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Discussion Starter #1
I saw the FAQ, and some of the 'newbie' posts in the forum but still have a couple questions. I'm about to add some serious upgrades to my HT setup (HDTV, prog DVD player, HDTV tuner) and am wondering if a HTPC is right for me. How much does one of these bad boys cost? I'd like to start with at least a prog DVD player with DD/DTS output (to my reciever). I'll be getting a display with native 720p and would be interested in a HTPC that could up a DVD movie to 720p. Then how much is a HDTV tuner, HDTV time shifting, 'tivo' style stuff, etc. Is there a up-to-date site that lists hardware/reviews/suggestions of what to use?
 

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Also, how much extra work is to to use the HTPC over a stand alone DVD player or HDTV tuner? I ask because of the spousal-acceptance-factor. Generally I'll be the one running the show, but if, on the rare occasion she tries to watch a DVD or tune into some HDTV and she can't I'm in trouble. Not that she isn't tech savvy but she just wants electonics to work with the push of minimal buttons, while I want them to work the best (even if I have to tweek them).
 

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To help gauge your interest in HTPC, here's an example list of minimum level components you'd need to buy. The actual brands/models are very debatable, but the costs will be representative if you want to price out a system. Check on newegg.com, mwave.com, digitalconnection.com or pricewatch.com for current prices:


(All components can be replaced by equivalent hardware of your preference)

CPU: Intel 700MHz+ (and a compatible Fan/Heatsink!)

Motherboard: Asus TUSL2

Case with 250W Power Supply

Memory: 128MB (from crucial.com)

Hard Drive:20GB+

Videocard: ATI Radeon

Soundcard: M-Audio Audiophile 24/96

HDTV card: Telemann HiPIX

DVD Drive: Most any 8x speed+ drive

Wireless keyboard/pointer: ?


I'd guess you can get this setup for roughly $1200-1300? The big chunk is the HDTV card, which should run about $400.


Anyone here can tell you all about individual component choices and the joy of tweaking EVERYTHING to get the best results. My setup is pretty simple, and my girfriend was able to use it fine while I was gone, so it can't be that hard to use (once it's set up).


If you are concerned about getting the best picture, a HTPC really is the way to go. Good luck!
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Thats perfect, I was looking to get in under $1000 (I just won't get the HDTV card right now). Is there any advantage to using a Pentium based system, It'll probably cost more but is it more reliable?
 

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I've heard a bit about how the Intel chips perform a little better for HTPC applications. I forget exactly why. People use both with success, I believe. Because you don't need much processing power, the cost of the Intel chip isn't such a big drawback (unlike cutting edge chips).


I think people will tell you that you can get better value from other chips sometimes, but I don't think anyone will tell you another setup is more stable.


Just my (relatively uneducated) opinion.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Ok, what DVD drive should I get and why? Do I need a hardware decoder card or is that built into the ATI Radion 64meg card?
 

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Some DVD drive tips:


DVD hardware decoders aren't as good or upgradable as DVD software. You'll need software (see threads about Theatertek, PowerDVD, WinDVD DVD player software, as well as the bundled DVD player with an ATI card which is good, but tricky), but you don't need to look for hardware decoding.


You don't need a fast drive. A 4x DVD playing speed is plenty (you won't find one that slow). Slower drives produce less noise, so you actually want a slow one for DVD playing. You should be able to find one around 12x-16x speed that'll meet your needs.


Noise is pretty variable between brands (most brands do not focus on quiet use, as most users don't care). I've heard Toshiba and Pioneer are good bets, but search the forum for other good brands. The Toshiba SD-M1502 is a good place to start.


If you want to put all your eggs in one basket, there's nothing wrong with getting a DVD-ROM/CD-RW drive. Until it breaks, that is. I like my Toshiba SDR-1002.


Also, you should be aware of the concept of Region encoding. DVDs are encoded to work in one region of the world only. DVD players are sold locked to a specific region. Some DVD players can be "unlocked" to play more than one region. This is not a concern if buy DVDs from one area. But, if you buy DVDs from the US, Europe and Australia, you need to look into this idea because they won't all readily play on one DVD player.


Please, search the forum for other ideas as well. I'm not expert enough to tell you what you should get, and the forum search is insanely valuable.
 

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I just read your post list the "suggested" components, thanks, it was very helpful. I am now trying to search for the maker of the sound card, do you know of the name?? Do they have a website?
 
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