It’s been a while since I last posted about the ongoing MythTV project here at Chez Geek. For the most part it’s been quiet. After coming back from Ubercon, where the box was very well received, I sort of parked it on the side and didn’t touch it for a few weeks.
This week, things have gotten busy again.
I had been steadily grumping about the one thing that I was unhappy about with the entire setup. The TV. I was using a generic 27″ non-flat TV for my video, coupled with a dolby amp and speakers. It was an ‘okay’ solution, I could run the S-Video out on the MX4000 card at 800×600, but it was… sketchy at best. Movies looked like, well, television shows. I wanted better.
HDTV was the obvious solution, but as anyone who has touched on this environment knows, HDTV is a minefield of buzzwords, technology, and, lets face it, cost. HDTV monitors / televisions are expensive.
I had been keeping an eye on ebay for months watching prices on HDTV monitors fluctuate up and down. I knew I wanted something largish, 42″ diagonal or larger. It appeared plasma screens were on the way out (too expensive, prone to problems). LCD direct displays were good, but not large enough. So, a projection unit of some sort, either rear projection or standard front display.
While the front projectors seem quite good, and the prices are getting better and better, I worried about how to set things up for all-environment viewing. Front projectors really require a nice dark room to work properly, and I like to watch tv during the day on occasion as well.
DLP rear projection monitors kept cropping up as a high quality, relatively low cost option. So, after lurking for a couple weeks until the right deal came up, I found what I was looking for.
A company in New Hampshire called Tradeport USA had an auction up for a Magnavox 50ML8105D DLP 50″ rear-projection HDTV going for a very reasonable price. I set up my software to watch the auction and bid for me, and let it run it’s course. After a tense day or so, I was the proud owner of a lovely 115lb television, located only about an hour and a half from me, for around $750. Couldn’t complain! A few days later, I drove up to NH, met with the folks at Tradeport, and loaded up the TV (complete with manual and registration papers), and came on home.
A quick word about Tradeport. I’m always skeptical about buying high end equipment, particularly ‘consumer’ equipment, from an ebay reseller. But throughout the purchase, paying for it, a phone call or two to check status, and visiting with them in their offices in New Hampshire, they have been courteous, helpful, and professional. Their customer support line answers on the first or second ring every time, with a real human being, who is always helpful and productive. Even when I got somewhat lost driving to their warehouse, they were very helpful on the phone giving directions. I would love to do more with them – they’re now on my eBay ‘favorite sellers’ list.
Now that I had it, I had to get it installed. This TV has more inputs than you can count. Okay, I did count, there’s about 13 different channels you can select from. I did some initial testing running the input via the s/video front panel, which worked great, but was a far cry from the 720p the unit was capable of. The folks on IRC said the best way to get a clean signal is to run HDMI or straight VGA. Since the TV did in fact have a VGA input on the back, I wired things up, told my X-server that “yep, it’s just a normal 1024×768 monitor”, restarted GDM, and voila – I have a full screen, high resolution mythtv menu in place. Lovely!
We’ve tested normal television feeds (since I only have a PVR-150, cable television still comes in at SDTV 4:3 format, so no HDTV off the wire yet), and some DVD. I’m having some problems with my DVD player right now, so we’re skipping feeding HDTV-level video from ‘Xine’ on the mythtv box. I’ve hooked up my old DVD player with component cabling, and that’s doing JUST FINE, thankyouvermuch. Also, I was pleasantly surprised to note the Magnavox handled resolution shifts for Xmame games without a twitch. It is a bit disturbing to play Digdug, a game written for a 200×320 screen, on a 50″ monitor, but the HxW ratio was correct, and the image was crystal clear. In downtime, I tend to let MythWeather run. It provides a nice ‘screensaver’ while working on other things.
The jump from SDTV 4:3 tube-based video to HDTV DLP video is… stunning. I feel doubly happy that I did not fork over several thousand dollars for this unit. $750 strikes a good balance between “Spend the money I should for a high quality unit” and “get a good deal that does what you want.” Right now, I’m ecstatic.
Tonight, we watch more movies.