HTPC Update #1: Hardware Headaches and Menu Tweaking Page 2

Display Concerns: Reading is Fundamental

Normally I'm a projector guy, but sometimes S+V tech editor Al Griffin sends a TV my way, and I have to suffer for a few weeks with a tiny screen instead. This month was the excellent Samsung PN59D8000 (look for it in the November issue, I think). Despite the fact that I was only about 8 feet from the screen, text was much harder to read than I expected. This has nothing to do with the TV, which was pixel-perfect in this regard, but everything to do with fonts made for a close-up computer screen on a TV that's farther away. I had mentioned this being a possibility in the original HTPC article, but seeing it firsthand makes me think I underestimated it.

Font size for Windows is under Personalization (there's a video linked in the original article), but of bigger concern were games. Playing SPaZ resulted in a lot of leaning forward to make out the smallish text on the icons and descriptions.

For those of you using HTPCs on TVs, please chime in. do you have this problem, and if so, what's your solution?

Display Setup: Tweaking the Menus

One important thing I forgot to mention in the original article is aspect ratio. Specifically, making sure that all 1,920x1,080 pixels sent by the PC are displayed on the TV/projector. Every TV should have an Aspect Ratio button (or something similarly named), and one will usually be called "Just" or "Native" or something. Also check the setup menus, as in many cases (Panasonic for one, definitely) you'll find a sub-menu dealing with overscan, which zooms in on the picture slightly, potentially blurring the often single-pixel-wide text characters.

Also turn down the sharpness control, as on most TVs this just adds edge enhancement or ringing that will make text harder to read.

Heat. . . And Heatstroke

We've had an incredibly - and rather unprecedentedly - mild summer here in LA (sorry, rest of the country), but the heat spiked up at the end of August, and I was right to be concerned about the heat dissipation in my rack. Playing long sessions of the awesome-so-far Deus Ex: Human Revolution, would occasionally cause. . . some. . . hard. . . stutters. . . and. . . pauses. .. the telltale signs of heatstroke.

It's likely right on the cusp of being an issue, as it would only act up when the house was really hot from the heat of the day. Now that it's cooling off as we head into the Fall and Winter, we'll see if I really need to work something out for this. I might try a few things anyway, as it's not something a lot of people seem to talk about.

Mouse and Mousepad: Back to USB?

Do all wireless mice suck, or just the one I bought? Seriously, it borders on unusable. I thought maybe it was just trying to use my sofa as a mouse pad, but after buying a Mionix Propus 380 gaming surface, it was little better. There is so much slop in the control, first person shooters are barely playable. I'm really good at FPSs, but playing with this thing makes me feel like a noob.

It's not just that it's laggy, it doesn't track on anything. So I'll try to aim, to find that the reticule hasn't moved despite 8 inches of mouse sliding. The Mionix pad was the last straw, as I had tried magazines, hardcover books, cardboard, pretty much every flat surface I could find. It does that frustrating thing where it will work fine for a bit, then just decide it's no longer a mouse, merely an underhand decoration with buttons. Unacceptable.

I'm resisting calling out the manufacturer of this POS until I get in some more wireless mice to see if they're all this bad. If they are, I'll begrudgingly return to USB mice, of which there are many, many excellent choices.

Still to come

Many of you left great comments on the last post in this series, with plenty of suggestions for things to try, and trust me, they're on the list. For now I'm still trying to get the HTPC comfortably usable, then I'll move on to improving its functionality.