Ramblings from another nerd on the grid
Just when I was about to write off my lowly single cpu Dell Pentium 4 desktop machine, it gets a reprieve. In this case, the reprieve comes from an unexpected source, Windows Vista HDTV recording. As you'll recall, I purchased the HDHomeRun product a little over a month ago. I started using it with MCE 2005, then started testing it with some of the more powerful laptops I have. HDHomeRun has been a joy so far.
The laptop comment should get your ears perked up. Even if you don't have a high definition TV, you can still record and watch high definition programming with Windows Vista. You see, Windows Vista doesn't force you to install an analog tuner first. Therefore you can start using the dual high definition tuners of HDHomeRun rapidly. Since it is a network device, there's nothing to plug into your laptop. Install the software, configure and enjoy.
I never bothered to re-test HDHomeRun with my desktop until this week. Like many of you, real work has kept me busy. Although I found my desktop is still underpowered for HDTV decoding and playback for smooth performance, it does a great job of recording. Once recorded, it also does a great job of feeding my Xbox360 so I can watch the recordings on the couch in the den. Best $169 I've spent in a while.
For enhanced HD playback performance on your desktop, you may only need a better GPU or an updated driver for it. Most recent NVIDIA and ATI GPUs support accelerated decoding of MPEG-2/MPEG-4/VC-1. Their latest entry level (NVIDIA 8500/ATI HD 2400) and midrange (8600/HD 2600) GPUs have hardware video processors. Note that their current high-end parts lack (8800/2900 HD) such processors. The past couple generations of GPUs (mainly the midrange parts) from them should be okay as well.
It may be worth checking around for reviews or posts about those GPUs on systems close to the speed of your P4.
http://www.newegg.com/ and http://www.zipzoomfly.com/ are good places to shop for the GPUs (and other hardware) online.
The problem with moving to another card and GPU is power consumption and the connector. The P4 I have is AGP. That and the card need to work with a 300 watt power supply. As I indicated in previous post about this machine, it's close to end of life. It'll probably get replaced with a dual quad with lots of bells and whistles. Thanks for the suggestions though.
I have spent several hours setting up the HDHomeRun. It seems the stations, but nothing is displayed within the VMC. It is black for a few seconds then sais "No tuner Found"
Daniel, the instructions I used are at http://www.silicondust.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=2503
Have you tried those? VMC also required a Vista firewall exception. The HDHomeRun GUI config tool will check and add that.