My weekend with HDMI and Vista

For the past month or so, I’ve been assembling pieces for a major re-do of my home entertainment system. I’ve got a new Onkyo TX-SR505 receiver, a new small-form-factor PC, and a big pile of cables. I’m replacing a high-end (in 2000, when it was new) Pioneer Elite receiver that still works but is increasingly frustrating to use. I’m also getting rid of a Pioneer 300-disk CD/DVD changer that has been rendered completely obsolete by digital music and big hard disks.  The video card has an HDMI output, the receiver includes a pair of HDMI inputs with a single output, and our existing HDTV has a single HDMI input.

The 50-inch Sony Grand WEGA is only two years old and should have several years of usable life ahead of it. We have a passable (barely) mismatched set of 5.1 speakers. Those will get an upgrade sometime soon but for now we’ll live with what we’ve got. My goal is to remove the network and have a single storage/payback point for digital media, including ripped tracks, downloaded music, CDs, and DVDs.

It’s always a challenge getting the wiring for this sort of project working just right, especially when you throw things like HDMI into the mix. Oh, and the two years’ worth of dust that has accumulated in the cabinet will be a wonder to behold, I’m sure. I’m sneezing just thinking about it. This will actually be the first time I’ve tried to use a PC as a full-time living room component. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Anyone else done this recently? Any advice?

10 thoughts on “My weekend with HDMI and Vista

  1. If possible, my advice is to do without the HDMI

    See this post and the link to one of the many discussions about HDMI compatibility issues.

    There are many other stories of HDMI compatibility problems and most agree that it is difficult to see any difference between HDMI and component carried signals.

    [Edited to make link clickable – Ed]

  2. Bob, you’ve got mail.

    DW, the HDMI connection from my DirecTiVo works fine, and the new PC has only DVI and HDMI connections. Part of my goal in doing this is to experience for myself what other people are talking about. If I run into the same problems other people have, I expect to learn and share.

  3. Ed, how about some before and after pictures of your setup. The best advice I can give is to seconded Joe’s comments about organizing and labeling the cables. I just print out labels from the computer and affix them to each end of the cables with clear masking tape, then use Velcro straps to keep the bundles neat. If you space for the audio equipment is tight, be sure to test all the connections prior to pushing the components into their final resting place. Good luck!

  4. Congrats Ed, you’ve possibly opened up the biggest can of worms ever!! I recently (Jan of this yr) got a HT system (42″ Panny Plasma, Yamaha RX2700 receiver, Axiom 5.1 speakers & Outlaw sub) to hook it up to my computer, and boy it was a wild ride.

    Like your receiver, mine had 4 HDMI ports (3 in, one out), so I was trying to get the DVI out from my Nvidia 7900GT to my receiver and output to my TV as an extended desktop monitor. However I ran into an annoying bug where if you already had the computer on, and the receiver AND TV were off, turning them on at this point would NOT allow you to use the TV (windows just did not recognize the TV).

    Two times it would work:

    1) The TV and receiver needed to be on before the computer was on (resulting in my having to reboot if i needed the TV while the comp was on, which was very annoying to say the least).

    2) If the TV and receiver were on before the computer was on, and then for some reason you turned the TV off, you can then turn the TV on again and windows would have no issues with recognizing the TV again.

    The easiest way to avoid all this is to simply hookup the computer directly to the TV (without going through the receiver) and then you can switch on/off the TV without any of the above mentioned problems. Just wanted to bring this point up in case you ran into similar issues when you sent your output through the receiver!

  5. I get all my cables from . Best prices I’ve found on the net.

    Although it adds to the clutter, I get 10-12 ft cables for everything I hook into the TV. That way, if there are problems I can pull the component out of the cabinet and set it on the floor or a chair.

    What kind of PC are you using? I’m assuming you’re running Vista MCE. I’m still on XPMCE and either need to upgrade the ram in the machine or get a new one when I go to Vista.

  6. Aaron, this is the same Dell C521 I’ve been writing about over at ZDNet. It’s running Vista Home Premium (with Media Center).

  7. I actually have been dealing with MCE issues for weeks and weeks now. I originally pieced together a HTPC from some older parts, which turned out to be a mistake. A 2.8GHz (Northwood) Celeron, 768MB DDR, and AGP 6200 series graphics to not a HTPC make, apparently. Using a DualTV nVidia card, I had constant stability issues. Prolonged running would result in the UI of XP MCE becoming sluggish, and eventually completely unresponsive. It’s also one issue that constant Google-ing did nothing to help. I never could track down another person who had my exact blend of symptoms.

    This last weekend, I finally got the bug to track down the source of the issue. I stuck the DualTV into my main rig (4400+ X2, 2GB DDR2, Vista Business, 2 36GB raptors, etc) and installed a temporary copy of Vista Home Premium from my Business DVD. Then I did everything I could to make it angry with me. Slowed the fans down, ran it constantly recording one thing while browsing the guide with the second tuner, etc. Ultimately, the system didn’t flinch, and so I decided that I simply needed better components than I initially furbished for the media PC.

    Fortunately, I work at the PC repair shop and have access to plenty of parts. One Asus motherboard and 3600+, with 7600GS graphics later, I finally have a stable, completely usable Media Center. The Dual Core processor really made a huge difference, and is one area of computing that I honestly say the extra money makes a difference.

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