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ATI and nVidia Crush High-End DVD Players

Zonk posted about 8 years ago | from the nvidia-smash dept.

280

An anonymous reader writes "Hardware.Info compared the video quality of ATI and nVidia video cards containing Avivo / PureVideo technology with 12 stand alone DVD players, varying in price from $200 to over $2000. The conclusion? 'There is no need to invest $2000 or more in a high-end DVD player. A PC with a recent graphics card will produce a much better result for a lot less money. When looking at the final scores of the HQV test, both ATI and nVidia graphics cards perform a lot better than any DVD player we have tested. We would go as far as to say to get rid of your DVD player and connect a media centre PC to your LCD television!'"

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Crushed? (5, Funny)

SvetBeard (922070) | about 8 years ago | (#16024700)

Damn, those heatsinks are just getting too big!

Uhm (5, Insightful)

ranton (36917) | about 8 years ago | (#16024711)

We would go as far as to say to get rid of your DVD player and connect a media centre PC to your LCD television!'"

Well, not all of us would buy a $2000 DVD player. I still cannot see the reason to buy anything more expensive than the $250 one I have at home. What do these multi-thousand dollar DVD players do anyway?

--

Re:Uhm (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16024735)

My DVD player costs $55 and it produces images of the same quality of the more commom $150 ones.

Re:Uhm (1)

alain94040 (785132) | about 8 years ago | (#16024808)

Precisely.

And how much does the full setup with these high-end video cards cost? Not to mention the user interface (there is none on my $70 DVD player and that is how it should be), fan noise, etc... And for those who care, power consumption. Did you see the size of the cooling on those video cards?

In terms of pure efficiency, I'll go with a custom chip designed only to play DVDs, versus a general purpose GPU that can play DVDs, 3D games, etc... One will cost $50 and do one task well. The latter one, to stay competitive will have 10X more complexity for the same results at any given task. Which in itself is an achievement, don't get me wrong.

Alain.

Re:Uhm (2, Informative)

mongre26 (999481) | about 8 years ago | (#16025151)

They mention that you can get all the same features on the passively cooled lower end models. The coolers is only for the 3D cards that move pixels for BF2. If you are not gaming you can get the much less expensive cards.

Also a few things you, and apparently a lot of people here are not considering, that is not everyone is like you.

For $30-$70 all you get in a DVD player is a 480i or 480p output. That is great if you are running SDTV to an older CRT. However if you are running a HDTV even 480p is painful to watch and letting the HDTV TV do the upconverting is never the best and worse, it can introduce a sync problem between the video and audio that can be hard to eliminate if you use a reciever to manager your audio.

Upconverting does happen when you display SDTV on any HDTV device and image quality is highly dependent on the quality of the upconvert and de-interlace

According to this articule inexpensive video cards for less than $60 give you all the features of the higher end 3D gaming cards and they come with smaller fans or passive coolers. That is really good news for Media PC builders.

If you are going home to plain old SDTV then of this article is not for you. However if you are going home to a high quality HDTV Plasma/LCD/DLP or similar then it should be very much of interest as this does not only mean better DVD viewing and longer life to your DVD collection in the face of HDDVD and BlueRay but also means the SDTV signal on cable can be effectively de-interlaced and upconverted to give you more value for your monthly cable $$.

So of course, if you go out and buy a $400 CRT SDTV then do not build a $300-$500 media PC unless you really like how they do time shifting and other features. However if you spend $2000-$3000 on the display and then go and buy a $30 DVD player, well that is just dumb.

difference in video players (2, Informative)

yppiz (574466) | about 8 years ago | (#16025025)

Inexpensive video players at the extreme low end are often much flimsier than their more expensive cousins. I had a $50 Panasonic DVD-S35 player that died after 18 months [blogspot.com] . When I looked for info on line about this failure, I found many Amazon reviews reporting the same problem - total failure after 12-18 months.

I opened the Panasonic up in an attempt to fix it, and found the design used the flimsiest of components. It was a testament to their engineers that they could get even 18 months out of the parts they used. See my blog post for a description of the brilliantly craptactular construction [blogspot.com] .

When I finally got a replacement, I looked for an older in-production model so I could get some reliability info. I paid a bit more for it (maybe $100). It's built like a tank. The video quality is no better, but it's built to last.

--Pat

Re:Uhm (5, Interesting)

zlogic (892404) | about 8 years ago | (#16024779)

Mine cost me something like $20-$30. Works perfectly, plays everything from DVDs (all regions!) to mp3s and jpegs and has Scart, RCA, VGA video output. And 5.1 (or maybe even 7.1!) sound output.
The only thing I don't like is that the remote control isn't really easy to use for tasks other than play/pause/menu navigation.

Re:Uhm (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16024781)

They separate the gullible from their money. That is what they do for $2000.

Re:Uhm (1)

tradingfire (912178) | about 8 years ago | (#16025437)

most (the regular non-slash dot reading) folks don't want to skid blindly though Windows XP or the ever distant Vista or even WORSE the impossible linux solutions to perhaps maybe possibly eventually get the monitor they bought blindly working for their HD solution. it's not funny people, it's SAD. that they have to spend $2000 because it JUST WORKS.

Re:Uhm (1)

monopole (44023) | about 8 years ago | (#16024898)

I still use my Reel Magic DVD decoder card. Bulletproof, great interpolation, 5.1 SPDIF output, support for remotes.

Re:Uhm (1)

NetJunkie (56134) | about 8 years ago | (#16024905)

Picture quality. If the rest of your setup is up to the standard you'll see the difference. Back when the standard DVD player was a $250 Toshiba I got a $750 Pioneer Elite (grey market). My wife noticed the change right away. Better color reproduction. Far fewer artifacts. Better blacks...etc. Now, that was a couple of years ago. Even a cheap player today is probably the same as my Pioneer, but TVs have also gotten better. I have a cheap LG upconvert DVD player on one TV at home. I bet a $2K upconverting player does a better job.

Re:Uhm (1)

evilviper (135110) | about 8 years ago | (#16025011)

What do these multi-thousand dollar DVD players do anyway?

Well they are SUPPOSED to do a wonderful job at motion-adaptive deinterlacing, and 3:2 pulldown reversal.

Not to mention having high-end video chips that have more accurate color reproduction, prevent aliasing artifacts, etc.

Re:Uhm (1)

psoplayer (938102) | about 8 years ago | (#16025196)

In otherwords (as the article suggests), nothing that you can't get out of a typical PC's video card with the right settings on ffdshow.

Re:Uhm (1)

evilviper (135110) | about 8 years ago | (#16025408)

In otherwords (as the article suggests), nothing that you can't get out of a typical PC's video card with the right settings on ffdshow.

Not quite. ffdshow has the best inverse telecine filter around (pullup), but no motion-adaptive deinterlacer, I'm afraid. mcdeint was only recently introduced to MPlayer (ffdshow uses mplayer filters) and it is completely unoptimized as of yet, so you only get 2-3fps with it.

On a *nix system (using mplayer directly), the situation is better. You can use tfields (with -vo gl) to output interlaced (and mixed telecined) material in absolutely 100% perfect quality to a progressive display (ie. 30fps interlaced material on a 60fps screen).

Sadly, that is a bit of a gap in mplayer/ffdshow's capabilities.

Re:Uhm (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16025102)

A highend DVD player has inernal mechanisms for postprocessing (upscaling for larger displays, deblocking, deringing, etc.). i.e.: they improve picture quality.
However, the differences in picture quality from a standard DVD player to a highend DVD player (or HTPC) may only be noticeable when using large displays (CRT, LCD, Plasma, Projector, etc.), You'll never see the difference if you're using 24" CRT display.

Re:There is more to movies than pictures (1)

Ynsats (922697) | about 8 years ago | (#16025104)

In addition to what has already been said about higher picture quality, many DVD players also have onboard DACs for the analog RCA outputs. They also can have expensive toslink outputs for fiber connections between HT components. Virtually all high end DVD players also now have not only the toslink and component video outputs but some even have discrete outputs for each channel of your audio system.

These $2K DVD players can have quite the level of bells and whistles but buttons and programming features are cheap compared to the processing requirements needed for DACs, audio output management and picture management. In addition, any output also requires a transformer of some sort and an entire circuit for output. The output circuit electronics are usually very high quality and those parts are not cheap. Neither is the educated labor necessary to design and refine those circuits.

The reason things are of such high quality and is because cheap components allow things like coloration of sound, poor performance of circuits and noisy circuits that introduce chatter and interference into the system. When that noise and interference reach your amplification circuits and display circuits, they get amplified too. This leads to poor performance in not only picture reproduction but also audio reproduction.

These DVD players are expensive because alot of talent and design has been sunk into them to provide those who wish to get the best experience they can out of movie viewing can do so. Add to that the fact that these high dollar units are test beds for features that get trickled down to other, cheaper units and that is why we have 20-50 dollar DVD players that can do what they do.

A home theater is just like any computer system. All the parts interact and it is only as good as your weakest component. If I am going to load up with 50K worth of Martin Logan speakers being driven by Conrad-Johnson amps with a Krell pre-amp stage and a Pioneer Elite plasma display, I am certainly not going to use a 50 dollar DVD player as the source for all the sound and video in the home theater. At that point, the shortcomings of the DVD player would be glaringly obvious.

Now, if only one could get a decent sound card to do discrete 7.1 channel output with digital decoding (preferrably hardware decoding) for an affordable price, that whole media PC idea might actually gain some ground in the marketplace.

Re:Uhm (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16025111)

Well, mine does DVD-A, SACD and MP3s. MP3 playback is pretty common now. It was one of the first way back in March, 2002.

First post! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16024713)

BITCHES!

No shit! (2, Informative)

legoburner (702695) | about 8 years ago | (#16024732)

When I first put in my mythtv box, the quality difference was immense. Even on live TV there is decent upsampling by the software and hardware (nvidia) which is very obviously higher quality than an untouched broadcast. DVD is upsampled to a very pleasing level and because of this the myth box has been my primary DVD player since it was first installed. The TV is a 30" Medion with a DVI input (basically a large monitor) with 1280 * 768 resolution.

Re:No shit! (1)

maxume (22995) | about 8 years ago | (#16025327)

How were you pushing the signal onto the TV before the MythTV box?

If you were just using coax, there is a good chance that the TV just has a shitty upsampler, accounting for the drastic change when you moved to an external one that is decent.

Why stand alone DVDs are preferable: (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16024744)

- no patch tuesday
- no boot time waiting

Isn't it enough?

Re:Why stand alone DVDs are preferable: (3, Informative)

ScrewMaster (602015) | about 8 years ago | (#16024838)

- Don't connect it to the Internet
- Don't turn it off

No problem.

Re:Why stand alone DVDs are preferable: (1)

bean123456789 (938830) | about 8 years ago | (#16025241)

Or have your power button put the unit into stand-by...

How loud are they? (2, Insightful)

rishistar (662278) | about 8 years ago | (#16024749)

The fan on that ATI card looks loud.... I think the DVD player would be quieter.

Re:How loud are they? (1)

kb1cvh (88565) | about 8 years ago | (#16024823)

The article specifically mentions that some of the lower end cards come without fans.
I think they understand that fans make noise.

Of course, if you don't like the noise, you
could wear noise blanking headphones.

Re:How loud are they? (3, Funny)

plague3106 (71849) | about 8 years ago | (#16024887)

Of course, if you don't like the noise, you could wear noise blanking headphones.

Right... because those that want a high quality picture don't really care to use the 5.1 sound system they also have installed...

Re:How loud are they? (2, Insightful)

mongre26 (999481) | about 8 years ago | (#16024866)

The stock fans on video cards are no more impressive than the stock fans that come with CPUs from AMD and Intel. If you want quiet then you get an after market fan like those from Zalman. Not only are they a lot quieter they are often a lot better at cooling. I retrofitted several machines at work and at home with the Zalman VF900-Cu LED and fan noise was nearly eliminated while at the same time overall the GPU temps drop. The stock fan at home on my ATI X850 XTPE could not keep my GPU from overheating and I would occasionally hear a beep as it clocked itself down because of temperature. With the Zalman even though ambient temperatures in my computer room have exceeded what they had been in the past I have not heard one beep from my card. It was the best upgrade I have purchased this year. That and the zalman fan is a lot smaller than most stock GPU coolers which is also a plus for sometimes cramped Media PC cases. Which reminds me, I have a Media PC setup to start building. A recent upgrade from a CRT to a Plasma is requiring a rebuild to accomodate the higher resolution of the display device.

Re:How loud are they? (1)

Jett (135113) | about 8 years ago | (#16025334)

Not sure if this is still the case but AMD was putting some fairly decent heatsink/fan combos on their retail CPUs for awhile. I have an A64 that can OC a huge amount on stock cooling.
Some video cards come with stock cooling that is fairly decent too - LeadTek in particular has a long history of putting higher quality cooling on their boards.

Another cooling option that might work for a media PC is to underclock/undervolt - I know at least some of the time you can undervolt and get a decent heat reduction without sacrificing performance/stability. In the cases where stability is affected a bit of underclocking will usually solve the problem, if you're willing to trade in a bit of performance. I once had a AXP that would overheat in certain circumstances (it was heavily OC'd) - I dropped the voltage on it to a little below spec and it still ran without a hitch but stopped overheating. It ran like that without issue for years before I upgraded.

Re:How loud are they? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16025435)

My FX-55 san diego came with a very nice heatpipe HSF.

Re:How loud are they? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16024943)

Use liquid cooling. IMHO it's much closer to silent than any fan that can compete at the same level. Also, if you get the right kind of waterblocks then your media centre can still be rather compact. Depending on how much you'd like to cool down the card you would have the choice between active cooling with a radiator and large quiet fans/fan, or you could go with passive cooling and have a near silent machine at expense of cooling ability.

Nirokato

Re:How loud are they? (1)

DaveWick79 (939388) | about 8 years ago | (#16025059)

I just bought a Sapphire ATI X1900XTX card, and while the fan can be very loud, it really never runs at full speed except for a brief second when you start your computer. 99.9% of the time it runs very low at inaudible levels. Basically the fan controller is programmed to only spin the fan as fast as it needs to.

I can't vouch for the stock ATI fan, or for the users who are overclocking their units. Personally I see no need to o/c this card as it runs everything you throw at it without o/c'ing.

Very very loud (2, Informative)

Moraelin (679338) | about 8 years ago | (#16025157)

I'm the "proud" owner of an X1900XTX and let me just say they're very very very loud.

It's hard to explain what's stupidly wrong with the design without needing drawings, so bear with me. Let's just say that as the turbine sucks air from one side (as opposed to above and below) and blows it out the other, this necessarily creates a narrowed bottleneck in the airflow. The air can only enter a centrifugal turbine from above or below, so that incoming airflow has to be narrowed into a duct going under the turbine. This however creates more noise (as the air moves faster through that narrowed space) and needs the turbine to spin faster (to make up for the extra drag factor of that narrow duct).

Seriously, I just have to wonder (A) if that stupidity was designed by some graphics artist or marketroid instead of an engineer, (B) WTF were they smoking at the time? Must have been some really good stuff. And (C) where can I buy some of that stuff? And don't get me wrong, I have nothing against a good graphics artist or marketting expert when they work in their own field, but engineering is best left to real engineers.

You can somewhat silence it by replacing the stock cooler with a Zalman or Arctic Cooling cooler, but don't expect miracles. It's a very very hot chip, so even a well engineered fan and heatsink still need to move a lot of air to keep it cool. It will just move it down a notch from "jet engine take-off" levels to merely "loud fan" levels.

I've managed to reduce it even more by also involving a good case (lots of airflow without needing insane number of fans) and some generous soundproofing of that case, but still... it's at best described as "low noise", not "silent". It's ok to play games with the headphones on, but it's not quite what I'd want in a movie player.

And here's why not: movies have a wide range of volumes, ranging from muffled footsteps and whispered conversations to shrieks and explosions. Even if you got your PC to be only 30 dB or so, that's the noise level with which the low volume parts of the movie will have to compete. If a whispered conversation there is, say, only 40 dB or so, on top of your computer's noise it will be at a lousy 10 dB signal-to-noise ratio. It's already in the domain where you may have to rewind to listen again, because it's hard to understand what they're saying.

Oh sure, "PC's" and "LCD" television.. (4, Funny)

wwiiol_toofless (991717) | about 8 years ago | (#16024763)

Maybe I should just drive the "Information Superhighway" to buy a frickin "Laser". Seriously though, the thought of adding more cables to my computer desk, which already looks like an e-pubis, makes me wanna cry.

trend (1)

zymano (581466) | about 8 years ago | (#16024767)

time for a networking home server ?

$2000 DVD Players (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16024785)

The people who buy the $2000 DVD players are the same people that buy gold plated connectors and cut their speaker wires to identical lengths so the "electrons travel the same distance which improves the sound quality". That means: these people are morons. Morons cannot be stopped.

Re:$2000 DVD Players (3, Insightful)

masklinn (823351) | about 8 years ago | (#16024916)

Yes they can, but the universe will fire back by creating bigger morons next generation.

The issue here is that humanity has separated itself from the good ol' natural selection, thus morons don't get booted out of the gene pool anymore.

Worse, so few morons die that we actually have to give them awards [darwinawards.com] to try and get other morons to follow suit!

Re:$2000 DVD Players (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16024956)

Oddly enough I didn't find your name on the Darwin Awards list... moron.

Re:$2000 DVD Players (3, Funny)

HangingChad (677530) | about 8 years ago | (#16025012)

Morons cannot be stopped.

But they can cheat their way into elected office...

Re:$2000 DVD Players (1)

glsunder (241984) | about 8 years ago | (#16025140)

actually, I think the speaker cable length thing is so the resistance is identical, not that 16 gauge wire would have much resistance at 10' long. An extra 10 feet of 24 gauge wire could matter, but I don't think many people would use such small wire.

I'd say my $35 dvd player works just fine. It even supports divx and progressive scan.

Not all gold plated connectors are expensive... (1)

Name Anonymous (850635) | about 8 years ago | (#16025193)

Gold plated connecters really are better.

However, go to Radio Shack or even Home Depot and pay a lot less for the cables with gold plated connectors.

Buying cables from a well known brand at a hefty price premium often isn't worth it. Paying only an extra dollar or two for a cable that has connectors that are resistant to corrosion is often worth it.

In short gold plated is worth it, but not at the well known brand over inflated price.

Re:Not all gold plated connectors are expensive... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16025396)

Please cite a source regarding the superiority of gold plated connectors. Thanks.

Re:Not all gold plated connectors are expensive... (2, Informative)

dgatwood (11270) | about 8 years ago | (#16025458)

Gold is a relatively poor conductor compared to silver (or even copper, really). Gold is used for plating contacts because it doesn't tarnish, so if you clean your connectors regularly (or even rewire things once in a while), non-gold connectors are technically slightly better.

So what you really meant is "Gold connectors are better for lazy people." :-D

DeoxIt is your friend....

good wire article (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16025222)

Re:$2000 DVD Players (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16025248)

Sometimes top shelf hardware IS worth it. While I'm not big on watching the teevee I do like music. Let me tell you, a few hundred dollars for a good set of headphones is well worth the cost and if you honestly think that a set of 40 dollar "headphones" (yeah, I am being a snob about it, thanks for asking) from Best Buy can take on a good set of (real) Sennheisers just bring it on... : )
 
Seriously, I can't speak for the video crowd but I have never felt bad about putting out the additional cash for good headphones. they sound better, they last longer and components are replaceable. This makes all the difference for me and for hundreds of thousands of "headphones only" music snobs all over the world.

Re:$2000 DVD Players (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16025282)

Actually, no. While audio is very subjective, video is objective. It can be measured against an absolute standard, and there are people who are willing to pay to have a system capable of meeting that standard exactly. Most videophiles do NOT purchase expensive cables, use odd substances in between connections, and purchase odd little tweaks to improve the quality. Instead, they purchase equipment capable of reproducing the source material as perfectly as possible, and then pay a technicial to adjust that equipment to meet the objective, measurable standards.

So no, these are NOT the same people.

Re:$2000 DVD Players (1)

Malc (1751) | about 8 years ago | (#16025379)

I didn't even know that you could buy a $2000 DVD player. Even the new HD DVD & BD players cost less than half that.

Except for all the fan noise (4, Insightful)

GodWasAnAlien (206300) | about 8 years ago | (#16024786)

If you are really looking for a multimedia experience, and audio/video quality is important, the first step is getting rid of all the fans.

All that is needed is a "blank multimedia" box for $200, that has DVI/HDMI and S/PDIF, with no moving parts except for the DVD drive.

Then you plop in the Open???Player (vlc based?) CD/DVD/USB and it updates the internal flash to create/update your player to the latest codecs. Or perhaps internal flash is not needed, and the root disc is USB flash.

Re:Except for all the fan noise (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16025076)

You don't even need to get rid of the fans... A quiet 120mm front and back, baffle the intake and exhaust, use stinger or dynamat in the inside of the case, rubber grommits / standoffs on the HD's and optical drives... Or better yet watercooling kits are getting to the price where even if the fans are noisy you could take them off switch to pure liquid cooling and have it silent, better than stock cooling, and much better performance and still a fraction of the $2k for the single purpose standalone players...

Even better when you think of when WiFi evolves (802.11N?? or the new Samsung 4G Wifi) with enough guaranteed bandwidth to stream HD, the case for a Media PC is only strengthened...

Practicality (4, Insightful)

COMON$ (806135) | about 8 years ago | (#16024799)

Why buy expensive when you can build for cheaper? Wow, never heard that question before.

Seriously people, if you have the cash for a 2K 1K or even a $500 player you probably dont feel like building one. There are an enourmous amound of benefits to getting a pre-built expensive DVD player, reliability being just one factor.

Before I get a lot of posts telling my of the uptime and reliability of their MythTV box, dont forget that you have to build the thing or hire someone to build it for you if your are not a Linux Geek. Even with Media Center Edition you are still dumping 1300 into hardware and inviting a ton of issues into your multimedia system. Unless of course you love hearing that windows error Dong in full Dolby surround sound.

Seriously... (2, Insightful)

Gruneun (261463) | about 8 years ago | (#16025048)

I don't know why everyone buys these fancy toasters! Especially, those people who already have a radiator on the back of their fridge that gets plenty hot. For less than $20, you can make a plywood platform that allows your fridge to swivel and then attach a wire bracket to hold the bread against it. If you're the least bit technical, you could rig a digital thermometer to the serial port on an old 486 motherboard (who doesn't have twelve of these sitting in a closet?) to email or page you when the toast is ready. Can those fancy toasters do that?

At some point, everyone draws a line between what's a good homebrew project and what's worth buying. For each person, the line is different. Most people who want to watch a movie are still going to go with the easy, reliable, warrantied, and polished product for that specific purpose.

Re:Practicality (2, Insightful)

eddy (18759) | about 8 years ago | (#16025079)

Seriously people, if you have the cash for a 2K 1K or even a $500 player you probably dont feel like building one.

If you pay $2000 for a standalone DVD-player you probably DO expect it to be competitive in image quality though.

Re:Practicality (1)

Gr8Apes (679165) | about 8 years ago | (#16025099)

You make good points on all accounts regarding money, ease, etc. However, take into account Tivo's commercial popups, auto-downloading, etc, Dish Network's current patent issues (w/ Tivo) and forced patch updates, DirecTV's forced patch updates and just general limitations of all purchased DVRs in one way or another including the FTC's ever threatening Broadcast Flag requirement, and building your own suddenly becomes more interesting.

I'm about to embark on the media center PC DIY build cycle. Perhaps I'll document (wait, I've got to be a geek) ^H^H^Hblog about it.

Not a valid comparison for a typical family (5, Insightful)

ClosedSource (238333) | about 8 years ago | (#16024800)

"We would go as far as to say to get rid of your DVD player and connect a media centre PC to your LCD television!'"

If you're single and live studio apartment, this might make good economic sense if you really need high end graphics. You can just connect the PC to the TV and continue to use the PC for other purposes.

But in a typical family environment that media centre PC will have to be dedicated to entertainment purposes, so the real price comparison is the cost of the media PC + the graphics card vs. the high end DVD player. Then the comparison doesn't turn out to be that one-sided.

Re:Not a valid comparison for a typical family (3, Insightful)

Chazmyrr (145612) | about 8 years ago | (#16024951)

If you're cheap like I am, the comparison is extremely one-sided the other way. $50 DVD player vs. $500 media PC.

Re:Not a valid comparison for a typical family (1)

evilviper (135110) | about 8 years ago | (#16024971)

so the real price comparison is the cost of the media PC + the graphics card vs. the high end DVD player.

Gee... A $300 computer vs. a $4000 high-end DVD player...

You're right, it's a much tougher call that way. Particularly since the computer can play digital videos of any kind, from any source, and not just DVDs.

Re:Not a valid comparison for a typical family (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16024989)

Actually, it's still pretty one sided. I built my media center PC for around $100. Granted, the parts were mostly refurbs off NewEgg, but still, that plus the roughly 3 hours I spent putting it together and installing software (Debian with a very specialized package selection just cuz I like to do things the hard way) is a hell of a lot cheaper than a $250 DVD player, and that'd be the low end of high end price tags. As for the LCD TV, you need that with the high end DVD player to if you actually want to take advantage of it.

Er, duh? (-1, Troll)

Macthorpe (960048) | about 8 years ago | (#16024815)

Am I the only one who thinks this isn't news?

video card ad (1)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | about 8 years ago | (#16024845)

our $200 video card is better then $2000 DVD player*

* dvd drive and computer not included.

Re:video card ad (1)

plague3106 (71849) | about 8 years ago | (#16024915)

Well, I just got an AMD X2 3800+, MB and 1GB ram for ~$400. Add a case and dvd drive, maybe up to $450 now. So $650 for a media pc with better quality than a $2000 dvd player seems to make sense to me..

But that means using a media center PC (2, Interesting)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | about 8 years ago | (#16024837)

I am not very impressed with the usability of any media center PC that I have used, regardless of OS. A good DVD player just works, doesn't crash, doesn't have fans and doesn't take more than a few seconds to start spinning a disc from power on. Doing that with an HTPC is not easy. HTPCs have their strengths but I'm not convinced that ease of setup and usability are among them.

Eh. (2, Interesting)

TubeSteak (669689) | about 8 years ago | (#16024864)

This is all moot anyways. Most people aren't going to buy a media PC for a significantly higher cost than a DVD player. Mine costs 60 bucks and will play divx/xvid.

This test would have been a bit more relevant if they had told us what hardware the PC was using and/or had tested older graphics cards. I'd consider doing this with an old computer, but wouldn't shell out new money on it.

Re:Eh. (3, Informative)

mongre26 (999481) | about 8 years ago | (#16025055)

No of course they aren't if a media PC just played DVD players, but it does a whole lot more than that doesn't it?

First of all I assume that you have a 480i TV, or if you are lucky a 480p CRT. If that is all you have for a display of course the $60 is plenty for a DVD player. In fact if all you have is an standard TV then I would say you over paid for that DVD player. Amazon has players with decent features at less than $30.

However if you have a 720p 42-60in Plasma/LCD/DLP or a 1080p 60in+ then you will probably not be happy with that $60 DVD player. You will either want to get an upconverting DVD player that can display at least 720p with a decent output or build a Media PC. Oppo makes a decent upconverting player that competes with much more expensive players for less than $200 and even has a nice remote. You can build a media PC that also does the upconverting and de-interlacing for you and does it for DVDs and recorded TV programs making even regular old standard TV better for probably $300 or so. Given that the vast majority of Cable is still standard TV upconverting and de-interlacing can help make it look a lot better. In essence you get more for your cable subscription then you would otherwise. So the price of the media PC has to be factored into the overall improvement in image quality you can get.

So to recap the features of a Media PC over a DVD player $30-$2000.

- Store TV on hard disks for later time shifted viewing, commercial skipping and other nice features

- User upgradeable storage

- Remote file server support so you can store the disks in another room (MythTV)

- Upconvert and de-interlace DVD content for display on HDTV quality screens and do so better than dedicated players with inexpensive NVIDIA or ATI cards

- Upconvert and de-interlace regular SDTV and recorded content

- Provide PC like features like instant weather, web browsing, weeks of TV schedules, MP3 player with visualizer output to the TV, etc...

- Wireless serving of files to other devices

A Media PC is a very cost effective solution to provide a whole host of services to you TV viewing. If you are also in a position to have the knowhow to deploy a complex MythTV setup even better. Labor is cost of course but being a geek, and better yet a linux geek does have its advantages...

"Conclusion" (4, Interesting)

eddy (18759) | about 8 years ago | (#16024869)

"Final scores

The total score for nVidia ends up being 93, where the total ATI score is 118. Both scores [hometheaterblog.com] [ed.] are extremely high, considering the score of the most best performing DVD player we tested (the Marantz DV6600) was only 63. The majority of the standalone players we used did not score more than 40 points in the test. The most expensive ones, the Denon DVD-3910 and Marantz DV9600 scored only 58 and 61 points.

For European readers the cadence tests are not of real importance, so we only take the first eight tests into consideration. The score then is slightly different, nVidia scored 58 in these tests, where as ATI scored 53. A pretty close result, and the slight advantage for nVidia is mainly due to the excellent PureVideo performance in the detail tests.

[score matrix breakdown omitted]"

Re:"Conclusion" (2, Funny)

xigxag (167441) | about 8 years ago | (#16024947)

Final scores

Thanks. I tried to RTFA, but "Slashdot and Readers Crush Low-End Website."

List of players + final scores. (2, Informative)

eddy (18759) | about 8 years ago | (#16024991)

Might aswell as I have the page up...

Denon DVD-1920 (58)
Denon DVD-3910 (58)
Marantz DV6600 (63)
Marantz DV9600 (61)
Panasonic DVD-S97 (68)
Philips DVP 5900 (35)
Philips DVP 9000S (53)
Pioneer DV-989AVi (59)
Samsung DVD-HD850 (30)
Samsung DVD-HD950 (30)
Sony DVP-NS92V (35)
Yamaha DVD-S2500 (53)

Hope I matched those up right...

Non-Errata. (1)

eddy (18759) | about 8 years ago | (#16025023)

Please note that the score for Panasonic DVD-S97, 68, is actually correct as per their table, even if the text says "the score of the most best performing DVD player we tested (the Marantz DV6600) was only 63". Don't shoot the messenger.

Re:"Conclusion" (1)

Zephyr14z (907494) | about 8 years ago | (#16025375)

"most best performing" Who writes these things anyways?

De-interlacing tests? (DCDi?) (1)

zalas (682627) | about 8 years ago | (#16025429)

Other than the cadence section, I didn't really find any direct comparisons of de-interlacing quality from the review. One feature that's particularly interesting on high-end stand-alone DVD players is DCDi, which is some nice looking adaptive de-interlacing method. It looks like nVidia's PureVideo has some smart de-interlacing method in its decoder, but how does that compare to DCDi?

What about linux? (1)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | about 8 years ago | (#16024870)

Is any of this fancy pants video processing capability usuable under linux? It had better be, after all the PR about how nvidia's drivers share around 98% of their code between the windows and linux versions.

I've had enough problems with bugs in their linux drivers (demonstrably broken dual-channel dvi configuration), that I could have fixed with access to source code, that I expect something for having to put up with their BS. If they can't even make the video processing available under linux, I might as well stick with the old ATI cards which do have fully open driver source.

Re:What about linux? (1)

btpier (587890) | about 8 years ago | (#16024998)

Yeah, if I could only get a decent modeline to work from my from Nvidia 6600 to my HD Sony KV-30HS420 TV, I'd be a very happy camper. I've tried the powerstrip route to no avail. It just shouldn't be this hard to get a good looking HD Widescreen output under linux.

Re:What about linux? (1)

PenGun (794213) | about 8 years ago | (#16025091)

Yup xvmc works well. Hardware decoding a HD mpeg2 is very good. The cleanest picture I've seen yet.

      PenGun'
    Do What Now ??? ... Standards and Practices !

Re:What about linux? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16025183)


Is any of this fancy pants video processing capability usuable under linux? It had better be, after all the PR about how nvidia's drivers share around 98% of their code between the windows and linux versions.


Sure. Just compile and install mplayer (http://mplayerhq.hu/ [mplayerhq.hu] ) and shoot :

mplayer -sws 9 -fs -zoom -vf pp=unsharp=l:c:7x7:5/denoise3d=12:12:12 -ac hwac3 dvd://

GLX crashes X.org (1)

CrazedWalrus (901897) | about 8 years ago | (#16025296)

I've generally been really happy with nVidia, but now the GLX extension reliably crashes X.org. I have to either disable it or use 'blank screensaver', because my screensaver kills my session every time I leave my computer for a few minutes. It's a newish card (I forget the model right now, but it's got 256MB, if that helps) in a laptop, so maybe that's the cause. I dunno.

Otherwise, it works great. Twinview, digital vibrance, CRT detection so it does the right thing in docked/undocked situations, etc. Just the GLX issue.

DVR (1)

grumpyman (849537) | about 8 years ago | (#16024872)

We would go as far as to say to get rid of your DVD player and connect a media centre PC to your LCD television!'


There are actually a lot of people using PC as DVR for the longest time... nothing's surprising really.

Slashdotted already (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16024880)

Maybe they should use some high powered nVidia and ATI graphics cards to help serve up the webpage.
Hell, use some of those high-end DVD players if it will help.

Really? (0, Troll)

bombshelter13 (786671) | about 8 years ago | (#16024899)

Let me be the first to say 'No shit, Sherlock'.

This plus cheap DVD isoification? (1)

otis wildflower (4889) | about 8 years ago | (#16024907)

I wonder how cost-effective at this point it would be to simply store DVDs lock stock and barrel on drive arrays and view them on HTPCs. I want the best possible image and all menus and features of DVD, not just rips.

And I also wonder if the Sony XL1B2 [engadget.com] Firewire changer is fully-supported in Linux? Cuz this would be a no-brainer sale for me if I could hook it up to a Myth box...

slashdotted (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16024918)

anyone have a mirror?

It is amazing... (2, Insightful)

RafaelGCPP (922041) | about 8 years ago | (#16024972)

It is amazing how someone can lose time doing such research!

Hindsight is 20/20! There is no research on well-known facts!!

Facts:

1) Video processors in PCs are usually much more powerful, even when compared to the high-end video equipments
2) The CPU is also much more powerful, as a typical consumer product uses a simpler one, typically an ARM processor
3) Most VGA monitors and panels in the market today have higher resolution and finer pitch than most consumer TV sets, even high-end...

Of course there are some exceptions (probably the most expensive ones), but it is much more likely to have a better image quality to price ratio on the PC than using consumer equipment.

Re:It is amazing... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16025356)

As for your point 3, hasn't that been the case for about 15 years? Maybe even longer - I'm only 25...
Basically, VGA monitors were much better than the TVs in the early 90s, XGA monitors better than a high-end late 90s widescreen, and a typical modern 1280x1024 LCD or CRT is better than most TVs now, even many HDTVs, although some TVs are LCD monitors now. 1080p is hard to beat, of course, but true 1080p TVs are rare.

XBMC (1)

wesw02 (846056) | about 8 years ago | (#16024974)

I still have not found anything that will beat an XBox with Xbox Media Center (URL:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/XBMC) and an HDTV cable upgrade.

DVMobile? (0)

Doc Ruby (173196) | about 8 years ago | (#16025002)

With 16GB USB sticks that can hold at least 2 movies, we can walk up to most PCs without even needing a DVD player on them for basic playback. But what's the highest end USB TV decoder we can carry to friends' houses, without carrying the delicate/bulky PC that they already have?

What about interlacing? (1)

rsilvergun (571051) | about 8 years ago | (#16025014)

Haven't tried these cards yet (too poor :) ), but most dvd players I've used are pretty lousy at deinterlacing (xine wasn't too bad, but installing linux is more work than I want to do right now).

I have RTFA (3, Insightful)

nkrgovic (311833) | about 8 years ago | (#16025068)

and what it never mentions is how did they connect those DVD players to the TV. The simple chinese junk costing under 100$ are usually connected via a composite, or an S-Video cable at best. Now the difference in the quality of signal you can get through a composite cable and a higher-end component or HDMI connection is rather large. If they connected the PC's using VGA or DVI and the players using a cheap composite cable - well, no wonder the players sucked. You just can't transfer that kind of information through a single wire.

  On a side note, the other reason most people use component players is their sound. A good Hi-Fi player has a much higher quality sound than any PC. You can probably get close to the quality of the sound of a under-1K$ player wtih a great sound for a PC, but let's face it: latest generation video card + high end sound + the PC... There is no much price difference. And that PC still doesn't play SACD.

Re:I have RTFA (1)

orangeaaron (614222) | about 8 years ago | (#16025169)

Since my LCD screen is hooked up to both my computer and DVD player, I have noticed that the video quality is much better coming out of the computer. Can't notice it from teh couch, but from a few feet away it is noticeable. But I agree on teh sound issue. The cost to get decent sound out of a computer into surround is still expensive and sometimes a pain. A DVD player comes withit built in, all controlable from a single remote, and won't crash. And I've never had a DVD player pop up an instant message, chirp for a new email, or start a virus scan and interrupt me in the middle of a movie.

Glad to hear it (1, Informative)

aaronmarks (873211) | about 8 years ago | (#16025072)

I've had my PC hooked up to my HDTV ever since PureVideo was released. I went right out and bought two 6600GT's as fast as I could (have since upgrade due to one of the 6600GT's going bad). I couldn't be happier with the DVD output, but I hate having to start up my computer just to watch a DVD some time. You have to run Windows (I normally use Unix based computers), and it takes almost 5 minutes to boot sometimes, depending on what new Anti-Virus, Spyware, System updates there are, and also what other programs decide to run at boot. I still have these troubles even though I have a top-of-the-line PC running Media Center 2005. I'm really waiting for Apple to release a Mac mini CoreDuo with PureVideo and then I'll gladly be able to format my current media center!

Slightly off topic question (2, Interesting)

HangingChad (677530) | about 8 years ago | (#16025082)

I wonder what would happen if a manufacturer created a video card and just let the community write open source software and drivers for it? Save the company the expense of writing the drivers and let the community develop a large potential market for them.

It would seem to have the added advantage of forcing the others to support Linux, but I'm betting that open source drivers would be more widely received, even if the proprietary drivers were better. Just seems that would be a good way to sell more video cards.

Re:Slightly off topic question (2, Informative)

qaffle (264280) | about 8 years ago | (#16025306)

There's no reason you can't do this with any card. Just because "true" drivers exist doesn't mean you couldn't write your own. But its a PITA to do this, so you'd at least want information on the cards control codes and what not (an API type manual), unless you want to reverse engineer these.

Even with a supportive vendor, getting drivers built by "the community" is slow; someone sitting in their room fiddling with a card on the weekends is going to take a lot longer (and probably do a worse job) then a guy whose job it is to develop to do this (and a guy that has the people who built the card 2 doors down).

Went that way, switched back (3, Insightful)

dindi (78034) | about 8 years ago | (#16025095)

I figured, that my nvidia made a lot cleaner and higher resolution image than my $200 DVD player, even on my old 800x600 epson projector, but then I met the disturbing truth:

-my wife hated to mess around with my pc just to watch a disc
-i did not find a decent remote control
-playback software was a lot more complicated than the one the DVD player has
- problems started after a driver upgrade (spdif sound disappeared on my ASUS A8n SLI after installing recent NFORCE drivers) ...

I mean these are mostly problems for my family, I am ok, watching with a wireless keyboard, and enjoying the better quality, but for everyone else it is just awkward ...

Yes, i watched my high bit DVDs, and my matrix collection (at least eyecandy parts) on it and was happy, but for everyday use, it was just a pain ....
especially, bc that is my gaming rig as well, so if my wife wanted to watch a chick-flick, while I wanted to shoot at people online, a clash happened :(

Re:Went that way, switched back (1)

karnal (22275) | about 8 years ago | (#16025283)

- problems started after a driver upgrade (spdif sound disappeared on my ASUS A8n SLI after installing recent NFORCE drivers) ...

Had the same thing happen to me on my Sagetv box. Did a reload of the OS at one point, but didn't use the drivers (for sound) off of the CD. The drivers on their site for the SPDIF out will only give you 2ch sound, no matter what the source. The drivers on the included motherboard CD will put out a Dolby Digital 5ch signal for every source (including 2ch). This doesn't mean they're doing any goofy sound-matrixing to make your 2ch stuff come out 5 speakers, but it does seem that this driver is necessary to get the Dolby Digital encoding off of the board.

Hope that helps...

Why no purely software decoders? (4, Interesting)

MrNemesis (587188) | about 8 years ago | (#16025108)

Why no reviews of any of the many myriad MPEG2 decoders out there? It's like they're saying that the only way you can get super high quality DVD playback is to use a modern GFX card and a specialist decoder library.

My MythTV system uses Xine to play DVD's via an nVidia 6150 chipset straight into the DVI input on my TV. It uses XVMC motion compensation to cut down on CPU usage (not that MPEG2 decoding and filtering uses much CPU at all these days - my AMD64 3500 sits at 1GHz and uses about 15-25% CPU playing back a DVD with postprocessing activated), and the quality blows anything else I've seen out of the water. Similarly, using ffdshow on my workstation in windows mode results in a really good picture.

If you ask me, most people will be more than happy with the default decoder that came with PowerDVD or what have you. It seems silly to do a "PC's vs. DVD players" comparison and leave out what 80& of people are using. Are there any other MPEG2 decoder reviews around?

Future features of Graphic Cards.... (2, Funny)

ZeroExistenZ (721849) | about 8 years ago | (#16025160)

I can see it now; "All in one graphic card. Now with easy to attach wheels to vacuum-clean other parts of your house too!"

Bleeding edge discovery... (1)

svunt (916464) | about 8 years ago | (#16025206)

We would go as far as to say to get rid of your DVD player and connect a media centre PC to your LCD television!
Hey article, 2001 called, it wants its timely advice back!

Frame rate issues kill this though... (4, Informative)

An Ominous Cow Erred (28892) | about 8 years ago | (#16025234)

The big problem is that the video output from these consumer video card devices is never synced properly to the source video rate. The "cadence" tests in this article are worthless because no encoding-based pulldown is happening since it's being rendered progressively. The pulldown that's happening instead is taking the progressive source (or god forbid the interlaced source) and displaying it on whatever frame rate your display happens to be set to.

Working with film, this means 24fps. If your display is 70fps, 75fps, etc. that means some ugly pulldown is in store.

What gets even worse, however, is if you use the video output feature of your card in a HTPC setup -- you wind up having it go through ANOTHER PULLDOWN to 29.97fps (NTSC) or 25fps (PAL) FROM THE PULLDOWN YOU DID BEFORE. Even worse it's resampled and scaled for this output.

This is pretty apparent in pans in movies and such -- the pans are never quite smooth exactly.

Also since sound and video are usually totally unsynced subsystems in a HTPC, the audio is often slightly out of sync with the video. This causes an occasional audio or video skip (depending on what the playback software recognizes as canonical sync). For short clips this usually doesn't happen, but the skip will often happen over the course of a movie. If it's syncing to audio, the frameskip/delay is usually not noticeable because it gets lost in all the pulldown issues mentioned earlier.

While it's possible to make a HTPC setup that syncs the video properly to avoid these issues, I've never seen a HTPC setup do it right. I've seen embedded Linux and WinCE devices do it correctly, using custom code to ensure proper video syncing.

Standalone DVD players, even most cheap ones, get everything synced properly to a reference pulldown (29.97 or 25 fps, progressive if supported). Framerate and audio sync is always correct, to the nearest level capable of the pulldown.

It's a shame, because modern LCD/Plasma displays with digital inputs should theoretically be able to handle real 24fps input for film sources, for instance, which is something current DVD players don't do. Try getting your HTPC to output 24Hz and getting your media player, going through all the video and audio APIs of your OS, to sync every frame and every audio sample exactly to it. =P It simply can't be done -- you have to code to the metal.

(In studio environments video editing PCs actually have professional video/audio cards that have custom APIs and synced internal clocks to be able to ensure perfect framerates and audio sync and to make sure playback is timed properly on them. I know someone who's built themselves a HTPC with gear like this and it works great.)

Summary for the comments (2, Informative)

mongre26 (999481) | about 8 years ago | (#16025236)

Here is what I am reading.

- $2000 is way to much to spend on a standalone DVD player. I think we can all agree on that, especially in light of this article

- For many people a $35 DVD player is plenty. People that spent $60, sorry you spent too much if all you got was 480p output, but maybe your player will last longer though, but does it really matter if the player lasts for 18 months vs 3 years if it costs you twice as much.

- For those of us with Plasman/LCD/DLP/etc HDTV displays with HDMI or DVI inputs this article is of great interest to us. Every time we turn on our TV there is upconverting going on. If we are watching a DVD then it is either the TV or the DVD player that de-interlaces and upconverts. If we watch SDTV it is either the TV or the Media PC that upconverts. Unfortunately even more expensive TVs do not do the best upconverting, and can often introduce delay in the video image that effects the audio sync if you use an external audio device, like a reciever. So for those people the fact that plain old $60 NVIDIA video cards (with passive coolers or small fans) can deliver very high quality de-interlacers and upconverting this is very interesting. Espcially to those of us with, or planning to build Media PCs.

That is to say if you don't got the display to make this matter then of course it does not matter, but given the wealth of features in a Media PC this added bonus of superb video output is just one more reason to build one, assuming you have the know how. Being a geek does have its priviliges you know.

How about SACD support? (1)

adenied (120700) | about 8 years ago | (#16025346)

A lot of the other comments cover reasons why using a PC might not be the best even if the video quality is superior. One thing I want to add is SACD support. My $500 Denon DVD player will play SACDs in addition to all the various DVD things, progressive scan output, etc. I haven't found anything PC or Mac based that will do this. MLP too, but that's less of a concern.

Let me be the first to say... (1)

Evil Shabazz (937088) | about 8 years ago | (#16025428)

Duh.

A PC is not worth the effort... (1)

dtjohnson (102237) | about 8 years ago | (#16025447)

I bought a $50 DVD player at Costco that does a great job. A "Media Center PC" means a Windows PC to play the DVD (for most people). Those graphics would have to be damned good to make anyone want to screw around with any PC running any version of Windows just to play a DVD. Never mind the hardware cost, or even the M$ software cost. No, the real cost of the system would be the time with updates, disk management, hardware updates, software updates, activation crap, spyware, viruses, scripting agents, etc. etc. I can imagine someone hooking up the MPC as a novelty for a short amount of time but then leaving it turned off in the corner after a while when the MPC needed whatever, and just using the DVD player. There's no way Microsoft could ever make Windows into powerful software that any normal person would want to use every day for something like playing DVDs, watching TV or keeping the beer cold. Using your PC to watch TV might work and it's cute, but TV sales are not suffering any.

It's inevitable that digital equipment will integrate more entertainment and household functions but it will never happen with anything called 'Windows' produced by any company named 'Microsoft.' They've been milking the Windows/Office cash cow for so long that they're unable to do anything else. For those kinds of devices to take off, they'll have to support open standards and protocols, be offered by several different large companies, and be simple and inexpensive to use. Maybe Sony, Nintendo, Toshiba, Panasonic, or HP could be players. Microsoft...no way.
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