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Play HD Movies on a Single Core PC

 
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precisewitem
HG Master


Joined: 07 Dec 2006
Posts: 130
Location: NY

PostPosted: Mon Aug 06, 2007 7:55 pm    Post subject: Play HD Movies on a Single Core PC Reply with quote

Once again, here's my computer specs: Insignia D400A

Processor: Intel P4 2.8GHz Socket 478.
RAM: 512MB 266MHz.
Mobo: Intel 845GV Chipset, integrated graphics / AC97 Audio (disabled), 64MB shared graphics / sound processing, 400MHz FSB.
Expansion Slots: 3 PCI 1-Sound Blaster Audigy 2, 2-Dial up Modem, 3-Ethernet.
Drives: DVDRW, CDRW flashed to latest Sony firmwares.
Graphics: 64MB shared Intel Extreeme Graphics.
Hard Drives: 160GB 7200RPM, 250GB 7200RMP external.

Highest possible resolution: 1152 X 864
Plays H264 MKV files: Yes - Audio / Video Sync Issues
Streams HD Movies: Yes


My new monitor is a 37in Vizio LCD HDTV. Capable of 1080i / 1080p.

What I'm trying to do is get at least 720P out of my computer through upgrading the graphics / RAM / processor (if necessary). I will be purchasing upgrade hardware within the next few weeks and I'll keep you posted on my progress / success. Here are some graphics cards I'm looking at, I need a PCI graphics card as there is no AGP slot on my mobo:


- Visiontek Radeon X1550, 256MB DDR2, DVI / VGA / HDTV. Capable of 1080p in WMP9. Max res of 2560 X 1600. $124.99

- HIS Radeon X1550, 256MB GDDR2, Dual DVI, HDTV. 2560 X 1600. H264 accelerated. $124.99
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BronzeG3
HG Master


Joined: 30 Apr 2006
Posts: 134

PostPosted: Tue Aug 07, 2007 5:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Have you considered just building a new computer? Core 2 Duos are pretty cheap now, as are Intel chipset motherboards.
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precisewitem
HG Master


Joined: 07 Dec 2006
Posts: 130
Location: NY

PostPosted: Tue Aug 07, 2007 6:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I would rather stick with this single core for now, I'll be purchasing a new computer in a few years with high end duo-core. Right now I have to pay for the TV, so there's not enough money handy for an all out mobo swap. Graphics / RAM will only cost me around $200. Mobo, CPU, RAM, Graphics card I would be lookin at like 5-$600.
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precisewitem
HG Master


Joined: 07 Dec 2006
Posts: 130
Location: NY

PostPosted: Tue Aug 14, 2007 10:30 pm    Post subject: MORE INFO / UPDATES Reply with quote

I've purchased the cable to connect the monitor to the graphics card. What I purchased is an 8ft DVI-D to HDMI cable. After a bit of research I've found that DVI-D type is compatible with the standard DVI-I output for dual displays.

The cable is Belkin Pure AV brand - $119 at rat shack. I picked up the same cable, barely used off ebay for $45. The graphics card outputs DVI-I, but I will not be using the optional RGB signal for dual display. 37 inches is plenty. The DVI-D cable is relatively the same as the DVI-I cable minus the extra RGB pins.

I've decided to go with the Visiontek X1550 256MB PCI card as it is the newest model that supports PCI graphics. There is no express / AGP slot on my mobo so these are not an option. The card is made for HD displays and outputs many resolutions. It includes H264 decoding and encoding capability.

The card requires a 250W power supply, at least 256MB of RAM, PCI slot, and at least a P4 computer. Since I have previously upgraded my power supply when the original failed I'll be alright. I'll be purchasing the graphics card and memory next week. My HDTV box will be installed on Thursday.
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BronzeG3
HG Master


Joined: 30 Apr 2006
Posts: 134

PostPosted: Wed Aug 15, 2007 4:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sounds good. Take some pictures when everything is set up.

On a side note, if you want cheap cables, may I recommend Cables For Less? I've ordered dozens of network, audio, and video cables from them and never had a problem. I first found them when I was looking for an S-video cable. Other places were charging >$50 for it, and they had one for $10.
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precisewitem
HG Master


Joined: 07 Dec 2006
Posts: 130
Location: NY

PostPosted: Tue Aug 21, 2007 4:57 pm    Post subject: UPDATES Reply with quote

I've got the HD cable box set up now. I actually ended up with a nice new Samsung box. The coolest feature about the box is that it auto-scales the resolution by channel. On HD channels (20 total) the resolution scales to 1080i. On standard definition channles it scales to 480i normal screen with the boxes on the sides. SD channels look alright, the HD channels are crystal clear and unbelievable. Some of the channels include: Discovery Channel HD, HDNet, HBOHD, CinemaxHD, TNTHD, and ShowtimeHD. Here's a picture of the box:



I've also ordered the RAM and should have it by Friday. I'll let you guys know how much it helps when I install it. I have two slots, one has a 512MB stick, I'm adding a 1GB stick. That should bring me to about 1.2 1.3 total available system RAM.
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precisewitem
HG Master


Joined: 07 Dec 2006
Posts: 130
Location: NY

PostPosted: Sat Sep 01, 2007 2:44 pm    Post subject: How to Install RAM. How to Install a graphics card. Reply with quote

I was happily surprised to find the Visiontek X1550 PCI graphics card on sale at Circuit City for $109 ($120 everywhere else). I was even happier to find out they had 1 left in the store. The RAM card came last Friday, a day early and it was free shipping.

Installation of RAM: This part is for the most part pretty easy to do.

1) Before opening your case you MUST turn off the power. Unplug all of the peripherals from the computer - don't be lazy. Now take your computer to a place where you will be standing on anything but carpet - like a wood floor, linoleum, tile, pergo ect. This is to lower the ammount of static electricity you will be picking up from the floor. It's best to wear an anti- static wristband when working with internal PC components. If you do not have one, find something obviously mental such as a piece of silverware. You will use this to discharge any static electricity before handling and installing the RAM.

2) First touch your metal object. Then open the computer case and locate the RAM slots on the motherboard. Touch the metal object again and remove the RAM card from its anti-static bag by holding the card by it's sides. If the slot was not previously filled it may be locked. Mine had little white tabs on each side that are used to hold the card in place. I had to push these tabs back away from the slot before inserting the RAM card.

3) Gently guide the card into the slot - making sure it is facing the right direction. It's important that the card slides into the slot PERFECTLY level. It may seem like the card does not fit, if it's in crooked. The tabs move up towards the card as it is depressed into the slot. Once it has seemed to stop derpressing into the slot, it may need a final press of harder pressure to lock the card in. The tabs will slide into the divits on the side of the RAM card as it goes in. That's it, no drivers, no installation software, no bios configuration necessary. Now I have 1.5 GB of RAM.

Installation of the graphics card: A little more difficult.

1) You should install the drivers and software for the graphics card before installing the card if you wish to use it right after installation. Then the computer needs to be powered down and unplugged completely. Take the computer to a non carpet surface and find your metal object or anti-static wristband.

2) Touch the metal object and open the case. The graphics slots are also located on the motherboard - towards the back of the case. I had to remove my 56K dial up modem to free up a slot, as I have a soundcard and ethernet in the other 2 PCI. If you are removing a dial up modem, you simply unskrew it from the bay, and pull the card out holding it on the sides. To install the graphics card, simply line it up with the slot and the bay at the back of the computer and slide it in.

3) Once the computer case is back together. Plug in the monitor through the new connection on the graphics card. My connection is DVI so I used my Belkin Pure AV HDMI to DVI cable. If it is not working properly you will need to plug the monitor in through the original VGA connection on the motherboard to configure your bios settings and disable the other graphics processor.

4) I then plugged mine in through my VGA on the mobo. Then I plugged in the computer and everything else. When the computer booted I went into my BIOS settings and set the graphics / video priority to PCI, it was originally set to Integrated. Depending on the card you may need to set the IRQ number as well, in the BIOS settings menu. Then I saved the settings and exited to Windows.

5) Once in Windows I went to the Device Manager, then Video, and disabled integrated graphics (Felt just as good as disabling AC97 audio). Then I plugged in the DVI connection = DONE HD Desktop. After tweaking the graphics settings I tested resolutions to find that 1360X768 and 1280X768 16X9 seem to look best for my TV. The native resolution of my Vizio is 1366X768 16X9. This has increased by desktop space by double and the resolution of all things on my monitor is now above 720P on either setting.

RESULTS OF MY UPGRADE

1080P will not play well on my 2.8Gh processor. Video / audio sync issues arrise when the CPU load gets maxed out at 100%. I have not found a single article on someone playing these 1080P movies on an older PC. DVD9 8-9GB 720P is also giving me a hard time, maxing out my CPU.

Regular sized 4-4.7 GB 720P HD DVD plays very well now. In order to playback MKV H264 files you will need to download the Matroska Codec pakckage or another pack that supports the H264 codecs. VLC player can also be used as it supports Matroska files. Since MKV is a container format you may need additional codecs depending on which ones the file uses, for example the new MPEG ISO advanced codec and the Dolby A-AC3 Filters.

Some of these codecs can be hard to find, some are not even available yet to the public. Most older PCs (> 2 years old) are going to have difficulty with HD resolutions and HD playback - that's all there is to it. Anything less than a 2.8Gh CPU and you can forget about HD playback entirely.

Your best bet, if you have to have HD playback, is to upgrade your processor and RAM. You'll want a fast Duo processor and at least 1.5GB or RAM. The higher the processor speed, the less chance you will run into problems with playback. You'll also want at least 256MB of graphics memory - most new PCs come with PCIE slots now so it shouldn't be a problem. Avoid onboard graphics and audio as they typically use a shared memory buffer under 256MB. My onboard had 128MB Shared memory.

Looks like I will be purchasing a new PC to suit my new TV. I'm currently researching different manufacturers and products as I may build my next PC myself. Even though I cannot playback 1080P and DVD9 720P, the upgrade was still useful as it only ended up costing me a little more than $150 all together. When I eventually sell this computer I should be able to get back around what I paid for it (899-rebates = $399).

The 1GB stick of RAM has greatly increased program load and operation speeds. The computer bogs out less and can do more at one time. I've also noticed that programs which were experiancing minor issues before the upgrade are now running smoothly. My internet browsers are also running much more smoothly now.

The graphics card has enabled my computer to get a much higher desktop resolution than before. Before getting the card I couldn't play ANYTHING, not even simple games like Sim City 4 on my PC. Now I have no problems playing anything, including fast paced online games such as Counter Stike and Half Life. I've seen frame rates in tests varry from 40 to 60 fps, a huge improvement over my original 10 to 15 fps with onboard.

My Media Center Specs:

- Upgraded Insignia D400A Desktop PC.

- Creative Soundblaster Audigy 2, 5.1 surround 24Bit PCI soundcard
run through TV to the Stereo by stereo RCA cables. (UPGRADED)
- Visiontek ATI X1550 256MB Dual Display graphics card running DVI to
TV (UPGRADED).
- 150GB internal HD, 250GB external HD USB/Firewire (UPGRADED).
- Dual layer DVDRW and CDRW with latest firmware flashes for 16X.
- 8 in 1 memory card reader for camera cards.
- 6 USB ports, 2 on the side.
- 1.5GB 266 DDR2 RAM expandable to 2GB (UPGRADED).
- Intel 845GVSR mobo with Intel 2.8 processor socket 478.
- Ethernet and 5Mb Cable line from Roadrunner / Timewarner.
- Logitech G5 Lazer gaming mouse.
- Logitech G15 Gaming keyboard.
- Windows Media Center components for 360 / Windows XP machine.

- Vizio 37 in widescreen LCD HDTV VX37L

- Capable of 1080i, 1366X768 16:9 Native.
- 1200:1 contrast ratio.
- 2 DVI inputs, 2 Component inputs, VGA + Aduio input, Svideo input,
HD TV input, SD TV input, RCA Audio In / Out (through).
- Crystal clear 10W center channel speakers.
- dual PIP(picture in picture), PIPIP, easy to use menu options / picture
adjusting, custom preset configurations.

- Sony Mini Hi-Fi component System MCH-GX450.

- 3 channels Left / Right / Sub.
- 450 Watts.
- 2 speakers, 2 mini woofers, 2 tweeters, 1 10in sub.
- Middle and back ported boxes.
- Built in EQ / Surround / Groove / Effects.
- Extended speaker length to 5ft (MODED).
- 3 Disc CD changer, plays MP3's.
- Dual tape Deck with opto heads and dubbing.

- Samsung SMT-H3050 cable box.

- HD cable box w/ HBO, Starz, Cinemax, and Showtime.
- 20 HD channels, 700 + SD and radio channels.
- Run to TV through component cables and RCA to component 2.

- Xbox 360 elite + Live account.

- Run to TV through component 1.
- Full 720P and 1080i support.
- Stream movies and music to the xbox 360 from the PC.

- Marshal MXL condensor Microphone w/ extending desk boom. XLR out.
- Art Tube Mic preamp w/ built in compressor / equalizer / and phase
inverter. Includes phantom power and digital boost. XLR in 1/4 inch out.
All balanced XLR / 1/4 inch cables, ins, and outs.
- Labtech studio Mic for mixed vocal ranges.
- Sony Dynamic Stereo Headphones MDR-V150 (Thanks EZ!).

I'll take some more pics when I get this mess cleaned up and get my new xbox from Best Buy. My old one crapped out on me - but I bought the warranty so I'll be getting a voucher for $399. I'm going to get the Elite as it will only cost me around $70 now that it's $449.


Last edited by precisewitem on Tue Sep 11, 2007 5:29 am; edited 2 times in total
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precisewitem
HG Master


Joined: 07 Dec 2006
Posts: 130
Location: NY

PostPosted: Sun Sep 02, 2007 6:33 pm    Post subject: THE PROBLEM WITH HDTVs Reply with quote

Right now there is no where near enough support for HDTV for it to really be worth it to purchase one. For a cheap 37in + LCD or Plasma your spending between $1000-$1500. I currently have two stable HD sources, my HD cable channels (20 only) and my Xbox 360. These two sources produce an unbelievable picture quality.

My computer is also displayed in HD 1280x768 16x9, which is a little higher than 720P. HD images and movies are also amazing from my computer. The desktop, browsers, and programs are very vibrant and sharp at 1280x768. Through some simple setup adjustments and trial and error I've found that using a resolution that is close to the TVs native resolution provides the best picture from my computer.

The problem I'm experiancing now is the general stretching of DVD movies to make them fit the 16x9 native aspect ratio and higher resolution of my TV. Most HDTVs produced in this price rage use a fixed scaling method, meaning the TV will automatically scale an image to the native aspect ratio of the TV 4x3 -> 16x9. Even the high priced Panasonic and Sony tvs in this price range use a similar fixed scaling method for the native resolution.

This is why they tell you to get a TV with a native aspect ratio that is close to what you are trying to view. The only problem with that is if you want HDTV signals you have to have a seperate setup for normal DVD! I bought mine for my xbox 360, which this TV is optimal for, being that the native resolution is close to 1280x720 and my TV displays 1280x720 very well (try it before you buy it).

DVD playback is of lesser quality then it should be though. You get a slight pixelation, especially noticeable when coming back to DVD from watching The Discovery Channel in HD. Since DVD is optimized for 4x3, the conversion to 16x9 has to stretch and virtually duplicate pixels in the image. Now I have to go get an upscaling DVD player to play my DVDs. The purchase of an HDTV just led to a complete overhaul of my entire setup.

PICS OF THE DESKTOP











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