To begin Tom's might want to update its categories to reflect Blu-Ray. Either change CD/DVD to generic optical or add Blu-Ray to the descriptions. I couldn't figure out where the best place to post this question, but I'm confident that Tom's users will point me in the right direction as they have so many times in the past. Thank you for your assistance.
My question: Should I use an Internal or External Blu-Ray device to upgrade my HTPC? Or should I add a PlayStation 3 to add the feature?
As a side issue, which I'll investigate in the video card forums as well, when a video card indicates it has some version of Dolby output does that mean the video card will decode the sound stream? I read that you can have your Blu-Ray player or an AV receiver decode the stream but I see sound specs on video cards which lead me to believe that the video card can handle the decoding. Am I correct in guessing that if I have an internal Blu-Ray drive that the video card not the drive will handle the sound decoding?
That said I'm guessing that just putting a Blu-Ray drive in my HTPC isn't going to give me all the quality that I expect unless I upgrade my video as well, and maybe add a sound card or external receiver. Sounds like a case of budget ($150 - $200) creep waiting to happen.
if you have space for an internal blueray drive in your htpc then that is most likely the way to go. if you do not have space for it then an external would work. thats all there is to it.
with a pc drive you could get a blueray recorder, ps3s do not record. however for playing bluerays my ps3 is most excellent. you could get a sony blueray player for about $110 though which utilizes the same menu engine as the ps3.
i've never heard of a video card handling sound. this should all be done by your sound card or integrated sound.
if your current video card supports DVI or HDMI outputs then chances are you don't need to upgrade your video card unless its ancient.
onboard sound quality has not let me down yet but a 5.1 or 7.1 pci-e soundcard is a cheap solution that works well. you don't need anything expensive. i think the most i've paid was $40 for a soundblaster.
make sure your movie playing software supports blueray. this is what actually decodes the video and sound from the disk.
in general you have many options available, it all depends on which path you wanted to take
Dolby® TrueHD and DTSHD Master Audio™ Support
Support for copy protected, high bandwidth, 7.1 channel surround sound over HDMI. Get a fully immersive, high definition audio experience with the latest Blu-ray movies. (Requires a DVI to HDMI dongle on some models, an HD capable monitor and a Blu-ray drive)
Would the DVI to HDMI dongle affect the output quality or features? I'm checking out the forums.
Wouldn't a better video card with the latest hardware accelation features provide smoother playback than my mobo's onboard GPU?
video cards that support the surround sound formats are referring to using HDMI to provide an output from the computer when there wasnt any such output before installing the video card.
using the graphics card to output the audio might remove some stress from the main processor.
if your video player is using hardware acceleration, you probably dont need to remove any additional load from the CPU.
how much the video card removes stress from the CPU is unknown to me, as i have never used such a setup.
it's best to ask the video card forum if anybody has experienced a drop in CPU usage when using the video card to output audio.
should the DVI or HDMI dongle affect the quality? no
could the dongle affect the quality? one would think the metal used to make the connection doesnt pass industry standards, and that might be an FCC issue (or an FTC issue)
products are supposed to meet expectations before the product is licensed for being sold.
but if the product was given away for free.. a problem can still arise if the product is causing enough harm.
i've had the chance to use the 3.5mm jacks from my integrated soundcard and the dvi output on my video card to output sound at different times.
as long as your hardware isn't so ancient that you are already running at a crawl trying to play video it shouldnt be a problem. if you notice video stuttering and your performance monitor shows that the culprit is your integrated video then yes, an upgrade would improve performance. keep in mind you can test out the drive and bluerays -first- before deciding whether to upgrade your video card. no use in upgrading if you dont need to.
as for quality loss comparing 3.5mm and a dvi to hdmi dongle, there is none that i can tell. with the audio system i have hooked up one would think i'd notice. you don't need to spend a whole lot but avoid cheap $1 cables. if you can get a shielded cable, even better. i used the one that came with either my video card or motherboard.