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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Multipurpose HTPC setup for 5.1/7.1 1080p

This thread outlines my HTPC build and depicts the connections and settings used to make it work for web browsing, music, 7.1 analog gaming, 5.1 digital 1080p movies etc. This was done with a budget of $1000.

Components:
-Silverstone HTPC aluminum case (faceplate matches Onkyo)
-Thermaltake 500W Purepower ATX PS
-Asus P5Q-E Green Intel P45 Socket 775 Motherboard
-Intel Core 2 Quad Q9300 2.5Ghz 6M 1333Mhz CPU
-ZEROtherm CPU Cooler CF900 775
-Corsair PC6400 DDR2 800MHz (2x1024MB) DHX
-ATI Radeon HD4870 512MB PCIe w/Dual Link
-1TB (x2) Serial ATA 7200/32MB
-and a BluRay or DVD-R drive

Software:
-MPC Home Cinema (No Codecs of any sort are installed on system!)
-CoreAVC for MPC
-AC3Filter for MPC



HTPC in action, running XP/SP3:







Here you see all the components put together. Even though it looks really cramped (and it is), there's enough space for 5 total HDD's, which can bring this sucker above 10TB in a single volume with RAID/Span. Note the connections on my motherboard's back panel, it has 7.1 multichannel 3.5mm output as well as digital SPDIF for PCM:






Here you can see all wires connected. I used a total of three 3.5mm -> stereo RCA adapters (orange for LFE/C, yellow for SL/SR, and green for FL/FR) hooked up to the receiver's multichannel input. These are analog and you can use one more for 7.1 sound but I only have 5.1 equipment. These cables are for gaming in 5.1 surround sound or with any windows application that supports multichannel.
To the left of these analog cables is a thick gray optical cable, going to the receiver as well. This is for PCM passthrough (undecoded audio like DTS/DD5.1) while viewing movies.







Below is a picture of the PC DVI->VGA adapter input into my LCD running at [email protected] Even though the Radeon and high-end graphics cards now support HDMI I don't use that because my TV does not have an "HDMI PC-Mode" in which you can select to correct the overscan that is native of HDMI. Using HDMI from any PC to connect to any high-def. screen without overscan correction (HDMI PC-Mode) will give you uncorrectable fuzzy text.
Also of interest is that my Radeon supports 8 channel LPCM over HDMI with the special dongle it came with, however due to poor implementation as well as a fault of my own equipment, it is completely useless. First, like I mentioned my LCD panel only has PC-Mode enabled for VGA, and not HDMI as a selectable option so any HDMI signal is going to look like garbage on the screen. Second, the Radeon cannot actually passthrough encrypted audio, so TrueHD/DTS-HDMA won't work. Third, you can only use the 8 channel LPCM when a media player is configured to decode the stream and output them as 8 channels, this means no 5.1 gaming and AC3Filter's settings will be on forced decode if PCM passthrough (I haven't confirmed the latter myself) for viewing XviD/MKV. Man what a pain.






Playing 1080p MKV and passing through DTS 96/24 to the Onkyo 806:






Settings on MPC to bypass digital PCM to receiver:








Windows 5.1/7.1 analog multichannel going to the receiver when playing games:

 

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Very nice!! I love the Klipsch speakers. So why MPC? I am not saying it is good or bad..I run 2 systems with MCE 2005 and I love them. I tried Vista and couldn't stand an add on program called MY Movies cause it kept on crashing. I went back to MCE 2005 and a program called MY DVD's and never looked back. I run Power DVD 8, Any DVDHD. The systems are both AMD X2 4600 both run Sapphire 3450. Once you get started it is hard to stop I have a large collection I just added my 13th hard drive.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Very nice!! I love the Klipsch speakers. So why MPC? I am not saying it is good or bad..I run 2 systems with MCE 2005 and I love them. I tried Vista and couldn't stand an add on program called MY Movies cause it kept on crashing. I went back to MCE 2005 and a program called MY DVD's and never looked back. I run Power DVD 8, Any DVDHD. The systems are both AMD X2 4600 both run Sapphire 3450. Once you get started it is hard to stop I have a large collection I just added my 13th hard drive.

Hey gem, thanks for the comments - your setup is nice and cozy!

I run MPC because it's a self-executable file that's less than a meg and doesn't require any codecs to be installed on your system - while playing almost anything you throw at it. Also because you can use external filters such as CoreAVC and AC3Filter, both of which is an absolute must in a HTPC that plays 1080p with PCM passthrough.

I've tried MCE before but I personally just didn't like the feel of it. I don't like frontends much either, maybe because i do too much computing on the HTPC.. it's certainly faster than my actual workstation!
 

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I don't want to sound stupid...but I'd like to know more. Downloaded and played around with MPC a little this weekend. Had no problems playing VTS files. I really didn't play with sound. I got really confused when it came to playing bluray files from hard drive. I would normally play or mount the ISO file through Virtual clone drive and Power DVD 8. I am always interested in something better. I went through a couple of forums to find out more information for playing bluray through MPC most of which made little sence. What do I need to do??
 

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^Are you trying to play .m2ts files?
You should easily be able to drag and drop those files right into mpchc and they will play after installing Haali's media splitter. During the install tick MPEG-PS, then in mpc-hc go to internal filters under options and un-tick MPEG-PS/TS/PVA under "Source filters" so Haali will take over. Make sure to have Haali's enabled too under "Playback -> output."

If you are installing CoreAVC it comes with Haali's and you would have to enable CoreAVC in external filters and set that to prefer.
 

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Discussion Starter #12 (Edited)
Silent running

Here's my experience with sound dampening the HTPC. My goal was to make a noticeable difference with $35 worth of acoustic mats and anti-vibration silicon seals for the fans and PS. HD's were remounted using screws with rubber seals.

Parts are listed in the first post, with the addition of one more Caviar Black HD at this time. This new drive is rated to be very fast in it's class but also quite noisy. I don't have before and after comparisons to my original setup with the Seagate only as it would've taken too much time.



Parts waiting for installation and the re-build process:







Ready for assembly:







All equipment OFF, HTPC OFF, silent room:
34.5 dB - One meter away
34.2 dB - Listening position








All equipment OFF, HTPC ON, before sound dampening:
39.2 dB - One meter away
35.2 dB - Listening position








All equipment OFF, HTPC ON, after sound dampening:
38.5 dB - One meter away
34.7 dB - Listening position








The measurement software is Soundmeter by Faber using Flat weighting - it isn't calibrated so just focus on the differences measured. Overall reduction in sound level from before and after was 0.7 dB at one meter away and 0.5 dB at listening position. This is a barely noticeable reduction at best and I certainly can't tell the difference as it was a full 24 hours later that I had everything back together. However it's important to note that I did install an additional, supposedly louder than average HD at the same time. The CPU cooler and case fans that I had installed previously are the most quiet I could find at the time so already the case was quiet, not a big improvement to be had with some matting and seals. So ultimately is it worth the $35? For the amount of time and effort you put into it, not really.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Last night I messed around with HDMI and found out it is actually possible to enable FULL PIXEL mode on my LCDTV. In the OP I mentioned my equipment doesn't have PC-MODE for HDMI and that is correct, Bravia doesn't officially support this, however under the Screen - > Display menu you can enable full pixels and eliminate overscan from an HDMI signal that is 1080p.


Here's where it gets interesting. I connected my DVI to HDMI cable from ATI to the TV and the picture was crunched with fuzzy text once again and looking like the image was filling up only 95% of the screen. Reading up on this issue made me realize that ATI has a native UNDERSCAN of 5% by default! I then installed CCC (only using WDM drivers before) and used the Underscan/Overscan slider to move it to 0. After applying the scale the picture on the TV did indeed fill 100% and it looked like I had 1:1 pixel mapping. I also added the following settings to HDTV support -> Add 1080i30 Format to the Display Manager(NTSC) -> Add 1080p60 Format to the Display Manager(NTSC).


While I did get a full picture without fuzzy text, the issues don't stop. Already being used to crystal clear text over VGA the text now seemed like it had edge enhancement or has been sharpened. Nothing I tried fixed this, I disabled all picture settings on the TV and tuned it again. The color reproduction was too vivid and bright but it wasn't the TV's settings causing it, it was the DVI even at default 0 values. I could not get accurate color with multilayer controls over CCC software, HDMI and TV software. Also, the movement tearing inherent with LCD's having mismatched frames was the exact same over HDMI - no surprise there. Forced triple buffering will only cause input lag, and input lag was now apparent in 2D mode in windows with DVI-HDMI! How does that happen? I have no idea. But the worst symptom was the micro stuttering that came and went every 5 seconds, I have no clue why it does this either. Video playback along with mouse movements all stutter. It wasn't a cpu cycle issue and I couldn't find the cause.


So all-in-all, using HTPC with HDMI was a big fail and I'm not going to bother with it again, too many problems :wits-end:. I'm gonna stick with VGA where everything is perfect.
 

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Excellent thread flk!

I love MPC for small video clip playback but haven't tried it with DVD/HD DVD/BD sources. Does MPC Home Cinema auto launch when a disc is inserted and does the menu on the disc work?

I currently have PowerDVD7 running, mainly because it was included with my LG SuperMulti drive and was free. Bluray playback is flawless and I was totally geeking out with my new system. Then a snag. I spun up an HD DVD. The image quality is also flawless, but the audio is out of sync. After playing numerous Blurays and HD DVDs, all HD DVD discs exhibit this problem, and none of the BDs do. I suspect it's a codec issue but I'm not sure.

Of course contacting CyberLink is useless. Their standard reply is "Due to the fact that the format war is over and Bluray won, we no longer support HD DVD playback." That's great, what about those of us that have 50 or more HD DVD titles? If it wasn't bundled with my drive I certainly wouldn't have bought PowerDVD, and that's a shame because I have been using it for years for regular DVD playback.

My system can definitely handle the audio and video. I'm running a Q8200 QuadCore 2.66Ghz CPU, 4GB RAM, 1TB of internal storage (with 4TB of external available) and video is handled by an ATI 4650 PCI video card with 1GB of RAM. Audio is through HDMI.

Will MPHC resolve this issue?
 

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Excellent thread flk!

I love MPC for small video clip playback but haven't tried it with DVD/HD DVD/BD sources. Does MPC Home Cinema auto launch when a disc is inserted and does the menu on the disc work?

I currently have PowerDVD7 running, mainly because it was included with my LG SuperMulti drive and was free. Bluray playback is flawless and I was totally geeking out with my new system. Then a snag. I spun up an HD DVD. The image quality is also flawless, but the audio is out of sync. After playing numerous Blurays and HD DVDs, all HD DVD discs exhibit this problem, and none of the BDs do. I suspect it's a codec issue but I'm not sure.

Of course contacting CyberLink is useless. Their standard reply is "Due to the fact that the format war is over and Bluray won, we no longer support HD DVD playback." That's great, what about those of us that have 50 or more HD DVD titles? If it wasn't bundled with my drive I certainly wouldn't have bought PowerDVD, and that's a shame because I have been using it for years for regular DVD playback.

My system can definitely handle the audio and video. I'm running a Q8200 QuadCore 2.66Ghz CPU, 4GB RAM, 1TB of internal storage (with 4TB of external available) and video is handled by an ATI 4650 PCI video card with 1GB of RAM. Audio is through HDMI.

Will MPHC resolve this issue?
Thanks wbassett, I don't have any HDDVD's to test with, but I believe your easiest option is to go with Total Media Theater 3 Platinum. It will do everything you can think of, give it a whirl and see if that is what you're looking for :)
 

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Hi flk I'm running similar equipment to you, I've got a Sony XBR45 and ATI 1950 pro and it was such a hassle to get things working the way I wanted. I know way to well what you mean by sharpened text. It's strange but some text is sharpened, and some blurred. I've tried every combination of settings to remove it but it is almost impossible. The sharpening comes from the way the Sony's process the image. I never had this problem with my old Samsung LCD. All I had to do was fix the overscan on my computer and set the HDMI resolution to justscan on the TV and it was perfect (though picture quality wasn't as good as the sony and the samsung died only afer 1 year). Originally I bought another Samsung, the 55" A950 but that died after only 30 minutes so I returned it this Sony

Anyway I'm getting side-tracked. The only thing that fixes the sharpening on the Sony is turning on Game/Text Mode, it's burried in the Video Settings on my TV, I don't know if it'll be in the same place on your TV.

Game mode is like 'direct mode' on a receiver. So turning on game mode automatically turns off motionflow and other image processing, and you can't have both running at the same time (Unless you have a Samsung). This was a problem because I actually like motionflow depending on what I'm watching.

It's way too much trouble turning on/off game mode then doing the same to motionflow. But :) I've noticed that if you have Game mode turned on, pressing the theatre button turns game mode off, another press turns game mode back on :) but changes aren't saved when your in theatre mode :( so I need to turn on motionflow every time

So now by default I have game mode turned on, when I watch a movie I press the theatre button and turn on motionflow. All the Sony KDL's have the same remote codes, so I assume you should have a theatre button too.

Anyway, as for the problems you're having with colour, have you tried the program 'Quickgamma' (freeware) it's for monitor calibration. I've been using this program for photography/printing but I think it's perfect for HTPC's when you open the program you'll know right away if your monitor/videocard is scaling even by 1%. But the main thing is how easy it is to adjust the black levels and whitebalance.

I had tearing/vsync issues when playing some videos and it happened on Haali's Media splitter and VMR9. The tearing just started on day and affected everything but VLC (which has it's own codecs), so I uninstalled all the codecs and reinstalled and somehow that fixed it.

All in all HTPC's are great but there are a lot of little problems one needs to iron out. I think you need to be pretty geeky for a HTPC. Ultimately I want a HTPC that will bitstream to my AVR and get bitperfect music to my AVR.
 
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