Is there a commonly recommended PRE-BUILT HTPC? - AVS Forum
Forum Jump: 
Reply
 
Thread Tools
post #1 of 33 Old 09-26-2010, 10:31 AM - Thread Starter
Member
 
merlin2375's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2010
Posts: 22
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Liked: 10
I've been reading quite a few threads. I can see there's a lot of focus on building HTPC's but at this point I'm really interested in just buying something off the shelf. I know it will mean compromise and may mean paying a couple of extra dollars.

What I'd like to be able to do:
Play blue rays (either now or start with DVDs with the ability to add BR in the future)
DVR stuff with it
Stream video (hulu, you tube)
Browse the web

Any helps/links on places to start for something already built?
merlin2375 is offline  
Sponsored Links
Advertisement
 
post #2 of 33 Old 09-26-2010, 11:50 AM
Advanced Member
 
tman247's Avatar
 
Join Date: Sep 2007
Location: UK
Posts: 852
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 4 Post(s)
Liked: 27
Any simple PC shipped with Win7 Home Premium or above can act as an HTPC. You may need to add a tuner if you want live TV, but it will do the job. But, if you want it to look the part in the living room, be quiet, and not use too much power, then you're going to have to build it yourself, or try and find a pre-built one.

Trouble is with pre-built HTPC's, there aren't many companies to specialize in putting a proper one together with all components specially selected for the job, and of those that do, they're damn expensive (I regularly see ones upwards of $2k), and the parts list is generally nothing to write home about. This is why most people 'in the know' build there own. Do the research, select the parts you want, and away you go. Loads of knowledgable people on AVSF are happy to give advice on a spec before you actually splash the cash.
tman247 is offline  
post #3 of 33 Old 09-26-2010, 11:52 AM - Thread Starter
Member
 
merlin2375's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2010
Posts: 22
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Liked: 10
Thanks for the help! I see what you're saying. I guess I was just having a moment of laziness, it seems like building one is going to be the way to go.

One question though regarding tuners: do tuners work with cable card systems and how hard is it to turn an HTPC into a DVR (timer is fine rather than by name if that matters).
merlin2375 is offline  
post #4 of 33 Old 09-26-2010, 12:07 PM
AVS Addicted Member
 
dbone1026's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2008
Location: Long Island, New York
Posts: 11,296
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 5 Post(s)
Liked: 71
Quote:
Originally Posted by merlin2375 View Post

Thanks for the help! I see what you're saying. I guess I was just having a moment of laziness, it seems like building one is going to be the way to go.

One question though regarding tuners: do tuners work with cable card systems and how hard is it to turn an HTPC into a DVR (timer is fine rather than by name if that matters).

Not difficult to turn an HTPC into a DVR. You can get a cable card solution such as the new Ceton , or you can use a networked tuner like the HdHomerun. The easiest PVR software to use is Windows Media Center, and you can always look at other solutions such as SageTV and Media Portal

Cheers,
Damian

MSS.net blog (contributing editor) - http://www.mediasmartserver.net

Windows Entertainment and Connected Home MVP 2010-2012

dbone1026 is offline  
post #5 of 33 Old 09-26-2010, 12:19 PM
AVS Club Gold
 
renethx's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2006
Posts: 16,014
Mentioned: 2 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 120 Post(s)
Liked: 341
- Dell Inspiron 580s $500 + LG UH10LS20 BD-ROM/DVD burner $80: Total $580

- AVADirect CUSTOM HTPC Core™ i3 / i5 H55 Socket 1156 Entertainment Computer System. A similar system (with a better HTPC case) costs ~$850

- DIY microATX system: $740 (Windows 7 Home Premium OEM $100 and BD-ROM/DVD burner $80 added)

- DIY ATX system: $800 (Windows 7 Home Premium OEM $100 and BD-ROM/DVD burner $80 added)

Dell is the cheapest but the most inflexible (in a sense).

Ceton InfiniTV 4 Digital Cable Quad-Tuner PCIe x1 Card, low-profile, $399.
renethx is offline  
post #6 of 33 Old 09-26-2010, 03:11 PM
Senior Member
 
GeoffQ's Avatar
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 233
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Liked: 10
If you want to be lazy and have the cash and get all the goodies with cable card and bitstreaming the HD audio from blu-rays check out S1 Digital http://www.s1digital.com/ and VidaBox http://www.vidabox.com/. They are great dedicated mediacenters. One of the reasons to go with one of these companies is that it will be all set up out of the box for MediaCenter the only thing you will have to choose is resolution.
GeoffQ
GeoffQ is offline  
post #7 of 33 Old 09-26-2010, 05:23 PM
Kex
AVS Special Member
 
Kex's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2007
Location: Santa Monica, California
Posts: 1,136
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Liked: 10
Welcome to AVS merlin2375! I've been trying to figure out the same thing myself. Maybe you need to ask yourself a few questions first (other than those you mentioned at the start of the thread):

- Do I want a compact Small Form Factor, or is a large computer case acceptable?
- Do I want to connect it to a computer monitor in my office, or to a TV in my living room?
- Are you hooking this up to a receiver (AVR) or just a TV or monitor?
- Is this for HDTV or SDTV?
- What noise levels are acceptable (some PC's can be quite noisy at times)?

There are a few other questions I would ask:

- What functions of a HTPC require the addition of a dedicated graphics card?
- What functions of a HTPC will work well without a dedicated graphics card?
- Will a HTPC without a dedicated graphics card work well as a DVR in 1080i or not?
- Does a CPU with faster dual cores work better as a HTPC than a CPU with slower quad cores?

And then, there are some deals like these refurbished models around, in the $400-500 price range. Could they be recommended with or without a dedicated graphics card?

http://www.tigerdirect.com/applicati...943&CatId=5138

- Gateway SFF, SX2800-07.
- Windows 7 Home Premium 64-Bit
- Intel Core 2 Quad, Q8300, 2.5GHz
- 4.0GB (2 x 2048MB), DDR3, 800GHz, 1333MHz
- Intel Graphics Media Accelerator X4500HD

What would something like this be able to do, and what could it not do?
Kex is offline  
post #8 of 33 Old 09-26-2010, 06:13 PM
Member
 
almot09's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2009
Posts: 101
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Liked: 10
Good list of requirements by Kex.

Dell Inspiron 560s could work too, available from $350 refurbished at Dell Outlet or $450-500 new. I understand all new SFF Inspirons have HDMI, thought it's not always specified, and all come with DVD or optional BD.

Or - a mixed bag of "blessings" in Dell Zino - I understand with DVD and almost mandatory upgrade of videocard it will cost upwards of $450 (no refurbished units yet).

Both toys are quiet (reportedly).

Like guys said, any PC with Win 7 will do recording, and if it won't, use Streaming Video Recorder by Apowersoft or similar freeware. Also, any PC will do web browsing via traditional browser like IE, Firefox, or interface like Zinc (when you're not satisfied with Hulu and other pre-loaded links of Zinc).

If it doesn't have a to be a Mini or SFF case, the choice is wider yet.
almot09 is offline  
post #9 of 33 Old 09-27-2010, 03:43 AM
AVS Special Member
 
mike_311's Avatar
 
Join Date: Apr 2006
Posts: 2,889
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Liked: 10
IMO, the only REAL reason to build over buy is to get the media component looking case and opposed to a pc tower look.

yes there are other reasons too, but with the ability of any new pc to playback hd video, as long as the prebuilt pc has hdmi and enough slots to add extra components you want like tuner cards), it will work as an htpc.

in fact you'd be hard pressed to build a capable htpc for less than you can buy a prebuilt.

"If the world didn't suck, we'd all fly off."
mike_311 is offline  
post #10 of 33 Old 09-28-2010, 01:28 AM
Member
 
almot09's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2009
Posts: 101
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Liked: 10
Quote:
Originally Posted by mike_311 View Post

IMO, the only REAL reason to build over buy is to get the media component looking case and opposed to a pc tower look.

...in fact you'd be hard pressed to build a capable htpc for less than you can buy a prebuilt.

Low-cost "media component looking case" for HTPC-builders - horizontally placed SFF mATX like Antek NSK1480 costs $115, not darn cheap, and looks ugly, outdated silver colour. Pre-built PC of "slim" or SFF form like Dell Inspiron look better, and those are not towers.

The problem is - above mentioned SFF Dell and similar under $600 either have analog-only audio, or tiny HDD or bare minimum of RAM. Assuming you have a copy of Windows, a better HTPC can be build for $400 in an ugly case or for $500 in a better case. So, there is still incentive to build, but not much.
And, if you can get a refurbished pre-built (or in a year a used one) for 30-40% less, then building your own is a purely aesthetic pleasure - may be this is the real reason, who knows
almot09 is offline  
post #11 of 33 Old 09-28-2010, 09:54 AM - Thread Starter
Member
 
merlin2375's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2010
Posts: 22
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Liked: 10
Thanks for all of the responses. All good questions.

case size doesn't matter to me too much, I don't want the first computer NASA ever had but, it doesn't have to be as small as a DVD player either. After looking around and hearing from you guys, I gather this could be a place to cut costs all to its own.

I just want to be able to connect it to a TV via HDMI, not to a computer

This would be for an HDTV. The thing is, however, I don't yet have the TV (I'm putting my setup together) so if I can use it over standard RCA to start that would be immensely valuable. I would focus and want on 1080

As far as noise, well, middle of the road here. I don't want a lawnmower but I also don't want to pay for the premium of ultra silent.

Regarding choosing discrete vs. not discrete video card and processor is I really don't know. I've been building and tinkering with computers for many years but don't know what processor would be a wise choice with room to grow and what discrete video cards can handle in terms of blue ray. I do know that I would prefer to get a machine with some form of expandability in the form of open slots.

More about my goals
The more I think about it the more I realize that I really want this thing to be a DVR (even if only by time). I almost just want a digital VCR in that sense. I don't see any reason to pay the cable company every month while never owning anything.

Close second would be to watch hulu and other streaming things off the web (also including youtube) but mostly hulu and the like.

The biggest hurdle I am seeing here with the DVR setup is overcoming the cable card thing or somehow getting the HTPC to control the cable box (so it can switch channels).

Thanks so much for the help and the links. I am learning.
merlin2375 is offline  
post #12 of 33 Old 09-28-2010, 01:38 PM
Member
 
almot09's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2009
Posts: 101
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Liked: 10
Quote:


I don't yet have the TV (I'm putting my setup together) so if I can use it over standard RCA to start that would be immensely valuable. I would focus and want on 1080

I've been through the similar learning curve (and I'm not done yet).

I am not sure which videocard or integrated board have RCA video output - either single yellow or red-green-blue component cable. Must be rare. You may get a converter (switch-box) with VGA In and RGB and yellow and RF (coaxial cable) Out, but it doesn't make sense to pay $200 for it if you will have to buy LCD anyway.

If you find such a card, you can use RCA video cable on older TV set, but for 16:9 LCD at the very least you will have to use RGB component or S-video or VGA (monitor cable). VGA is the best, second only to HDMI. I use VGA (my PC doesn't have HDMI), and on 720p 32" LCD TV this is adequate. If your room is small, you don't need it larger than 32", and if it is 32", you don't need 1080p unless you use it as a computer monitor. Trust me, you won't notice the difference between 720p and 1080p from 6ft distance.
almot09 is offline  
post #13 of 33 Old 09-28-2010, 03:41 PM
AVS Special Member
 
bjmarchini's Avatar
 
Join Date: Sep 2007
Posts: 3,977
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Liked: 10
Quote:
Originally Posted by mike_311 View Post

IMO, the only REAL reason to build over buy is to get the media component looking case and opposed to a pc tower look.

yes there are other reasons too, but with the ability of any new pc to playback hd video, as long as the prebuilt pc has hdmi and enough slots to add extra components you want like tuner cards), it will work as an htpc.

in fact you'd be hard pressed to build a capable htpc for less than you can buy a prebuilt.

The other question is whether you are a person who just wants it to work or a tinkerer. Based on the OPs first statement, he seems the former. in reality, do you even need a slot for a tuner card. I haven't used a usb tuner, but they seem pretty compact.

HD DVD: 45 SD DVD: 350 BR: 120
PCs: 12, Mame Arcade:1, HD HTPC: 1, WHS Server: 1, HD A3: 2, HD-A30: 1

bjmarchini is offline  
post #14 of 33 Old 09-28-2010, 04:42 PM
AVS Special Member
 
mike_311's Avatar
 
Join Date: Apr 2006
Posts: 2,889
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Liked: 10
Quote:
Originally Posted by bjmarchini View Post

The other question is whether you are a person who just wants it to work or a tinkerer. Based on the OPs first statement, he seems the former. in reality, do you even need a slot for a tuner card. I haven't used a usb tuner, but they seem pretty compact.

that why i capped REAL. there are other reason to build, like being a tinkerer, or if you had most of the parts, but if you really want to build, you aren't contemplating a prebuilt.

you are right you could go with a network tuner or usb ones, i dont like things sticking out of the slots, im afraid it would come loose and miss recordings, but thats just me

"If the world didn't suck, we'd all fly off."
mike_311 is offline  
post #15 of 33 Old 09-28-2010, 05:37 PM
Advanced Member
 
lovemyram4x4's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2010
Posts: 962
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Liked: 10
If your not going to be gaming a IGP should be good enough for any of you playback needs but I don't think any current ones would support component and/or composite video (or dedicated cards for that matter). Back before HDMI I used to use a DVI to component dongle on my old ATI cards I don't know if one of these would work on any of the current DVI outputs.

As for the DVR thing there's a lot of option for this but if you want to use a cablecard tuner your stuck w/ 7MC (which isn't necessarily a bad thing) and using a ATI DCT, Ceton. You can also use capture devices w/ your STB like the HD PVR if you want HD or 1 of the cards w/ s-video or some other input if you don't care about HD-they use IR blaster to change channels but could also be setup to use firewire or USB w/ 3rd party apps. If you don't care about HD depending on you cable provider you may be able to most of your channels in SD w/ any analog tuner (not to many that you can still do that). You can also pull in some channels either OTA or clearQAM from you cable w/ a digital tuner, I get over 30 channels clearQAM from FIOS w/ my HDhomerun so I use that first for DVR/live TV for those channels and my ATI DCT the encrypted channels (as I'm still waiting for my Ceton tuner, but I may keep the HDhomerun in case I ever need more than the 4 tuners on the Ceton, although I might like to keep the ATI DCT I'll be selling it as they stop working properly on FIOS as they implement changes to their system in each market).

lovemyram4x4 is online now  
post #16 of 33 Old 09-28-2010, 05:43 PM
AVS Special Member
 
bjmarchini's Avatar
 
Join Date: Sep 2007
Posts: 3,977
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Liked: 10
If I was going to buy a standalong, it would probaby be one of those newer dells that stand up and look very aesthetic. I don't trust Dell as much as I used to, but I would hope the specialty products would be better made than their disposable $400 computers people expected to last 20 years.

HD DVD: 45 SD DVD: 350 BR: 120
PCs: 12, Mame Arcade:1, HD HTPC: 1, WHS Server: 1, HD A3: 2, HD-A30: 1

bjmarchini is offline  
post #17 of 33 Old 09-28-2010, 07:19 PM
Member
 
almot09's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2009
Posts: 101
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Liked: 10
Quote:


I would hope the specialty products would be better made than their disposable $400 computers people expected to last 20 years.

Since most manufacturing in PC hardware and consumer electronics moved to China, I wouldn't expect any PC to last 20 years. Not to mention that after 10 years it becomes so obsolete that can't be upgraded anymore. 7-8 years with low failure rate (say, 95% of units last 8 years) is what I would like to see in PC components, but looks like I won't see this.

The problem really sucks in non-PC electronics. It's nearly impossible to find, say, a receiver with less than 15% failure rate within the first 2 years, since even traditionally Japanese brands are no longer made in Japan.
almot09 is offline  
post #18 of 33 Old 10-01-2010, 06:02 AM - Thread Starter
Member
 
merlin2375's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2010
Posts: 22
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Liked: 10
Thanks for all of the replies and help. It is much appreciated. I've got a bunch of reading to do. I'm still going back and forth on build vs buy but leaning more towards build. It's honestly more expensive than I had originally thought it would be.

The other thing is I really only watch network TV when I do so there's a good chance I could just get a tuner card and not worry about the cable card thing at all and see what I can pick up over the air. I'll have to keep reading.
merlin2375 is offline  
post #19 of 33 Old 10-01-2010, 09:39 AM
Kex
AVS Special Member
 
Kex's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2007
Location: Santa Monica, California
Posts: 1,136
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Liked: 10
Merlin, I'm planning on:

- Finding a pre-built or self-build HTPC for about $400-500.
- Using a HDHomeRun external, networked tuner (for OTA only).
- Using an optical audio output to hook up to a receiver and some "real" speakers.
- Trying Win7 and Ubuntu as an O.S. for recording HD Live TV.
- Getting a network capable Blu Ray player for DVD movies and Netflix streaming.

I may go a little higher in price if there is some reason that seems to make it worthwhile to me, but I like the idea of not using the computer for Netflix streaming or Blu Ray playback since just doing that seems to avoid some of the trickier pitfalls of a lowish budget HTPC.

If you haven't tried OTA broadcasts on your HDTV yet, you should do so IMO. I was shocked by the quality of picture I can get just by hooking up a $10 "rabbit ears" antenna to our 46" Samsung. I intend to get a better OTA antenna to make this permanent, and then figure out using the HTPC as a recorder and progress from there. I'll add a dedicated video card only after I've tried everything out first so that I can pin down exactly what my longer term expectations are.
Kex is offline  
post #20 of 33 Old 10-01-2010, 11:43 AM
Member
 
almot09's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2009
Posts: 101
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Liked: 10
Kex, your plans are interesting. Network player is unknown territory to me, so correct me if I'm wrong.

To play Netflix it must have some sort of front-end and browser. If this is so, it raises a lot of questions - how good front end a browser, how good is software support by manufacturer (upgrades and bud fixes), how good is it at playing any other streams (by free providers)? With PC I am not limited to particular front-end or browser and will always have free web streams (that often have things unavailable on Netflix).

Playing web streams via PC or network player involves videocard and codecs anyway, be it in PC or in player, right? So it's only a matter of which one has a better videocard and software.

PC for $300 (discounted or refurbished Inspiron) or for $500 (don't know) will be different mostly in CPU speed and videocard. I doubt this really matters for web streams, since Netflix quality is currently comparable to HD DVD at best - not to BD, and free streams are worse yet.

One area that is familiar to me is OTA. I killed my basic cable long time ago and don't regret. Though, it depends on location. My location is terrible, low balcony with lots of buildings around, and I only get 6 OTA channels. Yes, it's HDTV, but on some days I only get 4 channels, depending on weather. I am still convinced that 4 local channels + Netflix + free web streams is better than basic cable (and cheaper), but this depends on the taste. Though, I don't know how anybody can like the taste of basics cable package so much that is willing to pay for it.

PS: disregard my complaints on weather - there are technical problems with local TV tower, everybody in my area lost same 2 channels today. Normally with $50 outdoor antenna I have almost all of HDTV channels possible in my area (5 or 6 channels out of 6 possible), despite horrible location. Dial your address in www.tvfool.com - stations highlighted in green you will get for sure, with indoor or small outdoor antenna. Other stations are not guaranteed.
almot09 is offline  
post #21 of 33 Old 10-01-2010, 01:17 PM
Member
 
Jon_R's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jul 2002
Posts: 96
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Liked: 10
I've had an HTPC in one form or another for 8 years. In that time I've had a variety of really crappy solutions. Crappy ones required tweaking to get anything done - the constant annoyance that you were using a PC and it wasn't some set top box. Some of that was the quality of software/drivers and some of it is just reality of the HTPC. A while back I bought new hardware and started fresh, and I have finally achieved a set top box experience.

To me, HTPC was a hobby. I tinkered endlessly with FFDSHOW and codecs and settings. Now that it is working, I never touch it. I never update it, I never do anything to it. It is used daily and just works.

But would I do it over? I'd seriously look at some of the more comprehensive set top boxes. Popcorn hour has a fancy one and then there is the Boxee Box coming out. Its true, it won't do everything a dedicated HTPC will do, but it'll do most of it, and with a lot fewer headaches.
Jon_R is offline  
post #22 of 33 Old 10-01-2010, 06:19 PM
Newbie
 
twilsey's Avatar
 
Join Date: Apr 2010
Posts: 14
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Liked: 10
I was considering one of the Gateway SX or DX models but the new ones no longer have the optical audio?
twilsey is offline  
post #23 of 33 Old 10-01-2010, 07:32 PM
Member
 
almot09's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2009
Posts: 101
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Liked: 10
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jon_R View Post

To me, HTPC was a hobby. I tinkered endlessly with FFDSHOW and codecs and settings. Now that it is working, I never touch it. I never update it, I never do anything to it. It is used daily and just works.

But would I do it over? I'd seriously look at some of the more comprehensive set top boxes. Popcorn hour has a fancy one and then there is the Boxee Box coming out. Its true, it won't do everything a dedicated HTPC will do, but it'll do most of it, and with a lot fewer headaches.

To me, HTPC has become a necessity since I would have to pay $100 or more monthly to have what I want on cable (and even then I wouldn't have had enough).

We opened a proverbial can of worms here - media player VS HTPC. Briefly, my opinion is - they are no match to one another, until MP growth up to PC or PC becomes small, user-friendly and narrowed/specialized down to HT needs.

Until then, pre-tinkered set-tops like Boxee or Popcorn will give fewer headaches only to those whose needs are fewer.

Will set-top browse the web conveniently? Not just 1-2 content providers that manufacturer has agreement with, but everything else? When I don't find what I need on Netflix (will happen often, that's why I don't pay for it yet), with PC I can watch lower-quality yet acceptable free stream from Ice or DivxRep. Will set-top box do this? What if I don't find anything at Ice or DR and have to normally browse the web with OVG engine? Will set-top box do this again? I could go and turn on the PC then, sure...

What if set-top box won't play something from HDD because of copyright protection or because its player simply can't play that format? I have 3 or 4 soft players now on PC, using mostly one, but can be sure that any file will be played. With set-top box I can't be sure, but hey, I could turn PC on again... The question is - why would I need set-top box then...

Or I need subtitles for some reason; set-top boxes are notoriously limited in their CC abilities - either doesn't show it at all, or doesn't allow adjusting color and format. Solution - yes, I could turn PC on again.
almot09 is offline  
post #24 of 33 Old 10-02-2010, 02:50 PM
Kex
AVS Special Member
 
Kex's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2007
Location: Santa Monica, California
Posts: 1,136
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Liked: 10
My logic is this: a lot of members on the forum here seem to be saying that nothing works better for streaming Netflix than a Roku box: it's reputedly better than most HTPC's. So, since I prefer to rent TV series on DVD than watch them live with the commercials, I'd hope that a dedicated Blu Ray player for under $200 will still stream Netflix as well as a Roku (but I could be wrong, of course). Since a good Roku box is still about $100, then that means I get the Blu Ray player for just $100 extra, or less (I currently use upconversion of SD DVD's only, with an Oppo that does not play Blu Ray or stream Netflix).

Now, I currently pause Live satellite feed with a Philips HDD DVR and DVDR (very nice, BTW), but it's not supposed to be optimal with HD broadcasts (which I haven't tried yet with it). I'm ready to convert to HD, but I only use a basic satellite subscription because the wifey really only wants HGTV, and really only want CNN and CNBC. Everything else, entertainment wise, we rent.

OTA HDTV is excellent, but I'd like to have full HD DVR/PVR abilities so that I can skip the commercials. This is where the HTPC might be useful, including some extras that I might try to stream.

Basically, I am completely sick of paying for satellite or cable, and still having to watch commercials every ten minutes or so for whatever HD shows I might be interested in. I'm not all that interested in news broadcasts in HD, so really, I want:

1) To watch premium shows, such as Stargate or LOLA, or whatever's popular at the time, by renting the DVD, when it becomes available for rent.
2) To stream Pandora and Last.fm, not satellite/cable music channels.
3) Watch OTA HD shows, but with the ability to record them and skip the commercials.
4) Any other internet streaming functions I haven't been able to try yet.
5) Watch standard DVD's or Blu Ray on a dedicated player, not a HTPC.
6) Use Netflix "watch instantly" to fill in, using a wireless/wired Blu Ray player.

My Netflix solution will favor a Blu Ray player with wired or wireless streaming abilities, hopefully for Roku-like performance. My HTPC solution will favor Linux, if it works to my satisfaction, simply because Linux seems to make much better use of available resources when I compare what I own personally already (an Ubuntu laptop with a benchmark CPU of 500 performs comparably to a Windows based laptop with a benchmark CPU of 1,500, with no security issues whatsoever and free Long Term Support operating system upgrades every two years). If Linux is too troublesome to integrate or use, then for $100, I don't mind buying Windows 7 and using that instead.

At this point, I'm getting the impression that what you buy pre-built for about $450, will cost you about $600 to build yourself, but one's own build will be of a higher quality, and will look super cool (hopefully) in comparison! YMMV!
Kex is offline  
post #25 of 33 Old 10-02-2010, 05:33 PM
AVS Special Member
 
olyteddy's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 3,196
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 43 Post(s)
Liked: 199
I wanted to look at the picture on the screen, and not the hardware so I bought an Acer Revo, and tucked it neatly behind the set.
olyteddy is online now  
post #26 of 33 Old 10-02-2010, 06:00 PM
AVS Special Member
 
mike_311's Avatar
 
Join Date: Apr 2006
Posts: 2,889
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Liked: 10
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kex View Post


I may go a little higher in price if there is some reason that seems to make it worthwhile to me, but I like the idea of not using the computer for Netflix streaming or Blu Ray playback since just doing that seems to avoid some of the trickier pitfalls of a lowish budget HTPC.

trying to figure out the the basis of this statement.

these two are possible on any machine you are planning to buy for an htpc.

netflix adds zero cost to a pc (beside the subscription fee) and bluray will set you back only $60, since you can find drives that come with playback software.

"If the world didn't suck, we'd all fly off."
mike_311 is offline  
post #27 of 33 Old 10-02-2010, 09:45 PM
Member
 
almot09's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2009
Posts: 101
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Liked: 10
Kex, if of all the web streams you only need Netflix, then any network Media Player will do (possibly bundled together with BD). Pandora and Last.fm - don't know, depends on the front-end of that particular MP. I don't want to pay anybody, so have to make it without Netflix, which means - more streams and browsing, which in turn necessitates a PC. My front-end allows adding thumbnails as bookmarks (I put in some news stations and videos from Discovery) - I am not sure that proprietary front-ends loaded in network MP are capable of that. For me PC is better.

OTA will get you news, don't know about HGTV, may be some OTA stations in your area have it regularly but certainly not all the time, so the decision will be up to your wife ...

Quote:


I wanted to look at the picture on the screen, and not the hardware so I bought an Acer Revo, and tucked it neatly behind the set.

Isn't picture is what most people want? (Which makes me wonder why modern TV sets come with shiny frames reflecting light from all around). With RF remote the PC doesn't have to be anywhere near TV. Mine is under the desk in the corner far away from TV set.
almot09 is offline  
post #28 of 33 Old 10-03-2010, 07:24 AM
Newbie
 
philb5's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jul 2007
Posts: 10
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Liked: 10
A couple of months ago I was in the same position. I do not have the experience to build and so decided on an off the shelf solution. I ended up going with a Gateway sx20840-01 and the hd homerun dual tuner. The gateway was recommended by CNET and some here have used it also. It has now been replaced by the Gateway sx2850-01. Differences between the two are the new model has slightly better 3ghz i3 processor, and wifi card, and ram was lowered to 4gb from 6gb on the 2840. Gateway removed the optical audio from it also I think. However it does have hdmi.

I have the machine connected directly to my tv with hdmi. After removing all the crapware that was installed, Windows 7 media center runs very well. It has a nice plugin for Netflix, and there are also integration plugins available for Hulu, Boxee etc. (I'm using Boxee).

Re the hardware, so far so good. The machine is small enough that I have it behind the tv where its out of site. 1TB hard drive is also nice for plenty of storage. I have now ditched cable and am enjoying recording and watching ota hd content.

I'm not an audiophile so just using the built in TV speakers.

Good luck with your purchase. There are lots of choices available.
philb5 is offline  
post #29 of 33 Old 10-03-2010, 08:30 AM
Kex
AVS Special Member
 
Kex's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2007
Location: Santa Monica, California
Posts: 1,136
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Liked: 10
Wow, did merlin2375 ever open Pandora's box (nice pun, even if I do say so myself)!

Quote:
Originally Posted by mike_311 View Post

trying to figure out the the basis of this statement.

these two are possible on any machine you are planning to buy for an htpc.

netflix adds zero cost to a pc (beside the subscription fee) and bluray will set you back only $60, since you can find drives that come with playback software.

The basis of the statement is this thread, mostly: http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showthread.php?t=1255994.

Last time I perused it, some time ago, it seemed to be full of people complaining about how it wasn't working to their satisfaction, how Roku was the best way to stream Netflix. Stuff like that ...

Netflix streaming is not ALL that I want, almot09, but it is one good source of immediate entertainment material using "watch instantly", and it seems to work very well with Roku (no lags, no blocking ..., but I don't have Roku, so I'm only repeating what others have posted).

If I'm wrong about this, then it'll be even easier than I thought. I still like the idea of being able to stream from a streaming capable DVD player without the need to turn on the HTPC every time, though. The HTPC would get used for OTA and whatever else I decide I like to watch that is available.

Quote:
Originally Posted by philb5 View Post

A couple of months ago I was in the same position. I do not have the experience to build and so decided on an off the shelf solution. I ended up going with a Gateway sx20840-01 and the hd homerun dual tuner. ...

Did you mean the sx2840-01? I actually ordered a HDHomeRun on woot.com last week, so I'll have that in a few days to try out.

Quote:


... I have the machine connected directly to my tv with hdmi. After removing all the crapware that was installed, Windows 7 media center runs very well. It has a nice plugin for Netflix, and there are also integration plugins available for Hulu, Boxee etc. (I'm using Boxee). ...

So, you have not noticed the need for adding a dedicated video card? What size is your TV screen?

Quote:


... I have now ditched cable and am enjoying recording and watching ota hd content. ...

So, how about cable content such as HGTV, or the DIY network, and stuff like that? Where does one get that from, if at all, and is it (A) watchable with a good picture, (B) recordable on the HDD? If there was a way to watch those, then I really could ditch cable/satellite.
Kex is offline  
post #30 of 33 Old 10-03-2010, 11:27 AM
Newbie
 
philb5's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jul 2007
Posts: 10
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Liked: 10
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kex View Post


Did you mean the sx2840-01? I actually ordered a HDHomeRun on woot.com last week, so I'll have that in a few days to try out.

So, you have not noticed the need for adding a dedicated video card? What size is your TV screen?

So, how about cable content such as HGTV, or the DIY network, and stuff like that? Where does one get that from, if at all, and is it (A) watchable with a good picture, (B) recordable on the HDD? If there was a way to watch those, then I really could ditch cable/satellite.

Yes, its the sx2840.

The intel HD graphics have been fine for my needs. OTA HD content shows really well. The streaming content from the web is not as high quality but it seems to come in smoothly. I did update to Flash 10.1 to take advantage of the hardware acceleration, as out of the box, the installed version was 10.0. Adobe has released several updates to 10.1 The content is going to a 46 inch LCD TV.

Netflix streaming has been very good. No problems there at all that I have noticed.

I don't know if Boxee offers content from HGTV or DIY. At a pinch if they let you watch their shows online, you could run them from a browser. I'm not aware of a way to record shows streamed directly from the web.
philb5 is offline  
Reply Home Theater Computers

User Tag List

Thread Tools
Show Printable Version Show Printable Version
Email this Page Email this Page


Forum Jump: 

Posting Rules  
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are Off