Now that I understand HTPCs a little more, I am ready to start investigating what will work best for me. My main reason for wanting to set one up in the first place is to integrate OTA TV, Hulu and other free services (I know I'll need a plug-in for Hulu, etc...I found a good article on how to do it here
, and Netflix, which is the only media service I plan to pay for besides an internet connection from here on out. Finally, I want to be able to pause, rewind, and record live TV just as we do now with our satellite company DVR. The key thing here is going to be selling it to my wife who is skeptical. She too hates paying for TV, but does appreciate the convenience of satellite, the DVR they provide, etc... She also is not exactly tech savvy-I need something that she can operate with a remote control, which seems doable with Windows Media Center.
My plan is this-we need a new computer anyway. We both have laptops which are both fine for web browsing and checking e-mail, but over the years we've ended up with important documents, photos, and other stuff saved who-knows-where on each computer. It would be nice to just have ONE computer where we save everything (backed up of course). That computer could also be located in our home office, adjacent to the family room where the TV will be located. It would not be difficult to run an HDMI cable through the wall to the TV from the PC. The PC could chug away (I understand that dedicated HTPCs are much quieter) in the other room without bothering anyone. With an RF remote like this one
I should be able to control the HTPC from the family room without a problem.
So basically I'm looking for a computer that can serve as a web browser, a place for my daughter (currently 4 months) to learn to use the computer in a supervised way, a repository for photos, documents, etc...and something to pay our bills, do our monthly budget, so forth. Since I don't need a dedicated home theater PC that is ultra quiet and is packaged in a sleek case that looks like it belongs on a media center rack, I'm hoping that I can get a good deal on something off the shelf from one the major electronics retailers either brick and mortar or online. I see that a lot of companies are even selling refurbished PCs now-if one of those works and it's the right price I'm sold. The problem is I have ZERO knowledge of what I need in terms of processor speed, hard drive capacity, RAM, etc...in order to have a viewing experience that is comparable to cable or satellite. I'll break down the requirements/questions so that people much more knowledgeable than I can hopefully recommend something:
Storage - I have no concept of how much is enough, too much, or too little. The DVR we have now (Dish Network) will store 800 hours of SD programming. that seems to work fine for us-in fact, it's probably too much. I don't think we've ever reached capacity on it and we record lots of cable junk that we never watch. We will be recording the major network shows (that's all we'll be getting with OTA TV anyway) and catching up on them over the weekend. I see us recording maybe 5-10 hours of TV a week and deleting it the following week. Other than that, we'll be making use of the pause/rewind feature pretty often.
As I said before, also on this computer we plan to store our library of digital photos and important documents. The digital photos probably number around 4000 or so high quality images (9 Megapixel) at this point and will continue to grow as our daughter and our family grows. I have them all backed up on a thumb drive now and I think they take up about 3GB. Important documents are mostly Excel spreadsheets, PDFs, Word documents, but everything we'll ever put on there will probably fall short of 1GB. Given that, how much storage will we need? I see that this refurbished PC
has a 1TB hard drive. Will that be enough to store all of our stuff plus function as a DVR?
Speed/RAM/Cache - I'll readily admit that I don't entirely understand these things, but I do know that they affect how fast you can access/process all of that stored information. How much processor speed do I need? The computer referenced above has the following:
Processor Intel® Pentium®
Processor Speed 2.6GHz
Cache Memory 3MB
System Memory (RAM) 4GB
System Memory (RAM) Expandable To 8GB
Type of Memory (RAM) DDR3 SDRAM
Hard Drive Type SATA (7200 rpm)
Hard Drive Size 1TB
Graphics Intel® HD
Video Memory Up to 1696MB total available
Is this adequate, not enough, too much, etc...? Thanks in advance for helping a noob navigate all of this stuff-I'm extremely glad I found this forum.