I am about to purchase a Dell with Vista Media Center, TV/Tuner card, and X-Fi Soundblaster card. I use my current PC with XP Media Center to regularly record TV movies and to play these movies plus pictures and music on my home entertainment center. I would like to do the same with the new computer, but hopefully with better quality.
In the meantime, we are making a renovation to our house, and I have an excellent opportunity to lay down cable for the new desktop and to try to maximize quality. Cable, when purchased online, is fairly low cost. The run is 45', so I would buy 50' cable since that is readily available.
1. Video question
Graphics card will be the Nvidia 8800 GT, which has DVI outputs. My TV has both HDMI and DVI inputs. I have read on Wikipedia that DVI suffers loss after a few meters. The HDMI article did not mention such a loss, and suggests that the longer the cable run, the better the cable should be to meet the HDMI standards.
Is this true, that HDMI cable is better at avoiding signal loss?
If so, will using HDMI cable with a DVI to HDMI converter on the PC end make for the better cable? Would a DVI to HDMI cable do the same thing? Would it be nuts to lay both DVI-DVI and HDMI-HDMI cable in the walls just in case?
I also have S-Video as an option, but I can't imagine there is any reason to run S-Video? I don't think the AVI Theater 650 Pro TV/Tuner card adds anything as an output choice, but please correct me if I am wrong.
The Soundblaster X-Fi Music has the usual sad output choices, namely a Flexi-mini cable that provides digital output but in a strange mini-cable size. There is a device they sell called a Digital I/O Module that seems to turn the digital mini into an actual optical digital cable or digital coax cable.
Does anyone know what the best path would be for Audio? Is it to purchase the Digital I/O Module and then run optical digital cable in the walls for the 50' run? (I know nothing about signal loss for optical cable). Or is there something better I could do?
Just to update my question with what I have heard.
On the audio front, I spoke to Creative customer support to ask about their mini digital output on their Soundblaster XFi card. It took a bit of work to get past their know-nothing support before I got an excellent reply from someone. Basically, there are two options. The digital mini out can be converted to an optical cable with the right connector, or there is a Digital I/O add-on available from Creative that provides both an optical out and a digital cable out. Either option can then be easily connected to a home stereo.
On the video front, it seems that cards having DVI vs HDMI is not an issue. While the technical limitations of DVI is stated on Wikipedia as being a substantially larger signal loss vs HDMI cable, people have experiences with using long (30-50') runs of both types of cable without issue. There is some reason to believe that laying HDMI cable could be better, since the standard ostensibly requires manufacturers to take into account the cable length when determining how to make it so that the requirements are met. In addition, laying HDMI could simplify cable in the future (and the DVI to HDMI conversion is fairly simple).
Thus, I am leaning towards laying HDMI and Digital Optical cables in my walls at lengths of 50'. I may also purchase S-Video as a backup just in case I have a need for more than one signal. I don't see the benefit of laying an extra DVI cable. I considered a backup Digital coax cable, but I think it is not needed and I can probably lay a RCA cable just to add flexibility for analog sources should I need them.
Generally, cable is very cheap when purchased online at reputable sites that sell cable. The prices for 50' are often cheaper than the prices for 6' lengths in most major box stores. Thus, there is some capability to purchase several types of cables without much issue. Hopefully this helps others (and they can save the insane hours it has taken to research this). If anyone has additional feedback, post away!