HTPC build suggestions and validation please - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 14 Old 06-18-2012, 03:26 PM - Thread Starter
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The goal of this HTPC is:

1. Play the following local media formats:
a. Blu-ray .iso .mkv and file structures including 3D frame packed
b. DVD .iso .mkv and file structures
c. MPEG 2, MPEG 4, h.264 and AVCHD camcorder
d. .pcm, .wav, .dts, .ac3, .dsf, .dff, .flac, dvd-audio .iso, sacd .iso, cd .iso
e. .jpg, .png, .raw, .tif, .pdf, .cr2

2. Stream remote formats:
a. rtsp using h.264, mpeg2, mpeg4
b. rtp
c. flv
d. http

3. Use remote streaming services
a. Netflix
b. Hulu
c. Youtube

4. Support SMB, NFS, iSCSI and webdav protocol attachments to LAN and remote storage

5. Bitstream all audio in native formats over hdmi (i.e., dsd out without conversion to pcm first)

6. Simultaneous HDMI and analog output for multiple zone use

7. Support of 7.1 audio at up to 192khz/24 bit without decimation

8. Ability to do all of the above using a single, 10 foot, launching interface that is customizable

9. Local blu-ray drive to play rented media

After much research I have found that Windows 8 is capable of all facets of my requirements except item 8. Is JRiver, XBMC, Mediabrowser or something else able to handle number 8?

Hardware:

Case: Lian Li PC-C37U
CPU: Intel 3570x
Motherboard: Gigabyte Z77Mx-D3H
RAM: 8GB
Storage: 256GB SSD
Blu-ray Drive: LG

All media and metadata is stored on a large, custom built NAS that has SMB/NFS/ISCSI support, so the only thing stored on the HTPC is the operating system, malware prevention and user interface/media playback applications
The HTPC will be connected to a gigabit lan and an Integra DHC-80.3 processor

A separate pc is used for ripping, conversion, media and metadata collection, and administration of the system. If this goes well, I will create 3 more for other rooms.

Please validate and help me understand:
1. What media applications I need
2. Should I use WASAPI, ASIO or some other driver method
3. Is there a thinner case that I could use and still allow for a blu-ray drive


Thanks in advance
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post #2 of 14 Old 06-18-2012, 11:04 PM
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Well, I don't think using SSD on a HTPC is warranted, especially since you are paying a premium after the post flood prices. However, I do see that "all media and metadata is stored on a large, custom built NAS" and it will help with boot times. Good luck!
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post #3 of 14 Old 06-19-2012, 01:08 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mlknez View Post

The goal of this HTPC is:
a. Blu-ray .iso .mkv and file structures including 3D frame packed
6. Simultaneous HDMI and analog output for multiple zone use
7. Support of 7.1 audio at up to 192khz/24 bit without decimation
8. Ability to do all of the above using a single, 10 foot, launching interface that is customizable
9. Local blu-ray drive to play rented media
After much research I have found that Windows 8 is capable of all facets of my requirements except item 8. Is JRiver, XBMC, Mediabrowser or something else able to handle number 8?
A few tall orders in there mixed with bread & butter HTPC tasks
Quote:
Originally Posted by mlknez View Post

A separate pc is used for ripping, conversion, media and metadata collection, and administration of the system. If this goes well, I will create 3 more for other rooms.
Please validate and help me understand:
1. What media applications I need
2. Should I use WASAPI, ASIO or some other driver method
3. Is there a thinner case that I could use and still allow for a blu-ray drive
Thanks in advance

Some thoughts thus far FWIW
  • WMC is customizable with Media Center Themer http://www.patchou.com/projects/media-center-themer/
  • Patchou's app was updated recently, but I've got mixed feelings if it will work with W8 down the line. This takes a little education to get things just right
  • I've never done it for blu-ray, but I've shared a DVD drive with a different computer on a home network for playback. It could eliminate your need for a BD drive or optical drive altogether
  • While a standalone BD player can go from $50 and up, a BD-ROM and TMT license seems to start at $130 from what I can find. I might be missing something, and I know it's pretty much bush league to have an extra standalone player, but to really fulfill the criteria for rentals this might be a value added option
  • I've heard several people who simply rip their rentals in order to playback on the software they own and then delete the file before returning the rental
  • If you own a BD-rom and TMT or PDVD license that changes price considerations
  • MediaBrowser and XBMC both seem to have the largest followings which is why I've only used the two of them. Support is a lot easier to come by for mainstream stuff, and bugs are typically ironed out quickly with large audiences.
  • The single 10' interface doesn't have to start with WMC, but to meet all of the other requirements it seems like that's where your headed. Just about everything launches from within WMC, and with MC Themer you can customize the strips to your liking and even add web pages to specific Hulu or youtube channels if you wish

With the prospect of adding that many rooms, it might be worthwhile to find as many suitable compromises as you can make and go with an XBMC only setup since you can skip out on the Windows licensing (which usually comes out to at least 20% of your purchase on a higher end HTPC)

I wanted cablecard ready HTPCs for subscription-TV so I went the Windows route, but somebody more linux savvy could speak to the capabilities of an XBMC or MythTV setup. Driver support for dual zone audio might be the hardest thing to come by in linux
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post #4 of 14 Old 06-19-2012, 07:38 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wowyahoo View Post

Well, I don't think using SSD on a HTPC is warranted, especially since you are paying a premium after the post flood prices. However, I do see that "all media and metadata is stored on a large, custom built NAS" and it will help with boot times. Good luck!

I am really not concerned with prices right now. The SSD will give me 5 things:

1. Quicker Boot
2. Lower power profile
3. Lower heat profile
4. Lower noise profile
5. Quicker cacing and paging
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post #5 of 14 Old 06-19-2012, 07:54 AM - Thread Starter
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Dark_Slayer, thank you for the reply.

MIcrosoft has stated that windows media center is a dead-end in windows 8 and thus I want to explore other options. That is why I wanted to look at the others. I do not intend to use this HTPC for TV recording, as I have a separate rig for that function. Price is not a concern to me at this point, so licensing is not an issue. I do need to include the physical blu-ray drive for rentals in the unit as my wife, kids, friends, neighbors, strangers, will be using this system and the intent of this build is to replace a Dune Player Prime (it has a blu-ray drive).

Which of my requirements is a tall order? I am able to do each one of these things using separate windows applications right now.

Windows 8 picture viewer
Internet Explorer 10
PowerDVD 12
Foobar2000
VLC
Netflix
Hulu
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post #6 of 14 Old 06-19-2012, 07:57 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wowyahoo View Post

Well, I don't think using SSD on a HTPC is warranted, especially since you are paying a premium after the post flood prices. However, I do see that "all media and metadata is stored on a large, custom built NAS" and it will help with boot times. Good luck!

I think you will find a LOT of people here who disagree with that regarding the value of using an SSD in an HTPC. Also, given the higher post-flood hard disk prices and the total collapse of SSD prices, it's a better value now than ever.
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post #7 of 14 Old 06-19-2012, 08:34 AM
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Originally Posted by Zon2020 View Post

I think you will find a LOT of people here who disagree with that regarding the value of using an SSD in an HTPC. Also, given the higher post-flood hard disk prices and the total collapse of SSD prices, it's a better value now than ever.

And that disagree it only improves boot times. It improves anything that uses disk I/O which seems to be just about everything from navigating menus to displaying movie covers to launching any application. In my experience, it's night-and-day in benefit to the overall the user experience. This doesn't come from benchmarks, articles and theory but from real-world everyday usage.

 

 

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post #8 of 14 Old 06-19-2012, 09:36 AM - Thread Starter
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Let's get off of the SSD and back onto the build. By the way, Windows Media Center for Windows 8 does not play Blu-ray discs and that is by design!
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post #9 of 14 Old 06-19-2012, 09:58 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mlknez View Post

Let's get off of the SSD and back onto the build. By the way, Windows Media Center for Windows 8 does not play Blu-ray discs and that is by design!

Never has. It would require payment of a license fee for every copy of Windows, even though less than 10% of people ever use WMC.
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post #10 of 14 Old 06-19-2012, 01:15 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mlknez View Post

Which of my requirements is a tall order?

Guess I should clarify that I was thinking in regards to a no-Windows build
Quote:
Originally Posted by mlknez View Post

The goal of this HTPC is:
Blu-ray file structures including 3D frame packed
Simultaneous HDMI and analog output for multiple zone use
Netflix
Local blu-ray drive to play rented media

As far as I know, you need M$ accomplish all of the above. I misread your post before, and I see that you plan to use Windows while ditching WMC. I was trying to point you to either embracing WMC or ditching Window, sorry for the misunderstanding. Seems like you've gotten this figured out further than my knowledge already.

BTW, some of your earlier posts about using a linksys router in combination with one of their N-bridges for full 1080p blu-ray with hd audio led me to try that out. It was a huge success, and very versatile. I found a 4200v2 for $100 3rd party on Amazon and picked up a wet-610n for $38 off ebay then sold my old belkin N for $50 on craigslist. Massive networking upgrade for a net $88, and now I'm successfully streaming wireless 1080p with hd audio as well. Thanks for the recommendations (indirectly of course). I really didn't believe it till it worked biggrin.gif
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post #11 of 14 Old 06-19-2012, 01:34 PM - Thread Starter
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Thanks Dark_Slayer and I am happy that your wireless streaming adventure has been successful! I have wired myself up now and am no longer using wireless for video media streaming but many have said that they are happy with the recipie. I have been able to use a test pc running the latest version of xbmc to accomplish much of what I want so that is the direction that I will go. I am able to use the "advanced launcher" from inside the xbmc interface to launch any applications that I will need to accomplish my goals that are beyond the abilities of xbmc by itself. JRiver was not very straight forward with it's interface nor it's ability to get to outside applications. I will be recieving my Lian Li HTPC case tonight and will source the remainder of my hardware from Microcenter tomorrow. Then, let the build begin!
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post #12 of 14 Old 06-20-2012, 08:06 PM - Thread Starter
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I did the hardware build today. I forgot to include a 2.5" to 3.5" adapter for the SSD but went to Microcenter to grab it. I enabled Intel Rapid Start in the Bios, but kept everything else standard. Windows 8 64 bit Release Candidate Preview installed from dvd in under 10 minutes. Only 1 driver appeared on the device manager unknown that was not included on the disc, but it was very minor and specific to the gigabyte motherboard. I allowed Windows to update and then I did a basic test of the operating system and all worked well. Tomorrow, I will start the software load to include:

Microsoft security essentials
XBMC
XBMC advanced launcher plug-in
Foobar2000 with dvd-audio and SACD plug-ins
Videolan (VLC) media player (for streaming rtsp and other webcams)
Netflix
Hulu

Then I will test a wide variety of hi-res audio and video media as well as internet-based media streaming.

Just so you know, with Intel Rapid Start and an SSD I can go from full unpowered sleep to full operation in under 5 seconds!
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post #13 of 14 Old 06-27-2012, 08:56 AM - Thread Starter
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XBMC will probably not work out with my build:

1. DTS-MA is not working correctly, only is bitstreaming core DTS
2. 3rd party Launch screen is not configurable enough
3. DSD support not built-in
4. No raw camera support in image browser

Stitching to JRiver... so far it will:

1. Play DTS-MA with no issue
2. Play DSD formats
3. Support raw camera image formats

Issues:

1. Windows 8 supports direct mount of .iso files, how do I get .iso files recognized as both video and audio images
2. Will jriver support sacd .iso
3. Will jriver support DVD-Audio .iso
4. Is it difficult to get jriver to launch outside applications
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post #14 of 14 Old 07-05-2012, 10:09 AM
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You should not consider the i5 for a HTPC build, it's overkill for the purpose. The AMD 3870k is a much better choice (You can find my detail explanation at $350 / $600 Custom Home Theater PC) and Microcenter is also running a promotional sale for APU ( http://www.microcenter.com/storefronts/amd/A_series.html ), be sure to check them out.
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