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Discussion Starter #1
Looking to possibly purchase a HTPC. Don't have the time or patience to build my own. Looking to spend under $1k.


Is there anything worthwhile at best buy? I would like to be able to replace all if my set top boxes (net gear, wd live, blu ray player) with this. Would use it to play mkv rips, flac audio, bluray rips with full menus.


Also want to be able to send dts-ma and Dolby Tru-HD to my receiver.
 

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Setting up hardware is 1/10 the time it will take to make HTPC functional. It will take a lot more time to set up the software the way you like it.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by blueiedgod  /t/1520939/htpc-at-best-buy#post_24437783


Setting up hardware is 1/10 the time it will take to make HTPC functional. It will take a lot more time to set up the software the way you like it.

This. It took me about 2 days to build the computer and the better part of 6-9 months getting the software tweaked just right.


Also, for a budget of $1k, you can build a pretty hefty/powerful machine. All you really need is something with a processor, 8 gigs of memory (even 4 is enough), a big hard drive (or two, or three), a decent video card (something from the last 3 years) and HDMI-out and you have an HTPC. Buying a prebuilt machine will really limit you in the future (needing to add more hard drives, mainly).
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Thanks


Given all of the time required, this may not be in my best interest! My set top boxes do all I need but I thought I could consolidate devices.
 

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It took me a while the first time but now I can build and configure an HTPC in less than one day.
 

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There used to be some really cool options at Best Buy - the Sony VGX line, Gateway 901x, HP z500 - but I think manufacturers thought they didn't sell well enough to be worth the trouble.


Pretty much any PC you could buy there now with HDMI out is capable of playing digital cable, Netflix, bluray, etc with HD audio - all you need to do is plug the thing in to your tv. The problem as was mentioned is that setting up "htpc" software is very time consuming.


I just did a search of BestBuy.com and only saw around 19 computers with bluray drives. All were in towers (not sure if thats something you're cool with). None looked to be available locally (I'm in Pittsburgh too).


If you're set on buying one I really suggest doing it from a company who specializes in htpc - Assassin, Vidabox, S1 Digital. They will come set up for pixel mapping, bitstreaming audio, cablecard ready, etc.


No warranty implied, but being local I'd be more than willing to help get you on your feet with this
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by raynist  /t/1520939/htpc-at-best-buy#post_24437913


Thanks


Given all of the time required, this may not be in my best interest! My set top boxes do all I need but I thought I could consolidate devices.

If you don't have the hour or two it takes to actually assemble one then avoiding one completely is the best option. Building the actual PC is the fun part. The software part of it that you would do with a pre-built system is what sucks and is never really finished.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by raynist  /t/1520939/htpc-at-best-buy#post_24437913


Thanks


Given all of the time required, this may not be in my best interest! My set top boxes do all I need but I thought I could consolidate devices.

It takes me about an hour to put the hardware together, and install the OS. There really isn't much to it.


Setting up WMC, which is the easiest of them all to set up takes a couple of hours, at best for the very simple configuration.


Consolidating devices is great. We have a single HTPC and 5 extenders serving 6 TV's. It is a really great way to set up a whole house entertainment system for TV, movies, music, and radio.
 

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Discussion Starter #9

Quote:
Originally Posted by pittsoccer33  /t/1520939/htpc-at-best-buy#post_24437929


There used to be some really cool options at Best Buy - the Sony VGX line, Gateway 901x, HP z500 - but I think manufacturers thought they didn't sell well enough to be worth the trouble.


Pretty much any PC you could buy there now with HDMI out is capable of playing digital cable, Netflix, bluray, etc with HD audio - all you need to do is plug the thing in to your tv. The problem as was mentioned is that setting up "htpc" software is very time consuming.


I just did a search of BestBuy.com and only saw around 19 computers with bluray drives. All were in towers (not sure if thats something you're cool with). None looked to be available locally (I'm in Pittsburgh too).


If you're set on buying one I really suggest doing it from a company who specializes in htpc - Assassin, Vidabox, S1 Digital. They will come set up for pixel mapping, bitstreaming audio, cablecard ready, etc.


No warranty implied, but being local I'd be more than willing to help get you on your feet with this

Thanks, I am cool with a tower.


I will check out the names you mentioned.


What part of Pittsburgh? I am near south hills village.
 

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Just for the heck of it I searched around on Best Buy to see what you could put together if you limited yourself to only components they sold directly vs what you could get from them if you bought pre-built (ie. not through marketplace sellers in either case). Here's what I came up with:

Build:

case: NZXT Source 210 ($49.99)

board: ASUS P8B75-M/CSM MicroATX ($70.98)

CPU: i3-3220 ($124.99)

RAM: Kingston HyperX blu 4GB DDR3 1600 ($39.99)

PSU: Antec VP450 450w ($36.98)

bluray reader: ASUS BW-12B1ST ($89.99)

HD: Seagate 7200rpm 1TB ($59.99)

OS: Windows 8.1 64bit OEM ($102.98)
= $575.89

Pre-Built Tower

iBuyPower Gamer Extreme BB750D3, with:

CPU: i5-4440

RAM: 8GB DDR3 (1600?)

graphics: NVIDIA GTX 650

bluray reader: yes

HD: 7200rpm 500GB

OS: Windows 8 64bit
= 749.98


That tower is a monster w/CPU and graphics that blow away the build but unless you're gaming on it you're not really going to notice that on an HTPC. And even if you wanted to add a graphics card to the build for MadVR you could toss in a Galaxy GeForce GT 430 for $59.99 and still save yourself more than $100 off the tower. Otherwise the i3's integrated graphics can already do everything you need.


If you've got an Elite or ElitePlus membership w/Best Buy and your thought was to take advantage of the free shipping and 45 day return window I would recommend you buy the components for the build and make a project out if it. It's not as intimidating as you think to build and even if you screw it up royally you can still stick everything back in their boxes and return the whole shebang. For that matter, even if you do it all right you still might want to disassemble and return most or all of it for better or more tailored components for your purposes which you can buy cheaper off Newegg, Amazon, etc. Just sayin.
 

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You could also make a laptop work as a HTPC, but to expand your storage you would need to add external drive(s) or NAS.
 

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Discussion Starter #12

Quote:
Originally Posted by ElJimador  /t/1520939/htpc-at-best-buy#post_24442107


Just for the heck of it I searched around on Best Buy to see what you could put together if you limited yourself to only components they sold directly vs what you could get from them if you bought pre-built (ie. not through marketplace sellers in either case). Here's what I came up with:

Build:

case: NZXT Source 210 ($49.99)

board: ASUS P8B75-M/CSM MicroATX ($70.98)

CPU: i3-3220 ($124.99)

RAM: Kingston HyperX blu 4GB DDR3 1600 ($39.99)

PSU: Antec VP450 450w ($36.98)

bluray reader: ASUS BW-12B1ST ($89.99)

HD: Seagate 7200rpm 1TB ($59.99)

OS: Windows 8.1 64bit OEM ($102.98)
= $575.89

Pre-Built Tower

iBuyPower Gamer Extreme BB750D3, with:

CPU: i5-4440

RAM: 8GB DDR3 (1600?)

graphics: NVIDIA GTX 650

bluray reader: yes

HD: 7200rpm 500GB

OS: Windows 8 64bit
= 749.98


That tower is a monster w/CPU and graphics that blow away the build but unless you're gaming on it you're not really going to notice that on an HTPC. And even if you wanted to add a graphics card to the build for MadVR you could toss in a Galaxy GeForce GT 430 for $59.99 and still save yourself more than $100 off the tower. Otherwise the i3's integrated graphics can already do everything you need.


If you've got an Elite or ElitePlus membership w/Best Buy and your thought was to take advantage of the free shipping and 45 day return window I would recommend you buy the components for the build and make a project out if it. It's not as intimidating as you think to build and even if you screw it up royally you can still stick everything back in their boxes and return the whole shebang. For that matter, even if you do it all right you still might want to disassemble and return most or all of it for better or more tailored components for your purposes which you can buy cheaper off Newegg, Amazon, etc. Just sayin.

Thanks. That tower is what I was looking for.
 

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The most time consuming part of building a HTPC for me is downloading and installing all of the Windows 7 updates. I like to download the latest drivers and utilities from the motherboard manufacturer's website as well as specific drivers from their respective sites. I put them on a flash drive and install them from there rather than using the supplied CD that came with the motherboard. Most drivers on the disc are already out of date by the time you get them.


Depending on which CPU I've got installed, it can take several hours to get all of the drivers and Windows 7 updates installed. I try to keep my software configuration to a bare minimum so as to avoid any nasty conflicts that could disrupt WMC. I basically install the OS and drivers for the motherboard, CPU, GPU, etc., and then update Windows. After that I'll do some basic configurations (i.e., folder options, power settings, bypass logon settings, etc.) and install Microsoft Security Essentials. Then, I'll install any software and utilities to support tuners along with the actual hardware.


Once the basic setup is complete I'll go through the initial Media Center Setup followed by running Digital Cable Advisor. Once DCA passes I can run through the complete WMC configuration, which takes about 15-20 minutes. At this stage I can start using WMC, but I usually install the Shark007 codecs and numerous other WMC hacks and utilities (i.e., commercial skipping, MyChannel Logos, etc.). The extras can be installed at your leisure.


Total time spent is probably on the order of six hours, but most of that is spent just waiting for things to finish scanning or installing. I can do most of the installation while watching TV or doing something else. I have a DVI switch next to my main PC so I can switch the monitor back and forth between the PC I'm setting up and the one I'm currently using. I'll use a separate mouse and keyboard for each PC rather than deal with a flaky KVM switch. I have it set up this way for the majority of the installation and then move it over to my TV when it's time to configure WMC.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by raynist  /t/1520939/htpc-at-best-buy#post_24443354


Thanks. That tower is what I was looking for.

Good choice. It does seem like a really nice price for what it's packing and while a lot of it is wasted on an HTPC it doesn't hurt to overbuy if you can get a good deal on something that's still in your budget.


BTW, I realize now I may have made an incorrect assumption from your earlier posts re: why you preferred to buy instead of build. I didn't notice the # of posts or join date in your profile thumb and figured you must be a first time builder. Is that not the case? Or are you in fact an AV nerd of the non-computer variety? Whatever your reasons I still think you're overestimating the time and effort required for assembly. But, if pre-built is what you want you can certainly do worse than that tower.
 

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Discussion Starter #15

Quote:
Originally Posted by ElJimador  /t/1520939/htpc-at-best-buy#post_24443905


Good choice. It does seem like a really nice price for what it's packing and while a lot of it is wasted on an HTPC it doesn't hurt to overbuy if you can get a good deal on something that's still in your budget.


BTW, I realize now I may have made an incorrect assumption from your earlier posts re: why you preferred to buy instead of build. I didn't notice the # of posts or join date in your profile thumb and figured you must be a first time builder. Is that not the case? Or are you in fact an AV nerd of the non-computer variety? Whatever your reasons I still think you're overestimating the time and effort required for assembly. But, if pre-built is what you want you can certainly do worse than that tower.

My reasoning for buying instead of building would be instant satisfaction. It sounds like either way there will be a good amount of software setup. Between work and family I don't have a lot of time to tinker. I have used a Mac mini in the past and thought of doing it again but they can't pass dolby tru-hd or dts-ma. I bought a prebuilt tower from BB last year but could not get the HD audio to pass to my denon 4311.


My main goal right now is to have easy access to my cd collection in electronic lossless form (either flac or apple lossless). The devices I have now (Neo tv 550, wd live hub, mede8er 1000) all have clunky interfaces for music. I want to quickly be able to access an album, song or artist and listen right away. I also want to be able to create and save playlists on the fly.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by raynist  /t/1520939/htpc-at-best-buy#post_24443989


Between work and family I don't have a lot of time to tinker.

Welcome to my world. The only time I have to tinker is when kids and wife are sleeping, and I can work on my stuff. You start appreciating strong coffee in the morning, when you spent a few hours tinkering/playing, and went to bed at 2 am, only to get up 6.
 

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Discussion Starter #17

Quote:
Originally Posted by blueiedgod  /t/1520939/htpc-at-best-buy#post_24446373


Welcome to my world. The only time I have to tinker is when kids and wife are sleeping, and I can work on my stuff. You start appreciating strong coffee in the morning, when you spent a few hours tinkering/playing, and went to bed at 2 am, only to get up 6.

Same here. Usually by 10pm I can start playing around. I really try to be done by 1am though
 

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^^^

You guys need to install the concurrent user RDP hack so you can tinker while everyone is still watching TV, so long as your tinkering doesn't require any immediate reboots. Works great and has cut my sleep deprivation significantly



Regarding the original topic, Raynist, your requirements are so minimal, really the cheapest thing you can find at Best Buy will work fine, even old refurbs. My HTPC is an off-the-shelf PC plus a few upgrades I added myself. PC was $50 on ebay (included SFF case, power supply, CPU, motherboard, optical drive). Then I added some RAM, SDD, HDD and TV tuner card, and I was good to go after 15 minutes of plugging the new stuff in, maybe $350 grand total. Much less than a similarly equipped new system, but plenty for HTPC duty. So although a full custom build is best, you don't necessarily have to build entirely from scratch or spend a lot of time to get the benefits of a custom build.
 

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I totally feel you on the buy vs. build. I know that I can do the work, but who has time for that? I suggest that you look at the Alienware X51. Its a smaller gaming rig that lays flat(if you want), about the size of a game console, and is powerful enough to do anything you need on the realm of htpc. They start around $600 for the base model. I just picked on up used and its going to be perfect. Alienware/Dell handles the customization much like the car makers do, but here is the trick: Because the parts are all off the shelf aside from the case and MOBO, you can buy the base model and upgrade just what you want. For example, if you select the base intel i3 model it does not come with the blu ray drive, its not even an option, you would have to select at least the i5 model which is going to be another $200 minimum. You can pick up the blu ray drive lots of places for under $70. Ram and GPU are the same thing, no need to pay them for parts that you can get cheaper.


The best part is that its all modular, so parts in and out is very easy. I just ordered the blu ray drive for mine, it was 62 bucks on ebay. And I can upgrade ram or gpu any time with off the shelf parts. Look for one on ebay or craigslist.


Ibuypower has a model called the Revolt that is much like the x51, and they start lower because they have AMD chip offerings. I hope this helps! Don’t listen to these guys giving you grief over not building.
 
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