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htpc beginner needs help

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 
Hey there, I've been googling and reading forums but I need some direction from some of you experienced guys and gals.

My main goal is to create a DVR/PVR system to record OTA tv shows and watch them at my leisure. It seems that there are so many ways to go and I don't know where to begin. It seems like all I really need is a PC, TV tuner card, hard drive and WMC.

I was just looking at a Foxconn Booksize Barebone System on Newegg, and the size, power consumption, noise level looks really good, but I don't know how I would hook up my coax cable coming from my antenna.

My current setup has my antenna signal coming straight in to my Panasonic plasma tv. I have a Onkyo ht6300 sound system and stream netflix and watch movies thru a samsung bluray.

Any help would be appreciated from a middle aged htpc newbie.

Lastly, not sure I'd want to, but I have an old dell desktop - xp, 2.2ghz amd athlon 64x2 dual core, would I be able to use this for an htpc?
post #2 of 11
I've been using a HDHomerun for my tuner since it can be accessed by any PC or Mac in my home. It works really well with WMC as a DVR or for Live TV.

There are also dedicated tuner cards available that many people also get good results with.

MCEBuddy is a good addon that will take the WTV files from WMC and mark for commercial skipping with another addon program and then it will convert it to other formats such as MP4 if that is better for your uses.

Assassin's guides cover all of this in pretty good detail and are worth the money in my opinion to getting a setup that works.
post #3 of 11
If I understand correctly, the Foxconn barebone is E-350 based. You will still need to add a harddrive and a tuner for OTA recording. You will also need OS. The Windows Media Center included in Windows 7 is an excellent software for recording and watching OTA TV.

The E-350 is a little slow but its GPU is capable of playing back even blu-ray rips so no problem with OTA ATSC. But I doubt if it fits a standard harddrive. You might be limited to notebook HDD or SSD. You will need 20-30GB for the OS and then 6-8GB for each hour of HD recording. You won't be able to fit any PCIe tuner in the box. I had great success with USB tuner. They went for about $20 each from time to time. The beauty is that it draws power directly from USB. The downside is that the connection is loose.

For your situation, you will either connect your antenna to your HTPC and use it for watching TV, or use a splitter to split between HTPC tuner and your TV's tuner. I would go with the latter whenever possible because you can watch other channels while recording. I am not sure if your ht6300 supports audio over HDMI. I doubt the Foxconn has S/PDIF output.

Your Dell Desktop is fine as long as you add a modern graphics card (~$50 will do) to it. But again the issues of OS, harddrive and tuner will come in.
post #4 of 11
Quote:
Originally Posted by pixelation View Post

If I understand correctly, the Foxconn barebone is E-350 based. You will still need to add a harddrive and a tuner for OTV recording. You will also need OS. The Windows Media Center included in Windows 7 is an excellent software for that.

The E-350 is a little slow but its GPU is capable of playing back even blu-ray rips so no problem with OTV. But I doubt if it fits a standard harddrive. You might be limited to notebook HDD or SSD. You will need 20-30GB for the OS and then 6-8GB for each hour of HD recording.

I looked at that system yesterday as well as its onsale.

While the price seems nice at first you still have to add RAM, a hard drive or SSD and an OS. Personally I don't like the uber tiny cases as you are pretty much stuck as far as upgrading or reusing parts is concerned. I think you could build a very small HTPC with similar specs for not a whole lot more that is much more reusable.
post #5 of 11
[quote=cnatsu1;21796495

Any help would be appreciated from a middle aged htpc newbie.

Lastly, not sure I'd want to, but I have an old dell desktop - xp, 2.2ghz amd athlon 64x2 dual core, would I be able to use this for an htpc?[/QUOTE]

I've been doing PVR since the first WinTV card came out and I've learned a few lessons over the years...start with what you have to get over the learning curve. Your Dell should be quite capable of handling PVR duties. I used a single core Athlon 64 for a couple years as a HDTV OTA recorder sometimes doing 2 shows at once so I'm sure yours is up to the task.

If need be you can purchase a few items that could be transferred to a new PC down the line. You can download Windows 8 so update that XP for free...at least for a year. Although you can try using MediaPortal with XP I can't really recommend it for new users as the TV setup is not quite as easy as Media Center but there's a help thread here if you want to give it a try. Personally I'd pick up a retail copy of Win 7 that could be transferred to a new PC in the future. That recommendation could change if and when MediaBrowser is patched to work with Win 8.

Try playing a 1080i OTA recording and see if it displays OK...if not then pick up a PCIe video card that has HDMI out so you can connect it to your TV. If your TV has a PC VGA connector you can give that a try but most of the time
your limited to PC resolutions which might cause over/underscan issues. I'll second the HDHomerun for your tuner. USB is good but if you have a laptop or other PC then you can watch TV on all of them without the need for extenders. You'll also need a bunch of storage space...I'd go no less than 500gb as your recording drive. If you tend to hang on to shows for longer terms you may want to pick up an external 2gb drive. Some of us here hardly ever delete TV series so keeping every episode of NCIS or CSI tends to fill up a drive pretty quickly then you finding yourself reading the NAS threads here.
post #6 of 11
I am also trying to setup a PVR using an old P4 pc. A friend of mine purchased a USB tuner, and lost the disc that came with it. I think I have the driver installed for the tuner, but I have no software to make anything happen. Is there free software available that will allow me to record ATSC OTA onto my hardrive?

Once a show is on the hard drive, I plan to play it on my projector using a media player. A WDTV plus, I think is the model.
post #7 of 11
Quote:
Originally Posted by kbgl View Post

I am also trying to setup a PVR using an old P4 pc. A friend of mine purchased a USB tuner, and lost the disc that came with it. I think I have the driver installed for the tuner, but I have no software to make anything happen. Is there free software available that will allow me to record ATSC OTA onto my hardrive?

Once a show is on the hard drive, I plan to play it on my projector using a media player. A WDTV plus, I think is the model.

What type of tuner is it? What OS are you running? Need the answer to those first before suggesting something.

Of course there's free software available but again I need to know what OS you're running. There more PVR choices for Windows than Linux not including WMC which runs on top of XP Pro, built-into Vista, W7 and W8.

To the OP, go with the old Dell and put in a HD4xxx AGP card, like this one - http://www.tigerdirect.com/applicati...6197&CatId=318

A bit pricey but worth it likely and one of the few AGP cards available.

MediaPortal is one option but so is http://www.nextpvr.com/
post #8 of 11
Windows media center?
post #9 of 11
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the helpful replies!

Think I'll look for a HDHomerun and go from there with my old dell desktop. I'd read so many different articles that I didn't know where to go; and as I'm nearing 50, I don't want to spend countless hours building and rebuilding.
post #10 of 11
Quote:
Originally Posted by dj4monie View Post

What type of tuner is it? What OS are you running? Need the answer to those first before suggesting something.

Of course there's free software available but again I need to know what OS you're running. There more PVR choices for Windows than Linux not including WMC which runs on top of XP Pro, built-into Vista, W7 and W8.

To the OP, go with the old Dell and put in a HD4xxx AGP card, like this one - http://www.tigerdirect.com/applicati...6197&CatId=318

A bit pricey but worth it likely and one of the few AGP cards available.

MediaPortal is one option but so is http://www.nextpvr.com/


I'm running Windows XP. I also have a second P4 that is a little slower. I believe that it is XP Pro.

The tuner is a USB type made by WinStars. Very cheap/inexpensive tuner.

I may buy a better tuner. I was hoping to start the learning curve with this one.

Question... Do all the ATSC tuners record AC-3? I want DD 5.1 sound. If I have to buy a better tuner, I'd like to know before purchasing one.
post #11 of 11
Digital tuner only decode the signal. If the broadcast uses AC-3, you get AC-3. All ATSC tuners are the same function-wise (any brand, any interface, any form factor). The real difference is reliability and sensitivity.
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