AVS Forum banner

Status
Not open for further replies.
1 - 13 of 13 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
47 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
I want to build a DVD player/ very basic PC, for public performance purposes. I'd like to keep the $ under 1000 USD.

I need a list of parts that have been tried, tested, and found to be rock-solid and well performing.

This means Win 2000/XP compatability, btw.


I am planning an Intel system, because I'd like to avoid Via motherboards, unless there is a TESTED alternative for AMD processors? Again, I don't want something that you heard about, I want something you have tried and found to excell in a HTPC role.


How about video cards? everyone loves the radeon ve, but what about the win 2k/xp driver problems i've heard about? Is that only concerning game performance?


Sound card- SB Live is out. What else is there? All I need is a DTS/AC3 passthrough. Will a USB dongle do the trick?


Drives: something cheap that will work well. I don't want to spend too much, but so long as it doesn't die, and not too noisy, I'll be happy with it.


I know there are allot of people on this board who have been using their hardware for some time now. I just want a system that plays DVDs well. (note, Dscaler use in the future is a possibility)

Thanks in advance.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
6,434 Posts
You could try Digital Connections 3D Cinemax motherboard solution: http://www.digitalconnection.com/mpact2oem.htm


It has built in sound and graphics for DVD playback, so you don't need to worry about driver issues etc for seperate sound cards or graphics cards.


I'm using Win 98, but if you e-mail DC, they will tell you its compatibility with other Windows OS.


I'v been using this set-up for a while now, and although it may not offer an image as as sharp as a Radeon for instance, its ease of use and glitch free operation make it an excellent first HTPC in my opinion. The only necessary software I need is YXY, and this is freeware.


My system is using a 450mhz Slot 1 Intel chip, 10gig HD and 128 meg of ram. I also have a network card and TV card for Dscaler use, but these aren't necessary for DVD playback.


You may be limited on upgradeability in the future, but if you only need to play DVDs, and you're happy with the image quality, you won't feel the need. :)


It's currently passing through DD EX and DTS ES as well as DPL2, so you don't have to worry about current sound formats provided you have an amp to decode them.


This solution is probably the cheapest and easiest way to get you up and running without having to get involved in any software issues. DC give excellent customer support, so you could even get them to supply you with a complete 3D Cinemax PC if you don't feel brave enough to build one yourself.


HTH


Gary.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
6,434 Posts
Hi Dr Lecter,


This mobo's min cpu is 300mhz IIRC, so you should be fine there.


I have one of the earlier 3D Cinemax boards, and although the image is good, I think you will notice the softness compared to the Radeon.


Having said that, Mark Grant modified an Mpact2 PCI card by removing some of the filters, and the sharpness improved greatly - even better than a GeForce2 apparently.


I believe he was to do this mod on the Cinemax board just to see how much better it would be (I may get him to mod mine for me in the future), and I think that Digital Connection themselves have now produced this board already modified. Try e-mailing Cliff Watson at Digital Connection for more info on this.


The board is only $239, so is probably ideal if you already have everything else to make it work.


Let me know how you get on on? :)


Gary.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
6,434 Posts
I've never had any stutter with this board, except when I forget to change the refresh rate.


I use 72hz for NTSC material, and 75hz for PAL (at 800 x 600). Sometimes I forget to change this when I change regions, so I then notice stutter on pans and some other movements.


HTH


Gary.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
6,434 Posts
Hi Doc',


My processor is a 450mhz, and I only notice the occasional dropped frame, but that depends on what de-interlace method I use. I'm still in the learning phase with DScaler, so I can probably improve things. (or make them worse, we'll have to see!)


I only use YXY and the DVD player that comes with the Mpact2 (Mediaware Ecenter).


You can always try the 400cpu, and then upgrade to a 600 if you need to. I'm not sure if the Mpact can help the PCTV Rave card in any way, so it's probably cpu dependant.


Feel free to ask any more questions.


Have you tried a reinstall of your current machine so that you can see what a basic set up gives you performance wise? I'm sure you should be getting better results with the spec you have now.


I don't get any stuttering on my AMD 1200 with Voodoo 3500 card, but my Gigabyte board only has the AMD 750 chipset, and not Via, so maybe that is why. I've not tried it on my pj though.


I may use this set-up one day with a Radeon just to see how it performs.


Cheers.


Gary.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
6,434 Posts
Hi Doc',


The side walls in my loft are dark grey - Kodak 18% grey. I chose this instead of black so the room doesn't looklike a dungeon, and any light that does reflect from it doesn't appear to affect the screen image due to the nature of the grey - it only reflects neutral light, not a colour. Having said that, I might one day paint a 2 or 3 inch band up the walls to see if this improves things. I can't say that it is a problem, but any cheap improvements can't be bad can they? :O)


Like your set-up! I'd love a CRT myself due to the greater contrast, but they're a bit big and heavy for my loft set-up, so I'm making do with the Davis. HT is always a comromise huh? :) Wish I had as much space too. Oh well, maybe in my next house..


You might be right about stutter on the big screen. I can't say that I notice it on my Mpact set-up, but until I try it on my desktop PC that has the Voodoo in it, I won't know. I might just do that this week....


Cheers.


Gary.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
47 Posts
Discussion Starter #7
Hmmmm...


thanks Gary, this is an interesting option...


I'd thought about the hardware route, But I'm using a high-end LCD projector on a 20' screen, so I'd like to keed PQ as high as possible.

Can you give me a real PQ comparison of this hardware chipset vs the better software DVD players? You metioned softness, anything else? What specifically is involved in the modification, and how much will it cost (is it something I could do myself?)


I'm using a BX motherboard right now, so it would be great if I could use my PIII, RAM, etc.


You say you never have problems? I need to be 100% sure, my current setup (sony OEM mobo w/ matrox & aureal integrated) has problems with S/PDIF output and playback stuttering. Tweaking is always requiredto get it working, not a good thing when 25 people are waiting for a movie to start!


Another question, will the integrated sound card pass the line in (from, say, a VCR) to the S/PDIF out? (I'm using a SS decoder with digital-only inputs, I'd like to be able to play VHS with DPL decoding)
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
6,434 Posts
Hi VC,


The hardware mods can be done by yourself, but you need a very small soldering iron and some skill/practice in soldering very tiny components. There was a thread about this and some people had a little trouble soldering some links back onto the board after removing some components.


I'm pretty sure the board now comes already modified, but confirmation can only come from digital Connection. If you're not too sure about asking, I'll e-mail them for you if you like. I can say that the difference was reportedly quite marked, and many people said it was better than a GeForce 2 for sharpness. Given a choice between a Radeon and a slightly worse picture but glitch free operation, I think I'd go for the latter. I personally have not seen a comparison, so do a search for Mpact and see what it brings up. If you can't find what you're looking for, place a new post here again and see what others have to say.


I'm not sure everything is passed through the spdif. Everything comes out of my amp, but I can't remember if I also took an analogue pair out from the Mpact sound output too. I've a feeling this may be normal practice on all souncards. I don't think analogue is converted to digital. I don't know for sure though. I'll check it out tommorrow or Wednesday.


As for glitches, I don't get any sound problems at all, and the only glitch I get occasionaly, is if I leave a DVD in the drive on boot up. Sometimes the pc will hang as YXY fires up the DVD player software and begins to play it. Now I ensure the machine powers up without a DVD in the drive, and all is well.


I currently use a Pinnacle PCTV Rave and dscaler (still in the learning phase) for watching VHS and Sattelite tv. The output is analogue to my 3802 amp and DPL2 works fine. This currently needs more fiddling than the DVD stuff.


When I'm going to play a movie. I get everything set beforehand, and then leave it at a point where it just needs 'play' to be clicked. I have to agree that it's not very good if you have to fiddle about with things when people just want to watch a movie.


HTH


Gary.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
693 Posts
I am very happy with the performance of the HTPC I just pieced together. Here's my specs:
  • AMD Athlon 1.0GHz T-Bird Processor (Socket A)
  • Soyo VTA-Pro Mobo
  • 128MB PC-133 RAM
  • 40GB HD
  • 12x DVD-ROM
  • ATI Radeon 64MB VIVO DDR Video Card (Vid-In & Out)
  • Zoltrix Nightingale Pro-6 Sound Card (Optical-In & Out)
  • Windows 2K Pro OS
  • WinDVD 2.3 Software DVD Player

I was given the video card and the ATX case and had a copy of Win2K already. The total cost to build this system was about $400. Granted, you would have to add on about $200 for the video card and another $100-150 for Win2k, but that would still make the price around $750.


I've watched several movies in the past couple of weeks and have had no problems with stability. I have never had a problem with the sound card not passing a DD or DTS signal.


The one thing that I will suggest if you go the AMD route is to make sure that you have an AMD-approved power supply and plenty of ventilation on the processor. The T-Birds tend to get a bit warm, and the cooler the processor is, the more stable your system will be. Also, make sure to download the most recent Via 4-in-1 drivers for the mobo. This will usually fix a lot of inherent problems from the start.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
47 Posts
Discussion Starter #10
Hmm.. I'd go for it if I knew the card passed analog audio to digital. I'm using a DD/DTS decoder with digital inputs only, so all my analog sources will have to go through some sort of convertor, it seems. It's a real pain, I can't even play CD's with winamp (CD-Audio is only output through analog, unless I use WinDVD)!


I will try to work with what I have now, maybe I can find some other way to pass analog-digital...


Unless someone else has a really stable PC for under 1K that passes analog sources to digital, and doesn't "stutter" (more like a skip) playing DVDs...
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
782 Posts
VC,


I've been running the Mpact2 3DFusion card (both AGP DIVA and PCI versions) for several years now. My dedicated HTPC (Home Theater PC) started life with a Celeron 300 overclocked to 375mhz and I never had any problems with stutter from the included Mpact2 player even at [email protected], however at that rate I did have to install some heat sinks to the ram chips, tearing of the image would begin after a few minutes, removing the heat from the video ram chips spolved this problem.


Last year I began using Dscaler and a Cybertainment VideoEmail card to scale laserdiscs up to 1024x768. I was experiencing severe dropouts with the old 300C and replaced it with a 566Celeron. This processor keeps up most of the time using less demanding deinterlacing modes.


Hope this helps, the Mpact2 is a good reliable piece of hardware but it does have its' limitations (lack of custom timing and resolution settings) when compared to todays' mainsteram HTPC ready video cards (Radeon/Geforce).


John
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
6,434 Posts
Hi Virtual'_chillidog,


I've just tried my 3DFusion pc with just the digital out connected to the digital in of my amp, and it does indeed convert analogue to digital.


My pc plays a .wav file on start up, and I heard it via my 3802. I discnnected all other audio cables, so it could only have come via the digital connection. Disconnecting the digital connection during playback halts the sound output.


Talking of which, just to be sure, e-mail Digital Connection and ask them - they should be able to confirm it for you.


Gary.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,054 Posts
Here is what I built for a very stable (IMO) htpc. It is about a month and a half old and I've watched roughly 45 hours of movies on it. Some were triple features so 6-7 hours straight, no reboot.


The specs:


Antec 780 case with Silent TT-300SS 320W powersupply. AMD Recommended

Athlon 1.2ghz 266

256mb crucial DDR 2100

ECS K7S5A SIS 735 motherboard (excellent performer and stable although xcel has had problems with one which happens with any board out there)

Radeon VE dual display (sdr version :( )

Generic 30gig 5400 ata 66 harddrive (It is actually a Maxtor)

Zoltrix Nightingale Pro sound card (DD and DTS passthrough with optical and coax in/out)

I/O Magic PC PVR (tv tuner and video capture)

Lite-on 16x DVD (Best feature is that it plays movies at 1x so it is very quiet)

Windows 2000 Pro w/ service pack 2

Display device: LT150 on second video out. 17" monitor on main video.


I run movies with WinDVD 2000 (windowed) with YXY doing the masking.


I use dScaler with the PVR card and plays quite nicely. I can record video nicely as well without any problems and I've been able to run all of the availabe filters etc.


I haven't had a single bluescreen, a single lockup, a single crash, a single dropped frame, a single pause in video. The only problem I had was with the VE and drivers but because it was the SDR version I had to do some extra stuff to get it to work in win2k. I did the Radeon reg hack to give myself custom resolutions which I only use for games. Otherwise I'm running at the LT150's native of 1024x768 32bit 60hz.


Other uses that I've been doing with this HTPC. I have it hooked up to my cable modem (networked to a hub) and I surf the net, play games like UT, Counter Strike, and some driving games. I run winamp and use some plugins at full screen like geiss in full screen. All audio runs fine with the Zoltrix being passed out to my receiver. No problems with DTS, DD, or EAX for games.


This HTPC cost me around $500 w/out OS. I will be trying XP on it over the weekend but not before I take a snapshot of my harddrive with Ghost.


This is just one of many examples of a cheap, stable and powerful HTPC.

Note not everyone will have the same experiences with the same equipment. :)
 
1 - 13 of 13 Posts
Status
Not open for further replies.
Top