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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hey everyone! My wife and I have spent the last two years without cable, watching streaming tv on a computer monitor. We were just given a new HD TV (720p), so I'd love to stream netflix and hulu on that - but the idea of paying for hulu makes me sad, so I'd rather go the HTPC route (instead of roku, etc). But I only want streaming - not recording, media storage, anything like that.


My research has only found more powerful, more expensive HTPC recommendations. Can you guys recommend a cheap HTPC option that would work for streaming television alone? I'm shooting for under $300. Any advice on making it wife-friendly is welcome too!


Thanks in advance for your help - I appreciate you taking the time.
 

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If all you want to do is stream Netflix and Hulu pretty much any 5 year old dual core PC with a 3 year old video card would do the trick. Don't need anything new or fancy, just HDMI out.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Yeah, I think the bug might be coming - but I'd rather start small and upgrade than overspend on something I might never use.


One last question - is there any kind of minimum requirement on the video card if I'm looking to play netflix HD? I'm assuming that if it has an HDMI out we'll be fine, but I haven't worked much with graphics in the past.


(And, of course, any ideas on specific models I can pick up used/cheap are more than welcome - there's lots to sort through out there!)
 

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Not really. Our low-end $300 laptop will play Netflix HD fine. That said, our PS3 beats the snot out of it, especially when playing Netflix. You might look into that, the PS3 can stream 1080p Netflix with 5.1 sound (no PC can), and Hulu, natively and is only $300. Add the Sony BD remote (about $15) and you have a really nice setup, and it'll play BluRay discs out of the box. I have one in our bedroom that is only used for video, it never sees a game.


It also has a better WAF than our HTPC.
 

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If you plan to to other stuff then go the HTPC route, a Core i3 build or a cheap Atom/ION or an Althon with a HD5450 series card.

If not, even the PS3 is overkill. A cheap Roku does Netflix (1080p + 5.1 sound) and Hulu + Amazon on Demand, and is 60$.
 

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PCs have lots of trouble with 720p over HDMI due to overscan issues. If your TV has a VGA or DVI input I'd seriously consider using that over HDMI.


I really think that a Roku/WDTV type device will give you the best value if all you're looking for is streaming. Now, if you want DVR, music, photos, web surfing, and possible blu-ray in the future, then go for the HTPC. As others have said above, any computer made in the past 5 years will handle streaming just fine.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
I appreciate all the suggestions! The reason I'm focusing on HTPC is because, AFAIK, it's the only option that will play free hulu - I'd prefer not to pay $8/month for Hulu Plus with the Roku or Boxee Box if I can pay a bit more for an HTPC that can get the free version. Am I wrong about that - can you get free Hulu on a cheap set-top box or gaming system?


Interesting about the DVI - I'll have to check my TV when I get home, I'm not sure what inputs it has.
 

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Be aware that Hulu Plus on those other platforms is actually crippled because many networks block their shows from being shown on "TV" devices. The only way to get full access to the catalog is via the web or Hulu Desktop on the PC. Heck, you get access to more shows for free on the PC then you do via these apps on boxes like Google TV. Strange but it's true.
 

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Just food for thought.


For the cost difference between a $60 Roku player and a low powered PC, you could pretty much pay for Hulu+ for two and a half to three years. That's a long time in this industry. (My wager says free hulu will most likely be completely shut down by then.)


Hulu+ gets gimped by not having most of the cable channel based shows available. Free hulu gets gimped in having a byzantine method of 4 rolling episodes available for most shows. The former is a real pain to anyone with an OTA antenna connected to their TV. The later is a real pain to anyone interested in the notion of watching shows on *their* schedule.


If hulu+ had all the cable channel shows that hulu free has, it would be no contest which one you should get. But it doesn't, so the choice is yours.


-Suntan
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by bcolmery /forum/post/19582396


Am I wrong about that - can you get free Hulu on a cheap set-top box or gaming system?

If you also have a regular computer on your network (doesn't have to be next to your TV) you can pay $20 a year for Play On. That will pipe hulu basic to standard players/game consoles. But it has its own quirks.


-Suntan
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Yeah, I'm siding on the byzantine side of free Hulu - if we need to catch up on old shows, I can get the DVDs from Netflix, and we're not addicted to a lot of TV - just a few shows that we can't get on Hulu Plus (Fringe, for example).


So it looks like an old dual-core HTPC is the way to go. Anyone know off-hand of a cheap older model with a small-ish footprint, dvi out, and maybe built-in wifi and a way to involve a remote? I'd prefer prebuilt, just to save myself the hassle.
 

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Unless you are really constrained by cost I would highly recommend getting/building a Core i3 based system. It won't cost all that much more and at least that way you'll be on current technology (at least for a while anyway). Much easier to upgrade later if needed the more current you are to start with.
 

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I'm trying to put together almost the exact same thing from an old computer of mine. Any suggestions for the media center you'll be using. I've tried Boxee, and XBMC have was initially impressed with both, but disappointed with how unreliable they both are. I'm starting to consider giving up and just using something like the Kylo browser, but once again, it would be nice to have something a little easier for my wife.


Thanks!
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
I'm thinking about using Windows Media Center. It's my understanding that it plays nice with hulu desktop - as for netflix, maybe download crome and go full screen? I'm not that well versed in that end of things yet.
 

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You might want to look into the Dell Zino line of comps. That should do exactly what you're looking for. And Media Center under Windows 7 has a native Netflix client available -- no need to bounce out to a browser. For that matter, there's also the Hulu Desktop client (though it doesn't integrate with Media Center).
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pugnax555 /forum/post/19583663


For that matter, there's also the Hulu Desktop client (though it doesn't integrate with Media Center).

It does with this plugin: http://huluwmc.teknowebworks.com/


They also have a plugin for Boxee and XBMC.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·

Quote:
Originally Posted by spivonious /forum/post/19582009


PCs have lots of trouble with 720p over HDMI due to overscan issues. If your TV has a VGA or DVI input I'd seriously consider using that over HDMI.

Just got home, and the TV only has HDMI and component for inputs. It's a new TV - am I going to run into any problems with this whole 720p/HDMI thing? Are there any options out there that would help out?
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by bcolmery /forum/post/19584479


Just got home, and the TV only has HDMI and component for inputs. It's a new TV - am I going to run into any problems with this whole 720p/HDMI thing? Are there any options out there that would help out?

It's a new TV and only 720p? I thought they stopped making 720p TVs several years ago. Just about anything you buy the last couple years is 1080p...maybe just 1080i but even that is rare now.
 
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