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  How to connect your PC to your Digital/HDTV

 

By Wayne Harrelson

karnis.gif (20090 bytes)Digital Connection is proud to introduce the first addition to our CliffNotes, contributions by HTPC veterans .  Wayne wrote the most comprehensive guides to using PowerStrip from EnTech to enable connecting a PC to today's High-Definition and HD-Ready TVs, making setup a breeze!  We trust you'll find the following article informative, useful, and save much time and frustration!

Disclaimer!!!  Please back up your hard drive before attempting to perform the following modifications.  Digital Connection provide the following for information purposes, and highly recommend that no modifications are made unless own compatible hardware and understand the procedure involved in making modifications to your system.   Attempt the following at your own risk. 

Overview

High-Definition and HD-Ready digital TVs are designed very similar to your PC monitor, but often lack the similar controls or proper connectors .  Designed to receive set frequencies of 480p or 1080i, and on rare occasion 720p, it also suffers from overscan, sacrificing up to 15% of the viewable desktop.  For better than 640x480 resolution the PC requires a tool to control the timings and resolutions it can output.      

PowerStrip from EnTech

Before we go on, a little background on EnTech.  Ashley Saldahna of EnTech has been a valuable contributor to the Home Theater enthusiast community.  In the early days of Home Theater PC (a whopping 2 years ago!) in the forums that bind us enthusiasts today, the legendary Mark J. Foster first reported success in using software to manipulate our PC's graphics resolutions and timings.  Ashley soon joined the discussion, accumulating the required information to customize this program, and eventually winning the confidence of manufactures that has allowed PowerStrip to support variety of graphics cards.  If you own a rear projection CRT set, we stress our recommendation that you purchase PowerStrip.   Without some insight into how timings work, PowerStrip can be daunting.   Wayne's contributions make it simple for the user to set-up his display in a very short time. With this pretested formula, it's a simple trip to Home Theater nirvana.

What you need before getting started...very important!

Determine if your TV has RGBHV or Y-Pb-Pr
If RGBHV, you will need a breakout cable
If VGA (15-Pin), you're good to go (see more on this subject)
If Y-Pb-Pr, you will need a transcoder
Download PowerStrip from EnTech Taiwan
PC Monitor to set your resolutions and timings

On to the Guide

ATI Radeon based graphics cards  - Radeon, All-In-Wonder, and LE models.  May not work on all driver versions.
NVidia Geforce based graphics cards
- All were created with Powerstrip 3 on an ELSA Gladiac Geforce GTS 2 driver V7.52 on Windows 98 SE platform. Also works with Visiontek Geforce 3. 

Tested on Panasonic PT56WXF90

ATI Radeon Series (Updated 2/17/03)

Copy the entire Powerstrip timing parameters listed below, one resolution at a time. Then, in PS 3--display profiles--advanced timings--custom resolutions--user defined, click the paste button, which will add the copied values, and then click “add”. Or, you can enter the generic timing detail values manually in the custom resolution screen if you wish. Powerstrip will tell you if the display driver has accepted the new resolution. You may be prompted to reboot first. If so, you will restart at your previous resolution, so you will have to manually switch to the new resolution. Enter the advanced timings screen and adjust as needed. Common first time tweaks include positioning and adjusting for over/underscan. Remember, to use your new custom T & R, make sure you set Powerstrip 3 (options---preferences) to start up with Windows AND apply settings at start up.

PowerStrip Timing Parameters Generic Timing Details
Desktop 4x3
640x480p=640,126,80,114,480,28,1,54,32400,272
HFP=126 HSW=80 HBP=114 kHz=34 VFP=28 VSW=1 VBP=54 Hz=60
+hsync +vsync 
Desktop Widescreen 1
848x480p=848,82,80,86,480,30,1,52,36990,272
HFP=82 HSW=80 HBP=86 kHz=34 VFP=30 VSW=1 VBP=52 Hz=60
+hsync +vsync
Desktop Widescreen 2
856x480p=856,84,80,84,480,28,1,54,37260,272
HFP=84 HSW=80 HBP=84 kHz=34 VFP=28 VSW=1 VBP=54 Hz=60
+hsync +vsync
DVD 1x
720x480p=720,73,64,79,480,29,1,53,31590,272
HFP=73 HSW=64 HBP=79 kHz=34 VFP=29 VSW=1 VBP=53 Hz=60
+hsync +vsync
DVD 1.5x
1080x480p=1080,88,80,104,480,29,1,53,45630,272
HFP=88 HSW=80 HBP=104 kHz=34 VFP=29 VSW=1 VBP=53 Hz=60
+hsync +vsync
DVD 2x
1440x480p=1440,121,144,119,480,29,1,53,61560,272
HFP=121 HSW=144 HBP=119 kHz=34 VFP=29 VSW=1 VBP=53 Hz=60
+hsync +vsync
DVD 2.5x
1800x480p=1800,154,96,246,480,32,1,50,77490,272
HFP=154 HSW=96 HBP=246 kHz=34 VFP=32 VSW=1 VBP=50 Hz=60
+hsync +vsync
DVD 2.5x, 540p
1800x540p=1800,157,184,147,540,8,1,14,77220,272
HFP=157 HSW=184 HBP=147 kHz=34 VFP=8 VSW=1 VBP=14 Hz=60
+hsync +vsync
960x540p=960,96,80,112,540,7,1,15,42120,272
HFP=96 HSW=80 HBP=112 kHz=34 VFP=7 VSW=1 VBP=15 Hz=60
+hsync +vsync

 

TIP: To get an exact scan rate of 33.75Khz, go to the "advanced timings screen", type "33.75" in the horizontal scan rate box and press the TAB button on the keyboard. This will set the scan rate exactly to 33.75KHz and also adjust the refresh rate accordingly.
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If you find your desktop has black bars on the sides (underscan), or has a bit too much overscan (image cropping), simply go back to the advanced timings screen and adjust the horizontal front/back porches (this adjusts the horizontal blanking area), readjust to your desired scan rate, then click “apply”.
To decrease horizontal overscan, increase the horizontal front/back porches. To increase horizontal overscan, decrease the horizontal front/back porches. Then, readjust to the desired scan rate. Again, you’ll probably find that a couple of clicks will do the trick.
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TIP: Adjust for overscan while keeping the scan rate as close to 33.75KHz as possible. Then, type in "33.75KHz" in the scan rate box and press the TAB button. Now your overscan settings are locked to 33.75Khz scan rate.

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Keep the progressive vertical line total at 563 (interlaced 1125). You won't have much range of vertical sizing adjustment, only positioning. To compensate for vertical underscan, it is best to add pixels to the vertical total since the range of adjustment is limited. Try to maintain a 16x9 aspect ratio when you add to the line total. Example: if 848x480p is underscanned, try a custom resolution of 888x500p, using the same timings. To compensate for vertical overscan, adjust using the service menus of your set.
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It is also important to note that the monitor you specify in Windows must be capable of resolving the resolutions you present to the display driver in progressive scan mode. I have used the Sony GDM-W900 monitor drivers because it has a max resolution of >1920x1200p as listed in Powerstrip 3 monitor profiles. Make sure to "disable plug & play monitors". Selecting a high-resolution monitor will also help avoid "virtual desktop", or a side scrolling desktop. Powerstrip will allow you to create your own custom monitor driver. I made a driver for my Mits HDTV based on the Sony specs and is attached later in this thread.
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
I use 856x480p @ 540p timings (posted above) for best 16x9 desktop results. The sides are perfect on my set with less than half of the title bar and task bar cropped, quite manageable IMO. Your results may differ depending on your sets’ overscan. Try large icons and a Windows Standard -large- Appearance for a smooth, easy to read desktop and a neutral grey desktop color for even tube wear. There are also utilities available to hide the desktop and mouse completely, such as Icon Hider and BZ (mouse) Hider.
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I cannot stress this point enough: test on your PC monitor first, get a stable picture with acceptable values, connect to your HDTV, then adjust as needed.
As always, results may vary according to manufacturer.

NVIDIA GeForce

Copy the timing strings listed below into the pstrip.ini file under "custom resolutions". If you find no "custom resolution" header in the pstrip.ini file, simply add a pre-defined resolution first, and the header will be created for you. Then, in PS 3>>display profiles>>advanced timings>>custom resolutions>>user defined, highlight the custom resolution and then "add". Powerstrip will tell you if the display driver has accepted the new resolution. If so, switch to the new resolution. Exit to the advanced timings screen and adjust as needed. Common first time tweaks include positioning and adjusting the horizontal scan rate. Remember, as long as PS 3 is running your new custom "T&R" will apply in all Windows applications!

PowerStrip Timing Parameters Generic Timing Details
960x540p =960,96,80,80,540,10,1,12,40806,1 HFP=88 HSW=80 HBP=88 kHz=34 VFP=11 VSW=1 VBP=11 Hz=60

1920x540p =1920,144,192,160,540,7,1,15,80986,1

HFP=144 HSW=192 HBP=160 kHz=34 VFP=7 VSW=1 VBP=15 Hz=60

800x600i =800,216,168,120,600,243,1,281,43721,9

HFP=216 HSW=168 HBP=120 kHZ=34 VFP=243 VSW=1 VBP=281 Hz=30

1024x768i =1024,192,80,192,768,153,1,195,49857,9

HFP=192 HSW=80 HBP=192 kHz=34 VFP=153 VSW=1 VBP=195 Hz=30

1152x864i =1152,216,128,168,864,109,1,151,55780,2056

HFP=216 HSW=128 HBP=168 kHz=34 VFP=109 VSW=1 VBP=151 Hz=30

1280x960i =1280,144,128,112,960,71,1,93,55780,2056

HFP=144 HSW=128 HBP=112 kHz=34 VFP=71 VSW=1 VBP=93 Hz=30

1280x1024i =1280,144,128,112,1024,39,1,61,55780,9

HFP=144 HSW=128 HBP=112 kHz=34 VFP=39 VSW=1 VBP=61 Hz=3

1600x900i =1600,168,152,136,900,89,1,127,68986,2056

HFP=168 HSW=152 HBP=136 kHz=34 VFP=89 VSW=1 VBP=127 Hz=300

1920x1080i =1920,184,184,168,1080,27,1,16,82328,2056

HFP=184 HSW=184 HBP=168 kHz=34 VFP=27 VSW=1 VBP=16 Hz=30

640x480p (in 540p timings)=640,136,112,56,480,26,1,56,31704,2048

HFP=128 HSW=112 HBP=64 kHz=34 VFP=30 VSW=1 VBP=52 Hz=60

848x480p (in 540p timings)=848,96,80,64,480,29,6,48,36789,2048

HFP=96 HSW=80 HBP=72 kHz=34 VFP=29 VSW=6 VBP=48 Hz=60

You can enter the values manually in the custom resolution screen if you wish, however, it will probably be more accurate to copy the timing string into the pstrip.ini file because it has the exact pixel clock information:

General PowerStrip Notes

Notice that the Powerstrip 3 value for horizontal scan rate when entering values manually into the custom resolution screen is always 34KHz and vertical refresh rate is always 60Hz for progressive, 30Hz for interlaced. Most HDTVs run between 33.5KHz-33.8KHz scan rate so adjust as needed. You will find that these timings are a little closer to 33.5KHz horizontal scan rate and 59.7Hz vertical refresh rate.

If the convergence seems to be off when you first switch to the new resolution, simply exit the custom resolution box and, in the advanced timings box, adjust the horizontal scan frequency and/or the front back porches slightly until it is correct. Just a couple of clicks will do. The controls in Powerstrip 3 are interactive, so if you adjust the horizontal scan rate it will affect the vertical refresh rate. Adjust the vertical refresh rate and front/back porches as needed, keeping the progressive line total at 563 (interlaced 1125). It is also important to note that the monitor you specify in Windows must be capable of resolving the resolutions you present to the display driver in progressive scan mode. For example, if you want to create 1920x1080 interlaced, your monitor must be able to display 1080 progressive. I use the Sony GDM-W900 monitor drivers because it has a max resolution of 1920x1200p as listed in Powerstrip 3 monitor profiles. With the combination of nvidia drivers & the Sony GDW-W900 monitor drivers, I never had to restart Windows to accept the new resolutions. Note: Nvidia 7.52 drivers and above seem to have increased 480p custom resolution support.

Now that nvidia drivers have added 480p custom resolution support I use 848x480p @ 540p timings for best results (try large icons for a smooth desktop and a neutral grey desktop color for even tube wear). The sides are perfect on my set with half of the title bar and task bar cropped, quite manageable IMO. Your results may differ depending on your sets’ overscan. Adjust as needed in the advance timings screen.

Base 960x540p is included next. It is overscanned.

Use this as the base timing for creating new progressive scan custom 540p based T&Rs. Make sure the 960x540p values are active in the custom resolution sceen. Click "lock total geometry", enter the new resolution values, then apply. PS 3 will apply your new custom resolution using 960x540p timings. Same principal works for interlaced. Just start with a known working custom interlaced T&R, and make sure "interlaced" is checked.

1920x540p for DVD playback: The desktop will be overscanned, tall and skinny. The desktop will be overscanned, tall and skinny.

However, I’ve tried every combination of 540p based resolution and this one seems to look the best to me for DVD (I use WinDVD 2000 v2.6). Make sure you uncheck "keep aspect ratio" in WinDVD.

Open WinDVD/P-DVD, setting the properties of your shortcut to open the window maximized to fill the screen. Then open YXY, associate the current player, "get current position", and adjust as needed. Try using the application profiles in Powerstrip 3. For example, I launch WinDVD @ 1920x540p (with a hot-key combo), then YXY. When WinDVD closes, Powerstrip 3 switches back to the previous resolution. See the edit at the end of this post for more info.

640x480p (using 540p timings), 800x600i, 1024x768i, 1152x864i, 1280x960i and 1280x1024i are good for games that don't support custom T&Rs. These are standard Windows resolutions running at HDTV timings. 640x480p @540p timings makes an adequate gaming solution as it fills the 16x9 HDTV screen from top to bottom with black bars on the side, just like a 4x3 broadcast on a 16x9 digital TV station. 800x600i and 1024x768i are window boxed in the center of the screen. 640x480p @540p & 800x600i are needed because some games run their menus/movies in different resolutions than the game itself; for example, in MechWarrior 4, the movies are 640x480, the menus are 800x600 and the game runs at 1024x768! 1280x960i (4:3 stretched) and 1600x900i are very good for gaming; they are full screen with little to no vertical overscan. I posted the 1920x1080 interlaced timings and it works for the desktop, but your DVD video overlay won’t scale correctly, resulting in half of a too tall image…the overlay wants to create 1080 progressive scan lines. I must admit I'm really getting to like 1152x864i, 1280x960i and 1600x900i for gaming; Q3A, Max Payne, Pod Racer, Revolt, Madden 2002, NFS:PU and Giants:CK all look surprisingly good at these resolutions even though they are interlaced! 1600x900i is especially sweet as it fills the entire screen and is the correct aspect ratio. GeforceMX owners, please take note: according to Ashley S., author of Powerstrip 3, GeforceMX chipsets do not support interlacing.

640, 720, & 856x480p using 540p timings are also useful for Key Digital transcoder users (like me) who need 480p and don't want to flip the dip switch to change between resolutions.

Make sure you set Powerstrip 3 (options>>>about…) to start up with Windows AND apply settings at start up. For gamers: I have found that once you modify the Windows standard resolutions you simply need to keep Powerstrip 3 running in the background, launch the game and its' custom T&Rs will be applied to the game. Remember to save your new custom "T&R" as a display profile or PS 3 will not associate them with your games!

If you find your desktop has black bars/lines on the sides or top/bottom (underscan), or has a bit too much overscan, simply go back to the custom resolution screen and adjust the front/back porches (this adjusts the horizontal and vertical blanking areas) then "add resolution". Again, you’ll probably find that a couple of clicks will do the trick.

You can check out my home theater equipment here:

http://www.geocities.com/karnis2/my_home_theater_setup.html

As always, Your Mileage May Vary according to manufacturer.

Wayne Harrelson

Updated 09-16-01 1:30AM EDT

 

 

 
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