Are HTPC's any good as a PVR? - what are the alternatives?

faisal_uk

Active Member
Currently on Virgin (V HD box - no recording features) and like the look of the new TIVO box - but I don't want to take out the subcription for the large/XL TV package. Currently on Medium+ which is Freeview + the basic HD channels and a few extra.
Would like to stay with Virgin - but don't really want to pay £6.50 subscription + £7 Tivo charge per month - that would be almost £14 p/m just for freeview channels!

Only got the box in the first place to watch the World Cup in HD!

So I was looking at Freeview HD PVRs and think the Digital Stream box looks best (around £165 for a 320GB PVR)

I just want to know what the Home Theatre PC options are like?
Always liked the look of the Acer REVO stuff, but is there any external devices to turn these into a HD Freeview box?
If not - can a HTPC with a HD card be built for less than £300? Ideally must be able to view and record in HD (terrestrial channels).

I am just thinking the HTPC will be more feature packed and no limit on recordings/file types and also be able to do all the online stuff (Iplayer/Youtube etc..) that most off the shelf boxes can't.

So I mainly want to know what the HD TV card and software options are. I have had a quick look in the stick and DVB software looks pretty good, would this be the best option - or can Windows 7/Media Centre handle all the recordings and time shift features?

Any help would be appreciated!

Thanks
 

AMc

Distinguished Member
Windows7 with Media Centre and a couple of tuner cards can do a great deal - if you browse around here and check the FAQ you'll get a good idea of what can be done.
I put together a HTPC for about your budget but I started with a second hand system as the core components and built up from there.
Not sure what your options are for a Freeview HD tuner as an external stick are at the moment DVT-T2 tuners aren't that common yet.

FWIW there is a smaller capacity Tivo on the way this summer which will be available on lower packages so no compulsary XL. If you're looking for an "appliance" and aren't interested in tinkering and upgrading you may find that is an easier option.
 

archie456

Active Member
I use my HTPC as a PVR all the time.

It has a twin freeview (DVB-T) card in it and a twin freesat (DVB-S) card in it too.

It has a 1TB drive, and Blu-ray player.

I had a Humax 9200t PVR and Sky+ box prior - the HTPC is much better as it can do so much more...

See the spec below.
 

Presuming Ed

Well-known Member
I use an HTPC with DVBViewer and its recording service. Love it.

Advantages - tuner sharing, so if you're watching / recording programmes from the same transponder / mux, it'll just use one tuner, keeping others free. Recording service has a web client, so if I forget to record something I can get in remotely and set it up. Also has a DLNA standard UPnP service, streams channels / recordings / videos/ music / photos around the network to other devices.
 

craker

Standard Member
Media centre PCs have all the right gear to be good PVRs (it's up to you how many tuners and how much hard disk space you want).

The main drawback is power consumption; PVRs are left on 24/7 are you willing to do that with a PC? Some of the small form factor PCs (Revo) have a low enough power requirement but add in a bunch of tuners hard drives graphics card and you suddenly have a watt consuming monster.
 

graham.myers

Distinguished Member
they can go into s3 sleep when not in use and be woken up for scheduled recordings so they don't need to be on 24x7
 

spyder viewer

Distinguished Member
The main drawback is power consumption; PVRs are left on 24/7 are you willing to do that with a PC?

I've built a number of HTPC/PVRs: in standby, one is 6W and the other 2W.

Budget wise, Windows and a tv tuner will cost around £150. So £300 is a tall order.
 

steford

Active Member
I think the budget would be a stretch and don't forget the need to constantly tinker (which you may like). That said many of the mainstream PVR boxes also require tinkering, updates, patches and the like to keep them going and to extend their functionality. Tivo (RIP) was great as although we tinkered it pretty much worked flawlessly. I am liking my 7MC replacement though - HD, multi tuner and a nicer interface more than make up for what I've lost.
 

faisal_uk

Active Member
thanks for the replys guys
Thinking of trying out a second hand Sony Media Centre PC or a new Revo 3700 (if that deal falls through)
I think this will get me into it and see whether I 'need' a media PC or not without doing a self build.
I do have a lot of digital media at the moment (probably over 1TB) and so would be good to store it all centrally. I currently play my videos through the inbuilt USB media player on a Samsung 32B650 (with a 300GB hard drive) and it works great, but I think XBMC or Win 7 would be a neater solution.

Good point about the power on/standby modes - I will look into that.
 

Mdre83

Active Member
Have not used it yet myself but know people who are and they love it.

Check out MythTV software
 

bryanchicken

Active Member
If you have sky+ (hd) already i wouldn't worry about the power consumption side of things.
Those boxes use a whopping 19W of power just in standby. When recording or on that jumps to ~35W

Say that box was on half the day and off half the day (purely for my maths) it would mean the its averaging 27W.
So, if you're HTPC consumes 5W in standby it could consume 49W when in use and still use the same amount of electricity overall.
:thumbsup:
 

ArmitageShanks

Well-known Member
If you're looking for a Freeview HD tuner, have a look at the PCTV DVB-T2 290e Nanostick. Works great in W7MC. I managed to get one for a little more than £60 a few months ago, but they seem to be going for around the £80 mark now :-|
 

ArmitageShanks

Well-known Member
Does the Nanostick permit HD channels in 7MC? I read it doesn't but would welcome news saying otherwise :)
It certainly does :) Until recently, you couldn't get the guide data for any of the HD channels (not without getting it copied from the SD channels), but that's more a general 7MC issue than anything to do with the Nanostick itself. I checked it last night and sure enough, all the guide data is now available for the four Freeview HD channels, so Microsoft have finally got it sorted :)

The alternative is one of those Black Gold cards, but I've not had any experience with those.

Edit: Just make sure you're looking at the DVB-T2 model, not the standard Nanostick which is SD only (and significantly cheaper). I'm planning on getting the cheaper Nanostick as a second tuner since, at present, there's no real point in having two HD tuners when there are so few HD channels and programs available on Freeview.
 
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Stephen Neal

Distinguished Member
Does the Nanostick permit HD channels in 7MC? I read it doesn't but would welcome news saying otherwise :)

Yep - working fine for me in London on Crystal Palace with a stock 7MC install. I don't use S3 or other standbys though - so have no experience with that. (Some USB tuners - and internal PCI cards which have both on-board USB interfaces and a USB tuner on the card - don't deal well with standby)
 

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