Originally Posted by Gadgety1
This is my first post here on AVS. I'm posting here because I've got a powerful PC that could be utilized for home theatre, gaming and such. I was going to post in the "Anyone ever wish they did their HTPC right the first time? or (better)" thread but it had been closed. So, this is a story in the making.
I've got dual CPUs, triple GPUs on an SR-2 mobo. This has been my first computer build. Essentially it's a workstation and it's on at least 17 hrs a day, mainly used for CAD, 3D modelling, rendering and such. I work from home. Even so, a lot of the time resources go unused so it could easily be allocated for other stuff.
Because of this I've contemplated using this build as an HTPC for media and possibly gaming, rather than building a separate pc. Of course it's not going to be energy efficient, but the build is already a sunk cost. In addition for a HTPC I saw the possibility of madVR NNEDI3 upscaling which would require high end hardware, so I might as well allocate money for future GPU upgrades to this PC, since they will also serve multiple purposes. The money to build another PC could instead be used for energy, and because this unit is likely to be on a lot anyway, I figured the energy issue isn't such a big deal. I was thinking of getting a projector and screen and route sound to my home audio system.
Because we have kids in the house it's likely to become increasingly more interesting for them to game, and I've briefly looked into the possibility of using software such as MiniFrame SoftXpand to enable virtualized gaming.
Challenges exist and choices have to be made:
My friends tell me the HTPC route will take too much effort, the quality will be variable, problems will appear when there are software updates, it will be hard to calibrate the picture quality, and DVD/Bluray software will have to be subscribed to on an annual basis. Their advice: just get an Oppo.
- As this has been my first PC build, I'm still a beginner in learning mode.
- Cabling and wiring. I gather madVR requires cabled transfer. I need the PC in the office for day to day work. The home theatre would be in the basement, probably some 15 ft away or so. Connecting the TV screen in the living room would also be nice.
- Currently the PC is not on 24 hrs a day, so I'd probably need a small unit that could function as a PVR of broadcast TV.
- I also need a better NAS
- For the audio I want gapless 24/96 FLAC
- The kids want 3D
- Software for DVD/Bluray and media browsing. Not an easy choice, I find. I guess AnyDVD HD and MakeMKV are obiquitous, but the rest...3dTV.at's StereoScopic; MPC-HC, XBMC JRiver, TotalMedia Theatre, VLC, Plex. Some of these do not go with madVR, I realize.
Any advice and suggestions are welcome.
I can only speak for what I have found in my experience. Everyone is different. But what I have found is that media servers work best when that is all they are used for. Make your NAS/media server a dedicated unit, and the number of future problems drops precipitously. You can worry over things like heat, energy costs, and noise, but those are all rather easily addressed by simply upgrading hardware over time. You don't absolutely need
a Platinum 80+ PSU to run the machine, but you might find you prefer it in the long run. However, that's a minor sort of thing.
Multi-purpose PCs can certainly be used as HTPCs/media servers. But the more tasks a PC gets used for, the more chances there are for issues to arise. You mentioned gaming being a possible use for the PC. PC games are great. THe most modern games with some of the best visuals are very resource intensive though. What happens when someone wants to play a game, but Mom/the wife wants to relax in the bedroom with a Chianti and Game of Thrones
at the same time? The other thing is, the more purposes you put the PC to, the more likely you will be required (or at least strongly advised) to make upgrade or changes.
Once you have a media server built then up and running, there is little in the way of upgrades/changes that you will need to make so long as the PC doesn't change purposes. The only changes likely to be relevant at that point would come if you start adding numerous extra streams that will need access to the media. But then, the upgrade process is still a very straight-forward one. You evaluate what it is you want the server to be able to provide for, find out what hardware is necessary to server the demand, and then upgrade to that plus a bit of headroom just in case.
As far as using your current machine as a HTPC, since you will not likely be doing your CAD modeling and so forth at the same time you are watching a movie, there is little reason it cannot be multi-purposed. If you are looking into MadVR and the like, yes, CPU power is important. If you are more interested in the simple viability of having ease of access to media through the PC, but MadVR is something of an afterthought, then your machine will absolutely handle the demand. One thing about most (not all) HTPC programs is that they try not to over-tax a PC, this helps keep it quieter and cooler, both important things for many HTPC enthusiasts.
As far as what your friends are saying about HTPC issues. HTPCs do indeed have their strengths and their pitfalls. Some pitfalls can be annoying, but are easily avoided with proper planning. The idea that they are somehow harder to setup is only marginally a factor. Do you have to tell the PC and the program on it what you want to do? Sure, the first time. After that, you load the program and go. Hooking up the PC to the monitor/projector/AVR can be (and usually is) as simple as plugging in a HDMI cable, just like you would with an Oppo. Calibrating picture quality is really no more difficult using a PC than using an Oppo. If you are going to use something like MadVR (which many people simply do without), adjusting and so forth can get a bit more difficult, but this will be true anytime you start messing with independent video rendering devices. Software upgrades for HTPCs are mostly about bells and whistles. Once you have the HTPC up and running, there is no reason you must
upgrade. Programs like Media Browser 3 update with some regularity, but those upgrades happen behind the scenes and require little work on your part (usually simply restarting the program). If you stick with stable, release client versions of your HTPC programs, you shouldn't be concerning yourself with that really.
As far as DVD/Bluray software needing to be subscribed to, this is the biggest fallacy I can think of. Even the paid programs like PowerDVD and TMT are a purchase once solution. Sure, upgrades cost, but there is no overriding reason a user must upgrade once they have a version on their PC that they like. Furthermore, programs like Media Browser, Kodi (formerly XBMC), and others all have built-in media players and they are all free. There is no need for monthly or annual subscriptions.