New-ish HTPC build/home setup - would love feedback - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 12 Old 02-22-2012, 11:57 AM - Thread Starter
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I'm looking to put together a setup that works like the whole-home DVR service offered by comcast.

From what I can tell, I'll need:
  • A "Master DVR" device - with infinitv4 (or HDHomeRun Prime)
  • Any number of client devices (Media Center Extenders) - from what I can tell, only xbox 360 can be a media center extender

OK so for my "Master DVR" I can either use my current desktop which should work just fine (quad core, 4 GB ram, decent nvidia card) or I can use my current HTPC - a Zotac ZBOX HD-ID11-U. Would this ZBOX even have the horsepower to serve as a "Master DVR"? Specs are: dual core atom 510 @ 1.66 Ghz, 2GB ram, next gen nvidia ION graphics card.

As far as media center extenders, is the xbox 360 really the only device for sale right now that is a media center extender? I can't seem to find anything else on the market.

For the CableCard device, what are the pros/cons of infinitv4 vs HDHomeRun Prime? I know the following, but was wondering if there is anything I'm misssing...
  • infinitv4 has 4 tuners, HDHomeRun Prime has 3
  • HDHomeRun Prime dynamically assigns tuners as needed, while infinitv4 assigns tuners permanently to a device
  • infinitv4 could only work with the desktop unless I get a usb version

Also, functionality-wise, a few questions:
  • Can I be watching live tv on the xbox 360 while also watching live tv on the "Master DVR"? (I assume if the answer is yes, it will use up 2 of the tuners) What about watching a recording on one device while watching a different recording on another device? recording while watching live?
  • Can I watch "copy-once" recordings on the xbox 360 that were recorded on the "Master DVR"?

All of this will be running over a gigabit LAN with a wireless-N (5ghz spectrum) bridge that I've tested to perform consistently at 80-90mbps real throughput (tested with iperf)... is this a good enough network to handle this kind of load?

OK and in the spirit of giving, here's the cost-savings I've calculated using comcast's current pricing scheme (which is super complicated)...

Over 2 years, total savings of $28-$328 or about $8-$20 per month.

Over 5 years, total savings of $1276-$1576 or about $21-26 per month.

Savings ranges are varied based on the price of the HTPC/Master DVR setup... range is $350-650 for that. Savings also include buying a DOCSIS 3.0 modem rather than renting one from comcast, but that is a little OT for this forum I think.

Other benefits of course include the fun of setting it all up, having a better DVR interface, having a xbox 360, and of course compounded savings with time... oh and of course the feeling of actually owning your own equipment.

If anyone can provide some feedback to the questions above I'd really love it. If anyone already has a similar setup, I'd love to hear about it too.... I tried a quick search of the forums and didn't come up with much.
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post #2 of 12 Old 02-22-2012, 04:08 PM
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Wecome aboard,

Your questions are well written, try breaking them up a little as it's a lot to take in.
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post #3 of 12 Old 02-22-2012, 04:16 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ERamseth View Post

Would this ZBOX even have the horsepower to serve as a "Master DVR"?
is the xbox 360 really the only device for sale right now that is a media center extender?

I can give you my option on these questions....

1. No. You need decent CPU power to run a few extenders.
2. Yes (for the most part. Unless you want to buy something on ebay that is no longer made or supported)
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post #4 of 12 Old 02-22-2012, 04:19 PM
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I don't think that Atom has enough under the hood. Use your desktop for the DVR.

EDIT: While I was reading, assassin was posting..

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post #5 of 12 Old 02-22-2012, 04:22 PM
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You are right on with the differences between the Infinitv4 and Silicondust Prime. Both should work more or less the same other than the differences you described. The Xbox 360 is the only extender available right now. Ceton has announced one, but there is no release date.

Yes, you can watch copy once programs on any Xbox 360. You can also record and watch live TV on as many devices as you want as long as there are available tuners.

Also, I would recommend not using wireless. It's simply not very reliable for high bandwidth video.
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post #6 of 12 Old 02-22-2012, 04:29 PM
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Another advantage of using Xbox 360s is they support Netflix, ESPN 360, Vudu, and others. These streaming services unfortunately require a gold membership, but you can get 4 for $100 a year. Also, AFAIK all of the streaming services with the exception of the Zune Marketplace are limited to 720p.
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post #7 of 12 Old 02-22-2012, 06:04 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:


Wecome aboard,

Your questions are well written, try breaking them up a little as it's a lot to take in.

Thanks. I actually had a much more well written post but I got auto logged out :-(

Quote:


You are right on with the differences between the Infinitv4 and Silicondust Prime. Both should work more or less the same other than the differences you described. The Xbox 360 is the only extender available right now. Ceton has announced one, but there is no release date.

Yes, you can watch copy once programs on any Xbox 360. You can also record and watch live TV on as many devices as you want as long as there are available tuners.

Also, I would recommend not using wireless. It's simply not very reliable for high bandwidth video.

So xbox 360 it will be. It'll be cool to have another game console if course.

As far as the network, I figured wireless isn't recommended, but I've spent countless hours tweaking my wifi to perform as well as a wired 100mbit LAN. Currently no problems streaming 1080p until it hits sustained bitrates over 90mbps. I'm going to at least give it a shot so I can reap the benefits of my obsessive wifi tweaking.

Quote:


1. No. You need decent CPU power to run a few extenders.

Quote:


I don't think that Atom has enough under the hood. Use your desktop for the DVR.

Yeah I found some other posts on other forums or blogs saying that atom + nvidia ion can handle watching one and recording one, but anything more doesn't seem to fly to great.

Thanks everyone for the feedback. Very much appreciated.

So at this point, I'm pretty set on the PCIe infinitv4 (I read about and realize there are inherent problems with dynamic pools of tuners and wmc7 not being able handle scheduling conflicts). I'll install it in my desktop, use that as my dvr hub in the bedroom, and use an xbox 360 as a media center extender. This should be a fun project. I'll of course post updates.

The fun will start the first week of April!

Edit: I noticed no one commented on storing recordings on a network drive. It looks to me like the best solution here is to set up an iscsi target on my networked storage or to move recordings at set intervals. Anyone have much experience with this?
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post #8 of 12 Old 02-22-2012, 06:55 PM
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If you want a few extenders consider a bit more power...

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"Too much is almost enough. Anything in life worth doing is worth overdoing. Moderation is for cowards."
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post #9 of 12 Old 02-23-2012, 07:15 AM
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Not sure if this was particular to my setup, but where over wireless I'd have no problems streaming HD movies, I would have issues with HD TV (images breaking up, freezes, etc.). Things would go even more haywire if my wife turned on her laptop.

I don't know why there was a difference but making a wired connection solved the issues. I was lucky enough to discover when they built the house they use Cat5e to wire all the phones. A simple rewire at the outlet and in the basement and I was good to go.

Just something to consider. If you can at all go wired, do it. I've had zero problems since.

 

 

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post #10 of 12 Old 02-23-2012, 08:06 AM - Thread Starter
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Yeah I mean I have plenty of cables and a few open ports on my router... But my apartment management probably doesn't want me drilling in the walls and I want to go without unsightly cables or raceways if at all possible.
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post #11 of 12 Old 03-01-2012, 09:15 AM - Thread Starter
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Quick update: I decided to go with the hdhomerun prime over the ceton. From all the reading I've done, it looks like the hdhr prime is more stable at this point.

All the hardware has been ordered and install setup for the morning of march 30!
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post #12 of 12 Old 04-28-2012, 08:42 AM - Thread Starter
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Just a quick update:

The setup is all together now and finally working smoothly.

To all the wifi-naysayers out there, I gotta tell you you ere wrong. a 5ghz wireless-n bridge running at 300mbps has no problem handling TV streaming from the HDHomeRun Prime through the WMC7 desktop to an xbox 360 extender.

The one place I ran into problems was with flow control over the ethernet. I described my solution here: http://www.silicondust.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=12637 and have reposted it here: http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showthread.php?t=1115719

Thanks for all the initial pointers everyone!
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