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post #1 of 17 Old 06-16-2014, 07:11 PM - Thread Starter
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HTPC - Yes or No

Looking to see if a HTPC will provide more functionality beyond removing cable boxes and be worth the cost of deployment.

I have been trying to cable TV but some how I cannot so now looking to lower costs as i think cable is a huge rip off.

DVR is Simple.TV version 1. So far this is working well but the Mrs. some times would like to DVR cable shows.

Have a WHS2011 with Plex server as well.

Living room setup has Oppo BDP-93 along with Roku and wondering if replacing the Cable box with a HTPC and a Ceton Ethernet 6 tuner in the basement. Benefit here would be able to load kids movies and music locally rather than go to the WHS2011.

Upstairs has a cable box and XBox 360 which could be used as an extender.

HTPC would be home built quad core Intel with 8g RAM and SSD boot drive.

Thanks ahead of time.
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post #2 of 17 Old 06-16-2014, 08:20 PM
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If you start using Ceton you'll still need cable cards and your cable subscription, so it doesn't save any costs, right? Which client do you use for Plex? Also if you don't use the cable box then you lose access to on-demand, which may or may not be important to you.
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post #3 of 17 Old 06-16-2014, 09:58 PM
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In your situation, from what it sounds, the money you save on your cable bill may not much. Really depends on how much equipment you're "renting" from the cable company.

Yes, you could set up Ceton, HDHomerun and so forth your live tv and DVR needs. Maybe you're lucky in live in an area, and use a cable company that does not encrypt all channels. You may get a small discount for using the cable card and your PC; Comcast gives me $2.50 credit for this. In addition, if they're not encrypted, you just use the TV's build in tuner.

I'm not very familiar with Simple.TV. I use Windows Media Center, which is approved to record and extend copy once DVR'd shows. May be important depending on what shows your family DVRs. I do know that Plex can play WMC DVR files (wtv). Since I only have limited basic cable, they're not flagging these shows as copy once, so I'm not sure what happens when Plex tries to play them. It's not perfect because fast-forward and rewind work poorly; skip forward and back work ok. This could be a cheaper option if you need to get media extenders.

If use Plex, and things like WMC, you may need more powerful machine so the Plex Media Server has power to transcode files that can play on, say, the Roku. Even more it is tasked to do multiple files at the same time.

End of the day, you're going to be looking a long term savings because it will take a while to recoup the costs you save to do setup what you want from the money you save off your cable bill. I tend to fine it's usually around twelve to eighteen months whenever I add something to mine to recoup costs.

Yes, like you, I find cable to more expensive than it's worth. I understand why it so high, and how I get stuck with dump truck load of channels I have zero interest in.

On a side note, people adjust to whatever content they have available to them. I watch plenty of TV when I only had five channels; it was a lot junk, but I still watched.
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post #4 of 17 Old 06-17-2014, 07:11 AM
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I have a similar setup to what your describing. I just got an HDHR-cc tuner, I PMS on WHS2011 and have a basic HTPC Windows 7.

I've been playing around with this set up a bit thru Plex and some of the newly available plug ins that support the HDHR. Some clients work great, others stutter, but it may be the transcoding taking place or the burden put on the Wi-Fi. My server has an AMD PHENOM black x2 with 2 hidden cores opened up and I see cores spiking up between 50 to 90 percent while transcoding. If you have newer hardware transcoding should not be an issue for PMS.

On the HTPC I am able to record using WMC, then if you share the folder that it records to on the network you can add that folder to your plex library. Either in your section or create a new section called recorded tv. Note, it is important that you either run a script or program to rename your files for the plex scraper to find them i.e. modern family s1e1. You can look at mcebuddy to rename file and possibly remove commercials as well. The recorded files play great thru PMS and look stunning.

I use Comcast which encrypts everything but only sets copy once on channels like HBO. So as mentioned it depends on your provider. Good luck if you have time Warner.

I too am trying to get rid of my cable box and 2 tuning adapters. In totally I should save close to 30 bucks a month when it's all said and done. Some on demand stuff you can get thru xfinity.com as well.

Good luck.

Last edited by oman321; 06-17-2014 at 07:16 AM.
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post #5 of 17 Old 06-17-2014, 07:45 AM
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Since I had a cable DVR plus 4 cable boxes before I switched to HTPC, I save about $40/month, which gave me about a 2 year payback on all the hardware I had to buy. As others have pointed out, you won't really save much money replacing just two cable boxes (maybe $10/month savings). But you do gain a lot of new functionality (more tuners, whole-home DVR, file streaming). Of course you still have to keep your cable TV subscription for your new Ceton to work.

I haven't had as good an experience with Plex as others. It really taxes my cheap PC and still looks pretty terrible. So I use extenders and other streaming boxes that can render the content as-is rather than transcode (using Serviio and Sony BD players). Quality is outstanding, and my HTPC can still support local playback and 4 extenders without choking. The vast majority of my content is recorded TV. I don't do BD/DVD rips except on rare occasions.

I have zero cable boxes and one Ceton and tuning adapter for a grand total of $2/month in equipment fees to run 5 TVs (1 local and 4 Echoes). It's been running fine for the most part of 2 years now. I hit a few speed bumps at first, but system is very solid now.
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post #6 of 17 Old 06-17-2014, 08:22 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Defcon View Post
If you start using Ceton you'll still need cable cards and your cable subscription, so it doesn't save any costs, right? Which client do you use for Plex? Also if you don't use the cable box then you lose access to on-demand, which may or may not be important to you.
Thanks for the reply back.

You are correct I would still have cable costs but should reduce the need for boxes.

We do not use on demand much but you are correct we would lose that along with PPV.
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post #7 of 17 Old 06-17-2014, 08:29 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by lovekeiiy View Post
In your situation, from what it sounds, the money you save on your cable bill may not much. Really depends on how much equipment you're "renting" from the cable company.

Yes, you could set up Ceton, HDHomerun and so forth your live tv and DVR needs. Maybe you're lucky in live in an area, and use a cable company that does not encrypt all channels. You may get a small discount for using the cable card and your PC; Comcast gives me $2.50 credit for this. In addition, if they're not encrypted, you just use the TV's build in tuner.

I'm not very familiar with Simple.TV. I use Windows Media Center, which is approved to record and extend copy once DVR'd shows. May be important depending on what shows your family DVRs. I do know that Plex can play WMC DVR files (wtv). Since I only have limited basic cable, they're not flagging these shows as copy once, so I'm not sure what happens when Plex tries to play them. It's not perfect because fast-forward and rewind work poorly; skip forward and back work ok. This could be a cheaper option if you need to get media extenders.

If use Plex, and things like WMC, you may need more powerful machine so the Plex Media Server has power to transcode files that can play on, say, the Roku. Even more it is tasked to do multiple files at the same time.

End of the day, you're going to be looking a long term savings because it will take a while to recoup the costs you save to do setup what you want from the money you save off your cable bill. I tend to fine it's usually around twelve to eighteen months whenever I add something to mine to recoup costs.

Yes, like you, I find cable to more expensive than it's worth. I understand why it so high, and how I get stuck with dump truck load of channels I have zero interest in.

On a side note, people adjust to whatever content they have available to them. I watch plenty of TV when I only had five channels; it was a lot junk, but I still watched.
Thanks for the reply back.

You are correct in that it will be about the two current cable boxes that we will be saving money for. Used to have four but gave two back and went to OTA for them due to so little use. But if I can buy an Echo or an Xbox 360 at a cheap rate and regain cable TV feature it will pay for itself in a few years.

Have not made up my mind on Ceton or HDHome run but hate paying for those cable boxes and Comcast here encrypts it all now.

I would leave Plex on the WHS2011 box and use Roku 3's on 3 of the TVs for music and video. It has worked well. I plan on keeping it that way and have WMC mostly focus on the TV and local files on the machine.

As for recouping costs, it is OK that it takes a while as the Simple.TV OTA DVR will take 2 years to recoup the costs from the fee from Comcast.
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post #8 of 17 Old 06-17-2014, 08:43 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by oman321 View Post
I have a similar setup to what your describing. I just got an HDHR-cc tuner, I PMS on WHS2011 and have a basic HTPC Windows 7.

I've been playing around with this set up a bit thru Plex and some of the newly available plug ins that support the HDHR. Some clients work great, others stutter, but it may be the transcoding taking place or the burden put on the Wi-Fi. My server has an AMD PHENOM black x2 with 2 hidden cores opened up and I see cores spiking up between 50 to 90 percent while transcoding. If you have newer hardware transcoding should not be an issue for PMS.

On the HTPC I am able to record using WMC, then if you share the folder that it records to on the network you can add that folder to your plex library. Either in your section or create a new section called recorded tv. Note, it is important that you either run a script or program to rename your files for the plex scraper to find them i.e. modern family s1e1. You can look at mcebuddy to rename file and possibly remove commercials as well. The recorded files play great thru PMS and look stunning.

I use Comcast which encrypts everything but only sets copy once on channels like HBO. So as mentioned it depends on your provider. Good luck if you have time Warner.

I too am trying to get rid of my cable box and 2 tuning adapters. In totally I should save close to 30 bucks a month when it's all said and done. Some on demand stuff you can get thru xfinity.com as well.

Good luck.
Thanks for the reply.

You have a setup similar to what I am after.

My WHS2011 box is an AMD Phenom 2 X4 BE with 4g RAM. Have not had a problem with either the WHS nor the Plex server functionality.

Are you able to watch Live TV through the HDHR with some type of extender? If so, your setup would be what i would want with the HTPC handling the recording and Plex / WHS handling the streaming.

Thanks
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post #9 of 17 Old 06-17-2014, 08:48 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by mdavej View Post
Since I had a cable DVR plus 4 cable boxes before I switched to HTPC, I save about $40/month, which gave me about a 2 year payback on all the hardware I had to buy. As others have pointed out, you won't really save much money replacing just two cable boxes (maybe $10/month savings). But you do gain a lot of new functionality (more tuners, whole-home DVR, file streaming). Of course you still have to keep your cable TV subscription for your new Ceton to work.

I haven't had as good an experience with Plex as others. It really taxes my cheap PC and still looks pretty terrible. So I use extenders and other streaming boxes that can render the content as-is rather than transcode (using Serviio and Sony BD players). Quality is outstanding, and my HTPC can still support local playback and 4 extenders without choking. The vast majority of my content is recorded TV. I don't do BD/DVD rips except on rare occasions.

I have zero cable boxes and one Ceton and tuning adapter for a grand total of $2/month in equipment fees to run 5 TVs (1 local and 4 Echoes). It's been running fine for the most part of 2 years now. I hit a few speed bumps at first, but system is very solid now.
Thanks for the reply.

Are you running a PCIe version or the Eth6 one with your Echos? I know Ceton wants some beefy CPU/memory for that load.

If I can get live cable TV to my other two TV's without monthly costs, I can justify the up front costs even if it takes a few years to recoup it.
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post #10 of 17 Old 06-17-2014, 09:24 AM
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Originally Posted by fritowrdo View Post
Thanks for the reply.

Are you running a PCIe version or the Eth6 one with your Echos? I know Ceton wants some beefy CPU/memory for that load.

If I can get live cable TV to my other two TV's without monthly costs, I can justify the up front costs even if it takes a few years to recoup it.
PCIe InfiniTV 4 here. Although 6 would be cool, I can't justify a $200 tuner when I never use more than 4. My 5 TVs are almost never used simultaneously. It's usually only a couple at a time. But my 8GB handles 5 clients fine, although RAM and CPU are pretty much maxed out in that case.

If you want to buy new, just wait for the 4th and get your Eth6 for $189 and Echoes for $99. I always buy used. So my InfiniTV 4 was about $75 and my Echoes an average of $50 (after flipping a few). My PC was $50 on ebay plus a couple hundred dollars in upgrades. So my upfront hardware costs were pretty low. Be sure to also budget for video cards, additional RAM and storage, remotes/dongles, keyboards/mice, network switches, etc.

Most of my remotes are $4 JP1 remotes. They're backlit universals that work my TV, AVR, BD player and Extender/PC in each room as opposed to the terrible remote that comes with the Echo. My main remotes are a couple of $40 RF Xsight Touches (one for each side of the room). All have much more powerful programming capabilities for the money than any other remotes I've used (Harmony, URC, etc.).
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post #11 of 17 Old 06-17-2014, 09:58 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fritowrdo View Post
Have not made up my mind on Ceton or HDHome run but hate paying for those cable boxes and Comcast here encrypts it all now.
Just want to jump in here as this gets confused frequently around here. Encryption is not the issue, your CableCard takes care of the "de-crypting". What you need to be concerned with is how content is flagged for copy protection. I have FiOS, which flags everything except the premium channels (i.e. HBO, Showtime, etc) as "copy freely" which allows me much greater flexibility since I can watch programs recorded via WMC from another PC other than where it was recorded. If it's flagged "copy once" then you have to use that WMC system to play it back, or an extender.
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post #12 of 17 Old 06-17-2014, 01:27 PM
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Thanks for the reply.

You have a setup similar to what I am after.

My WHS2011 box is an AMD Phenom 2 X4 BE with 4g RAM. Have not had a problem with either the WHS nor the Plex server functionality.

Are you able to watch Live TV through the HDHR with some type of extender? If so, your setup would be what i would want with the HTPC handling the recording and Plex / WHS handling the streaming.

Thanks
I'm able to watch live tv on every plex client I've tried. ROKU, PHT, android and ios apps. I've tried a couple of plug ins but I've gotten the best results so far with the HDhomerun viewer plug in available in the channel development section of the plex forums.

Now, it's not perfect and navigating between channels requires backing out of the current channel that your on, so it requires a couple steps just to change channels.

If you plan to use dedicated hard wired equipment for clients, I would recommend that you look at media browser. They have a pretty awesome live tv interface with guide and recording. Only problem I had with it was the transcoding couldn't keep up for wireless clients.
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post #13 of 17 Old 06-17-2014, 05:49 PM
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LOL, right now we have only one TV and it's hooked up to my HTPC. We just got new bedroom furniture and it's not clear whether we will get a second TV or not. We are doing fine with one right now (kids are grown up and out of the house). We have Verizon FIOS and with one TV the savings amount to about $18/month with a cable card versus the Verizon DVR box. Verizon has a series of new DVR boxes with different HDD capacities and channel tuning ability (the newer ones have a higher monthly rental charge). We are fine with the Hauppage 2650 dual channel tuner since most of the shows on HBO and other cable only channels are repeated at least one during the night so there is hardly ever a conflict. We watch a lot of HBO so a cable card tuner is essential. A minimal HTPC build with a cable card tuner is about $400 or so depending on components (includes Win7) so you can do the math and see that it's going to take just under two years to recover your costs. From an economic perspective it's of marginal benefit to build your own since you have to provide your own service which isn't an issue since most of us are skilled in computer building and trouble shooting. Advantage to renting is if the unit goes down the cable company replaces it (we have a Verizon store 15 minutes away where you can pick up and return equipment). As with anything in life, it's going to be a personal decision.
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post #14 of 17 Old 06-17-2014, 06:09 PM
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Originally Posted by fritowrdo View Post
Thanks for the reply back.

You are correct I would still have cable costs but should reduce the need for boxes.

We do not use on demand much but you are correct we would lose that along with PPV.
You should still be able to watch PPV, you just won't be able to order it via your "box." A phonecall to your cable company to order is all it takes. (that may be easier with some than others)

I generally prefer to call for PPV anyway, as it will be activated for all devices on my account instead of just the one I order it on. (this is almost an imperative for sports packages and things that last more than a few hours)
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post #15 of 17 Old 06-17-2014, 06:54 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by mdavej View Post
PCIe InfiniTV 4 here. Although 6 would be cool, I can't justify a $200 tuner when I never use more than 4. My 5 TVs are almost never used simultaneously. It's usually only a couple at a time. But my 8GB handles 5 clients fine, although RAM and CPU are pretty much maxed out in that case.

If you want to buy new, just wait for the 4th and get your Eth6 for $189 and Echoes for $99. I always buy used. So my InfiniTV 4 was about $75 and my Echoes an average of $50 (after flipping a few). My PC was $50 on ebay plus a couple hundred dollars in upgrades. So my upfront hardware costs were pretty low. Be sure to also budget for video cards, additional RAM and storage, remotes/dongles, keyboards/mice, network switches, etc.

Most of my remotes are $4 JP1 remotes. They're backlit universals that work my TV, AVR, BD player and Extender/PC in each room as opposed to the terrible remote that comes with the Echo. My main remotes are a couple of $40 RF Xsight Touches (one for each side of the room). All have much more powerful programming capabilities for the money than any other remotes I've used (Harmony, URC, etc.).
Thanks for the reply and info.
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post #16 of 17 Old 06-17-2014, 06:56 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by oman321 View Post
I'm able to watch live tv on every plex client I've tried. ROKU, PHT, android and ios apps. I've tried a couple of plug ins but I've gotten the best results so far with the HDhomerun viewer plug in available in the channel development section of the plex forums.

Now, it's not perfect and navigating between channels requires backing out of the current channel that your on, so it requires a couple steps just to change channels.

If you plan to use dedicated hard wired equipment for clients, I would recommend that you look at media browser. They have a pretty awesome live tv interface with guide and recording. Only problem I had with it was the transcoding couldn't keep up for wireless clients.
Everything is hardwired.

All rooms have 1gig unmanagemed switches all home runned down to the basement to a soon to be 16 port switch, 8 port right now.

My moto is if it does not move, it is wired in.
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post #17 of 17 Old 06-18-2014, 07:57 PM
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Originally Posted by mdavej View Post
I haven't had as good an experience with Plex as others. It really taxes my cheap PC and still looks pretty terrible. So I use extenders and other streaming boxes that can render the content as-is rather than transcode (using Serviio and Sony BD players). Quality is outstanding, and my HTPC can still support local playback and 4 extenders without choking. The vast majority of my content is recorded TV. I don't do BD/DVD rips except on rare occasions.
You don't have to transcode with Plex. It can output "as is" and uses very little cpu.
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