Going HD on the PC

I’m new to all this HD stuff. I was wondering what I would need if I were to build a new PC, what components I would need to make it able to view HD content on the PC.

I guess the newest and most different aspect for me is the whole HDCP thing. I understand the newest Slysoft AnyDVD (HD version) circumvents this to some degree, but I’m still wondering what base hardware I’m going to need. As far as I understand it, I at least need:

LCD monitor capable of 1920x1080 with HDMI input
PCI-E video card with HDMI output
BD-ROM drive
suitable software such as Cyberlink PowerDVD

Is this it? Would I need more or less than that? Also, are there any PC drives out there capable of reading both Blu-ray and HDDVD? I don’t need to be able to burn anything yet, just read.

Think thats about it.

You could get a combi drive like the LG BR / HDDVD one (GGC-H20L is a BD / HDDVD reader, GGW-H20L is a HDDVD reader and BD reader & writer) as that covers both bases (but Toshiba has just pulled out of HDDVD so the format is now expected to die out, the LG ist still cheaper than most BD only drives though and you can buy all the cheap HDDVD films when they go clearence).

If you go for a graphics card that supports HDCP and does full offloading of BD / HDDVD then you can get away with a low speed and cool running CPU. I have an old Athlon AM2 4200 chip and an ATi HD3470 graphics card, this has no problems playing back 1080P blueray discs with only 15% cpu usage. Without the HD3470 I can only play back at 720P and sometimes it stutters.

Look for drives that bundle PowerDVD with them (the LG has a basic version that outputs to 2 channel or SPDIF interface, good enough for a basic system).

Most flat pannels now come with built in HDCP and all modern graphics cards have it built in as well so that should not be an issue. There is currently a problem with AnyDVD playing back some BlueRay discs that are protected by a feature called BR+ (or its BD+, cant remember). If PowerDVD finds a BR+ enabled disc that is not AACS encrypted (AnyDVD removes the encryption) then playback fails. Easy fix is to just disable AnyDVD if you come across the problem until its fixed (as they are bound to do).

If you are building a PC from scratch purely for HTPC use then I would hold off fora short while. The BR / HDDVD fiaco will have finally sorted itself out and new motherboards will be along that support integrated graphics powerfull enough to playback HDDVD and BD without using a seperate graphics card. Look out for ATi chipsets from the 790 series and nVidia from the 8000 series, both are expected by the end of March, then you will just need HDD, optical drive, some RAM and a case to make a full system

Hope that helps

Yeah I was planning on building it entirely from scratch and put it together myself like I did with this PC (Intel P4) a few years ago. That info was really helpful, thanks. As for the onboard video, I’d almost always want to go with a video card anyway since I imagine I will be playing games on it.

A budget HTPC can be made for around 400-500 USD without monitor.

Just be sure that you buy a HDPC compliant video card and monitor.

If you plan to put the monitor on your desk, I think 24-32" LCD is pretty good size but it will cost you. DVI and/or HDMI inputs are fine since you are able to connect from your video card with a cheap DVI to HDMI adapter and most video card include the adapter.

If you plan to put the monitor in your living room with the HTPC besides your home theater (or from another room), I would suggest 42" or higher LCD HDTV. Plasma gives you better picture but it’s not very good for static images from your PC.

You can post the parts you plan to buy so our knowledgable members can give comments.

Hypothetically, would this work for the time being?

I got an older PC (P4 2.8 GHz Northwood) and I was thinking of slapping a PCI video card in there (not PCI-E, but PCI, since I’m already using my AGP slot) and hooking up another monitor to that card via DVI-D. Then, using AnyDVD + BD-ROM drive. Sound like it would work?

Then, I could use the same monitor on my HTPC if I get a new PC for that purpose. Only thing I’m worried about is I know my PC can handle 720p content encoded with AVC. Is it likely able to handle 1080p?

Don’t think PCI slot has the bandwidth to handle full HD video (but have never tried it). I dont know of any PCI cards that can offload the processing of the video either so you would be out of luck with that.