Originally Posted by lkstaack
I can't find a device that will meet all of my AV needs:
-Easy to use interface
-Is not expensive
-Access' my NAS
>easily finds and plays my DVD and MP2 rips (find by criteria)
>plays my home videos
>views my home photos
-Plays and records OTA network broadcasts, DVR-style
-Streams internet video and music content
-Plays DVD/BD disks
Most of these needs can be met by purchasing the equipment below for around $600. However, the interface for music and home videos will be lacking and the user experience will not match what I have seen of HDTVs with WMC.
-Keeping my current Roku player
-Purchasing a Dune player for NAS access and BD disks ($300)
-Purchasing a TiVX ($269) for an OTA DVR
A few comments, firstly you can't find it because it doesn't exist. It's the age-old, cost, performance, ease-of-use, pick any two. You always have to compromise something, so it's up to you to decide which things are least important.
Since you're throwing DVR in there, I think you're somewhat stuck with a PC. I would do a lot
of research on the functionality/UI/guide data for something like the TVIX before you jump in, outside Tivo, I don't think much exists with decent guide data and functionality for DVR outside of a PC, at least not for OTA.
My biggest fear though is getting all the media applications to work right and stay working right. I have experienced the pleasure and pain of spending hundreds of hours tweaking custom remote controls and computer systems. It is not so bad if you have the time; but tremendously frustrating if you don't. I want to avoid this.
This too comes down to you, and what you expect/demand. A lot here are very happy with their HTPC interfaces, but a lot (most?) here are also happy with navigating with a keyboard/mouse. Personally, I am not. When I sit down to veg on the couch, I just want to use a remote to find something, not search the web or windows explorer.
When you try to make a lot of apps easily remote-navigable on a PC, that's when I found things to start getting very frustrating.
Getting a turn-key system from Assassin with OS/application already setup is also a consideration. I think I would have to spend about $1,250 for this option (though, I don't like all the parts he uses). Obviously, this is the most costly course of action....but it should idiot proof the system...right?
No offense to assassin, but I don't think so. I think he does the "easy" part, and what I think many people (wrongly IMO) consider the most intimidating part, assembling the hardware and installing the OS/apps. This is easy as you know. There aren't a lot of choices there, you just plug stuff in to the matching slots and run the Windows installer and follow the prompts. Not a lot can go wrong there. The hard part (IMO) is getting all the integration set up the way you want it, and I don't really think someone can do that for you.
Now I saw the Ceton Q mentioned, now that might, but they've put a lot of software engineering into that box, but again, you're going to have to sacrifice something for that, probably price (to an extent) and flexibility.
A well set up and functioning HTPC would do everything I need. But, I'm concerned that I will not be able to get it set up right. Then, I'm concerned that follow-on glitches and bugs will prevent me from using it in the future. Should I fear this? Thank you for taking the time to help.
It really depends on how picky you are about integration and the nitty-gritty of video performance. If you don't care to have a 100% remote-navigable system, or you don't watch a wide variety of content, or you don't really care that much about video levels or deinterlacing, then an HTPC is pretty easy.
If you do care about all that stuff, it can be somewhat frustrating.
Originally Posted by lkstaack
Thanks for your honest assessment; it sounds like you know what you are talking about. It sounds like you are saying that the picture and color balance quality is better with stand alone CE (consumer electronics?) devices. I guess their components would be specialized for the discreet process they perform? But, how obvious is the difference? I'm the guy who can't tell the difference between MP3 and WMA songs.
I think there are basically two thing's gtgray is getting at. First is that it's impossible to get a PC to output video "untouched", you can't play a DVD and get the raw 480i out of a PC and then switch to a Blu-ray and get the raw 1080p24 out. This is a "negative" if you've got a good external video processor.
Now you can get sort of close with automatic resolution switching, but IMO that really only works sufficiently well if you're watching progressive content where deinterlacing isn't an issue, if you're watching interlaced content, then the fact that you can't bypass deinterlacing and pass the raw fields to an external video processor is a knock.
The other is PCs operate in a different world than video, they expect black and white to be different values than video, and as such it's rather frustrating to deal with that, and often leads to calibration issues, especially if you have other sources in your system.
This is what I fear. I spend close to $1,000 on hardware; spend hundreds of hours trying to get it to perform the way I like; then have it sit in the corner gathering dust because I am the only one in the family that knows the special trick required to get it to play Pandora.
I think it really comes down to how picky you are and how inclined you are to tinker. If you're not too picky it's quite easy as the little things like "PC vs Video levels", seamlessness switching apps, browsing with a mouse/keyboard may not bother you, and thus you won't feel the need to tinker.
If you are picky, well, then you're going to feel the need to "fix" those things, and that will require time to tinker, and if you've got time and enjoy that, well then you've found a new hobby.
Personally, I've gotten to the point where I don't enjoy spending time tinkering with video drivers to get my video levels right, fighting with different apps or even single apps which don't use the right video levels all the time, tweaking my remote automation systems to make switching apps seamless, or spending time trying to integrate sources into a frontend so a keyboard/mouse aren't required. But I've also become more picky about those things if anything, so an HTPC as a frontend device is just not a good fit for me anymore.
Note I said frontend device, I still use a PC as my DVR and media server, unfortunately the system I use (SageTV) is no longer sold