Author Topic: HTPC Considerations  (Read 847 times)

Offline pat

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HTPC Considerations
« on: Feb 20, 2009, 11:18 AM »
So, doing my part to help stimulate the economy I recently bought my first flat panel TV. A Sony 42 inch LCD 1080p 60 Hz. I'm happy with it so far and am weighing considerations for an HTPC. I'm not in a big hurry, indeed I most likely won't do anything till this summer.

However, I do have it connected to my signature system with the use of a 15 ft. DVI-HDMI cable using the SPDIF header on my mother board to connect to my video cards pass-through so that the sound as well as the video is going to the TV with just the one cable. The cable is borrowed and I have ordered an HDMI cable since my video card came with an HDMI adapter.

For the most part this works well, there are a few pros and cons which I'll go into a little.

I notice on the manuals instructions for the video card that an HDMI adapter should be connected to the number 2 DVI connector on the video so that is how I connected the adapter cable to the TV, leaving the no. 1 connector to the monitor. That works, but when I turn the computer on, I see no start-up splash or boot menu, just a dark screen until Windows loads and in turning on the TV I see the start-up splash, boot menu displayed there until windows loads and then the TV goes dark. So in order to get the correct start-up I needed to reverse the order of connection. That works and it doesn't seem to matter as the sound is transmits over either connector. Now perhaps this will be different once I get an actual HDMI cable as I notice the HDMI adapter has a few more pins than the DVI-HDMI cable. That's coming Monday. Not really a con as it works fine like this.

Now this is my first time using multiple monitors so I may be missing a setting, but I think I've tried them all.

Using the monitor as main and TV as secondary or extended. I'm able to set the resolution of my monitor to the normal 1680x1050 but if I set my TV to 1920x1080 there is an area on either side of the display of about three inches not displayed, the desktop is drawn in. The only way around that is to lower the resolution to match the monitor or set the HD format to 720i then I get the full display of the TV. I think this is a hardware limitation of my video card. Somewhat of a con.

Setting the TV as main and monitor as secondary or extended I'm able to use the full resolution of monitor and TV.

Setting either as primary enables full resolution as well.

Another con is when using my other computer with my KVM switch about half the time when I switch back to my main system for some reason it goes to the TV side of my video card, even though my monitor is set as primary. For some reason at that point I have to reboot to get my computer back because it won't make the switch over with the Nvidia control panel. Major pain!

The only other real con is having to go through the steps of switching over the display and sound before using with the TV. Not a big deal, but an extra step that would not be need with a dedicated HTPC.

OK, that's most of the cons, but there are some good things here.

Ability to use one system for computing and media playback can be considered a plus as well as a con.
DVD play back is great, so much so that I will be ordering a Blue Ray drive very soon. According to my video card specs I should have full Blue Ray playback support.
Netflix play back is also very good at 1080p resolution, for the most part as good as a DVD.
Browsing the internet with a 42 inch monitor from the comfort of the couch is decadent for sure.
I do have a media center remote, but it only works with media center, no mouse from the remote.

So, for now I think I'm set. I will be putting together a dedicated HTPC system, but as mentioned most likely not until sometime this summer. I have looked at several options, but when the time comes what I'll probably do is use this system as the basis for the HTPC and upgrade my main system. I could do that easy enough right now, but with the economy in a black hole I think I'll just wait.

But I do like this case;
LianLi

I also like this keyboard with trackball, might just pick one of these up to use when using with the TV;
Media Center Keyboard




SeaSonic S12 550W, Athlon 64 X2 6000+, Asus M2N SLI-Deluxe, nvidia 9600 GSO, 2x2 gig Crucial Ballistix, LG DVD/RW, 2x Western Digital Black Edition 640gb,  SAMSUNG 226BW Black 22", Canon PIXMA MP600,  Logitech X-230 speakers, Logitech Comfort Duo keyboard & Mouse, Windows 7 64 Home Premium & Vista 64

Offline Mark H

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Re: HTPC Considerations
« Reply #1 on: Feb 20, 2009, 02:50 PM »
Congrats on the purchase. I want to move my newest PC internals to the older PC and buy new internals for the new PC (2 year old versus 5 years old for the other). The only thing putting it on hold is the fact that I have been unemployed since January 5th of this year.

As to the Lian Li case, I like it. It looks like a great addition for a living room.

Mark H
Enjoy the nature that is around you rather than destroying it.

Offline pat

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Re: HTPC Considerations
« Reply #2 on: Feb 20, 2009, 03:19 PM »
Thanks

 I hear you about the work. We've been somewhat flat in that area. We do have some work trickling in and some lined up for spring, but it just seems like everyone is just on hold. Can't say I blame anyone for not wanting to do any work, times are tough for a lot of folks now.

On the up side though, I've been busy about the house with some of my extra time catching up on a lot of things I had been putting off. I've only got 5 more windows out of 20 to get totally re-glazed and painted, that's 40 sashes. Doesn't cost much in materials, but what a labor intensive project. One more bedroom upstairs and they'll all be repainted as well. Once that's all done it's time for some new kitchen cabinets. 
SeaSonic S12 550W, Athlon 64 X2 6000+, Asus M2N SLI-Deluxe, nvidia 9600 GSO, 2x2 gig Crucial Ballistix, LG DVD/RW, 2x Western Digital Black Edition 640gb,  SAMSUNG 226BW Black 22", Canon PIXMA MP600,  Logitech X-230 speakers, Logitech Comfort Duo keyboard & Mouse, Windows 7 64 Home Premium & Vista 64

Offline Chandler

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Re: HTPC Considerations
« Reply #3 on: Mar 02, 2009, 05:21 AM »
Another con is when using my other computer with my KVM switch about half the time when I switch back to my main system for some reason it goes to the TV side of my video card, even though my monitor is set as primary. For some reason at that point I have to reboot to get my computer back because it won't make the switch over with the Nvidia control panel. Major pain!
I have a similar issue with my KVM, except mine emulates a 1024x768 monitor when I switch away.  When I switch back I end up with a virtual 1920x1200 panning desktop inside a 1024x768 frame.  The problem is that DVI/HDMI support hot-plugging.

The solution for this is the Gefen DVI Detective which allows you to clone the EDID from the TV or monitor and appear as if it's always connected.  It doesn't need any power after it's been programmed but the down-side is that it's very expensive, and gets more expensive if you need the "Plus" version to pass HDCP for Blu-ray discs.

As for work, things have dried up here too and I was laid off a couple of weeks ago.  I don't hold out much hope of finding anything.  Nobody wants engineers right now because nobody is building anything, and as an engineer I find that places such as supermarkets don't want to hire because they see me as being over-qualified.

Offline pat

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Re: HTPC Considerations
« Reply #4 on: Mar 14, 2009, 06:43 AM »
Using Windows Seven, the KVM works OK.

This is how I'm connected.

System one, Video is: 1. LCD monitor/KVM     2. TV

System two, Video is: LCD monitor/KVM

With Seven when I switch from the active port/monitor/KVM on system one to system two the inactive port/TV on system one becomes active is as much as the TV will show the computer desktop. However since that system is now inactive since the focus of the KVM is on system two it is inaccessible with keyboard and mouse. Full access is available now with system two. Now when I switch back to system two the TV goes dark and the focus of the KVM goes back to the LCD monitor/KVM. This, it seems to me, is how it should work.

Unfortunately, with Vista, no joy. When switching back from system two the focus does not go back to the monitor/KVM port it stays on the TV.

I thought it may just be a driver issue, but that doesn't seem to be the case as I'm using the latest drivers on both systems and they are configured the same. I don't know what is different in Seven, that is the unanswered question at this point.

Other than that, I'm pleased as spiked punch.
I'm still looking at Blue Ray players and which software will give the best overall playback. Since Vista media center doesn't do Blue Ray and from what I read, it doesn't look like Seven will either. Some sort of software will be need for Blue Ray.

SeaSonic S12 550W, Athlon 64 X2 6000+, Asus M2N SLI-Deluxe, nvidia 9600 GSO, 2x2 gig Crucial Ballistix, LG DVD/RW, 2x Western Digital Black Edition 640gb,  SAMSUNG 226BW Black 22", Canon PIXMA MP600,  Logitech X-230 speakers, Logitech Comfort Duo keyboard & Mouse, Windows 7 64 Home Premium & Vista 64