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Is video card required for HTPC?

danik56

Member
Feb 23, 2014
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Currently I'm using the on board intel HD graphics connected via HDMI
to Panasonic 50PV80. CPU is G3250.
I wonder if a decent video card will improve the image quality when streaming MKV content.
I'm not so happy with image quality at this point.
 

poofyhairguy

Lifer
Nov 20, 2005
14,612
315
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That should be doing a pretty good job. I mean, can you do better? Yes, a nice AMD or Nvidia card doing post-processing can look better. But by default that should look pretty good with the right software.
 

danik56

Member
Feb 23, 2014
57
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16
I have a few years old streamer based on Sigma Design SMP8635 MIPS 300MHz CPU and when connected to same TV the MKV playback is much better.
I have been using the XBMC software to playback MKV files on the HTPC.
Should I try different software?
 

poofyhairguy

Lifer
Nov 20, 2005
14,612
315
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Ah yes, the Sigmas had a good picture quality. Did you try turning on XBMC's post processing? Might be worth trying MadVR.
 

danik56

Member
Feb 23, 2014
57
0
16
XBMC post processing means turning off the pass-through option or that is for audio output only ?
 
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danik56

Member
Feb 23, 2014
57
0
16
What is the difference between the internal GPU in the G3250 and the one in I3/I5 processors ?
I will try to see if a different player would give better playback quality.
 

fastman

Golden Member
Oct 9, 1999
1,514
2
81
I have an older I3 with an HD2000 and is the minimum I believe for good play back. It plays everything I throw it with no problems.

What are you using to view the content? Mine is a Samsung Plasma Samsung PN64D8000, its awesome with good content sent through B-Ray.
 

danik56

Member
Feb 23, 2014
57
0
16
The HTPC is connected via HDMI to Pioneer VSX-919 receiver and from there to Panasonic TH-50PV80 plasma.
When I play HD content (mostly MKV/720P) from a local HD, the image quality is not as good as with an older IOBOX 100HD streamer. not big difference but still.
I'll try over the weekend to experiment with other players and maybe get better results.
 

fastman

Golden Member
Oct 9, 1999
1,514
2
81
Your picture will depend greatly on the source. Personal preference but I only use 1080 downloads and supposedly the Blu-Ray player up-converts it too. To what, I don't know but I can see a difference.
 

jkauff

Senior member
Oct 4, 2012
584
13
81
madVR is IMO the best video renderer available. To get the most out of madVR, though, you will need a discrete graphics card. I use a GTX770, and even that is not powerful enough to use all the madVR options. The picture quality, however, is superb compared to the Intel HD4600 that comes with my i7-4790K CPU, even on a computer monitor.

The latest version of madVR, with the right settings and hardware, can make SD quality videos look almost as good as Blu-rays. I have a hard time seeing the difference in quality between my old 3:10 To Yuma DVD rendered by madVR and my brand new Criterion Blu-ray disc of the same title.
 
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Maiyr

Member
Sep 3, 2008
117
1
81
madVR is IMO the best video renderer available.
I currently rip my DVD's, not sure what to call the format, but such that I am left with the VIDEO_TS folder. I then play that folder using XMBC, VLC, whatever. I have not yet started, but am about to start, doing the same type of rips of my Blurays and I was planning to play them in the same fashion.

When you say madVR is the best video renderer.... is what I am doing when I play my rips considered rendering? Or does rendering infer some other type of processing beyond simply playing the resultant ripped DVD/Blurays?

I ask as I am building an HTPC soon and was planning to use the "onboard" Intel HD4600 graphics that will come with my CPU. I do not however want to go to the expense of building the HTPC and then settle for less than ideal viewing. If I need to add a graphics card that is not an issue, but it will steer my mobo choice.

Thanks,

Maiyr
 

jkauff

Senior member
Oct 4, 2012
584
13
81
I currently rip my DVD's, not sure what to call the format, but such that I am left with the VIDEO_TS folder. I then play that folder using XMBC, VLC, whatever. I have not yet started, but am about to start, doing the same type of rips of my Blurays and I was planning to play them in the same fashion.

When you say madVR is the best video renderer.... is what I am doing when I play my rips considered rendering? Or does rendering infer some other type of processing beyond simply playing the resultant ripped DVD/Blurays?

I ask as I am building an HTPC soon and was planning to use the "onboard" Intel HD4600 graphics that will come with my CPU. I do not however want to go to the expense of building the HTPC and then settle for less than ideal viewing. If I need to add a graphics card that is not an issue, but it will steer my mobo choice.

Thanks,

Maiyr
The chain required to show a video is this: splitter -> decoder -> renderer -> player. VLC is all of those in one package. Some players, however, such as MPC-HC and Zoom Player, use 3rd party components in the chain. A popular combination is LAV Splitter, LAV Audio Decoder, LAV Video Decoder (all built into MPC-HC), and madVR.

VLC is very good at what it does, but you can get better results with the 3rd party filters. That requires some knowledge and some time spent with setup and tweaking, which you may not be willing to commit to. I'd suggest keeping it simple for now, and try out other players/filters when you get the time.

If you're building a compact, all-in-one type of HTPC, you won't have the option of adding a graphics card later. If size is not an issue, go with a motherboard that allows for future expansion.

EDIT: The XMBC DSPlayer can use LAV filters. I don't know if it supports madVR.
 
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poofyhairguy

Lifer
Nov 20, 2005
14,612
315
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When you say madVR is the best video renderer.... is what I am doing when I play my rips considered rendering? Or does rendering infer some other type of processing beyond simply playing the resultant ripped DVD/Blurays?
The second one. It does scaling and post processing to improve the source (either in quality or resolution or both). A well configured MadVR setup is as good as it gets, but you need a beefy GPU to pull it of (like not Intel).

With that said, I personally don't use it because I value a ten-foot interface more. But if you want top quality and you dont have a WAF factor to deal with that is the way to go.

Honestly if I had a 4k TV I would still do it, wife's ease of use be damned. The ONLY upscaled 1080p video that impressed me so far on a 4k TV was rendered with MadVR.
 

Maiyr

Member
Sep 3, 2008
117
1
81
Thanks for the very informative answers folks.

So let me ask this then. If I rip my Blurays into their respective "VIDEO_TS" folder structures and then use my HTPC with Intel HD4600 graphics running XBMC to play them back.... quality wise will they be at least as good as if I just used a stand alone Bluray player?

Would they be at least as good if I used a discrete graphics card?

Or is it not easily possible, using an HTPC, to get the quality a normal stand alone bluray player hooked directly to my TV will give me?

I'll download/install MadVR this weekend to see what it is all about.

Thanks,

Maiyr
 

Maiyr

Member
Sep 3, 2008
117
1
81
ugh.... so I have been looking at MPC-HC, MadVR, etc... Why did I go down the rabbit hole. :) I can see this will easily consume a month of my life now.

Maiyr
 

fuzzymath10

Senior member
Feb 17, 2010
520
2
81
I removed the HD 5750 from my living room pc to save power; I idle at around 30-35W now. The HD 2000 in my i5 2400 is good enough for mid quality madvr using the latest version. The older version was much slower but they must have optimized the code since the frame rendering times have come down a lot. It also helps to over clock the igp to around 1.4ghz.

Also install reclock so that 23.976fps video plays at 24fps and resample the audio to make up for the slightly faster playback rate because the igp doesnt do 23.976fps properly. This might break bitstreaming but I send pcm to my receiver and it's fine.
 

rbk123

Senior member
Aug 22, 2006
730
335
136
If I rip my Blurays into their respective "VIDEO_TS" folder structures and then use my HTPC with Intel HD4600 graphics running XBMC to play them back.... quality wise will they be at least as good as if I just used a stand alone Bluray player?
If you rip your Blurays, with no compression, to the resulting .M2TS files, they will be exactly the same quality as what is on the BR disk and you should lose no quality. They will be big, though - typically 30GB+.
 
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Maiyr

Member
Sep 3, 2008
117
1
81
Thank you rbk123. That is my only real concern. As long as I can view the m2ts files via my htpc with no realized loss of quality, when compared to using a stand alone bluray player, then I am happy.

Maiyr
 

jkauff

Senior member
Oct 4, 2012
584
13
81
Your HD4600 will play your ripped Blu-rays just fine, certainly with quality comparable to most dedicated Blu-ray players. If you feel like tweaking things, install the latest version of LAV Filters, set them up in DSPlayer in XBMC, and choose DXVA2 as your renderer.
 

poofyhairguy

Lifer
Nov 20, 2005
14,612
315
126
Also install reclock so that 23.976fps video plays at 24fps and resample the audio to make up for the slightly faster playback rate because the igp doesnt do 23.976fps properly. This might break bitstreaming but I send pcm to my receiver and it's fine.
Actually anyone with an Intel GPU from the Ivy generation or better shouldn't do that as they can do 23.976fps properly.
 

TheELF

Diamond Member
Dec 22, 2012
3,140
336
126
Do a search on google for your motherboard it could be that it is the motherboards fault,some just have lower quality ,could also be your hdmi cable.
 

Charlie98

Diamond Member
Nov 6, 2011
6,210
38
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Actually anyone with an Intel GPU from the Ivy generation or better shouldn't do that as they can do 23.976fps properly.
What about Sandy? I've got a G620 in my HTPC... :| coupled with the HD6450. Once in a while I'll have problems with audio lag... but not always.
 

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