“Let our rigorous testing and reviews be your guidelines to A/V equipment – not marketing slogans”
Facebook Youtube Twitter instagram pinterest

Powerstrip Program Guide - A User Manual

by Thomas Steves December 05, 2006
Powerstrip program

Powerstrip program

Powerstrip is indeed "the killer app" of the HTPC world. It is possibly the most important program today in the "convergence" market between computers (PC only unfortunately!) and the high definition television (HDTV) or Projector marketplace. With it you can craft a custom resolution and sync timings to enable the best possible display of your computer Desktop, DVD's and other video sources from an HTPC to an HDTV or Projector.

To use Powerstrip, you must have a video card that supports custom resolutions. Some of the cards that support custom resolutions are the ATI Radeon series, Matrox G-series, Parhelia, NVidia or 3dfx graphics cards. Some of the cards that do not support custom resolutions are the S3, SiS, Trident, Intel, ATI Rage and Rage128 cards.

This guide is only meant to augment the great wealth of information on this program that is already available. It is by no means complete and certainly not guaranteed to be 100% accurate. The idea was to try and create a "Powerstrip for the Powerstrip impaired" type of guide, with pictures to make it a little easier. This is truly easier said than done. Hopefully this guide will be helpful. Any suggestions will certainly be appreciated.

You will need to understand the difference between "i" (Interlaced) and "p" (Progressive) video before continuing.

Forewarned is forearmed, so before we even get started there are things you need to know.
What you need:

  1. Powerstrip: www.entechtaiwan.com
  2. Setup/emergency "CRT" Monitor (in addition to your main HDTV Display)

crt-display.jpgA CRT monitor (regular old, "picture tube" type monitor) of pretty good size is recommended for troubleshooting and setup. The bigger and bolder the display is, the better it will be for this - especially if you will be shooting for higher resolutions or "interlaced" resolutions. Monitors that support a wide variety of resolutions and refresh rates are best.

Big, old Sony Trinitrons are often favored. You can certainly use a smaller monitor if your intended resolutions will work on it. You just have to be more careful.

Note1: There are a number of old "Workstation" monitors out there on the used market which are "fixed frequency", these will not work for this.

Note2: You cannot create resolutions which have a greater resolution than what your Displays driver allows. If Windows believes your monitor is only capable of 1284x1024, these are the maximum horizontal and vertical resolutions windows will allow you to use. The "workaround" is to change your Display Driver in "Device Manager".

An often used display driver for this is the Sony GDM-W900, since it will take a very wide range of resolutions and refresh rates. While it's true you can fool windows into thinking your monitor can handle more than it should, remember, you can't fool your monitor. If it's not a GDM-W900, or something similar, it will not display any crazy thing you send at it. Be careful.

     3. Patience and "Nerves of Steel"

Powerstrip is very powerful, but also quite capable of causing your computer and display to stop "communicating" properly, this could cause the display to start rolling, doubling or generally freaking out. It is important that you don't freak out as well. It is recommended that you know how to start up your computer in "Safe" mode and "VGA" mode (safe mode for Win9x users) , uninstall and reinstall drivers and get around in "Device Manager" if you wish to use this software.

Legal disclaimer thingy: Use at your own risk! We are not aware of anyone causing damage to their display devices using this software, or any of the methods used in this guide, but if any damage should occur, we are certainly not responsible. Please sue someone else.

     4. You need to have an HDTV or Projector capable of resolutions over 640x480i (standard NTSC Television) in general to get the most from the software.

What you need to know Beforehand:

AFTERSHOCK!

OK, after you have Powerstrip installed and have a setting that actually works, what problems might you expect then?

Over-scan/Under-scan/ Screen Positioning:
You are going to have to deal with screen positioning, size and "over-scan" or "under-scan" issues. This is normal. For each resolution you set on an HDTV, you will need to tweak it for over-scan, under-scan, screen sizing and screen positioning. Powerstrip provides a variety of buttons for adjusting these parameters, or you can use "manual settings" by typing them in. You can adjust settings for such strange things as "front porch", "rear porch", "polarity" and more. Powerstrip does make this a bit more user friendly than is sometimes good for an HTPC user, since you will be tempted to "tweak" things faster than you should. Remember - make slight adjustments and save them. Then make more slight adjustments and save them.

You will possibly need to do a lot of "Window Resizing" to tame Windows obsession with opening things in windows that will not fit on the display. Most modern Windows versions will want to open windows that will not fit your resolution, especially if you have an RPTV display that cannot do 720p. In many cases you can resize all of the "important" windows to display properly. Some windows, such as the "Advanced Display Properties" window may very well be too tall for the screen, and you will not be able to resize them. For these windows, either unplug the "intended final display monitor" (your HDTV) and switch to your CRT monitor, or use the "lucky tab" method - use the <tab> key until you think you have the "OK" button selected and the press <Enter>. Some popular programs will not work without a resolution of at least 800x600. These programs will not work if you can't get a resolution that high. For many RPTV users you'll need to switch to your CRT or another monitor that supports the resolution if you wish to use these programs. Either that or get a HDTV, plasma screen, Projector or other display which can handle at least 800x600.

Getting Started

OK, on with it...
Connect the CRT!

Install Powerstrip, restart.
"Click" the Little Powerstrip icon.
Select "Options..." -> "Preferences..."
The following screen will appear...

preferences.gif

At the top left, find the checkbox for "Auto load with Windows", and check it.
Click the "OK" button.
Try a new display setting:
First try a default Display Profile:
Click the Powerstrip tray icon and select "Display Profiles" -> "Configure".
Select the "Advanced timing options" button.
Select the "Custom Resolutions" button.
With the resolutions set to "Predefined" (default) rather than "User defined" Select 640x480p, or another resolution that is compatible with your HDTV.

Check to make sure everything looks ok. For instance, if using the Key Digital KD-VTCA2 Transcoder, make sure the sync Polarity is set the same in Powerstrip as it is set on the Dip Switch on the Transcoder.

Click the "Add new Resolution" button.

custom-resolutions.gif

the following screen usually appears the first time you use a custom resolution.

system-settings-change.gif

You can either click "restart" now or continue and add more resolutions by clicking the "continue" button. When finished adding resolutions you want to try using, click "Restart". Remember not to get too ambitious with resolutions at first.

Your computer will start up again into the original resolution you were using, not the newly added resolutions, so don't get ready to panic yet. Wait until later.

Confused about what AV Gear to buy or how to set it up? Join our Exclusive Audioholics E-Book Membership Program!