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Why use external DVD-player when DVD-ROM can be used in a HTPC???

1345 Views 22 Replies 15 Participants Last post by  Kensai
I've noticed on the forum that many people are using HTPC for the video processing, however, many of those also use an external DVD connected to the HTPC. WHY?

Would an external source give a better PQ than a DVD-ROM?

Why not sell the external stand alone player and buy a decsent DVD-ROM?

Please explain this for me....

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That's a good question. I run an external DVD drive along with my internal drive. My main reason was while I was setting up my first HTPC with and internal drive, I heard the stories of all these HTPC's crashing. I didn't want to have guest over and be right in the middle of watching a flick and BLUE SCREEN!!!! The good news. I've never had that happen. My HTPC runs stable and I now trust it. Trust it enough to unhook the external drive? No. But that's me. By the way, my external drive is hooked straight up to the projector, not through my HTPC, for the same reason stated above.

Hope that helps,

I don't use an external player, per se, but I have recently switched over to using the Svideo out from my Hollywood+ card to DScaler, which I find to give me much better results than the H+ card itself through the passthrough cable (always hated that thing because it degraded the quality of everything else going to my monitor), and through software decoders. I've only got a Voodoo4, so I've got no hardware acceleration. Besides DScaler totally beats the pants off software decoders on Video Source DVDs which is probably half my collection, and has JudderTerminator which reduces or eliminates the stuttering software players can have on Film Sources when there is a horizontal camera pan. Lots of advantages using only the equipment I currently have.

One reason would be for video material (as opposed to film sources) which software dvd players have a hard time dealing with.

I would think video sources are the answer.

Also, using a stand alone dvd player is convienient and stable.

If the HTPC only acts as a video-scaler it can be a very simple PC lacking many things like floppy drives, DVD or CD Rom drives, Sound Cards, Network cards and modems and the like. If all that's being done is Dscaler scaling of video sources then the HTPC can be set up to run Dscaler all the time and no input devices are needed- no mouse, no IR controller, no keyboard. If such a machine were built using carefully chosen components then you wouldn't need much cooling either. You could eliminate most or all of the fans possibly since not much happens in the machine. The hard drive could sleep almost all the time. Stable and simple and maybe even cheap because many hardware comonents aren't needed.

That's my guess.

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Not that this is the reason that "most" people are doing this, but if you have modified your DVD player to have a digital out (SDI) you can feed DScaler a digital signal that has never been converted to anolog. DScaler can do a much better job with this type of data. What's more, if you have a display with a digital input and a video card with a digital out you can avoid a/d and d/a conversions all together. To some, this would be the "Holy Grail".

Don't forget audio quality - this is a big one. There are couple of threads on this topic.

Thanks for all your replies. However I am not yet conviced about the use of a stand alone player if you use a HTPC. Maybe because I don't understand the term "Video Source"?

And I have earlier asked people wheather Dscaler feeded with an external signal would give a better result (in PQ) than a DVD directly played in the DVD-ROM decoded by software, and apperently this should not be the case, especially not with PDVD.

Another thing, since when is the DVD-data converted to analog (apart from being sent into a screen), in the process of decoding in the computer?

Well this is my argument, against stand alone dvd....

First of all buying a stand alone DVD player costs a lot of money, I know people who have easily spent 600-1000US$ on a stand alone DVD-player, for that price I can build a simple, but in the regard of PQ, if not better, at least as good. It is known that VGA cable to projector give the best PQ (yes, even better than composite), I have so far not seen any stand alone DVD-player offering this type of connection....

Regarding sound quality which nowadays is a hot topic, I could argue that a HTPC with present technology of Delta 410 sound cards and similar type, would be able to give out as good sound quality as any reciever in that price class (or even if you double, or quadrable the price, the Delta 410 will beat most stand alone recievers). But for the one who doesn't believe in this, a sound signal can just very easy be passed on digitally (through coax or S/PDIF) to an external reciever/amplifier.

Well, the last point, which would be the only reason for me not to use a HTPC is the matter of stability of a PC and noise. However, with a Windows XP or Win 2000, the matter of system crashed are much smaller. And as along as the computer doesn't carry out too many operations (which it probably wouldn't do anyways during movie watching), the possibility of blue screens etc, is very small.

Regarding cooling. Me myself use watercooling for my processor ([email protected]) and the only noise I can hear is from my papst 120mm @ about 28dB (the water pump is lower than 5dB) cooling my radiator. And it is even possible to lower that noise by lowering the feeded voltage of the fan.

Another solution for extreme no fan-noise fanatics could be the new VIA 933MHZ CPU released today. It can perform as good as any celeron of the same frequencey but without any cooling (well passive cooling in terms of a heatsink=no noise). I.e. the only noise produced would be from a hard-drive and those can also be made almost totally muted.
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Another reason is some people prefer the interface on a set top DVD player. I personally prefer the speed and flexability of a software DVD player.

As was stated earlier, if you take SDI out of a set top player and into an SDI card with Dscaler, Some say that gives you better quality than a software player. But the expense involved in making that mod isn't worth it to me.

However, if my sat receiver had an SDI mod, then it might make sense to have the DVD player SDI, and then use a receiver for switching. (I think SDI can be plugged into the composite inputs)

The last time I looked into SDI it was about $500 for the PC, and $1000 for the dish mod and DVD player mod!! $2500 for a slight, if any improvment for DVDs, and a somewhat significant improvement in Dish programming. But it'll still look like crap on the big screen.

So to answer your question- for me there is no good reason to use Dscaler for DVDs.

Although- I did need to use Dscaler with DVDs a couple of times when PowerDVD kept crashing on certain titles.

I would make sure you have Dscaler available in case incompatible titles come up when you have people over.

In fact that is why I didn't sell my DVDO iscan. When my HTPC was new I decided to flash the video card bios two days before we had a bunch of people over for a Movie night. Well something went wrong and the video card stopped working!! The DVDO saved the night. Latter I found some computer wiz on the net that figured out how to flash the bios again by using a PCI video card along with the broken AGP card. I was happy that my $180 video card came back to life:)

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The whole sound quality thing is also bogus, IMHO. A dolby digital datastream won't sound any different originating from a HTPC than it will coming from a standalone player.
I did some research on SDI input cards for PCs and found out that they cost A LOT!!, So I wonder how much improvments would one get with them, are there any results presented regarding this?

Hmmm, what is "video source", is that some type of DVD??? Better/Worse quality or just different?
"film source" = anything originally shot on film, including almost all movies and most scripted primetime TV shows

"video source" = anything recorded directly with video cameras, such as live sports, news shows, many concert videos etc.
I am unfortunatly one of the ones who use an outside dvd player but my reason is I can not get my dvd-rom to play five mins. without skipping! It will be the death of me I have seen the future

Movie source i.e. 90% of what I would display with my projector. Possibly live concerts put on DVD and sports highlights...

Why doesn't software DVD players handle video source as good as movie source??? Isn't it after all digitalized by putting it on DVD?

In the case of Live shows such as superball or NBA, how the h**l would a DVD player improve the quality??
I started to follow this forum about a year ago, built my HTPC from Digital Connections about 3-5 months ago and use an internal DVD-ROM drive to feed signal to my Projector. By no means do I consider myself a Videophile/Audiophile but I am very discriminating. I have done side by side comparisons of my old Standalone DVD using S-Video vs. my HTPC using VGA Breakout from Better Cables....well even my objective girlfriend noticed a MAJOR difference in picture quality. I run Windows XP without a problem and PowerDVD. I purchased TheatreTEK based on the rave revues in this forum and I dont think the image quality is as good. It was so much more vibrant, it started to look a little HDTVish.

The problem is deinterlacing. It's easy to deinterlace film source but complicated for video.

It would be nice of the studios to use some motion compensation for video sources before puting it on dvd.

For more details go here:

I'm definately not in the rich category by any means. I have my external DVD player because I bought it before I got in to HTPC's. My CPU is stable enough to run my movies now and I probably don't need the external DVD anymore.

As far as the sound issue goes: yes and no. I run the Hercules Game Theater 6.1 sound "card". I mention 6.1 because it decodes a 6.1 rear channel. If I was to run the digital out straight to my receiver, I'd only get 5.1. I am in the test phase of the 6.1 using PowerDVD XP and so far so good. My sound card has digital inputs (both co-ax and toslink) so in theory I could run the digital out of my external DVD player in to the sound card and still get the 6.1. I'm not too sure yet, because my external DVD player may not recognize the extra channel (6.1). Again, not too sure on how that will work yet. I'll give it a try tough......

If you fall in to the category that I do as far as not wanting to spend the extra money on something that isn't "really" needed, then do what you are arguing. Just spend a little extra on the HTPC and forget the external one.

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Well the reason why I'm arguing against stand alone DVD is the cost.

Why would people spend so much money (well at least for 1K US$ is a lot) when a HTPC can do a better job and much more.


What graphics card do you use? No matter the quality of your DVDs, software decoder etc will matter if the graphics card is lousy, the worse PQ could of course also depend on the VGA input of your Projector.

I have hard to believe that S-video from a stand alone would give better PQ than HTPC....

Regarding video source...is there anyone who could give me examples of such DVDs that give better result with stand alone + dscaler compared to dvd-rom and PowerDVD.

Thanks again everyone!
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The option of using a DVD-ROM drive with a computer monitor provides a totally digital picture that is more easily scaled. I've used a 2x DVD-ROM drive for several years through various generations of nVIDIA cards, along with an ATI AIW Radeon, on a 19"/18" monitor. Originally it was cheaper if you had a computer, to just add-on a $70-ish DVD-ROM drive, compared to paying $200-$300 for a set-top DVD player. Now DVD players have come down in price to the $80 range for an Apex or other no-name brand, and the focus has shifted to progressive-scan DVD players with progressive TV sets. I have a personalised system setup mainly for myself, or the occasional friend I have over to watch a movie. If it's just for myself, I always watch DVDs using my PC, hooked into my surround sound system. When I have company over we always watch DVDs on the TV using the Playstation 2. (20" screen we can set back from, opposed to 18" screen meant to be sat in front of.)

I'm coming to realise how bad my old TV set is looking, even though I doubt it's picture has really even degraded since purchased in the early '90s. The computer monitor along with the software decoding provides a dramatically better DVD picture at 1024x768 at 32-bits non-interlaced, versus the approximated 640x480 interlaced nature of most TVs. I've never been impressed with the TV-out capability of any video card I've used either.

As I've witnessed with my AIW Radeon, my TV set naturally provides a sharper picture for TV broadcasts than the card's TV-tuner on my monitor. One point for the TV set.

For those setting up a system for the family I would have to suggest using a 32 inch, or larger, progressive TV with any progressive DVD player. For those who mainly watch alone or in cramped quarters, you can't go wrong with a DVD-ROM drive and any 15" or larger monitor. For showing off, obviously the largest monitor you can afford is ideal. You also need a fast enough computer and a good graphics card which are usually present. Three years ago with my TNT1 and Celeron 450, I got interlacing artifacts on some DVDs, but since upgrading to an Athlon and newer video cards I have an excellent picture.

One looming issue with using a DVD-ROM drive is that the software players can handle scratched (rented) DVDs poorly. It can cause the player to freeze or lock-up your PC sometimes.. I haven't had that happen in a while, myself. Sometimes you can fast-forward through a skip (and then back-track), but then you lose part of the movie by doing that. One point for the standalone DVD player.

Another issue is that computers give out noise from the many fans inside, while DVD players are silent. With the sound blasting from my surround system, my PC's fans go unheard. Or for the soloist, use headphones with Dolby Headphone mode turned on.

Having been here for the PC-DVD boom, I can't wait for the PC-HDTV move to take off, since 19" monitors that do 1920x1440 are readily available, and should be excellent displays for 1080i TV at a considerably lower cost than buying an HDTV set that does a full 1080i.
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yes you right jedi

i have mine playing on sony 40``xbr 700. using component vga cable with key digital transcoder.i get 4:3 and 16:9 it all look great.

better than dvd progressive.

using radeon 7500. its kicking.5.1 platinum+hk amp+ 6 spks. it just great to hear sound of star wars race. its better than movie theater.here is one of my pix htpc
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