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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have a theoretical tendency to dislike a HTPC.

A PC is a big big metallic chunk of general hardware not specialised for mpeg2 or..x data decoding. It simulates a dedicated dvd player in software helped with some gestures from (motion ...? (forgot the name) in hardware) the (Nvidia)adapter chip which is also a general purpose chip. I understand that this generalism is also it strong points, so software developers can design all kinds of software (Powerstrip, YXY) to help improve the dvdcdrom picture, which by design has a bad NTSC or PAL resolution. So you have a software generated proscan

2)I really really dislike windows because if its many crashes and bad bad memory handling. It is better with w2k but still.

3)PC dvd/CDroms are crappy mechanical resonance monsters and incomparable to the better (damped) DVD players

4) Some DVD players out there are really beautiful

5) Plug and play-ism of once setup DVD players IF and I mean IF they have a dedicated line doubler.tripler quadrupler. Not the normal build in one (more expensive models.

Why? Because I believe the better DVD players (third generation and up) have a fast development in their video DACS that PC's do not have.

So I assume that PowerDVD will loose in graphical beauty compared with a good DVD player that has the newest DACS AND a Cinematrix internal scaler or a Faroudja external one.


Or do you have dedicated hardware MPEG2 decoders in a PCI-slot, which also follow every year with better video chips?


Why theoretical for me? Because I have not seen side by side a HTPC (which I have at home) and a DVD player described as above.
 

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Quote:
"I just spent 6 hours on Saturday with a G-90 and full blown HTPC with the Radeon card. I was blown away. Let me be clear. In my opinion, this is the finest video platform available to date. It is not just superior, it is significantly superior to a Faroudja 3000. The Radeon with the ATI DVD player installed (vs. windvd) produces a remarkably more detailed picture than the Faroudja"
Please read:
http://www.avsforum.com/ubb/Forum2/HTML/006575.html
http://www.avsforum.com/ubb/Forum2/HTML/006575-2.html


Thanks.


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bbq in Kowloon
 

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It really is pretty black and white, you can put up with Windows idiosyncrasies and instability, or you can accept second rate video performance. The same $1000 or so that the HTPC costs can't begin to close the gap between standard quality video components and HTPC output. Alternatively you can spend 10X to 30X the cost of the HTPC and get almost as good a result as HTPC, but without Windows. However, if you think operating a complicated high-end A/V system is a lot easier than Windows, you've never owned one. I owned such a system years ago, consisting of a CRT projector, satellite receiver, monoblock tube amps, etc. I now use a HTPC, a digital projector, and a medium priced A/V receiver - overall about equal time devoted to management, but more time tweeking Windows - from the couch. I probably spent as much time tweeking the projector (on a stepladder) and the audio gear (in an equipment closet sweltering from 50 or so vacuum tubes). I count myself better off.


Gary
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Quote:
Originally posted by Gary McCoy:
It really is pretty black and white, you can put up with Windows idiosyncrasies and instability, or you can accept second rate video performance. The same $1000 or so that the HTPC costs can't begin to close the gap between standard quality video components and HTPC output Gary
You do not explain. Why? why is the general purpose Pc so much better than a dedicated dvdplayer except for the scaling?

Quote:
quote:

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

"I just spent 6 hours on Saturday with a G-90 and full blown HTPC with the Radeon card. I was blown away. Let me be clear. In my opinion, this is the finest video platform available to date. It is not just superior, it is significantly superior to a Faroudja 3000. The Radeon with the ATI DVD player installed (vs. windvd) produces a remarkably more detailed picture than the Faroudja"
The G-90 is the secret with good input.I am sure the G-90 would have blown you away too with a (sub)top dvd player and a good scaler. Again I would have liked the explanation WHY would the radeon and a software (!) DVD player be better than a dedicated hardware solution of the better players PLUS dedicated (external) scaler?
 

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In addition to scaling the DVD image to the exact "sweet spot" for each individual projector, the HTPC gives you beautiful artifact-free progressive playback, because the software DVD player algorithyms for line doubling and the video-card scaling engines are far more advanced than the hardware routines in standalone DVD players. A standalone DVD player will have a fixed line-doubled output which the projector may scale again before display, adding scaling artifacts - don't discount the very real quality difference.


In addition to the better video performance, there is much recent history of new DVD features such as seamless branching and enhanced region encoding which have caused all kinds of havoc for both hardware and software DVD players. In the case of a hardware player, you ship it to the vendor and wait weeks and pay a fee for a firmware upgrade to fix the glitch. In the case of the software player, you go to the web and hunt for other people's experiences on how to work around the glitch on the troublesome DVD. Later that year you download a player update that removes the need for the workaround - meanwhile your theater has remained operational and you've enjoyed the troublesome disk via the workaround.


I sense that you are reluctant to pay the real price in PC overhead to enjoy the best performance in your theater. I share your distaste for Windows, I work in the computer industry and have experience with real operating systems which display real stability - Windows is not in the same class. I wouldn't put up with it if I didn't see a real and not insignificant difference. The only case where I reccomend standalone video equipment is when the user is not capable of tweeking the PC for best performance. I'll give you a clue - last year I reloaded Windows from scratch 3 times. Now whenever I change any version of anything I burn a new driver CD to expedite recovery from the next time Windows balks, and the change can't be backed out.


Gary
 

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Gary-

I don't think it is black and white at all. Even though I have and enjoy a HTPC many have reported they are happier using a DVD player connected to a Quadscan, the Rock, or a CI Scaler and feel the quality is equal to or better than a HTPC . These options are also much more versatile than an HTPC and allow for scaling of other video sources. I for one and suspect there could be others fell in love with the idea of an HTPC and didn't really think through how little it contributes to a HT for the amount of space and tweak/maintenance they require. Another plug and play option that others prefer is the CINEMATRIX PSM1.

Lenny
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Quote:
Originally posted by Gary McCoy:
In addition to scaling the DVD image to the exact "sweet spot" for each individual projector, the HTPC gives you beautiful artifact-free progressive playback, because the software DVD player algorithyms for line doubling and the video-card scaling engines are far more advanced than the hardware routines in standalone DVD players. A standalone DVD player will have a fixed line-doubled output which the projector may scale again before display, adding scaling artifacts - don't discount the very real quality difference.


Gary
OK This I see, that is why any dvd player need an extra scaler. I have hard time to believe that an extra scaler (Cinematrix) or better is worse than the PC scaler especially if the scaler can produce to the pixel the different resolutions of the projector

Quote:
Originally posted by Gary McCoy:

In addition to the better video performance, there is much recent history of new DVD features such as seamless branching and enhanced region encoding which have caused all kinds of havoc for both hardware and software DVD players. In the case of a hardware player, you ship it to the vendor and wait weeks and pay a fee for a firmware upgrade to fix the glitch. In the case of the software player, you go to the web and hunt for other people's experiences on how to work around the glitch on the troublesome DVD. Later that year you download a player update that removes the need for the workaround - meanwhile your theater has remained operational and you've enjoyed the troublesome disk via the workaround.

Gary [/b]
If you suggests between the lines that the video quality "an sich" (without scaling) of a software and hardware player are comparably equal, while I theoretically think that a stand alone dvd player must have better graphics because of the dedicated dacs.

Unless you didn't with the sentence:"In addition to the better video performance" Do you mean that next to scaling of the PC the Radeon or Geforce has better graphics than a stand alone?? If so WHY?

You mention workaround and update problems to compensate for recent havocs introduced by the silver disks themselves. I expect (with no proof yet) that also stand alone dvd players may have firmware upgrades on internet in the nearby future. Or I wait those weeks and in mean time watch my htpc as a fall back system, in the case the picture of the stand alone dvd player is better

 

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With a standalone player + scaler you have unnecessary D/A conversions. The stand-alone player has a DAC to create analog 480i. The scaler must digitize this signal, run its scaling operations in the digital domain and then do another D/A conversion.


With the HTPC all decoding & scaling is done digitally on the original data from the DVD-ROM. The D/A conversion is only done once, after all other digital processing. With a card like the Radeon the digital pathway & DACs are 10 bit so have plenty of overhead for colour & gamma correction.


This is why HTPC's look better than standalone scalers.


An internal add-on scaler like the Cinematrix should be able to match the quality of an HTPC, but you won't have the same flexibility in custom timings & resolutions, or a simple upgrade path.


Cheers,

Dave.



[This message has been edited by David Panko (edited 05-01-2001).]
 

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There are only 2 solutions who will give BEST results (believe me I tried almost everything).


1. PSM-1 Cinematrix

2. HTPC with Geforce / Radeon


I give my preference to the PSM-1 because it's has just an edge with detail over the HTPC and light output (both calibrated) is higher with PSM-1. And don't forget the sound, NO PC can match the sound of a standalone player.


For me it's OR the PSM-1 OR the HT-PC otherwise I won't watch a DVD.

The picture thru a Quadscan or Deuce is just to 2D, flat and dull.


HT-PC and PSM-1 are just the two only real flexible progressive scan possibilities (480P is no option for me on a G70).


Frank
 

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Quote:
Originally posted by Frank Doorhof:
There are only 2 solutions who will give BEST results (believe me I tried almost everything).


1. PSM-1 Cinematrix

2. HTPC with Geforce / Radeon


I give my preference to the PSM-1 because it's has just an edge with detail over the HTPC and light output (both calibrated) is higher with PSM-1. And don't forget the sound, NO PC can match the sound of a standalone player.


For me it's OR the PSM-1 OR the HT-PC otherwise I won't watch a DVD.

The picture thru a Quadscan or Deuce is just to 2D, flat and dull.


HT-PC and PSM-1 are just the two only real flexible progressive scan possibilities (480P is no option for me on a G70).


Frank
I agree with Frank's opnion. I have both machines, and they give an impeccable picture quality.

I don't experience nightmares with any of the two machines that I owned.


But the PSM-1 cannot handle video sourced materials quite well like a HTPC does.


CH Yeow

 

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Posted above by Frank Doorhof: "And don't forget the sound, NO PC can match the sound of a standalone player."


I am presently considering the purchase of either a standalone video processor or an HTPC. However, if PC audio is inferior and cannot somehow be elevated to the quality I now get with a standalone DVD player, computer DVD processing doesn't seem as good an option as I had thought.


I haven't seen a great deal of discussion regarding HTPC sound quality. Is it generally accepted that audio from a standalone DVD player is superior to that of an HTPC? Can HTPC audio be improved by routing it through an external processor (Lexicon, Proceed, etc.), just as a standalone player's audio/video can be improved with external processing? A bit more elaboration on HTPC audio issues would be appreciated.


Thanks!


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Tom


[This message has been edited by Tom Hilton (edited 05-02-2001).]
 

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I don't understand the issue with audio. One should pass it through the HTPC sound card digitally to a high quality reciever and set of speakers.


Ideally if one has PC-phobia, they should install the video application in a startup file as a full screen application so they don't have to deal with what to do.


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Ken Elliott
 

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I have to second Ken's analysis with regard to audio. The PC should

pass the digital stream to an A/V processor - which is basically

a computer.


I also have to second Dave's analysis with respect to the video

quality. When you have a chain of consumer components, DVD to scaler

to projector - they are interfaced with analog signals. Each interface

necessitates a digital to analog conversion in the upstream component,

followed by an analog to digital conversion in the downstream component.

The conversions are not true inverses of each other - resulting in

signal degradation.


There is nothing inherently inferior with software decoding. Much of

the hardware that implements algorithms such as MPEG decoding are

really micro-coded anyway. The "hardware" has a program that it follows.


As long as the proper mathematical operations are carried out in the

requisite time - it doesn't matter whether it is a dedicated circuit

or a more general computer following a program.


Greg
 

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 Here you can see some photo's from the TAW rock website... The TAW scaler is at heart a GeForce equipped HTPC with mods to make it a dedicated scaler...


I think you should be able to see the difference compared to Quad (a good budget scaler).. Remember that a well configured Radion HTPC should beat the rocks abilities...


Basically as others are saying its the digital to analogue conversion (and vice versa in a component setup)... eg In components theres the D/A in DVD player... Then A/D in scaler.. scaling... then D/A from scaler that causes problems in the signal... A HTPC must only get Mpeg stream... scale the original digital source (much easier ??)... D/A out..


Re Sound... If using a 2496 Audiophile soundcard you can tell the difference between this and a 'regular' DVD player you have a more revealing sound system than I (not hard though !!) Also if that's not enough the Delta 1010 apparently is enough for one of our members (a audio magazine reviewer) to claim...
Quote:
I'm very happy with M-Audio 1010,and feel the two channel sound from this unit beats anything I've heard in digital reproduction under $10,000, and have happily sold my high end DACS and transport. Am waiting for true ambience recovery and then my EAD Theatermaster Signature will be up for sale.
A Delta 1010 can be had for +_ $500 !!!!


Like it or not a HTPC is the only way many people can afford the performance they want...


If you are speaking without a/b testing a HTPC you really have to see what they are capable of (without bias or assumptions) with your own eyes and ears


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HTPC without using windows... GUI Front Ends for Home Theater
 

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I was biased the other way arround, I was a TOTAL (READ TOTAL) HT-PC freak, and in my opinion NOTHING could be better.


With this perspective I tested the first PSM-1, with the opinion that if it was 10-15% worse than my HT-PC we had a good product for 90% of our customers. In my opinion the PSM-1 is 10-15% better than a HT=PC, believe me I was surprised. (I have to agree on the video material).


Soundwise, think JITTER !!!!

A HT-PC is one source of interferance, I have tested some pretty wild soundcards, from SB to 96/24 cards. And I have to agree there is a BIG BIG difference between a SB and for example a Terratec (Terratec wins big time) but both cannot handle the high-end sound of a GOOD standalone player like the new Toshiba range (500-900) or even the Sony 7700.


Just try to listen to a standard DVD, and try to focus on dynamics and very small details.


It's like the always ongoing discussion DIGITAL=DIGITAL so I don't (wan't) to hear a difference.


For example I connected a dejitter filter (DRAGON 5.1) between my HT-PC and my pre-amp and my sound jumped 20-30% forward (sounding better), real audio lovers will NOT choose a HT-PC.

The normal vieuwers (and maybe even the criticial picture FIRST buyers) will find the HT-PC ok.


Again, understand me correctly the HT-PC is a very GOOD solution, but it also has some dislikes, especially audio.


Just my opinion.


Frank
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
I understand,correct me if am wrong, that the cinematrix bypasses the stand alone dvd's Digital to analogue conversion by picking up the signals BEFORE that happens, then scale the picture in the digital domain and then, I don't know. Does it give the "proscanned" picture back to the DA converter of the player itself or does it has its own (high-end )dac? In both cases however the above discussed sequential conversion loss with stand alone players and scalers does not actually happen, does it?


I did not discuss the sound of internal PC DVD/CDroms. they equal a Mitshubisi all in one stereo set for 200 dollar,...at their best when the input is a CD- or DVDrom. The PC is a resonance device by nature and a horrible one too. Never ever designed to be dampened in any way, because for an office machine it is not necessary at all. Mechanical resonance introduce jitter (see Frank's posting) to the signal stream (also for video)and rob the signal of its true natural fidelity . That is why the old vinyl is still the reference for over 15.000 $ CD machines like MArk Levinson or Jadis. However I also know 95 % of the people do not actually know this and unconsciously has accepted the hifi boom boom sound of the PC as an acceptable reference. And no, a digital connection from your Sound Blaster to a dedicated A/V receiver will not help remove the jitter. You can compare what jitter does do to audio as what the tracking and phase wizard of Dilard so successfully removes from the picture on the screen: a difficult to identify lack of tranquility, a distortion to peace and natural flow. the result is a billion of little conflicts interwoven just under the appearance of the observed.
http://www.avsforum.com/ubb/smile.gif Ky


[This message has been edited by kyrill (edited 05-02-2001).]


[This message has been edited by kyrill (edited 05-02-2001).]
 

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The PSM-1 gets the signal STRAIGHT from the MPEG2 stream, and after that the PSM-1 outputs it analog (digital in PSM-2).

So it uses it's own DAC.


Frank
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
If the Cinematrix uses its own DAC and bypasses the DAC of the player completely, then how much is left to the player itself to contribute to the visual quality of the picture, except the level of jitter introduced by the mechanical parts of the player?

Or in other words how much relevance is there to search for a good player when you put a Cinematrix in it, if a good player for a cinematrix is ANY good mechanical player?
 

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It's all in the mechanical state AND the Mpeg II decoder.


For example the new toshiba line uses the newest VADIS IV PLUS MPEG decoder, this is a very good one with a nice picture.


The 7700 for example uses a Mpeg2 decoder which has an red upsampling problem and the much talked about black scanlines on some animated feature films.


The Mpeg2 decoder is the most important for our board, the better than one is, the better the results, at this moment I'm totaly stunned with the pictures from the Toshiba. We are still working on some final settings, and than you can judge for yourself.


Greetings from Holland,

Frank
 

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Kyrill

I think your dislike for dvd-rom drives is unfounded. Some of the best and most exspensive stand alone dvd players use the same drives (meridian 8xx player). As long as you don't use the analog output there's nothing that a dvd-rom drive can do to degrade sound or video quality. Jitter is not an issue with the drive because the data is buffered in memory and then clocked by the sound card. So in a HTPC audioquality is almost completly dependent on the sound card (and video quality depends on your graphics card). The problem arises when digital get's converted to analog, if your sound card does this inside your pc (noisy RF environment) it can degrade the sound quality. The m-audio delta 1010 does the da conversion outside the computer in a seperate box with seperat power supply giving much better results.

Also you seem to dislike the idea of a software decoder for mpeg2. I actually prefer a software solution. Let me explain, there are quite a number of (hardware)players wich suffer from the chroma upsampling bug resulting in blocky reds and some other weird artefacts. Now one software player (powerdvd) has this bug as well, but you can easily replace this with windvd at a cost of $50. If you have a hardware player your stuck with this bug, there's nothing you can do about it.


So to sum up, audio in HTPC's might be inferior but it's not because of the dvd-rom drives, and software decoding definately is a good thing.


Frank Terpstra


[This message has been edited by Frank Terpstra (edited 05-02-2001).]
 
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