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I'm sure this question has been asked before, but I don't frequent this forum. I am planning to buy a new laptop that will be pretty much dedicated to my home theater. It will be used to run REW, Mini-dsp, inkuke sofware etc. I also plan to rip my entire movie library on to it. I have looked at building my own, but I really have no clue when it comes to computers and it all seems overwhelming. I thought about buying one from Assassin, but I want the flexibility to be able to take it with me on the go, or use it for other things besides only my home theater. So........will a decent laptop work as a HTPC?

I am looking at a HP envy 17t it will have.....
-Windows 7 pro
-Intel i7 5500U dual core, with NVIDIA GeForce GTX 850M 4GB Discrete Graphics
-2tb hardrive
-16gb DDR3
-bluray drive

I am guessing that a bluray drive is needed to rip, right? Or is it just so that you can write a bluray? Is there any software that is needed to play or rip the bluray's? or does the drive do it all?

Will I be able to use XMBC (I think it KODI now) or some other type of movie organizer?

Sorry for all the noob questions, but I don't know much about this stuff.
 

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You will definitely need a bluray drive to rip movies - something has to be able to read them.

Most forum members rip their discs to MKV, which retains the original audio and video (and potentially subtitles too), but discards the menus and special features. This simplifies playback and gives you more choices (like Kodi).

A 2TB hard drive will fit somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 movies.

If you want an i7 for something other than video playback go for it, but you definitely don't need anything that powerful or expensive to play HD video. You also don't even need a graphics card (unless again you plan on using it for games or something).

My only worry with a laptop would be heating and maybe fan noise. You can certainly plug an HDMI cord into it and then your display/receiver, and you can easily add software like Kodi to it.

Building a PC is really easy. Have you ever added a hard drive or a stick of ram to your computer? Its not much more than that.

1)snap cpu into motherboard, screw cooler over top
2)snap ram into motherboard
3)plug drives into motherboard
4)connect the case wires (power button, led, usb) to motherboard
5)connect power supply to motherboard and drives
6)turn it on, insert your OS disk, and run the OS installation
7)set up your software
8)open a beer

Small systems like the Intel NUC and Gigabyte Brix do almost all that work for you. You just need to add ram and a hard drive.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
You will definitely need a bluray drive to rip movies - something has to be able to read them.

Most forum members rip their discs to MKV, which retains the original audio and video (and potentially subtitles too), but discards the menus and special features. This simplifies playback and gives you more choices (like Kodi).

A 2TB hard drive will fit somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 movies.

If you want an i7 for something other than video playback go for it, but you definitely don't need anything that powerful or expensive to play HD video. You also don't even need a graphics card (unless again you plan on using it for games or something).

My only worry with a laptop would be heating and maybe fan noise. You can certainly plug an HDMI cord into it and then your display/receiver, and you can easily add software like Kodi to it.

Building a PC is really easy. Have you ever added a hard drive or a stick of ram to your computer? Its not much more than that.

1)snap cpu into motherboard, screw cooler over top
2)snap ram into motherboard
3)plug drives into motherboard
4)connect the case wires (power button, led, usb) to motherboard
5)connect power supply to motherboard and drives
6)turn it on, insert your OS disk, and run the OS installation
7)set up your software
8)open a beer

Small systems like the Intel NUC and Gigabyte Brix do almost all that work for you. You just need to add ram and a hard drive.
Yeah kinda figured that on the bluray drive, but it the software to play and rip included with the drive? What about ripping MKV, is there special software to do that?

Wow only 50 movies for 2tb? I thought 2tb was a lot of storage......well a bluray has a lot of info. I may need to get a external hard drive.

I guess what I am looking for is a computer that is portable, can play the occasional game, run all my eq software for my system, and then be used as a HTPC.

The only thing that I have done, and am very good at is number 8.....open a beer. I know very little about computers, but I have learned a bit in the last week researching this laptop. I will probably start hanging around this forum to learn more as I go.
 

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There are two ways to play a movie from a bluray discs:

1) use licensed bluray software, like PowerDVD. many drives you'd buy at Walmart or Best Buy come with a stripped down version of it. This software works just like a bluray player

2) use a combination of software to play the movie off the disc. You need something to break the encryption and something to actually play it.

I do both, but typically number 2. I use free software called MakeMKV to create my backups and I play them with Windows Media Center.

As for storage space, bluray movies will take up between 20-45gb usually. A 2tb drive actually only has 1.8, or roughly 1800gb of usable space. So you could plan on something between 40 and 70 movies, just depending on the films.
 

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Yeah kinda figured that on the bluray drive, but it the software to play and rip included with the drive? What about ripping MKV, is there special software to do that?

Wow only 50 movies for 2tb? I thought 2tb was a lot of storage......well a bluray has a lot of info. I may need to get a external hard drive.

I guess what I am looking for is a computer that is portable, can play the occasional game, run all my eq software for my system, and then be used as a HTPC.

The only thing that I have done, and am very good at is number 8.....open a beer. I know very little about computers, but I have learned a bit in the last week researching this laptop. I will probably start hanging around this forum to learn more as I go.
If you buy a laptop from HP or Dell with a Blu-Ray drive already installed then they will almost certainly install a basic version of PowerDVD, which can be used to play Blu-Ray discs, but not to rip them. If you want to rip Blu-Rays then you'll need to go online to purchase/download the software needed to do that.

If you intend to hook the laptop up to your AV receiver/TV via. HDMI to use as your HTPC/client device (as opposed to using it as a server with a different client device physically connected to your AV receiver/TV) then you may want to check if the models you are looking at can run while the laptop is closed or at least that it's built-in display can be turned off while outputting audio and video over HDMI. Some models are designed to hibernate or even shut down when the top is closed and you probably don't want the distraction of the laptop's display showing the same thing you are watching on the big screen if it is in your field of vision. Not to mention that you would need a place to sit the laptop while it is connected to your AVR/TV. If it can run while the lid is closed then you might be able to fit it inside of a media cabinet. If not then you'll need a shelf with enough clearance above it for the lid to be open.
 

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I vote htpc over a laptop.
 

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I want the flexibility to be able to take it with me on the go, or use it for other things besides only my home theater.
I shudder when people want to cover all their bases with 1 box. What happens when you got that thing hooked with all the cabling, and you feel like doing some surfing on your lap WHILE watching the movie? I picture you sitting on the couch with the big laptop and a bunch of long cables hooked up to you like a futuristic movie.
 

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I tried the htpc concept for years and was very active in those forums for a long time.

The experience generally just simply sucked and wasn't worth the effort quite honestly.

There were too many compromises that had to be made for htpc to work well in a full scale home theater. Htpc out of a laptop... Good luck with that dissapointment.

Even a three generation old, dirt cheap avr combined with a cheap modern bluray player works overall better most of the time for me. Throw a little appleTV in there if you want to have a video library with 5.1 surround. Vastly less expensive.

Throw your music on the laptop and airplay the music library or just home share it to the apple tv if you dont mind the tv on while listening to music.
 

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I tried the htpc concept for years and was very active in those forums for a long time.

The experience generally just simply sucked and wasn't worth the effort quite honestly.

There were too many compromises that had to be made for htpc to work well in a full scale home theater. Htpc out of a laptop... Good luck with that dissapointment.

Even a three generation old, dirt cheap avr combined with a cheap modern bluray player works overall better most of the time for me. Throw a little appleTV in there if you want to have a video library with 5.1 surround. Vastly less expensive.

Throw your music on the laptop and airplay the music library or just home share it to the apple tv if you dont mind the tv on while listening to music.
When I first started to experiment with HTPC's several years ago, my experience was exactly like yours. It seemed so complicated to not only myself, but also my family. I decided to just buy a stand alone player that would play everything and bitstream it via HDMI to my AVR. Thing is, now I have an old Bluray player that is needing to be replaced, and an old AVR in the same position.
So now that I have done more research 5 years later, and things seem to be much better in terms of complexity, ergonomics, and ease of use.

Instead of buying a new $1,000 to $1,500 AVR and a $100 Bluray player, I have decided to take my H/P laptop that has been in storage and convert it into both a source for my BDDVD and Cd collection and as a control center that will totally negate the need for an AVR or pre/pro, and will instead connect directly to my amplifiers. This eliminates lots of unwanted cords and cables, gets my hardware out of my room, adds much greater zone flexibility, allows me to get the absolute best SQ from my HD music downloads (better than CD quality, fwiw), and being that I am using JRiver, I can control everything from my iPhone 6 plus or. iPad! Doesn't get better than that!
 

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Why? What does a dedicated HTPC do that a laptop cannot?
- Much lower cost ($150 for a decent HTPC-worthy model, including OS)
- Expansion (PCIe, drives, RAM)
- More USB ports
- Can be fan-less (silent)

If you already have an old laptop gathering dust, by all means, go ahead and use it as an HTPC if you want. But if you're buying one new just for that purpose (like the OP), it's a waste of money and includes many things an HTPC doesn't need (local keyboard and display) and has very limited expansion options and typically lower CPU performance than the alternatives.
 

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I tried the htpc concept for years and was very active in those forums for a long time.

The experience generally just simply sucked and wasn't worth the effort quite honestly.

There were too many compromises that had to be made for htpc to work well in a full scale home theater. Htpc out of a laptop... Good luck with that dissapointment.

Even a three generation old, dirt cheap avr combined with a cheap modern bluray player works overall better most of the time for me. Throw a little appleTV in there if you want to have a video library with 5.1 surround. Vastly less expensive.

Throw your music on the laptop and airplay the music library or just home share it to the apple tv if you dont mind the tv on while listening to music.
I had to look and see if you wrote this 10 years ago, what do you mean there are too many compromises for an HTPC to work in a full scale home theater?

What is the Apple TV going to play from if you don't have a server or HTPC in the house?

I can set up an OpenELEC HTPC in less than 5 minutes. Is that too much effort?

A dedicated HTPC can "go with you". Set up Plex and/or Emby, and stream from your HTPC to whatever device you have with you. Or, sync them through Plex and have the files with you at all times. Simple.
 

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An old argument: HTPC or stand-alone streaming boxes. And to me, stand-alone boxes are gaining ground because most consumers, let be honest, just want to plug-it-in and turn-it-on. Doesn't mean that's gonna make YOU happy though. PICK YOUR POISON.

Laptop (the one you are using for other things as well) for HTPC, yeah, it will work, you can pick up lumbers with your convertible. Is OK, gets your feet wet, and I suppose you can take it to your friends' houses and hook it up to their HT, and BAM! - not.
 

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I had to look and see if you wrote this 10 years ago, what do you mean there are too many compromises for an HTPC to work in a full scale home theater?

What is the Apple TV going to play from if you don't have a server or HTPC in the house?

I can set up an OpenELEC HTPC in less than 5 minutes. Is that too much effort?

A dedicated HTPC can "go with you". Set up Plex and/or Emby, and stream from your HTPC to whatever device you have with you. Or, sync them through Plex and have the files with you at all times. Simple.
Well such as:
1. lagging behind on codecs, in particular I am curious to see what happens with atmos and dts: x on htpc since a "new revolution" is coming.
2. Having to touch a windows pc again, particularly if you are a mac user now. windows 7,8... omg. mac based htpc is practically a non-starter due to relative lack of great software.
3. the extra step of burning blu-rays to hard-drives (particularly if you want a library function for your htpc). the lack of direct downloads of blu-ray quality content makes it hard to realize the full potential of an HTPC.
4. appletv does NOT require a server since it handles its own movies with streaming. a server would only be needed if you had movies saved on a hard-drive somewhere.
5. The reality that blu-rays are something that you might watch often only once or twice, making ripping them a waste of time and effort.
6. Any number of a vast array of software glitches, windows problems, pop-ups to update this or that, or whatever.
7. The learning curve for the newcomer to your "system" is problematic.
8. Most htpc work best with an associated keyboard and many of them suck when used wirelessly over a distance. In the meantime, where do you put this keyboard unless you have a coffee table in front of you.
9. When you do get around to "Browsing on the internet", most of the time home theater projector image sucks for this application.
10. Often, I want to browse the internet, while i watch something... which might cause image stuttering if I swap back and forth. I use a laptop for getting my work done, browsing, or managing my music library... but it separate from my av experience.
11. HTPC may still not negate the need for a pre-pro depending on your specific setup.
12. even if you avoid a pre-pro you may still end up needing outboard bass management and outboard dac's to handle the audio in a high quality manner.
13. The dizzying array of "updates" to so many various parts of the HTPC software and operating system... which sometimes render things broken for periods of time. The random situations where a "blue screen of death" occurs... or even worse a permanently corrupted hard-drive.
14. Having to "back up" your movie library... since you spent so much time ripping it.
15. After spending ALL that time ripping all those dvd's ... blu-ray comes out... yay start over again...
16. lets not forget the historically mediocre integration capability with other home automation options. The average PC is powerful enough to do all home automation... but yet that doesn't exist for most folks either in any meaningful way.
17. hmm I'm not sure what is going on, let me go reboot the 'puter...
18. There is often a lag between when a consumer product like blu-ray comes out and when it might be available for pc or mac. It also takes some time for the software vendors to "get it right".
19. The lack of inputs on a htpc might be a deal-breaker for some folks. For example, if you want to run a playstation you may still need an avr to do switching for you.
20. Historically you could not get HTPC software that could control hardware that did other functions such as 12v triggers and whatnot that you take for granted on a receiver.


The fact is that the HTPC experience is far from perfect and for many folks simply not worth the nuisance. That's not to say that it won't eventually get there. There needs to be a company that designs the entire device (hardware and software) such as kaleidascape. Trinnov's new processor is exciting (while not an htpc technically, it is a computer) as an AV device.

HTPC can be a cheap way to achieve music and movie playback in the home.. so I won't say it is worthless. On the other hand, I am also not totally happy with Control4 and Crestron setups either. There are flaws with Sonos as well as other networked products as well. In many ways, J.Rivers gets a LOT right and I was a customer of theirs for years.

I could design the "perfect system" as they say in TRON. It would be simply magical if someone would build it from the ground up. On the other hand, Trinnov's Altitude (albeit expensive) has a veritable Christmas list of almost everything I ever wanted in a pre-pro.

Convergence has been glacial but devices like AppleTV and airplay, along with improving streaming content, will ultimately make most of this discussion a moot point. Just about EVERYTHING out today is a compromise in one way or another.

As it stands now, I airplay my music form my laptop to my pre-pro so I am doing a quasi-htpc. Also, I might airplay home videos and photos on occasion to appleTV.

I just feel that HTPC doesn't offer a complete solution and never has. I suppose you could correct me if I am wrong... and I am sure hardcore HTPC users will chime in.
 

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HTPCs are generally standalone boxes not designed for portability. Laptops are a fixed configuration with virtually no flexibility when it comes to upgrades. You can certainly use a laptop as a portable media player if that's what suits you, but storing a vast library of Blu-Rays is something best left to an external drive or media server. For ripping and playback, I vote for MakeMKV and Kodi.

Personal experiences with HTPCs vary from one extreme to the other, as do people's opinions about them. I had lots of growing pains when I started using one, but I got past them and now I can't imagine living without one. I don't rent any hardware from my local provider (FIOS) except two cablecards. Every TV in my house is controlled by a HTPC.

I just feel that HTPC doesn't offer a complete solution and never has. I suppose you could correct me if I am wrong... and I am sure hardcore HTPC users will chime in.
That all depends on what you want it to do. For me, it has been the perfect all-in-one solution for watching and recording live TV as well as streaming movies from my server. Setup is easier than ever and updates aren't required with a working HTPC. New codecs aren't required unless you also plan on updating the rest of your home theater system to accommodate new formats. Home Theater always has been and always will be in a constant state of flux. HTPCs are just one component in a system that is constantly changing with new technology. If you're not upgrading the HTPC hardware to keep up with it then you'd be changing several other components instead. Personally, I never saw the need to try and keep up with new gimmicks, such as 3D or ATMOS. I like to wait until the dust settles and see if it's an accepted format before being an early adopter on some format that will eventually be abandoned in favor of something else.
 

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1. Depends on what you use for playback. And NOTHING, and I mean NOTHING, is future-proof. There is no such thing. Apple TV can't play Atmos either. Just sayin'
2. I didn't say Windows, did I. I said OpenELEC, which is Linux. And Windows lacks great software? HA!
3. So use a stand-alone BD player for that. We all recommend that.
4. Streaming can be done with anything, not just Apple TV. I recommend a Roku for that. But this has nothing to do with your comment regarding burning BD discs.
5. So get a stand-alone BD player, see item #3 .
6. I didn't say Windows, see #2 . But I have great success on my W7 HTPCs too.
7. Not for me, or anyone that uses it. It is very simple, no more trouble than a set top box from a cable provider.
9. I have no keyboards on any of my HTPCs.
10. That's what a laptop or tablet is for. That said, I'm watching TV in the corner of this computer I am typing on right now, on Windows 7, using one of my HDHR devices and it works fine. I work from home and I do it every day.
11. Pre-pro? Not.
12. Absolutely not. My receiver handles all this, from bitstream sent from HTPCs.
13. After years and years of use, on various operating systems, I've had an update glitch me exactly ONE TIME. I started on XP with GB-PVR, I probably have been doing this longer than most people here.
14. Why? As you said before you might only watch it once or twice. If you lose it all, re-rip it when you want it. But you said before you don't want to rip your collection, so this item is moot.
15. See item #1 , nothing is future-proof. So if you had an Oppo DVD player and you thought everything was great, then BD came out and you had to buy a BD player and all new BDs, and now 4k is coming... this has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with HTPC.
16. This isn't HTPCs fault, moving on...
17. This can happen on BD players too. No surprise, it's a computer too.
18. Huh?
19. Of course you need an AVR. You can buy a fantastic one new for $200, or a used one even cheaper. In a "FULL SCALE HOME THEATER" (your words, not mine), you wouldn't have an AVR? Seriously.
20. Sure you can. There are better ways to do it though.

Of course it isn't right for everyone. It's a hobby IMO. But to say it doesn't work is silly.

I don't use HTPC exclusively. Could it be done? Sure, but I doubt it ever will be. But it is still a better way to access media on a "full scale home theater" than anything else out there, other than swapping discs. But again, discs, nor the disc player, are future-proof, which was one of your criteria.
 

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... I am sure hardcore HTPC users will chime in.
I consider myself a hardcore HTPC user, yet practically none of the reasons you mentioned apply to me at all.

My HTPC is simply a poor man's Tivo. My remote works like a Tivo remote, so zero learning curve, no need for a keyboard or mouse. No ripping, no libraries, no need for updates or the latest codecs. Apple TV and the like can't record or play back protected cable TV content, so it is of no use in my system since that's the only purpose my HTPC serves.

Likewise, a laptop is ill-suited to that task. I have no need whatsoever for physical portability of my HTPC hardware. Just as I would never lug my AVR or TV somewhere else, I'd never move or even touch my HPTC. In fact, I normally can't even see it.

If, on the other hand, all you do is play back rips, music or use streaming services, then I agree that an HTPC is unnecessary and needlessly complex and time consuming.
 

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I just feel that HTPC doesn't offer a complete solution and never has. I suppose you could correct me if I am wrong... and I am sure hardcore HTPC users will chime in.
It shouldn't be an AVR replacement IMO. People who chase that pipe-dream are eat up with chasing down "emotions" and "feelings" from their audio rather than just accepting the science of bit-perfect audio to a quality DAC in an AVR to a good set of speakers

If you want to browse while watching, how is that any easier on an Apple TV or Roku or any other box? Honestly, I think the best HTPCs will be ones like the upcoming shieldTV if it supports passthrough HD audio and refresh rate switching because it has Google Cast built in. However, there is always the solution of a $20 chromecast and switching inputs on your avr

I personally browse while I watch things as well, but I use my chromebook or smartphone instead. I wouldn't expect my tv remote and HTPC to do any sort of decent job on that. Big screen browsing just sucks IMO. 12-24" browsing beats 10' browsing everytime from my experience. (And I have done both)

Cast is a nifty way to throw the occasional video to the big screen
 

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For many people, chromecast and appleTV simply obviate the need for an HTPC.

Of course Steve Jobs lamented the poor home viewing user experience. he felt it could be a lot better and that all the various players involved were aligned against the consumer.

Just think of how much cheaper Kaleidascape would be now if the video industry cared more about customer experience than worrying about theft.
 
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