The Deliverator – Wannabee

So open minded, my thoughts fell out…

Media Center Mark 2

Posted by Deliverator on January 6th, 2006

I managed to get my exisiting media computer working on the new Hitachi 32″ HDTV – mentioned previously. I had great difficulty getting my media box to output a VGA signal to which the Hitachi could sync. I managed to get an old IBM laptop with VGA out to work with little difficulty, so I knew the VIA Epia M motherboard was at fault. To get the Epia working with the Hitachi’s VGA input I needed to flash the bios, update the display drivers and perform a little registry hacking. I was eventually able to get the Epia working at 1024*768, but not at the more optimal 1280*768. At 1024*768 I either waste large areas of potential screen real-estate to the left and right of the area being displayed to black columns, or I can choose to stretch the image and distort everything being displayed. At 1280*768 I would only be wasting a small ammount of space, as the Hitachi’s native resolution is 1366*768. Unfortunately, VIA only wants to output extremely common resolutions like 640*480, 800*600, 1024*768 and 1280*1024. I tried using Entech PowerStrip, an extremely powerful tool for doing all sorts of wacky things with video cards. I have used PowerStrip a number of times over the years for overclocking and setting custom resolutions/refresh rates. Unfortunately, the video chipset used by the VIA boards is not supported. It seems my only option is a PCI video card – preferably one with DVI-D output capabilities. My current case can’t support a PCI riser card and the M6000 motherboard is marginal for a lot of video playback tasks, so it looks like I am in the market for a new system. I am currently thinking:

– Via SP 13000 motherboard – Over twice the speed of my current system’s processor with support for DDR 400 ram and SATA devices. The SATA is nice as big fat ribbon cables and tiny cases do not go well together. Problem with this route is motherboard has same crappy resolution support as my existing motherboard, so I would have to add a PCI video card as well.

– I am currently thinking about either a Morex Venus 669 case in black or a Travla C158 also in black. The Morex case would allow for more flexibility in component choice, but the Travla has more of a “shelf component” look to it that wouldn’t be as visually distracting in the room.

– I would likely add to this base package a good sized HDD, a slot loading DVD-RW and an in-face media card reader. I might also add a PCI 802.11g card or a better sound card using the second video card slot.

– Low profile VGA out card, preferably with DVI and support for oddball resolutions. Any suggestions all knowing interweb?

– DVI cable

– 802.11g bridging (In the straight through wireless < -> ethernet sense) AP.

As you can see, my shopping list has gotten rather long an expensive. At this point I am wondering whetherI should just bite the bullet and move up to a Pentium-M based SFF system and a good AGP or PCI Express based system with significantly greater processing muscle. A Pentium-M based system would allow for gaming, PVR functions, etc. that a Epia couldn’t hope to perform. I don’t like throwing good money after bad, but I also whether my enjoyment of such a system would be commensurate with the significantly greater expense.