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Anyone know if it would be possible to make a software HD decoder that would run on, say, a Pentium 4 chip that would just need a piece of hardware to receive an antenna signal? This would eliminate the need for such expensive HD-receivers. Is HD decoding so hard that a dedicated specialized chip is necessary?
 

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Most of what you're asking is covered in the HTPC forum.


A simple run down of the current state of the art would be:


1) HD decoding in pure software on a PC is not possible with current processors

2) HD decoding in software with hardware assistance is possible for 720p material and a fast ~1500Mhz P4 or equivalent Athlon

3) Radeon graphics cards are the best choice for HD decoding since the Ravisent decoder shipped with the card can parse and decompress ATSC transport streams

4) Decoding of 1080i is still not smooth using the current software and hardware

5) There are no PC cards that can receive an ATSC stream and then pass it directly to a software decoder. The only solution currently possible is to record the ATSC data to disk and then play it back from file

6) Windows XP is the best choice for anyone trying to use HD on a PC due to the lack of support for advanced DirectX features in Windows98 or 2000. This includes support for D-VHS recorders, DXVA (Direct X video acceleration) interfaces, and some other features that will be necessary to have a real working HD solution.



In summary, the hardware seems to be capable of HD decoding. The software needs some work to optimize for the HD decoding. And of course some manufacture needs to release a cheap ATSC tuner card than can pass the transport stream directly to a software decoder. There is a design for a tuner card with software decoder that has never been released. Ravisent even developed a product designed to support this type of product, but until an actual card is released the Ravisent software is sitting on the shelf.
 
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