Are HTPCs future-proof among the constantly changing tech? - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 20 Old 03-14-2012, 01:42 PM - Thread Starter
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I want to say that they are, because after all, HTPCs are nothing more than computers - and the constantly changing technology all revolves around computers. However, I'm not as convinced as I should be, and I'm hoping for some input from HTPC users.

I like simplicity. I don't want five different components if I can have them all squeezed into one. I don't want a bookshelf full of DVDs if I can have them all stored on a hard drive. Like components, give me one outstanding remote control, and I will gladly throw away the multitude of others sitting on the coffee table. So in this sense, HTPCs make perfect sense. It's essentially an all in one package. It is the object of my television watching desire.

Here's where I question its future-proof ability.

HTPC's main power stems from WMC and its use of plug-ins. There's enough debate over the Windows 8 preview, and its lack of WMC, but it does boil down to WMC not being any type of priority for Microsoft. Also, Netflix has ceased development of its WMC plug-in, and prefers to push people towards the various components that come with a Netflix app built-in. I don't really know the status of the Hulu App, but I'm not sure it integrates fully. Yes, there are workarounds to all of these issues, and for some having all of their movies stored on a HTPC versus on a shelf somewhere makes up for the other issues.

Here is what I'm struggling with:

PROS:
- Built-in DVR for TV with a tuner card
- Stored media collection
- One device that replaces multiple devices
- Customizable

CONS:
- Support seems to be waning
- Quality is not as great for certain plug-ins
- Functionality is less than commercial components

There are certainly more pros than cons, but to me the cons are more serious. What are other people's thoughts on this? Am I missing part of the equation in dealing with HTPCs?

Thoughts are appreciated!
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post #2 of 20 Old 03-14-2012, 02:09 PM
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As long as the TV guide continues to get updates (for DVR and live TV), in my mind, its relatively future proof as any other technology.

If a new disc standard comes out I can always upgrade software and/or change the optical drive etc etc.. I can't do this with commericial off the shelf components.

I can always add more codecs to support different media formats etc...
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post #3 of 20 Old 03-14-2012, 02:33 PM
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I have five to ten times more money spent on the rest of my HT and I'm not springing for a new HT anytime soon so my HTPC is as future proof as all that. The HTPC will probably need replacement before my HT does and in the meantime it is upgradable.

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post #4 of 20 Old 03-14-2012, 02:58 PM
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If Microsoft drops support for WMC, there are other options available today and more will continue to become available.

That's a big advantage of HTPCs. Buy a Sage or similar device, and if the mfg drops support, or comes out with a new line using a new protocol, or goes out of business, you're stuck. But you can always change software in an HTPC or get a new video card that meets a new standard, or update whatever else you need to meet the inevitable changes.

Your risk of being stuck with an expensive doorstop is a lot greater with a proprietary box than with an HTPC.
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post #5 of 20 Old 03-14-2012, 05:35 PM
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Really Microsoft might be dropping WMC for windows 8, thats not a good sign. What other DVR software is out there?
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post #6 of 20 Old 03-14-2012, 05:37 PM
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http://www.windows8news.com/2011/09/...-media-center/

According to this old article WMC will be in the final version.
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post #7 of 20 Old 03-14-2012, 05:48 PM
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PC's have been fast enough to play nearly any media for a while now. My htpc is 3 years old and I have no plans to upgrade it. The only things that would require an upgrade are cable companies forcing more proprietary tech/hardware. But I think more and more people are ditching cable and thus an HTPC is simply a media consumption device, it doesn't need to to live Tv.
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post #8 of 20 Old 03-14-2012, 05:49 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jeffkro View Post

According to this old article WMC will be in the final version.

since that is not a Microsoft site, I'd not take anything it states as fact.

Also, the article is old, as you stated, and here is proof of its age...

"Well now Steven Sinofsky, the president of the Windows division,....He also added that the Media Center won’t be included in any of the pre-release builds."

Since Media Center is in the Consumer preview, I'd have to dismiss EVERYTHING that site tries to tell you.

Use Shark007 Codecs and retain your sanity.
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post #9 of 20 Old 03-14-2012, 05:54 PM
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Amen!

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post #10 of 20 Old 03-14-2012, 06:08 PM
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nothing is future proof especially when it comes to technology.
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post #11 of 20 Old 03-14-2012, 06:55 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Shark007 View Post


since that is not a Microsoft site, I'd not take anything it states as fact.

Also, the article is old, as you stated, and here is proof of its age...

"Well now Steven Sinofsky, the president of the Windows division,....He also added that the Media Center won't be included in any of the pre-release builds."

Since Media Center is in the Consumer preview, I'd have to dismiss EVERYTHING that site tries to tell you.

Well, good to hear.
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post #12 of 20 Old 03-14-2012, 07:17 PM
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Although only opinion, I derive my opinion from fact.

The Winows 8 Consumer preview is not released by chance, or mistake.
It is a 'sales pitch' put forth well in advance of the final product.
Its interface, presentation, layout and contents are carefully chosen.
User response may help shape its interface, presentation, and layout,
but its contents (Media Center) will most likely exist in the final product.

Use Shark007 Codecs and retain your sanity.
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post #13 of 20 Old 03-14-2012, 07:37 PM - Thread Starter
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I appreciate the responses!

Let me ask this another way...there is a point of diminishing return - when things become too complicated, more time working than enjoying, too much money. That's a risk with anything, and it's fine.

With HTPCs, is there any worry that too many online content sites will only support proprietary machines (apps built into consumer devices)? If so, at what point are HTPCs no longer worth it?

I think HTPCs are great - everything in one nice package. In fact, I'm mind blown that some company hasn't started selling HTPCs with some hip, cool new name, and all of the OTA TV support, hard drive space...etc..etc. If there was more support outside of using just a web browser, I think there would be an uptake in users and there would be no worry about products vanishing.

PS - In my first post, I never meant to imply that Microsoft was doing away with WMC. It just seems pretty clear that they don't have too much interest in further developing it. From what I understand, WMC in Windows 8 is going to be fairly identical to its current form.
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post #14 of 20 Old 03-15-2012, 04:53 AM
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theshiv, you raise exactly the points I have been pondering for quite some time.

I think the only possible answer is that, yes, all kinds of content owners and distributors could decide to try to lock down their content in all sorts of ways. Sometimes it could be because of a commercial tie-in with a particular product.

I don't think anyone should rely on Microsoft to continue development of WMC. Thankfully, there are good-quality community projects out there that will flourish all the more if WMC deteriorates.

The bottom line is that there will always be a lot of stuff that one can do with an HTPC, even if there are a few things one cannot, or which are too much trouble. I would say, for example, that Blu-ray is currently something that doesn't make a lot of sense on PCs when you consider software costs, playback quality compromises, and the sheer size of rips.

HTPCs will never be a panacea, because there are too many vested interests that want to carve out their rent-seeking niches. HTPCs are the weapon in the hands of consumers with which they can fight back.
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post #15 of 20 Old 03-15-2012, 01:23 PM
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This is a pretty wierd thread.

-I remember when the mp3 format first became popular and my friend couldn't play the songs I sent to him because he had a 486.
-A few years later I needed to buy a new video card to render DVD movies and I was cutting edge.
-HDMI is on it's 4th major version in less than 10 years.
-In maybe 2 or 3 years everybody will want 2k resolution movies which will surely require all new hardware.
-Someday everybody is going to implant a PC in their brain and I'd like to see you cram your current computer in your ear.
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post #16 of 20 Old 03-15-2012, 02:25 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RVWinkle View Post

This is a pretty wierd thread.

-I remember when the mp3 format first became popular and my friend couldn't play the songs I sent to him because he had a 486.
-A few years later I needed to buy a new video card to render DVD movies and I was cutting edge.
-HDMI is on it's 4th major version in less than 10 years.
-In maybe 2 or 3 years everybody will want 2k resolution movies which will surely require all new hardware.
-Someday everybody is going to implant a PC in their brain and I'd like to see you cram your current computer in your ear.

Everything you say is true (except I'm going to not have a computer implant!) but what I was trying to say is that I have a good chunk of change invested in my current Home Theater which I'm not going to replace anytime soon because it is quite nice in both audio and video presentation. So there's 2k or 4k and my HTPC can't handle it; well neither can the rest of my equipment so in order to outgrow my HTPC it is a whole lot more than just the computer it is all the other stuff.

Put another way:

1997: DVD player, 32" CRT Trinitron and 5.1 dts/dd amplifier

2002: Upgrade to progressive scan DVD player (original quit working)

2003: Upgrade to 32" 16:9 LCD and replace the tiny surround speakers with larger ones (4 satellites but keep subwoofer and center)

2009: Replace DVD Player with Blu-ray player, Replace 32: LCD with 40" 24p/120Hz LCD HDTV and upgrade AVR to 7.1 with HD audio and HDMI switching and new front stage (LCR, subwoofer) and move the current fronts to the rear.. rewire entire system

2010: Add Patriot Box Office streamer with HD audio

2011: Replace PBO with HTPC for speed and agility (March)

So basically ended my current upgrade cycle a year ago. As can be seen I don't upgrade every other month with HT stuff. It just costs too much. It will be at least 3 or 4 more years until I replace the HDTV and another 5 or 6 on the AVR. I may not even then if my current equipment keeps working. So even if 4k becomes available I'm not chasing it with my HTPC right away because the rest of my system cannot do it and it looks and sounds just fine. To get any benefit from 4k, I'd need to add a projector and screen which isn't going to happen for at least 10 years.

Bottom line: My HTPC is future proof for me but YMMV if you have a ton of money to toss around for all the other stuff..

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post #17 of 20 Old 03-15-2012, 02:30 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RVWinkle View Post

.
-Someday everybody is going to implant a PC in their brain and I'd like to see you cram your current computer in your ear.

Well, at least I'm looking forward to serious workable "glasses" as screens where I can pop on a pair of goggles and headphones and have an IMAX experience.
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post #18 of 20 Old 03-16-2012, 06:05 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RVWinkle View Post

This is a pretty wierd thread.

-I remember when the mp3 format first became popular and my friend couldn't play the songs I sent to him because he had a 486.
-A few years later I needed to buy a new video card to render DVD movies and I was cutting edge.
-HDMI is on it's 4th major version in less than 10 years.
-In maybe 2 or 3 years everybody will want 2k resolution movies which will surely require all new hardware.
-Someday everybody is going to implant a PC in their brain and I'd like to see you cram your current computer in your ear.

I can almost bet 4K video will only require a change in GPU if you use an HTPC...
Proprietary STBs will need to be replaced as soon as 4K goes mainstream...

My HTPC is nearing 5yrs in age, I did a mobo / CPU / RAM upgrade at first, and upgraded GPU to GTX460 for 3D...

HTPC future proof? for me it's a resounding yes... if I try to imagine how many STBs my HTPC has outlived...
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post #19 of 20 Old 03-16-2012, 06:28 AM
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That is if your AVR and HDTV supports it. For some (like me) going into the future with the HTPC requires a significant investment in other components too. But, as mentioned above, a GPU upgrade is about all that would be needed to go to the next level.

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post #20 of 20 Old 03-16-2012, 06:33 AM
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I agree. HTPCs aren't completely future proof but they are about as close as you can get.

As mentioned drop in a $30-$50 graphics card in about 3-5 years and you have a practically state of the art machine as far as HTPC goes. If you are planning (or at the very least want this option) then make sure you pick a CPU that is up to the task (i.e. definitely no zacate or atom).
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