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Ditching Cable using computer at OTA DVR

post #1 of 29
Thread Starter 
I'm looking for suggestions. I'm cutting the cable and going OTA. I'm thinking about adding a PC and connecting it to my TV (46" LG 1080p). I want the computer to be able to stream content to my TV and potentially in the future work as a DVR. I've done a little research but it's fairly overwhelming. I'm hoping to do this for under $500. Is this possible?
post #2 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by jefejt View Post

I'm looking for suggestions. I'm cutting the cable and going OTA. I'm thinking about adding a PC and connecting it to my TV (46" LG 1080p). I want the computer to be able to stream content to my TV and potentially in the future work as a DVR. I've done a little research but it's fairly overwhelming. I'm hoping to do this for under $500. Is this possible?

With a tuner card it might be a little more than $500 depending on the size of your hard drive. And also how much you can get Window 7 for --- some students and employees can get it for free or as little as $20.

BTW hard drive prices are through the roof due to Thailand flooding.
post #3 of 29
Do you have an xbox 360? If so, you can use it as a Windows Media Center extender (for OTA channels and DVR functionality) and use it for Netflix, Espn 360, Vudu, and others.
post #4 of 29
I cut cable (satellite) over a year ago, and I'm going OTA for TV shows. I'm a performance junkie, so my HTPC was well over $500, but the $500 budget sounds very tight. W7's media center works pretty well as a live TV + DVR with my Hauppauge HVR-2250 cards, and there are other tuners available.

The first question: Do you want to hook up your PC directly to your TV, or are you wanting to have just an extender at the TV with the PC somewhere else in your house?
post #5 of 29
I also use an HVR-2250 for OTA ATSC recording. However, I wasn't completely happy until I installed a decent antanna in my attic. With a table top style antenna, I would have intermittent reception issues. So for me, this was one of the unexpected cost adders.
post #6 of 29
I think $500 is very possible if you are careful with your component selection. You might have to skip out on a high end case but its doable.

I have had really good luck with avermedia duet tuner and its only $65 and turns any windows computer into a great dvr. I have even been able to record two shows and playback one all at the same time on a zacate system with 2 gigs of ram.

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...82E16815100041
post #7 of 29
Best decision I ever made . . . 2 years and going strong without cable. I think as long as you are not looking at 3D playback, gaming, or any other "special features," then you can easily do it for $500. The problem I had is I started in the same boat as you, but all the money I saved each month was basically put back into my HTPC and media center, so now I have multiple HTPC's, a projector, and a media server . . .

As was stated above, although not needed from the start, a good OTA antenna mounted in you attic is a godsend. I never have problems getting HD reception and the antenna is invisible from the outside.

For basic playback, you don't need a video card. Instead use a CPU with video processing through your motherboard. It is a way to save some cash, and is really all you need unless you want a specific feature of a discrete video card. Plus, you can always upgrade the video card any time you want when you have extra money.

Be prepared to tinker, but the HTPC has come a long way in recent years. My system is almost perfectly stable, with only a hiccup here or there - like any computer. The key thing is to set it up so it runs good, and then resist the urge to play around with it unless you want to upgrade something. Plus, the reset button does cure many things that aren't driver related. Again, I am not trying to scare you, I rarely have problems now that my system is set up.

One final place to save money is the case. You can get a cheap case for the time being, but can upgrade whenever you like later on and transfer the computer to another case. HTPC specific cases tend to run on the higher priced side. I use Silverstone cases, and they are built really good.

Hope all this helps, if you need any additional specific infor, please feel free to ask.
post #8 of 29
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by gorthocar View Post

The first question: Do you want to hook up your PC directly to your TV, or are you wanting to have just an extender at the TV with the PC somewhere else in your house?

I'm pretty new here. My plan was to hook the PC directly to the TV. I'm not sure what the extender option is...

Really I'm looking at doing this in increments. I have a good antenna that will be mounted shortly. I have a Roku to stream for now. I'd like to have the PC to stream other videos and eventually use as a DVR.
post #9 of 29
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by rocketlaw View Post

Best decision I ever made . . . 2 years and going strong without cable. I think as long as you are not looking at 3D playback, gaming, or any other "special features," then you can easily do it for $500. The problem I had is I started in the same boat as you, but all the money I saved each month was basically put back into my HTPC and media center, so now I have multiple HTPC's, a projector, and a media server . . .

As was stated above, although not needed from the start, a good OTA antenna mounted in you attic is a godsend. I never have problems getting HD reception and the antenna is invisible from the outside.

For basic playback, you don't need a video card. Instead use a CPU with video processing through your motherboard. It is a way to save some cash, and is really all you need unless you want a specific feature of a discrete video card. Plus, you can always upgrade the video card any time you want when you have extra money.

Be prepared to tinker, but the HTPC has come a long way in recent years. My system is almost perfectly stable, with only a hiccup here or there - like any computer. The key thing is to set it up so it runs good, and then resist the urge to play around with it unless you want to upgrade something. Plus, the reset button does cure many things that aren't driver related. Again, I am not trying to scare you, I rarely have problems now that my system is set up.

One final place to save money is the case. You can get a cheap case for the time being, but can upgrade whenever you like later on and transfer the computer to another case. HTPC specific cases tend to run on the higher priced side. I use Silverstone cases, and they are built really good.

Hope all this helps, if you need any additional specific infor, please feel free to ask.


Lots of good info, thanks. I don't know much about HTPC myself. I can't say I've thought about a case, or even know where to start. I have an antenna, but after that I'm not sure where to go.

I know I need a computer, so any suggestions? I'm guessing that's a good place to start. I want something that I can add a video card if needed and definitely a tuner to in the future. I assume I can always upgrade the hard drive or memory if needed.
post #10 of 29
For those of you who don't have cable, how do you watch all the TV shows not local TV channels? TV show streaming isn't quite there yet either; being limited at only 720p. Even the "scene" releases that are floating around are only 720p instead of the original broadcast quality of 1080i You would have to wait up to a year for decent quality Blu-ray season discs. I personally would have a hard time giving up my TV shows conveniently showing up on my DVR at their original quality. Some of the stuff I like to watch are.. Dexter, Sons of Anarchy, South Park, White Collar, Leverage, The Glades, Eureka, Game of Thrones, True Blood, South Park, Beavis & But and Butt-Head. However, I understand, times are pretty tough. Luxury is always the first to go when money is tight.
post #11 of 29
Yup its a compromise, to get cable shows you pretty much have to use Netflix or rent at the video store. I read the first 3 books of game of thrones, I'm definitely going to have to rent that.

PS all these monthly fees can really add up, internet, cell phone, cable, etc.
post #12 of 29
It's true about the comprimise. Most cable shows can be streamed through the internet either through a provider (like Hulu) or from the channels website. However, the quality isn't the best. But I am okay with the less than steller quality based on the fact that I only watched a handful of shows on cable even though I was paying for everything. Some shows, you just got to wait until the come out on Netflix or buy them ala cart from iTunes or such.

Originally, it was a money issue. We wanted more money for luxery items. However, I do not think I will ever go back even though money is not an issue now. Cable, as we know it, is slowly coming to an end. I will be first in line when the cable channels let us buy into their service on a piece by piece basis. For example, I will gladly pay Showtime and HBO $20 a month to stream their shows over the internet rather than pay $85 for cable channels I don't watch and another $30 for the two premium channels. Soon, I think the channel providers will realize that there is just as much, if not more money, in them subscribing out their content on the internet, rather than through cable companies. Once that happens, then the streaming quality will only get better.

Finally, I am actually okay with streaming content at 720p. I will save my 1080p for bluray movies.
post #13 of 29
jefejt - do you feel comfortable building your own computer from scratch or are you looking at getting a prebuilt computer?
post #14 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by rocketlaw View Post

It's true about the comprimise. Most cable shows can be streamed through the internet either through a provider (like Hulu) or from the channels website. However, the quality isn't the best. But I am okay with the less than steller quality based on the fact that I only watched a handful of shows on cable even though I was paying for everything. Some shows, you just got to wait until the come out on Netflix or buy them ala cart from iTunes or such.

Originally, it was a money issue. We wanted more money for luxery items. However, I do not think I will ever go back even though money is not an issue now. Cable, as we know it, is slowly coming to an end. I will be first in line when the cable channels let us buy into their service on a piece by piece basis. For example, I will gladly pay Showtime and HBO $20 a month to stream their shows over the internet rather than pay $85 for cable channels I don't watch and another $30 for the two premium channels. Soon, I think the channel providers will realize that there is just as much, if not more money, in them subscribing out their content on the internet, rather than through cable companies. Once that happens, then the streaming quality will only get better.

Finally, I am actually okay with streaming content at 720p. I will save my 1080p for bluray movies.

Can you get current HBO shows on ITunes?
post #15 of 29
Thread Starter 
I've never built a computer from scratch. I'm most likely looking at getting one that's already set up. I'm looking for a starting point. What sort of processor, memory, graphics card would be a place to start then I can always add/upgrade?
post #16 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by jefejt View Post

I've never built a computer from scratch. I'm most likely looking at getting one that's already set up. I'm looking for a starting point. What sort of processor, memory, graphics card would be a place to start then I can always add/upgrade?

Any llano or sandy bridge computer with 4gigs of ram should work well. With Intel you need SB core i3 for 3D blu-ray.
post #17 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by jefejt View Post

I've never built a computer from scratch. I'm most likely looking at getting one that's already set up. I'm looking for a starting point. What sort of processor, memory, graphics card would be a place to start then I can always add/upgrade?

Most any new computer built today can handle HD graphics..even with video on the motherboard. A dual core cpu is all you need but if you find a system with a quad core in your price range go for it. Most motherboards have HDMI connections to connect directly to your TV. If not then a DVI to HDMI adapter is available. You'll want at least a 1TB hard drive as recording and storing live HD video really eats it up. 2 GB of memory is the minimum for decent performance...but 4 would be better. Whatever capture card you pick make sure you have the proper slot for it in the PC. Some newer PC's don't come with a legacy PCI slot..only PCIe. Many of us use the HDHomerun which streams TV over the network to any computer in the house so no capture card is required. You'll also want some type of remote control and IR receiver which in most cases will be Vista/WMC7 compatible. Software wise if you get Windows 7 it has support for most tuner cards in the Media Center and has built in TV Guide data but other options are around. Content wise, assuming you're not on dialup internet, anything you want is available. My antenna is pretty much for local news and live sports.
post #18 of 29
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by dobyken View Post

Most any new computer built today can handle HD graphics..even with video on the motherboard. A dual core cpu is all you need but if you find a system with a quad core in your price range go for it. Most motherboards have HDMI connections to connect directly to your TV. If not then a DVI to HDMI adapter is available. You'll want at least a 1TB hard drive as recording and storing live HD video really eats it up. 2 GB of memory is the minimum for decent performance...but 4 would be better. Whatever capture card you pick make sure you have the proper slot for it in the PC. Some newer PC's don't come with a legacy PCI slot..only PCIe. Many of us use the HDHomerun which streams TV over the network to any computer in the house so no capture card is required. You'll also want some type of remote control and IR receiver which in most cases will be Vista/WMC7 compatible. Software wise if you get Windows 7 it has support for most tuner cards in the Media Center and has built in TV Guide data but other options are around. Content wise, assuming you're not on dialup internet, anything you want is available. My antenna is pretty much for local news and live sports.

Thanks. Great info here. I'll start looking. Maybe I should post an ad here to see if anyone is looking to get rid of their HTPC to upgrade.
post #19 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by jefejt View Post

I'm pretty new here. My plan was to hook the PC directly to the TV. I'm not sure what the extender option is...

Really I'm looking at doing this in increments. I have a good antenna that will be mounted shortly. I have a Roku to stream for now. I'd like to have the PC to stream other videos and eventually use as a DVR.

Hey Jefejt, the extender option involves an Xbox 360. Basically, instead of using a dedicated HTPC, you hook the TV tuners up to your existing computer. When you start Windows Media Center on your xbox 360, it looks just like WMC on the PC except the tuners and recordings are accessed from your PC over the network. More info here.

Pros of using an extender instead of a dedicated PC:
-An Xbox 360 only costs $200
-Very easy to setup
-More reliable than an HTPC from my experience (it's hard to 'break' and xbox 360)
-As far as Live TV and DVR, it looks and behaves exactly like WMC
-Xbox has Netflix, Hulu, ESPN 3, Vudu and others built in

Cons
-The computer you install the tuners on needs to be turned on whenever you watch TV on the Xbox 360 or record something (although I believe the computer can be configured to wake automatically)
-accessing streaming services on the Xbox 360 (like Netflix) require a $60/year subscription and most are limited to 720p
-the Xbox 360's functionality is limited, i.e., you can't make it do whatever you want it to like you can with an HTPC. First instance, you can't play blu-rays or stream extremely high bit rate video to your xbox 360 (or certain file formats)
-Xbox is somewhat noisy (although your HTPC could end up being more or less noisy depending on what components you use and how you configure it)

One option is not better than the other. It just depends on what you want it to do. The Xbox 360 is far easier to setup, but there are many limitations.
post #20 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by jefejt View Post

I've never built a computer from scratch. I'm most likely looking at getting one that's already set up. I'm looking for a starting point. What sort of processor, memory, graphics card would be a place to start then I can always add/upgrade?

http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showthread.php?t=1302559

That's where you should start...Page 1. And buy his guides...best money you'll spend as you get into HTPC!!!
post #21 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by jefejt View Post

I've never built a computer from scratch. I'm most likely looking at getting one that's already set up. I'm looking for a starting point. What sort of processor, memory, graphics card would be a place to start then I can always add/upgrade?

People will probably poo-poo this but IMO any $350 Office Depot/Best Buy sale PC will work as long as it has HDMI out. I see these all the time with 500GB or 1TB drives and 4GB of RAM - slap a dual-tuner OTA card in for less than $50 from fleabay or wherever and you're good to go for $400 or less. These PCs are quiet and may not be the best-looking form factor for HTPC use but will do the job.
post #22 of 29
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by slowbiscuit View Post

People will probably poo-poo this but IMO any $350 Office Depot/Best Buy sale PC will work as long as it has HDMI out. I see these all the time with 500GB or 1TB drives and 4GB of RAM - slap a dual-tuner OTA card in for less than $50 from fleabay or wherever and you're good to go for $400 or less. These PCs are quiet and may not be the best-looking form factor for HTPC use but will do the job.

This was my original idea and seems to me to be the most likely option. I've considered the idea of building one, but seriously doubt my ability to do so. My third option is to purchase one. Where are good places to buy a HTPC?
post #23 of 29
This caught my eye (currently $280):
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...-83220104-L08C

Add tuner and you'd be set.
post #24 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by slowbiscuit View Post

People will probably poo-poo this but IMO any $350 Office Depot/Best Buy sale PC will work as long as it has HDMI out. I see these all the time with 500GB or 1TB drives and 4GB of RAM - slap a dual-tuner OTA card in for less than $50 from fleabay or wherever and you're good to go for $400 or less. These PCs are quiet and may not be the best-looking form factor for HTPC use but will do the job.

That's my plan. My HTPC will be in an adjacent room so I'm not worried about looks or noise. From what I've read the RF remotes for WMC shouldn't have a problem-they're supposed to work up to 90' away and not have much trouble with walls. I'm going this route partially because I'm cheap (saving $80 a month on TV is what sold me ) and partially because I am going to have higher startup costs since we are in what is considered "deep fringe" territory for OTA reception. I need to build a dual UHF antenna to pull in NY stations plus a quality pre-amp, etc...and then add a VHF High and a VHF low in order to get everything. The antennas and related stuff should run about $500 so I'll be in for about $1000. Still not bad considering that's the cost of just over a year of satellite service! I understand that many members here are extreme video/audio/cinephiles, but I intend on documenting my build as a quick and dirty way to save $80 or more a month on cable or satellite (and get basically the same programming) using an off-the-shelf PC and other cheap stuff. I've been hanging out over in the rear projection forums lately and might even put this all together with a RP HDTV sourced from Craigslist
post #25 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by jefejt View Post

I'm looking for suggestions. I'm cutting the cable and going OTA. I'm thinking about adding a PC and connecting it to my TV (46" LG 1080p). I want the computer to be able to stream content to my TV and potentially in the future work as a DVR. I've done a little research but it's fairly overwhelming. I'm hoping to do this for under $500. Is this possible?

Yes, it is VERY possible to make it for under $500.

Start by getting the components, when they are on sale.

Just 2 weeks ago newegg had a motherboard for $20AR
Microcenter has AMD quad core CPU for $50
Start with a small hard drive, and as the prices drop, add more. $50 - $100
Video card with HDMI, unlees you get one with on-board video: $20 AR. EDIT: Just saw you have LCD, you can do VGA and save $20.
Windows 7: $33 if you buy a family pack of 3, or $80 for single copy, or $20 if you are a student, or know a student.
RAM: 4-8 Gb for $20 - $30 AR
Case: $30 with a power supply.
Remote: $15
Tuner: Dual ATSC tuner can be had for $60, or 2x USB stick type tuners for $40.

Total: $265 - $355

Easily doable.
post #26 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by SteelWill View Post

This caught my eye (currently $280):
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...-83220104-L08C

Add tuner and you'd be set.

Yep, that one would be perfect. If you need a remote and USB receiver that's only another $20 or so.

Very easy to do an OTA/QAM tuner HTPC for less than $400. Get a couple of refurbed or banned Xbox 360 Slims for $100 or so each and you've got a nice and cheap TV setup.
post #27 of 29
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by assassin View Post

With a tuner card it might be a little more than $500 depending on the size of your hard drive. And also how much you can get Window 7 for --- some students and employees can get it for free or as little as $20.

BTW hard drive prices are through the roof due to Thailand flooding.

I'm going give it a shot. HTPC world here I come. Who are these people with access to $20 Windows 7. Is it possible to find a decent hard drive at a good price? Are all tv tuners the same? I'll be building following one of assasin's builds and definitely purchasing his guides.
post #28 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by jefejt View Post

I'm going give it a shot. HTPC world here I come. Who are these people with access to $20 Windows 7. Is it possible to find a decent hard drive at a good price? Are all tv tuners the same? I'll be building following one of assasin's builds and definitely purchasing his guides.

Students mainly. Some can get it for free or as little as $8.

Hard drive prices are slowly coming down. But still about $50 more than 6 months ago.

BTW - Do it!!! Welcome to HTPC!!!
post #29 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by jefejt View Post

Are all tv tuners the same?

No, not even close. I have yet to find an external or internal card HD ATSC tuner that even comes close to the best of the coupon-based (CECB) SD digital converter ATSC tuners. I currently have a HD Homerun that works reasonably well but I wish someone would figure out what the best of the CECB makers knew that they don't for an external HD ATSC tuner.

You have an LG with probably the best tuner around but that doesn't solve your HTPC tuner problem. First go to http://www.tvfool.com/?option=com_wrapper&Itemid=29 to assess your signal. Any station that says 1edge or 2edge could likely give you problems. You will most likely need a rooftop antenna and a good PC tuner to get those stations reliably. Trees are also signal killers and will not be factored in your TVfool report, so keep that in mind.
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