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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello,


Just a few questions on points I am having trouble wrapping my head around, and then I will go back to lurking.


In no particular order:


Q1. If I have a display device (HDTV, projector, etc.) that contains _both_ VGA (15 pin) and dVI inputs, is there any disadvantage to using the VGA input ? Do I lose anything (quality, flexibility, etc.) by not using the DVI input ?


Q2. Any comments on using the Shuttle SN41G2 for my HTPC case _AND_ using the included onboard GEForce4 MX (with 128M memory) as my video output for this HTPC ?


( http://us.shuttle.com/specs2.asp?pro_id=163 )


I see that alienware uses this case for an HTPC that they sell, but I also notice that they add a video card to it, so presumably they are not using the onboard card... I _would_ like to use the onboard card, but perhaps that would be an unwise/limiting choice ?


Q3. Can I assume that any onboard graphics card on an AGP motherboard is an AGP video card, and is running at the max AGP speed the MB supports ?


Q4. I am only seeing PCI HDTV/analog tuner cards - do AGP cards exist with these functions?


Q5. Presuming I am "rolling my own" hTPC, and am not buying an all-in-wonder, how much of a hack is it to get tv schedules for PVR functionality into a homebrew system ? Is there a generalized application that will work with any video cap device (presumably, whatever HDTV/analog input card I buy) and hooksup to a generalized scheduling system to allow me to do this ?


Thanks very much!
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
Just a clarification for Q1 - what I am saying is, I may build an HTPC with _no_ DVI out, so is there a disadvantage/limitation in only using VGA out, and hooking up to display devices using only their VGA input ?


thanks.
 

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"Q1. If I have a display device (HDTV, projector, etc.) that contains _both_ VGA (15 pin) and dVI inputs, is there any disadvantage to using the VGA input ? Do I lose anything (quality, flexibility, etc.) by not using the DVI input ?"


Well DVI from a digital source (PC) to a digital source (TV) is the best since you don't have to worry about the DAC. Ideally DVI is the best way to go though it can be more trouble than it's worth with some configurations of video card and TV.


"Q2. Any comments on using the Shuttle SN41G2 for my HTPC case _AND_ using the included onboard GEForce4 MX (with 128M memory) as my video output for this HTPC ?"


Nice units but be careful because the Shuttles while really great can be noisy. The real problem with them is the power supply fan emits a high pitched whine which is hard to mask because the fan is so small. Larger fans are easier to manage noise wise. The onboard video while pretty good for most tasks I would hazard would be less than desirable depending on what you end up doing with it. If you want to game, it will be OK, I guess defining what exactly you want the video to do may help with a recommendation here.


"I see that alienware uses this case for an HTPC that they sell, but I also notice that they add a video card to it, so presumably they are not using the onboard card... I _would_ like to use the onboard card, but perhaps that would be an unwise/limiting choice ?"


Well you could start with it and see where it gets you. You may find it works great for what you need or you may find that you need a more fully featured unit like an ATI AIW card.


"Q3. Can I assume that any onboard graphics card on an AGP motherboard is an AGP video card, and is running at the max AGP speed the MB supports ? "


In this case yes, this wasn't always the case before but yes this card is connected to the AGP bus. You just have to be careful because quite often when they quote onboard video on motherboards the memory that it shows is sometimes shared memory meaning it takes that memory out of what is available in your system. This quite often leads to slower performance not only for the video but for the system as a whole as well.


"Q4. I am only seeing PCI HDTV/analog tuner cards - do AGP cards exist with these functions? "


Not yet from what I know, I don't know if the bandwidth is needed for those applications yet and since most people don't have a board with good onboard video and an AGP slot yet I can't see it coming anytime soon.


"Q5. Presuming I am "rolling my own" hTPC, and am not buying an all-in-wonder, how much of a hack is it to get tv schedules for PVR functionality into a homebrew system ? Is there a generalized application that will work with any video cap device (presumably, whatever HDTV/analog input card I buy) and hooksup to a generalized scheduling system to allow me to do this ?"


There are several applications out there that for a nominal monthly fee allow you to accomplish that task without an AIW card through whatever card you may have. Poke around the PVR threads on this forum and you should get some good hints.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
"Well DVI from a digital source (PC) to a digital source (TV) is the best since you don't have to worry about the DAC. Ideally DVI is the best way to go though it can be more trouble than it's worth with some configurations of video card and TV."


Ok, but given that I want to display HDTV and good DVD quality, but am not a videophile by any means, I assume that the VGA is not going to kill me... so the advantages of DVI over VGA are simply that there is a marginal quality gain that someone like me would not even notice ?


"The onboard video while pretty good for most tasks I would hazard would be less than desirable depending on what you end up doing with it. If you want to game, it will be OK, I guess defining what exactly you want the video to do may help with a recommendation here."


Ok. Well, again, I just want to throw DvDs into the drive and watch them, and have PVR functions with analog AND HDTV. I want better quality than a simple tv set hooked up to cable box, but other than that I am no videophile and do not intend to become one ... so presumably this card will be fine. Basically I want to do everything (even HDTV output at 1080i), but it does not need to do everything at the highest quality attainable.


The only problem then is that I get a case with an AGP slot that is useless to me, since I already have video, and the tuner card goes into the PCI slot.


I have a followup question though ... given a setup like this, how much of the decoding is done in hardware ? Philosophically, I would prefer hardware decoding/encoding of DVD and MPEG2 (and hdtv, if encoding needs to be done there) as much as possible ... given a setup of this GEForce4 MX and whatever HDTV tuner I buy, is any hardware encoding/decoding going on ?


If not, I may consider just buying a beefy video card since the AGP is unused anyway, and make sure I get one with hardware encoding and decoding on it...


thanks!
 

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I don't think you'll miss the DVI at all, but that's just my opinion. I'm very happy with the quality on my setup with just RGBHV and while I wouldn't call myself a videophile, I am pretty critical of my video quality. I can't comment on the GeForce MX. I don't see why it wouldn't work, but I've only used GeForce Ti and Radeons on my HT gear. If you're set on using the Shuttle case, you could alway try it and then add the higher end video card later.


Since I've been using the Shuttle for awhile for my office PC I will say that I hate the fan noise and intend to get rid of it. I have to qualify that by saying that I do like things to be very quiet.


Tim
 

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Just bought myself an SN41 for use as an HTPC. The on-board geforce looks OK at normal resolutions and DVD playback seemed OK. I have a widescreen PJ and couldn't make it do 856x480 with Powerstrip. After a frustrating day, I put in a Radeon 9000 and (for DVD playback) much better. So, IMO, I would say that the DVD quality is better on the Radeon.


I run Theatertek on Windows XP to A Pana AE100. BTW, I was pleasantly surprised on how cool the setup of the machine is with an XP1700. I get a CPU temp of 42C and the fan stays quite quiet. My other athlon is an XP2000 and that runs at 57C.


John
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
"Since I've been using the Shuttle for awhile for my office PC I will say that I hate the fan noise and intend to get rid of it. I have to qualify that by saying that I do like things to be very quiet."


Are you saying that you intend to get rid of the fan, or get rid of the shuttle ?


thanks!
 

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I'm getting rid of the shuttle out of my office, but I'm going to throw a MyHD in it, use it to record stuff and throw it in a closet where I can't hear it anymore. In fact, I just bought one of those cheap Dells in that other thread and if it's quiet enough I'm going to move most of my HTPC stuff into the Dell and use my current HTPC case for my desktop machine.
 

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"Ok, but given that I want to display HDTV and good DVD quality, but am not a videophile by any means, I assume that the VGA is not going to kill me... so the advantages of DVI over VGA are simply that there is a marginal quality gain that someone like me would not even notice ? "


I wouldn't say you would really miss anything. The results of a VGA connection (either with or without something like a VGA to Component transcoder) are supposed to be very very nice. This is the route I'm going (with a transcoder) and I think I'll be quite happy with it.


"Ok. Well, again, I just want to throw DvDs into the drive and watch them, and have PVR functions with analog AND HDTV. I want better quality than a simple tv set hooked up to cable box, but other than that I am no videophile and do not intend to become one ... so presumably this card will be fine. Basically I want to do everything (even HDTV output at 1080i), but it does not need to do everything at the highest quality attainable."


Onboard would probably be fine for just doing DVD's. Since you don't have any TV In functionality on that card (that I'm aware of) you'll need a capture card of some sort. If you're not doing HD reception then IMO I'd just get a decent RADEON AIW card, another reason is below... If you are doing HD, then a combo of an HD card and an AIW won't do you wrong.


"The only problem then is that I get a case with an AGP slot that is useless to me, since I already have video, and the tuner card goes into the PCI slot. "


Think of it as future proofing. ;D


"I have a followup question though ... given a setup like this, how much of the decoding is done in hardware ? Philosophically, I would prefer hardware decoding/encoding of DVD and MPEG2 (and hdtv, if encoding needs to be done there) as much as possible ... given a setup of this GEForce4 MX and whatever HDTV tuner I buy, is any hardware encoding/decoding going on ?"


Ideally you'd want as much decoding done in hardware as possible. I think that an AIW card will provide the best balance of PVR ability and DVD playback since ATI cards have long been reputed (and rightlyfully so) as having the best DVD playback out of any card you can get without spending a whole lot of money on a special purpose card. How the stuff is encoded/decoded entirely depends on the software you are using and how it makes use of the hardware so I don't know if I can really give you an exact answer on how much is performed here or there.


"If not, I may consider just buying a beefy video card since the AGP is unused anyway, and make sure I get one with hardware encoding and decoding on it... "


That's what I would do (and am doing). I would recommend an ATI 9600 AIW or 9700 AIW if you have the cash. I'm going a bit more budget minded so I'll likely end up with an AIW 7500 or 8500 card.
 

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EDIT: Sorry, I didn't see the link. It has AGP so it should work for you.


I like my SS51G because of the AGP and on-board SPDIF out. It's not that noisy, but it's 10 ft. from the couch.


Mike
 
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