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Advantages and Uses of HTPC

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(5/31/00) Advantages Of A HTPC: What do YOU use it for?

Here are some common advantages of a HTPC, especially on a high resolution progressive scan display (such as a Big Screen Computer or HDTV Display):

  • DVD player: Scaling-capable progressive scan player with aspect ratio control capability!
  • Line Doubler/Scaler: Using a computer as a line doubler or scaler for analog video sources!
  • CD Player: High quality 100% digital setups are possible, to make it sound like an audiophile CD player!
  • MP3 Jukebox: Songs, songs, as far as the eye can see in all 4 directions, all in one box!
  • Digital photos: High resolution slideshow viewer. Digital photos are *AMAZING* on the big screen!
  • Videogames: Superior to a PlayStation or N64. Imagine Star Wars Racer at 1024x768 at 60 frames per second, versus N64's 320x240 at 30 frames per second!
  • Internet: Some people like to switch to the big screen for some Internet surfing. Normally not a primary Internet display, but it can be a LOT of fun to surf some websites on the big screen!
  • Movie Trailers: Did you know that some cable modem trailers at are now 640 pixels wide and better than VHS quality? See these trailers in near-DVD quality even before they show in the local movie theaters!

Some people use a HTPC just to do only 1 or 2 of the above. Others like to do all the above. Some people don't even use a HTPC for DVD, although DVD is an obvious advantage of a HTPC. DVD picture quality from a HTPC can be better looking than the picture from a Faroudja 3000 in certain ways, especially with a HTPC at 120Hz vertical refresh rate on a high-quality display!

New readers may be interested to know that some new computer video and sound cards provide a lot of flexibility. Such as the ability to do custom screen resolutions in 1-pixel increments, making it possible to use a HTPC at high resolution on a HDTV set or a 16:9 projection display without distorted images. And 24/96 digital audio is now possible from a HTPC these days.

New software developments including dTV/DScaler from , make it possible to add an inexpensive TV tuner card to a PC and be able to get stunning picture quality from analog video sources connected to the back of the computer. DScaler software replaces the TV viewing software normally included with the TV tuner card. Some people have reported picture quality being competitive to Faroudja at a tiny fraction of the price!

With PowerStrip software from, a Matrox or nVidia powered video card (GeForce) can support custom resolutions in 1-pixel increments, even weird resolutions such as 1352x773 which makes it perfect for plasma displays and DILA projectors that demand a pixel-exact resolution for stunning results. These video cards can also be configured to do 1920x1080 with interlacing enabled - making it possible to connect a HTPC directly to a HDTV set. You can even use an Audio Authority VGA-to-YPbPr adaptor and connect the HTPC to a Toshiba HDTV set - with stunning progressive scan DVD results at 480p or 540p. Be noted that software DVD is superior to hardware DVD for progressive scan picture quality [This refers to legacy DxR2, DxR3, Hollywood Plus boards]. For best results, use WinDVD or PowerDVD on a GeForce video card [Note: This was posted May 2000. Radeon cards are now great too.]

The above are features that exist today, right now. Upcoming features are TiVo/ReplayTV style software (PVR software) from InterVideo and Ravisent. And upcoming HDTV tuner cards to allow a HTPC to act as a HDTV settop box with builtin scaler to scale HDTV to any computer resolution!

Other than the above, what do YOU use your HTPC for?