HTPC with HDTV - Mojo's guide on how not to do it

[li]Ignore anything Mojo says as he is insane[/li][li]Check carefully the specs of your panel - mine has HDMI, full HD res and all the good stuff, its computer connectivity (VGA D-SUB) is limited however to 1360x768 @ 60Hz max and so there’s no way to drive it via the VGA port at 1080 res. The graphics card tries to achieve this when connected via DVI to an HDMI port, but sets the refresh rate to 60Hz whereas the panel needs 50Hz, as output by HDMI on the DVD player. Under Linux I could override this by editing the monitor configuration, I have no idea how to do it in XP.[/li][li]HDMI outputs on DVD players do not mean they can play the small stack of HDDVDs next to them :doh: CHECK! I now have a very nice new DVD player which does output HDMI but does not support HDDVD. The retailer I bought it from online does not sell HDDVD players and so I’m kinda stuck with it. [/li][li]Graphics cards advertised as “HDTV Out” on websites generally have a DVI port, you’ll likely need another cable to connect them to your panel or an adaptor (which loses quality and costs extra). [/li][li]NVidia 7300GS cards may indeed be “HDTV Out” but haven’t got the grunt required to drive a panel at 1920x1080, you’ll need more power. I’m thinking NV 7600 or ATI 1900 would be the level you need.[/li][li]Best advice - ask an expert before you spend a load of money and feel foolish - like me! :amstupid:[/li][/ol]

SO now I need a real HDDVD player, and a PCI-E card of 1900/7600 power which can output 1920x1080@50Hz, preferably through an HDMI port. Hey-ho more expense :frowning:

After that little rant, some googling, many visits to the NVidia control panel and Dxdiag I have 1080 res from the DVI port :slight_smile: One down.
And the 7300 seems much happier without the resolution issues so I guess 2 down :slight_smile: :slight_smile:

Just need that HDDVD player now…

I thought you realised your DVD player wouldn’t play HD-DVDs, else I would have said something :doh:. If your PC is powerful enough then I still say 360 HD-DVD drive and windows software, else it’s a 360 + HD-DVD drive, or a Toshiba HD-DVD player (budget player is £450-500, BUT only supports 1080i max).

HDCP compliant cards can output to HDMI via DVI, getting sound through HDMI could be fun. Looks like you’re sorted that part anyway ;).

Yup I’m looking at the X-Box drive route now, the HTPC is working fine (finally) and I route sound from the HTPC to a surround amp via optical, so sound over HDMI is not an issue.

The machine is a dual-core 4200 with 2Gb RAM and the now famous 7300GS, would this would be OK? It plays normal DVDs flawlessly, there must be a chunk more data to stream for a HDDVD though? Given the price of 7600 cards (and the fact that the 7300 has a whiney little fan) I might upgrade the card at the same time.

All these new powers stem from two breakthroughs. First is an increase in the maximum data rate for streaming information off the discs — 36 megabits per second (Mbps) for both BD and HD DVD compared with 11 Mbps for standard DVD — which allows these discs to provide even better picture quality than current high-definition TV broadcasts.

No knowledge on the praticalitys of what data actaully moves when watching the film but the question interested me so i went to find out… seems like three times as much data moves on a HD stream as apposed to a DVD ?

My source for the quote Here

I can’t say for certain whether that’s powerful enough, Anandtech did a couple of quick snippets with HD-DVD and Blu-Ray that are worth pondering. It looks like a 7600GT would help out on the decoding side though…

cheers for that, I reckon processor/memory/disk is coochy, have ordered 7600GT and XBox drive today. At £129.99 that’s helluva cheaper than standalone:)

Well yah booh sucks and drat to this.

XBox drive arrived today. Only drivers in the box are for XBox, so off we go on the internet, find the UDF 2.5 driver which Windows needs to see the files on the disk, all coochy.

Put a normal DVD in, plays nice no stuttering so all hardware OK.

Put in a HDDVD - ah. Problem 1. I have no media player capable of playing this format. They are like hen’s teeth. PowerDVD Ultra £75 download? So I gets me some PowerDVD, in with a disk, sit back and push the button.

Audio straight through, no messing. Video? Well imagine 3DMark06 on a RivaTNT2 and you have the scenario. Wouldn’t call it a slideshow, there are not enough frames for that, and they don’t move fast enuff. Added to which PowerDVD is moaning about my 7300 (a) because it is using DVI and digitally insecure, and (b) says it can’t do the job.

Funny that, there’s a veritable ton of 1080 and 720 content in various formats free on the internet, Microsoft themselves have a truckload readily available for download. My 7300 can run all these no sweat, not a missed frame, skipped audio section, nothing. And it can do this while the machine is recording other stuff through its TV tuner, so the memory/CPU seem to be OK.

So out with a 7600. Well two. One is silent (ASUS EN7600GS Top Silent 512Mb), but won’t fit in the shuttle chassis because of the heatsinks and pipes around it. Bah no good, and it’s DVI anyway so PowerDVD will moan again.

So card #2 (Asus EN7600GT) - now we’re talking, active fan, HDMI port, luvverly. Sounds like a Dyson as soon as you start Media Centre or anything else DirectX but hey-ho as needs must.

Any better? Like chuff it is. Bah. Google here we come.

Well reading up the sites where people have done this (and I firmly believe that 50% are just spouting drivel from other websites and have never tried it) what I really need is a 7800/7900GT, 8800 or ATI 1950. Oh goody. Two slight problems, every DVD will have helicopters on the soundtrack 'cos these run even hotter, and they are mostly double width so I would have to remove the TV-Tuner card from the PC to get the video card in. Oh dear.

So reader I have the following advice I have learnt at my own expense:

You will need a dual core processor of 4200 speed or above.
You will need at least a Gb of RAM (Windows MCE2005) or pref 2Gb (Vista).
Vista has driver support for the XBox drive but no media player support - yup honestly, and VC-1 (which most HD-DVDs are encoded in ATM) is a Microsoft codec by origin. Bizarre.
You will need a decoder which can deal with HDDVD, VC-1 and DRM management.
Don’t use a Shuttle, there’s no room for higher end video cards and you can’t get passively cooled cards in anyway.
You will need a NVidia 7900GT/Radeon X1950 or better with HDCP. Handy that in a machine you want sat in your lounge :frowning:

Shiver me CMOS and rattle me DRAMS, I’m sick of this.

Down to Comet, one shiny new Toshiba HDDVD player and £440 later, I’m watching HDDVD and they are truly stunning. I have this player for actual DVDs, and a whisper-quiet Shuttle which runs Media Centre for everything else - including HD video not stored in the DVD format, even streamed over the network. And it all works - flawlessly. Apparently open this player up you will find an Intel P4 3.0 and 1Gb of PC2700 RAM - that is what a dedicated device needs to decode this stuff, without a Windows overhead. The player also connects to the Internet and can be upgraded from Toshiba via the same route, expanding its capabilities as these standards evolve.

My advice - buy a dedicated player. Don’t mess about. And if you want an XBox HDDVD drive or NVidia 7600GT check out Wattos there’s some good deals to be had.

Here endeth my messing about with HTPC 1080 systems, I’m changing nothing !

Interesting… stand alone is the way to go it seems, although thankfully there is no “essential” content making me get a HD player any time soon. Is the quality that much better than regular DVD? Think I’ll wait around until stand alone players are sub £200, which is the price point I jumped on DVD too.

Any experience comparing XP MCE and Vista MC? Been planning on non-HD HTPC for a while, need to pick an OS soon.

Is HD-DVD “better”? Depends what you are watching it on. On my panel even with DVD content you can get pixellation and artifacts especially in gloomy low-light low-contrast scenes. I watched Doom yesterday in HD-DVD which is 95% dark, gloomy and low contrast and didn’t see one. On a lower resolution screen you may see none of these so I guess it would look much the same as DVD. Had I not bought a selection of HD-DVD titles then I too would have waited until prices came down and choice was better - most places only sell the Toshiba player, give it a wee while and there’ll be more. I guess some manufacturers are waiting for the outcome of the HD-DVD versus Blu-Ray standards battle.

Vista MC looks much the same to be honest, interface has been tidied and redesigned a bit, looks and works better in widescreen than MCE2005. Built-in driver support is better e.g. XBox drives.

I’d go Vista, it has support for MC extensions like streaming, supports sharing libraries between devices, and will get any new development - MCE2005 is a dead product from Microsoft’s standpoint.

My HTPC will be going Vista when Moduslink ship it (my version was the one being sold with “free” Vista upgrade). Ultimate and Home Premium I know ship with Media Centre, not sure about the other versions.

Thanks for the advice. I found that DVD output, scaled big enough (not necessarily at high resolution) makes it easy to see the artifacts. My projector is only 848x480 native resolution which is not a lot, but at 100 inches you see encoding artifacts still. Similarly on a 32 inch LCD TV. I’m just wondering if all those pixels are working well… probably end up in blue ray camp by default as my first HD player will be the PS3. Although like the PS2’s DVD playing ability, if I use it at all it will get replaced by a stand alone unit.

And I guess Vista it is, had fun last night trying to find out if my hadware will work well with it. Apparently the intel integrated gfx will do Aero as long as it has 128 MB shares memory available which is the main risk. That and the box has 1 GB ram and as it takes SODIMMs I’m reluctant to go 2 GB. Gonna install Vista pre-RC1 on it tonight I think to give it a practice run. Would use newer but I deleted the images already, pre-RC1 is on DVD.

And so many versions… 32 or 64 bit? Leaning towards 32 for reduced driver risk. Home Premium and Ultimate at the two choices, do I need the extra bits of Ultimate…

Oh, possible minor correction to the earlier post. I blieve the requirement for HD playback on a PC is functioning HDCP. This can be transported over DVI as well as HDMI, although rarely supported on DVI, particularly older stuff.

Oh, possible minor correction to the earlier post. I blieve the requirement for HD playback on a PC is functioning HDCP. This can be transported over DVI as well as HDMI, although rarely supported on DVI, particularly older stuff.[/QUOTE]

Corrected, thanks :slight_smile:

And I guess Vista it is, had fun last night trying to find out if my hadware will work well with it. Apparently the intel integrated gfx will do Aero as long as it has 128 MB shares memory available which is the main risk. [/QUOTE]

Surely Aero is irrelevant as you’ll see the Media Centre desktop more than anything? Sure it needs to run tidily but a lot of the Aero stuff like sidebars and all would be wasted on a HTPC IMHO

Like all good projects, I don’t have a definite goal in mind as such. It will quite possibly be used as a regular desktop too. And if I’m getting Vista, I want the eye candy. Well, at least the transparency, never liked movement effects.

Having said all that I think I found something else to occupy me for a while so I’ll let them fix Vista some more before buying :slight_smile:

I dragged my shuttle across the lounge and made the cable reach the TV this weekend… no sound yet but got LOTR Return of the king in HD up on my telly and was stunned at the difference.

I’m on the lookout for some long HD leads now :smiley:

Are you using DVI or HDMI to your TV Peige?

I have a dvi to hdmi lead atm, I also brought a dvi to hdmi adaptor so i could use a hdmi to hdmi lead if i found one longer.

Are you able to carry sound with a DVI > HDMI cable? Or is there no option…

Not looked into it… probably wouldn’t want to anyway because my 5.1 amp is seperate to telly… Need to get from shuttle (SN37P2) to digi coax or opti in. Looks possable from the spec on the shuttle.

My shuttle works fine with an SPDIF optical cable to the amp - you’ll need to play about with the AC3 filter on the shuttle but most setups should be able to pass the sound stream direct to SPDIF out without messing with it - which is cool because that’s what you want the 5.1 amp to do yes?