Creating efficient and modern home entertainment system

We’ve just bought a new home, and we’re trying to set things up nicely.
I would love to have an integrated, converged home entertainment system that included a TV, a computer, and a stereo, linked in the following ways:

*I would like to easily be able to use the TV screen as my computer screen for web browsing, writing etc, when I felt like it.
*I would like to be able to download movies, TV shows, and other video/photo format material from the Internet, and then pipe them through directly and watch them on my TV without burning CD’s and transfering them to a DVD player.
*I would like to be able to listen to the audio component on my stereo while I watched the video on the TV. I would like to be able to play MP3/4’s on my stereo directly from my computer.
*I would like to have a wireless keyboard that could control all this, perhaps with a remote control or two to help out.
*I don’t want to spend more than necessary, or use difficult technology.

Is this feasible? If not, why not? If yes, what would you recommend?

Thanks in advance for any help.

I have this system now. I use a projector for internet, movies and Xbox 360. I use a wireless keyboard and mouse. My receiver system can switch between the required inputs of PC vs Xbox. All the video inputs to the receiver are HDMI and the sound inputs are via optical inputs.

I use an optima Hd70 projector which is 720p (Hidef). Ample for the next couple of years, by which time projector prices will be half again what they are now for the given performance. I use an Onkyo receiver. The xbox 360 elite supports HDMI. What you need from your PC (mine is a shuttle built by Van from Nationwide) is that is supports HDMI…since only very new pc’s have actual HDMI outputs, you can get a converter for the more common DVI output.

Remember the receiver is the central hub. Everything that plugs into it gets output to the projector and surround sound. Buy one that can support all your current and future inputs. (think about the physical connections and specifications).

If you want I can email you the layout plan I did before i put it together. Right now, it impresses anyone who walks into my place…

I’ve just rigged a 42" flat screen telly aND Wii to a new home theatre sound system, which doubles as my stereo. I’m just using the HDMI connection for sound and vid, are the optical connectors better than HDMI for sound?

The home theatre/stereo has a neat USB connector at the front so I can plug in my laptop (or iPod), which is connected to my main pute via wireless.

HG

Thanks for your helpful advice. If I want to go step by step, I assume I can buy a TV now that supports HDMI at 1050p and not worry about being able to integrate it as described when I get to that stage. Or are there other considerations when buying the TV?

I’ve just rigged a 42" flat screen telly aND Wii to a new home theatre sound system, which doubles as my stereo. I’m just using the HDMI connection for sound and vid, are the optical connectors better than HDMI for sound?

The home theatre/stereo has a neat USB connector at the front so I can plug in my laptop (or iPod), which is connected to my main pute via wireless.

HG[/quote]

Nope, optical is no better than HDMI, both are digital, although with high quality optical I suspect that in theory you can get a better range. Both systems support the carriage of 5.1 and 7.1 Dolby and the other one which I forget.

Overall though, for a home theatre system, HDMI is ideal especially since the number of cables are minimized. I use optical because my receiver is only HDMI version 1.1 which doesn’t support audio, only video (only version 1.2 and 1.3 support audio overlay). Although I’m pleased to say that the 720p video and surround sound coming out of the Xbox looks amazing. At times I can almost forget that there are its virtually impossible to get a date in this country. (except the ones that grow on palm trees, which are abundant)

“Supports HDMI at 1080p” can just mean that the TV accepts a 1080p signal but will down-scale it to match the display’s resolution. If you want to see a 1080p picture you need a Full-HD TV that has a resolution of 1920x1080 pixels.
Also note that on some TVs the HDMI port is video-only, i.e. no PC use, so check the specifications first. If the TV has a VGA (15-pin) or DVI input (most have either) check which resolutions and refresh rates are supported. Some Full-HD TVs may not accept 1920x1080 from a PC.

For the sharpest picture the TV must allow input signals that match the native/physical resolution of the display, i.e. 1920x1080 for a Full-HD TV. This is called 1:1 pixel mapping. You do not want to display a windows desktop in e.g. 800x600 on a Full-HD panel, it will look like crap.

Regarding the sound:
Just connect via optical or coaxial to your stereo if you have such inputs. If your stereo doesn’t have any digital input use the analog connection (probably requires an adapter cable from 3.5mm mini-stereo to 2x RCA). Or do you intend to buy an AV receiver/amplifier for surround sound?

The older 7.1 format are supported, but for the new 7.1 formats like Dolby Digital+, True-HD and DTS-HD you need HDMI 1.3
HDMI1.3 also includes a Lip-sync feature which is useful.

Thanks for further information. I am now much more confident about knowing which TV to buy. As for sound: A friend told me that I don’t need an actual stereo, as my new PC (yet to be purchased) will have a video card that has audio content processing abilities - including an interface window to modulate the sound- and that a 5.1 or 7.1 speaker system will have a bass unit with signal boosting abilities. Is there then any need for a separate ampliflier system? Sorry if this sounds wrong, but I’m a learner here. Cheers.

Ok, what you seems to want is not a stereo (2-channel) system but rather a surround sound system (5.1 or 7.1). You do need a separate amplifier system, either
a) a speaker system with built-in amplification that connects directly to the PC (usually via analog), like those cheap PC surround sound sets, or e.g. a Bose system (yuk!)
b) an AV amplifier / receiver plus 5 to 7 speakers and a subwoofer, in this case the PC and AV amp/receiver are connected digitally

Option b) would be better (more flexible and quality-wise) but also more expensive. You can also use the AV amp/receiver as a “hub” for other equipment you may have (stand-alone DVD or CD player, tape deck :wink: or whatever), like Tyc00n already mentioned.

This motherboard is all you need to begin with with regards to building a very nice HTPC. It has an HDMI output and onboard video chip (AMD/ATI) that has dedicated decoding of h.264 video streams (HD standard). It’s not expensive either.

http://www.gigabyte.com.tw/Products/Motherboard/Products_Overview.aspx?ProductID=2758

Pair it with a quad-core Phenom, 4 gigs of ram (cheap these days), and optionally throw in a extra ATI video card and set it up with Hybrid crossfire and you got a an excellent media center and a very capable computer. You probably don’t need a quad-core, but the price of the motherboard is so cheap, what the heck.

If you are an audiophile you can throw in a higher quality sound card, but for me personally, the on-board audio would definitely do the job. The audio is passed through the HDMI output. So there is no need for extra cables for sound and support DTS-HD. Just search around for speakers that support 7.1. Logitech or Bose would suit my needs, as again, I am not an audio-snob.

This board got raving reviews at TomsHardware.com and AnandTech.

Perhaps others on this board can give advice with regards to a good quality TV tuner card for cable. I am not familiar with the cable standards in Taiwan, but from what I have read, it is still mostly analog. But one that works well with Vista x64 would be best.

Other accessories to consider would be a remote control and wireless keyboard.

Just slightly OT, but where did you guys buy your home theater stuff?

I have a plasma, PS3 yet no stereo to go along with it. When I was stateside I was a little bit into the whole home theater thing and had a full configuration of receivers/amps/speakers/surrounds/sub but I don’t think I need something like that now. Heck, I don’t even know where to go shop for the stuff here in Taipei.

Any suggestions? I just want basic 5.1 surround for my DVDs and my video games =p without spending tons of money. I’m sure almost anything is better than the speakers in my TV.

Just southwest of the Taipei train station is a street with many audio shops. These shops are much cheaper than the fancier shops scattered through the rest of the city. You have to haggle with them though, especially if you are not Taiwanese.

Thank you! Do you have any street names?

rascal said:

"If the TV has a VGA (15-pin) or DVI input (most have either) check which resolutions and refresh rates are supported. Some Full-HD TVs may not accept 1920x1080 from a PC.

For the sharpest picture the TV must allow input signals that match the native/physical resolution of the display, i.e. 1920x1080 for a Full-HD TV. This is called 1:1 pixel mapping. You do not want to display a windows desktop in e.g. 800x600 on a Full-HD panel, it will look like crap. "

Do I need the very top quality HDTV to do what I want to do? It must be full HD or the computer image will look like crap? Or is there an “OK” solution to this? And what are the requirments for cables, ports, support abiliites, etc.? What are the specs for the cheapest machine that can do the job?

Hankou St. / Kaifeng St. / Zhonghua Rd. (northern end)

You don’t need a top quality one but you mentioned you wanted 1080p, so that gives you two choices:

a) A TV that accepts a 1080p signal but scales it down to its native resolution (e.g.1366x768), those are called HD Ready; you can still drive it directly at 1366x768 from a PC
b) A TV that has a native 1080p resolution (i.e. 1920x1080), those are called Full-HD; in this case you want to be able to drive it at 1920x1080 from a PC

If you go option a) it will be cheaper. Ensure that is has at least one HDMI input, preferrably version 1.3a, one VGA port and the usual YUV (component) and AV inputs. Check that the TV can do the 1:1 pixel mapping (see above), the compatible resolutions for each input (HDMI/VGA) should be mentioned in the user manual.

For a) you could take a look at Benq, I have the VH4243 which is HD ready, has a resolution of 1366x768 and can do the 1:1 pixel mapping. It sells for less than 40k now since it’s already an “old” model (no HDMI 1.3 though). I think they have a successor out (VH4246?) but I don’t know the differences; Full-HD versions are called SHxxyy (where xx stands for the size). Haven’t found the complete specs yet to confirm the 1:1 pixel mapping and HDMI version.

You may also find the following thread helpful though I haven’t updated it for a while: Rascal’s guide to big screen TVs (I wrote a brief review of the 4243 in there, too)

Just found this TV. It looks good, just let me know if there is anything I need to doublecheck before purchase.

It’s a BenQ, this year, SH3741. Full HDTV. The sales guy says it has 1:1 pixel mapping, but the PC would need a card to be used to drive it as a comp monitor. He says a HTPC would have such a card. It has 1080p, 1920 (x3) X1080 dots. Response speed 6ms. The guy said it accepts HDMI 1.3. It’s on sale for only 32,000NTD. The picture looks really sharp, and doesn’t distort when viewed from an angle.

We have put down a 1000NTD deposit but must wait until next week to close the deal.

Anything I should find out?

Cheers.

BUMP! Still need some input from techie folk before I buy the BenQ HDTV for my cool new dream-life home theater / work-play station.

So, I bought my new BenQ SH3741 Full-HD TV, having asked the sales guy if it this year’s model and if it supports HDMI 1.3. Yes, was the answer. But, I just found out after opening the box that it’s last years’s model and that it doesn’t support HDMI 1.3, it only does 1.2. How important is that? What will I be missing out on? What will the TV do with a 1.3 source? Is there some really cool stuff in 1.3 that I won’t be able to get? BTW, I’m not a gamer, so don’t care much about games. I’m more into TV and movies.

It won’t make a difference. The reason for this is that i’m pretty sure 1.2 vs 1.3 only makes a difference regarding sound. Since you won’t be using sound through your TV it won’t make a difference (even if you did, all the speakers are central so u can’t get the benefit of surround sound anyway).

Your sound should be output by a separate receiver (make sure it supports 1.3) to each of the speakers. Whilst the HDMI input to the TV will include sound and video, just turn the sound off, if that makes sense.

Either way, you’re not going to notice a difference.

You can find the HDMI specs and changes for each version here: High-Definition Multimedia Interface

As Tyc00n says it not having 1.3 will probably not affect you, so don’t worry.

Phew! :sunglasses: