Component versus DVI versus HDMI quandry

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Component versus DVI versus HDMI quandry

Hello All,

This thread has come about from worries I have as I get close to building my HTPC.  Specifically, they are around component versus digital (DVI and/or HDMI).  Up till now, I have always been using component.  My current Setup is:

  • Samsung 50" 720p Plasma bought in 2006 (I don't believe it has DVI inputs, but it does have component and HDMI inputs)
  • XBOX 360 Elite with component out (I believe I also have an HDMI cable output on this too)
  • Just purchased Tivo HD, don't have it yet, but it has both component and HDMI
  • Zektor component cable switcher (http://www.zektor.com/hds41/index.html) lets me choose between up to 4 component video inputs (and digital optical audio)

This allows me to run a single length of component video cable to my plasma.

My HTPC that I am going to build will have a discrete video card.  I plan on using it to play recorded HDTV from the Tivo, and to play Blu-Ray and HD-DVD movies.  If I go with either an nVidia or an ATI video card, I will have SVIDEO out or DVI out.  Obviously DVI out is much better.  But then I will feel compelled to covert the DVI out to component and plug it into my component switch.  After all, I don't have a DVI input.

From what I understand, that means the digital signal will need to be converted to an analog signal, and then converted back to a digital signal when it gets to the plasma TV.  Right?

So my real question is: Won't all that converting hurt the quality of the image?  ???

Should I try to find an all-digital solution?  If so, is it HDMI?  Is it DVI, and then convert the DVI to HDMI just before it goes to the plasma?

Or is component good enough?  :'(

I am really putting a lot of time and money into this HTPC, and I want to make sure I get the best video out of it.

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Joined: 30 Sep 2006

Nearly all modern video cards have component output. There is no need for conversion. The port you call 's-video' generally isn't, rather it is a multi-function 9-pin port which can either be s-video or can accept a component video dongle that enables component video output. You can tell because the card will ship with it. Check out the photos of a video card's accessories on newegg.com for example.

DVI and HDMI are close cousins and can be converted back and forth with simple pinout changes (and thus isn't really converted in the sense of any signal loss, etc). So your DVI or HDMI quandry is basically moot.

Other things to consider: only HDMI/DVI with HDCP (again nearly all modern video cards are HDCP enabled) is going to be free from restrictions on HD DVD and Blu-ray titles in the future (2010 and beyond). In the future there are flags that can be enabled in future movie titles that will discourage analog output use.

Providing an exact model number of your Samsung plasma is a good idea so we can better advise you.

Also it doesn't seem like you've seen my little guide here:
http://www.missingremote.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1...

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Joined: 9 May 2008

Wow, thanks Matt.  That's a great article.  I haven't finished it yet, but I wanted to include the model # of my Samsung.  It is a Samasung 50" Plasma HP-S5053.  According to what I see online, it is a 1366x768 display.  It has a single HDMI input, another HDMI/DVI input, and two component cable inputs.

I am able to watch HD-DVD movies today using my XBOX 360 and component cable, but from what you say below, I won't be able to do that in a couple of years.  So that's a reason to go to HDMI, but not a super compelling one just yet.

It also seems, from your article, that if I use component cable with my 1366x768 plasma, I would be locked into 1280x720.  I'm assuming I would have black bars all around?  Or maybe I didn't understand your article.

As for the video card, the fact that the card I am interested in for my HTPC, the EVGA 320-P2-N811-AR (http://www.newegg.com/product/product.aspx?item=N82E16814130082), does include a cable for S-Video out with component cables hanging off of it, implies that it does convert it down to component analg singlas already.  I guess I just have a bias against S-Video as it feels like a low quality solution.  It brings back memories of VHS VCRs and early DVDs.

So still no compelling reason to go HDMI.  The only other reason for me to go all HDMI is that I am an elitist snob (did I say that out loud?).  I love to have the best of everything, and I want the best picture possible.  This is the last remaining force pushing me to go digital, and it's a strong force too because...well...because I'm an home theatre-phile like the rest of us on these forums.

So, here I am, scratching my head.  I don't want to spend $$$ if I don't have to, but I do want the best.  I could purchase an HDMI switch, and try to sell my component cable switch.

What do you think?

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GamingDaemon wrote:

It also seems, from your article, that if I use component cable with my 1366x768 plasma, I would be locked into 1280x720.  I'm assuming I would have black bars all around?  Or maybe I didn't understand your article.
No it will scale it just like scales normal TV up or 1080i TV down to the native resolution. In theory you don't want scaling, it makes things a bit soft. The PC compatible HDMI port on the panel or the VGA port are the best bets.

GamingDaemon wrote:

As for the video card, the fact that the card I am interested in for my HTPC, the EVGA 320-P2-N811-AR (http://www.newegg.com/product/product.aspx?item=N82E16814130082), does include a cable for S-Video out with component cables hanging off of it, implies that it does convert it down to component analg singlas already.  I guess I just have a bias against S-Video as it feels like a low quality solution.  It brings back memories of VHS VCRs and early DVDs.

Let me make this very clear, there is no s-video to component video conversion (that doesn't even make sense). THAT IS NOT AN S-VIDEO PORT. That is a multipurpose port that can carry either low quality s-video or high quality component video signals. So your worries are groundless.

Now you don't want that card, why? It's based on the early GeForce 8800 silicon (which the 8800GTX and GTS are based on) which doesn't have the proper HD accleration later GeForce 8x00 series cards have. If you want an 8800GTS you need to get one that has 512MB of RAM onboard, that's how you know it's based on the new spin of the GPU that includes the proper PureVideo features. For the price point of th card you linked to you'll probably want to look at a GeForce 9600GT or an ATI Radeon HD 3850.

GamingDaemon wrote:

So still no compelling reason to go HDMI.  The only other reason for me to go all HDMI is that I am an elitist snob (did I say that out loud?).  I love to have the best of everything, and I want the best picture possible.  This is the last remaining force pushing me to go digital, and it's a strong force too because...well...because I'm an home theatre-phile like the rest of us on these forums.

So, here I am, scratching my head.  I don't want to spend $$$ if I don't have to, but I do want the best.  I could purchase an HDMI switch, and try to sell my component cable switch. You can use the VGA port, since your Samsung has one and it accepts the proper resolution. Or go HDMI, remember in a few years you'll want to think about moving to HDMI anyway.

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Again, thank you Matt.

I thought I would try it out with my wife's PC since she is near the plasma TV.  She has an E6600 dual core with a weak nVidia 8500 video card, and she has the S-Video cable dongle with component video.  I hooked it up to my plasma and it pretty much worked.

Vista tried 1280x768, which I switched to 1280x720.  The right, left and bottom borders are cut off whihc makes it hard to find the start button etc.  But it looked nice enough.  I hooked up my XBOX 360 HD-DVD drive to her PC and I am installing Nero 7 with the HD-DVD plug-in to see if I can play Beowulf on her PC.

Thanks for the advice on the video card.  I will go with the 9600GT or a Radeon 3850.

For now, I may just hook everything up to my plasma.  XBOX 360 with component, Tivo with HDMI, and the soon-to-be-built HTPC with DVi/HDMI.  Then down the road, I may buy an HDMI switcher or just a home theatre receiver.  SIGH.

So does that sound like a good solution?

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Joined: 30 Sep 2006

GamingDaemon wrote:

Again, thank you Matt.

I thought I would try it out with my wife's PC since she is near the plasma TV.  She has an E6600 dual core with a weak nVidia 8500 video card, and she has the S-Video cable dongle with component video.  I hooked it up to my plasma and it pretty much worked.

Vista tried 1280x768, which I switched to 1280x720.  The right, left and bottom borders are cut off whihc makes it hard to find the start button etc.  But it looked nice enough.  I hooked up my XBOX 360 HD-DVD drive to her PC and I am installing Nero 7 with the HD-DVD plug-in to see if I can play Beowulf on her PC.

Thanks for the advice on the video card.  I will go with the 9600GT or a Radeon 3850.

For now, I may just hook everything up to my plasma.  XBOX 360 with component, Tivo with HDMI, and the soon-to-be-built HTPC with DVi/HDMI.  Then down the road, I may buy an HDMI switcher or just a home theatre receiver.  SIGH.

So does that sound like a good solution?


Sounds good.
And you encountered another reason why to use the HDMI 1 input or the VGA input, component video has overscan by default.

You should be able to select JustScan from the aspect ratios when using HDMI, and the VGA input won't have overscan at all (since it's made for PC input which doesn't have need for overscan), just an FYI: you might end up using VGA depending on how the HDMI aspect ratio options on your TV work out. The Samsung site is really slow to download the user manual for your TV so I can't tell if it has the 1:1 mode that newer Samsung sets have.

UPDATE: looked at the manual, no JustScan mode for HDMI, you'll want to use VGA for the PC then. See page 88 of your manual. Set your PC for 1360x768 and you should be good to go.

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Thanks for taking the time to look all this up.  So the VGA cable is the way to go, huh.  If the video card has two DVI outs and the S-Video out, should I use one of those DVI-to-VGA adapters that comes with the video card to hook it up to the plasma?  I'm assuming that I will still get all of the rich, digital HDTV, HD-DVD and Blu-Ray video detail with the VGA cable as I would with the DVI/HDMI cable...right  (sorry I have all these built-in biases...comes from ignorance I guess)?

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GamingDaemon wrote:

Thanks for taking the time to look all this up.  So the VGA cable is the way to go, huh.  If the video card has two DVI outs and the S-Video out, should I use one of those DVI-to-VGA adapters that comes with the video card to hook it up to the plasma?  I'm assuming that I will still get all of the rich, digital HDTV, HD-DVD and Blu-Ray video detail with the VGA cable as I would with the DVI/HDMI cable...right  (sorry I have all these built-in biases...comes from ignorance I guess)?
Yes and Yes. I use VGA to my 720p flat panel LCD just fine, looks great. Remember VGA is more then capable of sending HD resolutions.

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Joined: 9 May 2008

Cool!  YTM!

And, finally, I was able to get my XBOX 360 HD-DVD drive to work with my wife's PC and send it out to my plasma using a trial version of Nero 8 and the HD-DVD plug-in (which I purchased for $30).  Beowulf and Transformers looked awesome!!

A little jerky at times, but then I was using a wimpy nVidia 8500 video card I bought for her so she could run Vista. :)  I'm sure the nVidia 9600 will rule.

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