPC! But also I need a new Mac, and I don´t want to buy two computers!
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Now they are offering to me a CUBE for 800$... It´s just a nice pice of computer...
 

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Hi everyone,


I just wanted to let everyone know that HTPC functions work great on macs (with one exception). I have been building a Mac HT system for over two years now, and I have had it working perfectly for about a year. The exception is of course lack of Dolby Digital or DTS, but this hopefully will be fixed by Apple's DVD player within six months or so. I use Dolby Pro Logic for now, and it's fine for my needs.


My system is a G4 350 tower (yes, that's more than enough processing power!) with four Western Digital Caviar Special Edition 120 MB hard drives attatched to the internal IDE bus. My video card is the Radeon 8500 Mac edition card. It has both S-video and DVI outputs, but I'm using S-video until I can afford a newer set with DVI inputs. The picture quality is better than my midrange DVD player although I'm not sure how it compares to a high-end player. There are only four internal IDE slots, so I have a firewire combo drive for ripping DVD's and installing software. Actually, this works out great since the computer can be hidden and the combo drive can be out in front with the TV.


I own all my DVD's, but don't like to get up and search for the right one all the time, so I use OSEx to create images (I have plenty of HD space for 30-40 DVD's). The cool part is that I have built an Applescript to search for the images, alphabetize them and present a menu to select whatever DVD you want. I call it the 'DVD jukebox'. I would love to see Windows users try building a program like that with only limited programming knowledge. The Applescript then mounts the image and DVD player starts playing it. I use the keyspan device as a remote control.


DVD playback never stutters or skips, even when running one other task in the background. I think the Radeon 8500 handles a lot of the decoding. I use 3ivx for playing DivX files, and I can transfer a DVD to 3ivx format with about 5 minutes of effort and 10 hours of encding. (I tried to make a DivX on a Windows PC once and Gordian Knot kept crashing. I gave up after about a week.) My little Applescript program includes the DivX and 3ivx files in the list of movies and will launch the appropriate player if one is selected.


This post is just to dispel all of those 'yeah, you could probably use a Mac, but get a PC cause you know it will work' people out there. My setup makes all my friends jealous, especially when I tell them that you can just pick from a menu of 50+ different movies, never having to get up to insert the DVD. With Applescript and OS X, Mac users can create their own apps instead of waiting for developers.


Perhaps we can get a little Mac HTPC group going here and pool our knowledge.


-Nick
 

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Um. What do you use for a display, nfazz?


And of all your friends who are jealous, none probably have an HTPC of their own, let alone DTS. This is a major point for most of us in this forum and those who are looking to set something up.


To say that an HTMac has all the capabilities of an HTPC is just misleading. The case options for the PC alone make it much more attractive. God knows I put up with the desktop case long enough, let alone the monstrosity that is the G4. It looks nice for a computer but lousy (taste not withstanding) as a audio/video component.


And of course Applescript is available. Have you tried using Girder for the PC?


I am a Mac enthusiast, just not a fanatic.


I think we ALL can write our own apps instead of waiting for developers -- it's just that most of us don't have the time, desire, or desire to learn.
 

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ScottK,


I think you're the one that's missing the point. DTS is in the near future for Macs, which is the only valid point you're able to come up with. Obviously, the G4 case is not out on display, but compared with the PC world's ugly beige metal boxes, it's hardly a 'monstrosity'. I have yet to see a nice case for a PC.


You're missing the point on Applescript. You've obviously never used it or you'd know how simple and powerful it can be. I'm no programmer, but I've come up with some really cool applications that can fill in many functions that I need for a HT interface. Don't knock it unless you've seen it.


The point here is that the Macintosh platform is not far behind, and certainly not nearly as far as many people here would have you believe. I can get great results with my three year old mac and I am happy with that. The Wintel platform has a lot of nice software tools, but we use the same graphics cards and other hardware that PC's do. Our new operating system, based on unix, is opening doors in ways that most PC users (and many Mac users) do not yet know about. You will see a lot more from us Mac users in the coming year.


-Nick
 

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Funny. Me being on THIS side of this debate...!


nfazz. I have indeed used Applescript and know the power of it -- I even mentioned it above. That's not the point. I love my G4 Cube (use it as my Unix server for PHP, Python, whatever fun thing I come up with) but the bottom line is that Macs just ain't there yet. Apologies for points I'm making that aren't valid.


You're doing that fanatic thing again. I didn't mean to say that the G4 Case was ugly -- I just indicated that it didn't fit visually at ALL with my A/V equipment. The handles on it make it (to me) look larger than a standard PC case -- hence the "monstrosity" comment. The thought of it sitting next to or in my AV cabinet makes me shudder. Yuck. We can't all move our HT Computers out of sight. Especially those starting out.


You still didn't answer my initial question. What kind of display are you watching it on? Can Applescript produce High Definition video timings? Is there a macintosh software product like Powerstrip that can adjust the display for a 720x480 HD television? Without the ability to produce High-Def timings, you're limited to Data-Grade monitors/projectors, not HD TVs.


You've got your DVDs ripped to disk.. That's cool. You using your Mac for Timeshifting? I have my 8500 AIW card recording the shows I may miss, didn't need to buy a TIVO--it's part of my HTPC... I don't think you can just drop my 8500 AIW into a Mac and have it work--unless my age with Applescript is showing and you can do AGP interfaces these days.


As far as cases go, If I'm just listening to MP3s, I can see what is playing (VFD built into the DIGN case) without turning on the monitor. Is that an option for Macs yet?


Like I said before. For the anyone looking to jump into Home Theater Computing, a PC is the best place to start because a LOT of ground work has been done already. A lot of options and variety of approaches -- for NOW. When Apple comes through with the AC3, they'll be one step closer, but it won't put them near the finish line.
 
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