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post #1 of 14 (permalink) Old 2007-01-09, 12:43 PM Thread Starter
 
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PC replacement for home theatre

Need some advice on a PC replacement.

First, here is some context.I have two home theatre setups ..kinda like his and hers:

1) one is a basic one (Rogers HD PVR/ Toshiba RPTV) where we do the family TV viewing/time shifting. NO PC HERE.

2) the second (mine) is the big front projection one in the basement for DVD movies and the odd HD event. PC HERE.

For the latter, I currently use an old PC ..not quite an HTPC implementation (where a PC drives the audio and video content), but rather I use the computer (and a small LCD screen) for a number of ancillary functions such as:
- store and play my MP3 library thru the AVR
- rip LP's/tapes into MP3 files
- manage/display photos
- display song titles when listening to digital music
- preview DVDs
- configure equipment with on-screen menus
- watch TV (for sleepover guests) via a TV tuner card
(actaully just use the video input on the card
fed by a Rogers HD Terminal output)
- occasional internet use

I do not use it (and least not currently) to download videos, record TV shows, burn DVDs or store/manage/view video content. For viewing, and I'm old fashioned and just throw in a DVD as needed - its easier to use for the rest of the family that way.

Now for my question….

The old PC needs to be replaced as it’s processing power and memory are way too limiting (even chokes on most MP3 files), there is no dedicated sound card (not even a digital output), etc. etc.

To meet my immediate needs, I was thinking simply of getting:

-Win XP (or Vista) and not bother with Window Media edition
-dual core processor, 2 GHZ min
-2 GB memory
-250 GB drive
-high end soundcard
-entry/mid level video card (to be upgraded in future if and when my video needs change)
-redeploy the old tuner card into the new machine

Any risks with the above strategy??

Any suggestions for the sound / video / tuner cards??

Many thanks

Marvin
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post #2 of 14 (permalink) Old 2007-01-09, 01:18 PM
 
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I see nothing wrong with the outlined plans.
Few things to think about before you dive into it:

1. If Vista is in your future, get XP MCE at a place that gives you a coupon for Vista Premium.

2. Sound: Vista wants you to abandon the external processor and offers good incentives.
You might want to skip getting a high-end sound card untill Vista is out and it's known which is the most compatible.

3. If you have time, I'd wait for these mobos to go on sale.

Diogen.
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post #3 of 14 (permalink) Old 2007-01-09, 01:33 PM Thread Starter
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by diogen View Post
I see nothing wrong with the outlined plans.
Few things to think about before you dive into it:

1. If Vista is in your future, get XP MCE at a place that gives you a coupon for Vista Premium.

2. Sound: Vista wants you to abandon the external processor and offers good incentives.
You might want to skip getting a high-end sound card untill Vista is out and it's known which is the most compatible.

3. If you have time, I'd wait for these mobos to go on sale.

Diogen.
Thanks

Didnt quite follow the high-end comment....you mention ""skip getting a high-end sound card"....did you intend to say skip getting a high end VIDEO card?? The mother boards you refer to in your link refer to on-board video. I might be missing something though.
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post #4 of 14 (permalink) Old 2007-01-09, 01:46 PM
 
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High-end audio features in Vista will work only on newer sound cards. Today, Vista drivers for most cards are complete crap.
Waiting until the dust settles and it is clear which ones have appropriate Vista drivers would be a good idea, IMHO.

The video-on-board mobos are my favorite for HTPCs.
Unfortunately, the video is most of the time crap. The 6150 AMD today are barely good enough.
The Intel versions will have at least a 7-series NVidia card and would be my first choice (when available).

Diogen.
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post #5 of 14 (permalink) Old 2007-01-09, 02:52 PM
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If you don't want to wait for Vista, which is probably a smart idea for now, I'd suggest the following.

1. Reduce the RAM to 1G. XP works just fine with that. I only have 512k in my creaky old HTPC running XP and have no issues.

2. For a mid-range video card get a 7600 passively cooled card. Lots of options, cheap, and very well priced right now. If you want a little future proofing, look for one that has HDCP implemented.

3. Depending on the MB, you could save some cash up front and use the SPDIF out of the MB to start and upgrade later.

Don't rule out using the HTPC as a DVD player either. With a little bit of effort it can give very good results.
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post #6 of 14 (permalink) Old 2007-01-10, 06:00 AM Thread Starter
 
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ok thanks for the tips.

following the note that 512MB was fine on an old pc, I did some more digging and stumbled on http://www.mediamonkey.com/ as a replacement for iTunes. Didn't realize how much of a memory hog iTunes was. Now with MediaMonkey, its all come back to life. So I may be able to buy some time now and wait for the Vista based products. Maybe.
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post #7 of 14 (permalink) Old 2007-01-10, 09:11 AM
 
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If you plan on mostly passing audio to your AVR with coaxial or optical outputs off you new PC you might as well use the on board sound card, no point spending money on a high end sound card unless you plan on using the card's own Dolby and DTS decoders.
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post #8 of 14 (permalink) Old 2007-01-10, 10:09 AM Thread Starter
 
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Point taken re no need for high end sound card if all the processing is done by the AVR.

Question - in passing the signal to the AVR, is it fair to say there would be a noticable difference between using a soundcard's digital output (if available), vs its standard 'line out" ??

If yes, and given my PC doesnt have a digital out, I would be inclined to get a modest card with a dig output (or better still, swap out a sound card from another computer if it has one)

Thanks

Marvin
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post #9 of 14 (permalink) Old 2007-01-10, 10:46 AM
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Yes, using digital out will be noticeably different (better). Also, you will need it to get 5.1 sound to the AVR.

There are lots of budget options for sound cards that give SPDIF passthru. The caveat for all of these is driver support/stability, which is the achilles heel of soundcards for HTPCs.
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post #10 of 14 (permalink) Old 2007-01-10, 12:33 PM Thread Starter
 
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There is a product sold at Tiger Driect (http://www.tigerdirect.ca/applicatio...Tab=9&NoMapp=0) that I dont quite understand - two main questions

Question 1 ...Does the above result in a better quality result than simply connecting the soruce to a sound card?? ? I currently already have my turntable, cassette and reel to reel connected to my PC soundcard (as they all go to my AVR, and from the AVR tape out the PC Line In. (Of course I could have bypassed AVR completely, but this way I can switch between devices easily in terms of waht I want to rip). I had planned to buy some ripping software to then record to my olidies to WAV and convert to MP3. I would then simply play my MP3 file library on the computer, with a digital output back (on my future sound card upgrade), to the AVR via digital coax in.

So what does the TigerDirect "ADS Instant Music" do differently? For one thing, I see it essentially bypasses the sound card completely!!!! as its connected via a USB port , ie source output goes to AV input on the box, and then the box is USB'd to computer. So does this offer any advantages??

Question 2 - Does this box essentially eliminate the need for me to buy a new soundcard??? Ie, with this box connected, I seem to have my digital output connector!

Hope someone can clear my confusion....

Many thanks

Marvin
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post #11 of 14 (permalink) Old 2007-01-10, 12:51 PM
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From the brochure, it looks like an external souncard connected via USB. I'd have to research more to be sure.

There are a few companies that make similar devices. External sound cards are popular with people who don't have spare slots, or are looking to isolate the soundcard from the PC for other reasons.

If in fact it is just that, i.e. an external soundcard, then in theory you should be able to use it for what you want.
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post #12 of 14 (permalink) Old 2007-01-10, 02:53 PM Thread Starter
 
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I think your explantion makes perfect sense..ie it's essentailly an external sound card.....interesting option.

It is very tempting , but looking at the specs, it would appear to be a very mediocre card, ie

Audio Specs:

Capture: 16 bit
Sampling Rate: 8, 11, 16, 22.05, 32 44.1 or 48 kHz
- THD+N = 0.01%
- SNR= 89dB

Playback: 16 bit
- Sampling Rate - 32, 44.1, 48 kHz
- THD+N = 0.005%
- SNR = 96dB

I see Creative for example has a whole line up of such products (ie external sound cards, a/v editors, etc)....hmmm, just when I thought life was simple...

http://www.creative.com/products/pro...4&product=9103

http://www.creative.com/products/pro...&product=11226

http://ca.creative.com/products/prod...&product=15739

Some of course get pricey..

Which brings me back to the cheaper conventional cards....like this one:
http://www.tigerdirect.ca/applicatio...&sku=T777-1006 at $32. Seems ideal (other than the 3 month warranty !!)

OR THIS : http://ca.creative.com/products/prod...2&nav=features

Marvin

Last edited by Marvin G; 2007-01-10 at 03:08 PM.
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post #13 of 14 (permalink) Old 2007-01-10, 05:35 PM
 
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I have a similar setup (projector) but am going the Apple Mac Mini. Has optical digi out into my receiver, 1280x720P out via DVI to the projector. $679 or less!
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post #14 of 14 (permalink) Old 2007-01-14, 02:51 PM
 
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truly, a budget internal sound card will give you everything you need. It's amazing how much life your PC processing will gain by bypassing onboard chips. They all borrow CPU. I run XP pro on my primary boxes, and old 98se - 304mg ram with winamp & stream ripper on decrepid old compaq DP2000s (gigantic paperweights) use them to RIP, and host simutaneously shockingly well. Offsetting shared resources always boosts performance of any onboard chipsets.

If you hear your music skip/stall while surfing the net, add a card.

for the USB external question - the benefit is tied to the USB controller of that PC, if it's an older box, some are limitied by the usb controller chipset and may hiccup if other USB items are connected.
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