Looking for a "Plug and Play" Media Center - AVS Forum
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Old 06-27-2013, 08:30 AM - Thread Starter
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I am not interested in building my own HTPC media center. I want to be able to buy something off-the-shelf that I can just hook up and turn-on without hassles. I know there are some very pricey media centers and most of them require professional installation (I am not that rich) but someone must make something affordable and reliable. I was interested in the Mozaex ShowStar but I'm not sure it's still available. I have read of the Popcorn Hour and Dune offerings, but reading the reviews they seem buggy and unreliable. Devices like the Roku or WD Media Center are cheap do not have the capabilities I want, such as an optical drive for ripping non-DRM DVDs or CDs and of course do not have internal HDDs. I came across the Arctic entertainment units such as the MC001 that sounded nice but their website says they are no longer available, at least not in the USA, and some have tried the bare-bones units and had various problems getting them working as advertised. Other HTPC options such as a PC using WMC are out because they are too noisy and quiet operation is critical, not to mention they lack easy remote control.

I know most of the posters here enjoy rolling their own, but at my age I have neither the time, patience, or inclination to do that, so please don't post a comment that "It's not that hard!" I have been using the Harman/Kardon DMC-1000 that was on clearance for $400 for my audio only media center and it works flawlessly but is badly outdated and lacks video recording capability among other shortcomings. I want to enjoy my growing library of music videos as well as my CDs in lossless format with an easy-to-use interface. So if anyone has current information on a solid reliable product that doesn't require a degree in computer science to install please reply. Thanks for your help.

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Old 06-27-2013, 09:06 AM
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FWIW, I just picked up an old Acer Aspire on ebay for $50 including 4GB RAM. Popped in my SSD, HDD and IR dongle and was good to go. Very quiet and easy to control with my universal remote. This replaced my $25 used HP HTPC that had been running fine for a couple of years. So you don't have to spend a lot or do a lot of work to get a quiet, functional system. No offense to anyone, but most of the systems built around here are way overkill for WMC.

If dead silence is required, put your PC in a different room and an Echo at your TV.
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Old 06-27-2013, 09:54 AM
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No offense taken. What are the specs of that Aspire, BTW? Recent vintage used laptops can make good HTPC's if they have decent innards but you still need to set up the software part of it and dsmith901 doesn't seem to want to do that.

dsmith901, you may want to take a look at assassin HTPC for an out of the box solution as well or you can get the used laptop and for $25 get assassin's guide to get it set up for your purposes.

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Old 06-27-2013, 11:51 AM
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Yeah, not exactly plug and play, but about as close as you're going to get I think. Took me all of half an hour to set up. There's no way you can escape setting up WMC and installing drivers for your tuner.

BTW, my new specs are Intel Pentium Dual Core E5800 3.20GHz and low profile case. That's nearly double the speed of my old AMD 5000+, cuts power, heat and noise, and takes up less space. I reused my old drives and video card. Hopefully I can sell my old CPU/MB combo on ebay so it will be a wash cost-wise.

Basically any current Windows PC off the shelf will work fine. The trick is finding a small, quiet one.
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Old 06-27-2013, 12:32 PM
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what kind of video do you want to record?

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Integration for whole home ATSC, CableCARD, FM radio, Blu-Ray, HD-DVD, DVD, VHS control & capture, video games, and archived & streaming media playback
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Old 06-27-2013, 04:35 PM
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Honestly, just buy one from assassin if you want an HTPC, or get a Roku or something.

Doing it right isn't simple and going big and full-featured isn't cheap. If you aren't willing to do the work or research, it's reasonable to assume this isn't the hobby for you.

AppleTV, Roku etc with amazon prime, netflix or Hulu plus (or a combo of the above) is probably more your speed.

You want the power and functionality of a computer, without having to operate a computer like...a computer.

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Old 06-27-2013, 04:55 PM
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The OP is concerned with cost but the assassin extenders look to be pretty cost effective for what you get.

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Old 06-28-2013, 07:56 AM
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I'm gong to second (or third?) the Assassin HTPC route for getting an "off the shelf" build. I've worked with them before on a previous build when I had some cash (and not time to build myself).

I spoke with their team and they were very helpful with getting a build that wasn't ridiculously expensive and could do what I wanted. Then all I had to do was load my media, which took a little bit of time since I had hundreds of DVDs and I was off!

Assassin builds are ready to go as soon as you plug in the power and HDMI cables and can be configured to your specifications.

Also, they were essentially born from this forum so I know they have quite a reputation around here.
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