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New HTPC build advice for a noob

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 
Hi and thanks in advance for whatever advice and direction offered.

I believe I have finally convinced the wife to let me build my first HTPC (or any PC for that matter). Please forgive and be patient with my ignorance as I plow forward with the planning of this rig.
As a start, I have bought Assassin's guides and have studied them along with these and other forums.

Hardware I have:

Master bedroom:
TV: 55" LG 55LW5600 (3D)
LG 3D Blu-Ray player
Vizio VHT215 (2.1 soundbar)

Living room:
TV: 46" Toshiba Regza XV540 (cira 2008)
PS3
Pioneer VSX-820K AVR and 5.1 speakers
Harmony One remote

The main goals for the HTPC:
Watch and record OTA TV
Stream Netflix, Hulu, etc.
Surf internet occasionally
Play and edit H.264 videos (basic home camcorder stuff)
Rip DVD movies to HDD
Play DVD movies directly from disc
Need strong WAF - am thinking WMC would be nice for that. She is pretty technically savvy though.
Keep costs somewhat low
Future-proof as much as possible (within reason)
The case size does not matter much - I was thinking of a mid tower mATX

The Living room and Master bedroom systems are currently not tied together in any way other than both TV's share an OTA antenna. They are also only set up with wi-fi to the router. We are planning some home remodeling this fall and i would like to run CAT6 cabling at that time. We are struggling now to get Netflix to stream to the master br. We have tried using wi-fi and powerline network adapters. The powerline system worked OK for awhile, but now has tanked.

I am looking for expert advice on various HTPC options.
I have so many questions that I am not sure where to even start, but here goes:

1. Is it possible to use the LR PS3 as an extender if I put the HTPC in the BR?
2. I am not planning on a BR drive on the HTPC because it seems cumbersome and expensive. Is the DVD drive going to be easier and cheaper overall?

I better leave it ther before this gets too long etc.
Thx!!
post #2 of 11
First a comment on connectivity. You indicated you have coax from a single antenna running to both TVs. Is the point where that coax is split accessible to your router or is it possible to run CAT6 easilty from your router to that junction point? If so, you could use ethernet-over-coax multiplexed with your antenna signal using MOCA adapters such as Netgear MCAB1001 to give better internet connectivity to your TV locations.

As to your last question, it's no "easier" or less "cumbersome" to use a DVD drive than a bluray drive. It's cheaper. Figure a DVD writer is less than $20, a BluRay reader/DVD Writer combo is $50, and a BluRay/DVD reader/writer is around $80. The form factor's the same for any of them. If you're trying to "future proof" I don't know why you wouldn't want at least the middle combo unit.
post #3 of 11
Take a gander at assassin's free hardware guides. I would suggest a more pleasing form factor for the case. The HTPC in your family room doesn't have to look like a PC. This will increase the WAF emmensly.

The PS3 will not act as an extender for LiveTV AFAIK. I have a Hauppuage 2250 dual OTA tuner card that I have no use for with the remote as I'm now using a CableCARD tuner for live TV.

If you are going to rip DVD movies to HDD, play and edit H.264 videos and do basic home camcorder stuff the HTPC might not be the most convient place to do it. Using a wireless keyboard at the couch is cumbersome and you end up disabling the use of the TV by others.

Why only play DVD movies directly from disc? If you're going to do this you might as well get a BRD. I have no BRD in my HTPC. It is in my PC for the ripping to HDD task. Actually it is on my desk and connected via eSATA.

When you get your network set up the best way to do this IMHO is to use a PC at a desk for the tasks above and reserve your HTPC for the other things you mention that you want to do.
post #4 of 11
Thread Starter 
Zon2020
Wow, thanks for that MoCA info. It is responses like that that make these forums so amazing.
It would be fairly easy for me to run CAT6 from router to the coax splitter. I will definitely look into the MoCA stuff.

As for the BR vs DVD stuff, I am confused. So in order to simply watch a BR disk movie, I believe I would have to have some software which adds cost and complexity. If I merely want to be able to rip a BR do I still need this extra software ata all?
Is it the same case for watching a DVD movie? I was thinking of just leaving my BR player hooked up for when the kids want to watch a 3D BR movie.

Sammy2
Is your Hauppauge 2250 for sale?
It is disappointing that the PS3 won't work as an extender for watching DVR'd TV off the HTPC. I saw somewhere that it would if you convert the files to PS3 friendly ones - not likely to be easy or quick.
I will consider your input regarding the case. Thx.
post #5 of 11
This requirement stands out above them all:
Quote:
Originally Posted by brywisco View Post

The main goals for the HTPC:
Play and edit H.264 videos (basic home camcorder stuff)

Hopefully someone with experience with this can chime in with the kind of horsepower you'll need. All the other stuff doesn't take much but this might take a bit more. When I see video editing I think i3-2100 minimum though if it were me putting it together for me, I'd be looking at a low-end Sandy/Ivy Bridge i5.
post #6 of 11
Quote:
Originally Posted by brywisco View Post

Zon2020
As for the BR vs DVD stuff, I am confused. So in order to simply watch a BR disk movie, I believe I would have to have some software which adds cost and complexity. If I merely want to be able to rip a BR do I still need this extra software ata all?
.

You need to go back and read more of the Assassin guides. He covers it much better than I could describe here. Look at the Ripping tab for your last question.
post #7 of 11
Thread Starter 
It seems that as cheap as the DVD drives are, it might make sense to simply start there and deside if a BRD is required later.

You may be right about trying to edit H.264 video from the couch or bed. I will think about that a bit more.

My initial rough-pass at picking hardware:
CPU: AMD A6-3500
MoBo: Asrock A75M mATX FM1
RAM: Gskill ripjaws 2x2GB DDR3-1600
SSD: Crucial M4 (64GB or maybe 128GB)
HDD: Samsung F4 2TB, 3.5", 5400 rpm
Optical drive: TBD (DVD r/w)
PSU: Antec 380W
OS: win7 sp1 64 bit
Case: TBD
post #8 of 11
I take it the HTPC will be connected to both TVs? You'll definitely want to run a bunch of Cat6 when you get the chance. Then get HDBaseT extenders and an HDMI matrix to feed the TVs over the Cat6. I was going to suggest powerline adapters in the meantime - have you looked into possible sources of interference?

Also, have you thought about control? To improve the WAF, you'll probably want to think about extending IR somehow and using a Harmony remote as a WMC remote. This combined with XBMC and/or WMC gives you an experience very similar to a normal DVR or media streamer. Lastly, if you do open up the walls, seriously consider running some speaker wire and putting some surround sound into your bedroom to match the living room. Then get a second AVR to power them. This will solve some issues with splitting the HDMI audio signal between surround capable receiver and a TV. Go to the Home A/V Distribution forum elsewhere on AVS and get some help in designing your wiring plan.
post #9 of 11
Quote:
Originally Posted by brywisco View Post

Zon2020
Wow, thanks for that MoCA info. It is responses like that that make these forums so amazing.
It would be fairly easy for me to run CAT6 from router to the coax splitter. I will definitely look into the MoCA stuff.
As for the BR vs DVD stuff, I am confused. So in order to simply watch a BR disk movie, I believe I would have to have some software which adds cost and complexity. If I merely want to be able to rip a BR do I still need this extra software ata all?
Is it the same case for watching a DVD movie? I was thinking of just leaving my BR player hooked up for when the kids want to watch a 3D BR movie.
Sammy2
Is your Hauppauge 2250 for sale?
It is disappointing that the PS3 won't work as an extender for watching DVR'd TV off the HTPC. I saw somewhere that it would if you convert the files to PS3 friendly ones - not likely to be easy or quick.
I will consider your input regarding the case. Thx.

Windows Media Center and Media Player both nativelly play DVD's. The stand along BRP is a good idea. Mine rarely gets any use any more though. You can rip BRD's to a HDD with software that is readily available and free- or share- ware.

You cannot just connect the Cat6 to a coax splitter. You need a switch and converter.

The PS3 will work as an extender but the files need to be transcoded as they don't play WTV (Windows TV) files recorded by Windows Media Center (WMC). The xBox 360 does but not really much else such as the mkv's that you convert BRD's to.

As far as transcoding goes that will bog down an i3, it slows down my i5-650 sometimes.

And enough cannot be said about the guides for setting all this up. I've built systems for going on 20 years and building my HTPC was a piece of cake. Setting it up is another thing all together.

I have the 01213 model: WinTV-HVR-2250 Media Center Kit: includes a Media Center certified remote control transmitter, an IR remote control receiver/blaster cable, an A/V breakout cable for the primary A/V input, an auxiliary A/V panel and cable to add a second set of audio/video inputs, and an IR transmitter cable to control a second set top box through the auxiliary A/V panel.
post #10 of 11
Right now the best value SSD, in my view, considering price, performance and quality, is the Intel 330, at least until the current Intel rebate program ends, which I think is this Sunday, June 24. Consider a 120 or 180GB Intel 330. (Net $135 for the 180 is a good deal.)

You'll have to check prices on both Amazon and Newegg, because they vary from day-to-day.

And the Intel rebate program is easy (all online) and quick (I got my Visa gift card back in only 3 weeks).
post #11 of 11
Thread Starter 
Well I just spent the whole weekend sick in bed. I went on a 7-day Alaska cruise a couple weeks ago and I guess I caught the creeping crud (my Dr. actually called it the cruise ship creeping crud). After lying there wacthing nothing but OTA with all the commercials, i decided I really want to build this HTPC.
Now that I am mostly recovered, how does my hardware list look overall?
I am mostly lost when it comes to the CPU/GPU stuff. I have tried to research Intel vs AMD and it gets overwhelming in a hurry. I also see that there is a new AMD CPU (Trinity) on the way. Is it worth waiting for since i will not likely build this system until late August or so.

If you go on a cruise, please take my advice and have a nice HTPC built and ready for your return, or wear a hazmat suit while onboard....jeez. I am a pretty healthy human being, but that crud knocked be back a few days.
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