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Author Topic: Home Theater Upgrade  (Read 15204 times)

HA Dave

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Home Theater Upgrade
« on: January 16, 2015, 11:57:59 PM »

OK... to be honest I am posting partly because I am a little nostalgic for the threads... like the old days. But also because I found/bought something that I found helpful.

Like many of us I was early into creating a home theater. Whereas HDMI and HD standards seem like they've always been here. A decade ago most of what is standard with HD today was still a little up in the air. I have been wondering what to do to upgrade my home theater to HD. My projector is capable of HD but only has a VGA input. I used a component adapter cable to get component signals from the DVD player to the projector.

After doing a little searching on Amazon I found several devices that will convert and scale an HDMI to component and/or VGA. I'd seen them before... but the prices are now greatly lowered. For less than a $50 converter... I was able to switch to a BlueRay player with a 1080i image. DVD's are slightly improved too. I know... I could have done the same thing using a computer configured for entertainment.

Now.... will I buy pricey Blue Ray movies? Well sure... some! And I will still enjoy a fairly sizable DVD collection too.

But... I've been playing around with an Roku and I am thinking I will stream content. I can "join" [pronounced: pay monthly fees] Netflix and/or other "content providers". And the service will also be available on my TV/laptop/tablet/and phone (as I understand it). And I can stopped adding more DVD shelves.

Some day my projector will fail and I will once again have choices to make. But for now this should bring me pretty much up-to-date. Then... on to my automation setup! (I thinking an electromagnetic Sensor Wand buried next to my driveway).
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Tuicemen

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Re: Home Theater Upgrade
« Reply #1 on: January 17, 2015, 09:17:31 AM »

I've streamed movies a few times and not always with a friendly experience.
It is sad days of DVD rentals are quickly coming to an end.
I still prefer watching a movie from a DVD then streaming. ::) :'
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dhouston

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Re: Home Theater Upgrade
« Reply #2 on: January 17, 2015, 10:14:10 AM »

I've streamed movies a few times and not always with a friendly experience.
Then you ain't doing it right.  B:(

Streaming via a Smart TV or using many of the external devices (e.g. Roku) with services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, etc. is smooth and seamless (aside from Amazon's neolithic GUI) although trying it with an underpowered miniPC is more problematic. I haven't tried things like Roku via a composite interface but suspect it might be less than optimal.

I've found getting DVDs to display properly on a recent flatscreen to be far more of a headache than streaming.

Yesterday, I received a Lenova Q190 with Windows 8.1 that I plan to try with one of the HDMI inputs on my Vizio 50" Smart TV. I opted for a $200 model that has an internal 500GB HDD in case I decide it would be better employed as a desktop PC, but there are other less costly, similar PCs w/o the HDD available. 

I'll post here as things progress.
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dave w

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Re: Home Theater Upgrade
« Reply #3 on: January 17, 2015, 10:21:39 AM »

Dave,
Did the new Lenovo come with a program called "Voxox" installed on drive?
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JeffVolp

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Re: Home Theater Upgrade
« Reply #4 on: January 17, 2015, 10:27:50 AM »

It is sad days of DVD rentals are quickly coming to an end.
I still prefer watching a movie from a DVD then streaming. ::) :'

Ditto.  Years ago we often stopped by Hollywood Video both for rentals and to pick up used copies of our favorites.  Recently we "joined" Netflix - just the DVD rental, not streaming.  I understand they are downplaying that option, so it is anyone's guess how long it will remain available.  But it gives us two movies a week at $10 per month.  Then I use eBay to pick up copies of the ones we would like to add to our DVD library.

Dave, our Oppo DVD/BD player works flawlessly.  It even plays most heavily scratched Netflix discs without a problem.  And HD on the projector is perfect.

Jeff
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Tuicemen

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Re: Home Theater Upgrade
« Reply #5 on: January 17, 2015, 10:45:49 AM »

I've streamed movies a few times and not always with a friendly experience.
Then you ain't doing it right.  B:(

The issue 95% of the time the device streaming wasn't the issue.
It was my ISP.
Even in the city my service goes down periodically, usually right when the good part starts B:(
Even though I have a cable connection in the city my DSL connection at the cottage is far more reliable.
I still stream but prefer the hard copies like Jeff.
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dhouston

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Re: Home Theater Upgrade
« Reply #6 on: January 17, 2015, 11:25:43 AM »

Did the new Lenovo come with a program called "Voxox" installed on drive?
Dunno - haven't powered it up yet. But, from what I see on the web, their deal only covers laptops.

I have encountered one complication. The Lenova docs (rather sparse) say to reset the TV refresh rate to 60Hz to avoid damaging the TV. While I suspect they are being overly cautious, there is no apparent way to adjust my TV's 120Hz refresh rate. I think I'll test things using a flatscreen monitor until I check with Vizio.  :-\
« Last Edit: January 17, 2015, 03:40:28 PM by dhouston »
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HA Dave

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Re: Home Theater Upgrade
« Reply #7 on: January 17, 2015, 04:31:00 PM »

Although we have more than a thousand DVD's... I think they're pretty much obsolete. I know they still sell (and rent) them but those days are slipping by fast. I really like and have enjoyed the "Disc" DVD/BR (now) format... and I will miss it a lot more than I ever missed the audio cassette.

I've done some streaming. That is one of the reasons it was imperative for me to use HDMI. I was glad I was able to keep using my old projector and save a few hundred bucks... being on a fixed income and all. But sooner or later everything fails.

For me... it just feels really good to be doing SOMTHING with my HA setup!

Now.... home theater remotes. I've been using a Logitech remote for nearly a decade and it works great. But for the upstairs TV I have a device and an app on my iPhone. I am thinking tablet control of the theater. I did that on a theater I built for a friend. It is nice to have a HA project again!
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Modern automation is much more than turning things on and off.
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dave w

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Re: Home Theater Upgrade
« Reply #8 on: January 17, 2015, 06:22:12 PM »

Dunno - haven't powered it up yet. But, from what I see on the web, their deal only covers laptops.
there is no apparent way to adjust my TV's 120Hz refresh rate. I think I'll test things using a flatscreen monitor until I check with Vizio.  :-\
Would that be automatic? I think they are being overly cautious also. What if you connected a VCR to the composit inputs of the TV, wouldn't that analog signal always be 60Hz? (actually 59 point something) ? Or is the preceived problem if you squirt NTSC into the HDMI?  
« Last Edit: January 19, 2015, 05:04:53 PM by dave w »
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dhouston

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Re: Home Theater Upgrade
« Reply #9 on: January 17, 2015, 09:05:31 PM »

Would that be automatic? I think they are being overly cautious also. What if you connected a VCR to the composit inputs of the TV, wouldn't that analog signal always be 60Hz? (actually 59 point something) ? Or is the preceived problem if you squirt NTSC into the HDMI?  
My Lenovo Q190 PC, in addition to USB mouse & KB plus "vivid Full HD graphics", has...
  • S/P DIF
  • Mic
  • Headphones
  • 4 USB 2.0, 2 USB 3.0
  • HDMI
  • VGA
  • 6-in-1 Memory Card Slot
  • Ethernet
  • WiFi
  • 500GB HDD
  • Option to add DVD R/W or Blu-Ray player
and I think the docs are implying that it's safe to use VGA but iffy for HDMI. However, it's unlikely they'll have much of a market w/o HDMI support. I also suspect the refresh rate is automatic but will email Vizio Support and ask for their input.
EDIT: I have submitted the question to Vizio Support and am awaiting their response.

The User Guide says...
Quote
Set the refresh rate of your TV or monitor to less than 60Hz to avoid damage to your TV or monitor.
...
Lenovo recommends connecting the computer to a monitor using the VGA or HDMI video connector.

It is possible to connect the computer to a TV using the VGA or HDMI video connector, but Lenovo is unable to guarantee that this will work effectively.

Some models have Blu-Ray but I'm not sure all those, like mine, with the add-on optical drive can support a Blu-Ray drive. Upon further review it appears that there are optional add-on optical drives as well as add-on Blu-Ray players.

Here's a link to the original specs...
http://shop.lenovo.com/ISS_Static/WW/wci/products/us/desktop/ideacentre/q-series/q190/q190-datasheet.pdf

There is a "Compact wireless multimedia remote with a built-in mini-keyboard and mouse" but I plan to use a wireless KB with touchpad - Logitech K400 ($20).

And, I did not intend to hijack HA Dave's thread - mayhaps one of the gatekeepers can move the Lenovo related posts to a new thread.
« Last Edit: January 19, 2015, 11:51:08 AM by dhouston »
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HA Dave

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Re: Home Theater Upgrade
« Reply #10 on: January 18, 2015, 11:53:45 PM »

I did not intend to hijack HA Dave's thread - mayhaps one of the gatekeepers can move the Lenovo related posts to a new thread.

Don't worry about it! I see no hi-jack here. This is all the same stuff: Home Theater. There are lots of different ways to skin a cat... although I've always preferred my cats to keep their skin on.

Home entertainment is a big part of HA. And.... thank God isn't dependent so much on some of the confusion and frustration going on with X10 and the other flavors of automation lighting products right now.

I am thrilled with being HD with the theater now. And the BR player does seem to do a better UP-verting job with DVD's as well. The amount of online content available for free, fee, and/or by subscription is staggering. I noticed the movie "the Interview" is available almost everywhere in the online content world (for $5.99).... and I wonder if that may be the future. Or... will online only content be more like "flying cars".

I am having difficulty setting up "mirroring". Mirroring is when the Blue Ray Player also plays the video on a home [WiFi] network.... and can then be viewed on mobile phones and/or tablets. OR... pictures and home video on a phone and/or tablet can be displayed on the Home Theater screen. But iPhones prefer to only use the apple TV (apple play) product/format... and of course our phones are apple.

So... I guess there goes facetime with the grandkids on the big screen. Of course there is a solution to that too... by using an "apple TV" [play] content device and a new audio system that would provide me with more HDMI "in" ports. So many choices.... and so many ways to remove a cats skin (and money from a wallet).

I have an android tablet too though... and still working on the setup.

 
« Last Edit: January 19, 2015, 10:54:31 AM by HA Dave »
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HA Dave

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Re: Home Theater Upgrade
« Reply #11 on: January 19, 2015, 11:27:03 AM »

I altered the settings in my old Logitech 628 Home Theater Remote. I bought the remote from a warehouse club back in '06 and have always liked the one button "watch a movie" feature. It still works great!

I dug out the remotes box which had it's USB cable, and sheet with password and device model list (3rd DVD/BR player in 8 years). I booted up the old XP desktop then plugged in the remote (via USB) and automatically IE 7 opened and logged me into the Logitech Site. In mere minutes (less than 100-120) I was back to one button pressing... projector turning on, Audio on, X10 light dimming, and movie playing. Not as simple maybe as it sounds... but still very simplified.

FYI: The remote provides IR only and I use an IR543(?) and two Powermids to control the X10 and move the IR to the remotely placed A/V equipment.

Actually at this point... I could walk away from the project and be whole in function with greatly added features.. like High-Definition and available on-line content. But I've never been one to let well enough alone. I feel compelled to see that mirroring function.

I do need to restore the lost function of the bathroom TV. I had previously used the composite port of the DVD player to grab a simple video which I converted to channel 3 and ran to the bath room simple 12" TV using coax. Now... I will likely convert the projectors VGA out to video- then channel 3. 

So far theater to HD upgrade cost:
HDMI to VGA converter device $45
Blue Ray player $84
Short HDMI cable $15
« Last Edit: January 19, 2015, 11:33:12 AM by HA Dave »
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Modern automation is much more than turning things on and off.
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dave w

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Re: Home Theater Upgrade
« Reply #12 on: January 19, 2015, 05:20:23 PM »

EDIT: I have submitted the question to Vizio Support and am awaiting their response.
Nice unit, at good price. Would be interested in hearing what Vizio says. I want to dedicate a desktop to a home theater setup, but hate Windows 8.1 so may buy used or build.

HA Dave - do you have some of your 1000 DVD movies on hard drive, or just play from the DVDs?
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dhouston

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Re: Home Theater Upgrade
« Reply #13 on: January 19, 2015, 07:55:53 PM »

Nice unit, at good price. Would be interested in hearing what Vizio says. I want to dedicate a desktop to a home theater setup, but hate Windows 8.1 so may buy used or build.
The reviews I saw on the Lenovo Q190 rated it highly as a desktop PC or HTPC although most said there are better choices for gaming. I have no interest in gaming so think it will meet my needs. With a Windows 7 style Start Menu, I find Windows 8.1 OK on a recently purchased laptop so do not anticipate any issues with it on my HTPC. See...
http://www.stardock.com/products/start8/

My web research on HDTV Refresh Rates supports our supposition that it is automatic...
but I'll still give Vizio Support a day or two to reply before risking my 50" flatscreen. And I'll post their input here if/when they reply.
EDIT: A few moments after my post, I heard back from Alexia at Vizio. Unfortunately, Alexia was no help, writing, "This would be within the device connecting the the TV, as there is not a setting for this within the TV menu." So, I guess I'll smoke test everything maņana.

My internet feed is ADSL and not very fast but I've only experienced a few problems while streaming Netflix and Amazon Prime. I'm hoping the Q190 will offer a way to add ESPN/ESPN2 via Sling TV once that is introduced.

I do not have a large library of DVDs nor any Blu-Rays so my needs differ from Jeff and HA Dave. (I did have a large collection of Dr. Who episodes I recorded over several years on VHS but gave them to grandkids.) The few remaining tapes and a few DVDs, I can already handle with a Toshiba VHS Player + DVD R/W unit connected via HDMI. So, my needs are almost totally related to streaming but I would also like to be able to surf the web from the comfort of my recliner.
  
« Last Edit: January 20, 2015, 08:51:44 AM by dhouston »
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HA Dave

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Re: Home Theater Upgrade
« Reply #14 on: January 19, 2015, 08:38:57 PM »

HA Dave - do you have some of your 1000 DVD movies on hard drive, or just play from the DVDs?

I've never used the PC or HD storage (for movies). The theater was completely vintage 2006. I had upgraded/modernized and/or repaired this and that... but basically it's an old fashion DVD and projector Home Theater.

......I do not have a large library of DVDs nor any Blu-Rays so my needs differ from Jeff and HA Dave. ............... my needs are almost totally related to streaming but I would also like to be able to surf the web from the comfort of my recliner.

My beginnings with the DVD collection predates the theater. And at some point... hundreds of VHS tapes that were given away or otherwise donated. Hard copy media.... is way old fashion. I wouldn't recommend it. On line [streaming] media is at least the current way to watch movies. I have played with an Roku device on my TV. And the loaded apps and options for on-line content through the [Sony] Blue Ray player I just installed are huge.

The Blue Ray player will also browse and or surf the Internet (all built in to the player). Although... without a keyboard it isn't anything I would recommend. Using the HDMI from a PC or laptop to the theater with a long range keyboard/mouse would be the way to go. OR... maybe using the mirroring and a phone ...not that I'd know yet.
« Last Edit: January 19, 2015, 09:18:27 PM by HA Dave »
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Modern automation is much more than turning things on and off.
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