My wife and I are considering cutting the cord and going back to the HTPC again. About two years ago I built a PC that I was hopeful would become our HTPC of for the future but it fizzled out and has become our current desktop PC instead. At the time we watched all live TV, rarely DVR'd anything and almost never missed an episode of our favorite shows. In the last two years not only have we kept our DirecTv subscription we have added their Whole Home DVR service which has changed the way we watch TV. We currently have two DVR's with two tuners each so we can now record up to four things at once, meaning we can watch more TV and miss less content. Before the Whole Home DVR we only had one line inputting to our DVR's and therefore could not change the channel while we were recording something. The second DVR was in our master bedroom and it was just a pain to have to retreat the bedroom to watch a show in discomfort. Once we added the Whole Home DVR service it became easier to let our three kids steal the "big TV" and watch their shows instead of kicking them out every night at 8:00pm.
Along with the networked DVR boxes came the free On Demand service. My wife has fallen in love with this and insists that anything we do moving forward would have to be some form of On Demand. Of course you and I both know that Netflix, HULU, Amazon and iTunes are basically huge On Demand centers waiting with your content until you are ready to watch. So given the change in our watching habits and the fact that our kids basically watch a ton of re-runs of shows on Nickelodeon and Disney anyway it would seem that live TV is dying our house outside of sports.
Here is what I am in need of:
A central HTPC that will stream all live TV to our main TV as well as our 4 bedroom TV's. I will be using a ROKU player for my youngest son's room (4yrs old) which is what he uses now as he rarely watches live TV. I will use and XBOX 360 as an extender in my other son's room. And two extenders in the master bedroom as well as my daughter's room. This HTPC should also stream movies and DVR'd content to each location as well as music and whatever else you can think of. I am planning on running two or three HomeRun HD Primes for my OTA antenna video. I'm not very familiar with some of this stuff, so would my CPU have to transcode the signals, or would the Primes do that before it hits my PC?
Here are my questions:
Our current PC is constructed with an MSI 785GTM-E45 motherboard with an AMD Phenom 8250e Tri-Core processor and 2GB of ram (one of my dimm slots is dead, so I am limited to 4GB of ram MAX). I have it set up with one 80GB hard drive running Windows 7 and a separate 1TB hard drive for storage at this point.
I have three options in mind and I am in need of some sound advise from those who know best.
Option 1. - Upgrade the current PC to 4GB of ram, hardwire it to the router, and add a SSD (my current HDD is old, slow and full).
Option 2. - Build new PC with Intel Core i3 processor, SSD and more ram.
Option 3 - Build new PC with Intel Core i5 processor, SSD and more ram.
Is my system as currently constructed able to handle what I'll need it to do if I go with Option 1? Is Option 2 enough umph to keep my system running without killing it? or Is Option 3 overkill?
How reliable and easy to use are Media Center Extenders if the entire system is hardwired together? Each room in the house has ethernet connections available to it, so it will all be a solid connection after I run a new connection for the HTPC.
Thanks in advance for helping me out!