Originally Posted by stevenjw
1920x1080 PCs can be built very cheaply using a NUC and it's decent on-board Intel graphics. I'm using one in my family room. 4K PCs require a very good video card and therefore the "stuff" that goes around it (case, CPU, MB, memory, SSD, etc.), so it costs more. I don't really see the need for an i7, so went with an i5. Unless you have a need for the top of the line OC gaming machine or other reason, an i5 will do just fine for an HTPC. I can only speak to my video card - the AMD Radeon R9 290, which is a good bargain for 4K video card IMHO. It's extremely stable and displays everything I've thrown at it without any problems. Again, I don't need to OC or have the top of the line. I just tried to find the sweet spot for an HTPC build that would last. I highly recommend going with a SSD for at least the OS. 120Gb should be more than plenty for your needs. However, content takes up room and I recommend storing that outside the HTPC on a RAID. I use Synology for it's stability, expansion capabilities, and features. If you go that route, spend the money on quality HDDs. I went with cheaper 3Gb Seagates. They work when they work, but fail too often. Seagate will send you a replacement quickly for $9.99 shipping and return of defect, but their warranty is now only one year. If I had to do it again, I'd spend more for drives with longer warranty designed for RAID use, probably from WD. As for wireless keyboard and mouse, I like trackballs and use an all-in-one RF solution that has a thumball and buttons located at the top for my right hand. The one that I have for the HT is no longer made. The closest I found to it that I use with my family room NUC HTPC is a SIIG keyboard
for under $50. It's a little on the lower quality side, but seems to work OK for me so far. I guess Logitech would be a good choice, especially if you prefer separate KB and mouse or a trackpad.
I think the 4K coming out of the HTPC is excellent do for the most part because of the software (JRiver and it's use of MadVR, etc). The Radeon 290 helps too.
I think the puck probably looks just as good. The issue with the puck is that it's all based on content. It's limited to what Sony puts on their site and it's a joke since it's only a subset of Columbia (Sony) movies and some shorts. A few of the shorts look great, so the potential is there. I downloaded and watched The Amazing Spider-Man II using the voucher. It looked at least as good as BD, but I'd still call it 4K-lite. The 4K on the puck is only as good as the source. The same is true really for any source including the HTPC. There are some nice shorts and clips for playback from the HTPC, but the available content is very limited too. 4K source is just not here yet which is why we're all waiting for 4K BD.
I'm not a big gamer, so can't really speak much to it. I'd ask others like Zombie about it. What I've seen looks good, but is it more impressive than the best 4K shorts? No.
All good advice, I would just add that there are three things missing in ALL GPUs right now: HDMI 2.0, HDCP 2.2 and HEVC acceleration.
While these are not essential to play the kind of 4K crappy content we can get on the internet at the moment, it will be necessary to be able to play 4K bluray (from a 4K PC bluray reader, likely based on BDXL) and other protected content using commercial software players like future versions of PDVD/TMT etc. These players will NOT be able to play 4K blurays without HDCP 2.2 support in the GPU, just like they need HDCP to play bluray discs.
The reason why jRiver/MadVR can deal with 4K content (just) is because of its poor quality: the same old rec 709 / YCC 420 8 bits of bluray and using h264 compression (which has hardware support in existing GPUs), just the resolution is bumped up from 1080p to 2160p. When we start seeing 10 or 12 bits content in Rec 2020 or DCI compressed using HEVC/h265), all existing cards without HEVC hardware support will choke. Try to play any 4K content with 10 bits bit depth, they already choke.
If you plan to rip everything and use only open source software, then HEVC acceleration is the only thing that really matters for film playback, HDMI 2.0a also important to play 50/60p 4K video content (better than the 420 8bits limitation of HDMI 2.0b) and possibly bluray 4K in full quality, depending on the final specs.
Unless you are in a hurry, I would wait for the upcoming GPUs with these three things (expected early in 2015) or I would buy a cheap temp GPU knowing you'll have to upgrade it to play 4K content properly (both form a performance point of view and from a content protection point of view).
If possible, wait for the Bluray 4K specs to be published so you'll know what the GPU will have to support to be able to play upcoming 4K content in full quality.
Madshi should update MadVR to support higher than 8 bits resolution at some point (that's MadVR's maximum right now). 10 bits would be a minimum for upcoming UHD content. This will hopefully come along with HEVC hardware support.
The VW1x00ES is one of the few displays with 10bits panels and DCI gamut support, so all this does matter if you want the HTPC to deliver as good a picture as the VW1x00ES can deliver.
Just my .2 cents.