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Convince me on HTPC

Discussion in 'Desktop & Laptop Computers Forum' started by Stellavision, Apr 13, 2005.

  1. Stellavision

    Stellavision
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    I'm looking round for an upgrade to my Denon 1910 DVD player and I'm tearing my hair out. I'm starting to jump on the shall I wait for Blue-Ray / HD DVD bandwagon or invest in a quality dvd player now.

    Of course the HTPC option is waving at me shouting, "go for me, I'm flexible and easily upgraded!!! :hiya: "

    So I'm torn.
    a) Spend another £200 on a dvd player which won't bug me with macro blocking?
    b)Spend £500 + on a better player which I may want to change in a year or two?
    c)Spend a few hundred quid on a HTPC which will possibly outperform most dvd players and be easily upgradable to HD DVD?

    Answers on the back of a post card please.

    I'm also interested how much you guys have spent on your HTPC's as a comparison to high end stand-alone players.
     
  2. lisag

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    Don't forget a HTPC is not just for DVD playback.... I use mine for...

    Watching downloaded films from hard drive to save the hassle of burning to disc - in a variety of formats,
    Store and catalogue all films whether on hard drive or dvd (MCE plug-in My Movies)
    Watch streaming movie trailers, music videos, tv shows etc,
    Listen to music (mp3, streaming, radio)
    Watching and recording live tv,
    Playing games,
    Surfing the net
    Storing and viewing photos and home movies,
    Sending E-mail
    Instant Messaging,
    Oh, you get the idea!

    I am really pleased with the capability of my little shuttle,
    Which I bought when I was a bit skint,
    But have since added to and is performing really well,
    Pricing, IIRC is about...

    Shuttle Sn41G2v2 £150
    Athlon XP 2700 £60
    512mb DDR333 £60
    300gb HDD £100
    160GB HDD £50
    Avermedia USB2 TV Card £80
    Keyboard and Gyration mouse £70
    XPMCE and remote £80
    Gigabyte 6600gt AGP card £120

    lisa
     
  3. gordonfmoore

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    Uhmmm

    Mine has cost me a fortune. This is because I made a few mistakes on components and amps and cases. Also my SATA harddisk caused me no end of probs - and self destructed this weekend grrr! Had lots of issues getting the thing to run sweetly. Has almost cost me my marriage :( ;)

    However...

    Having access to all my cds (now being re-ripped in better quality) without moving from my armchair is ace. And having a wonderful visualisation (G-Force Gold) playing whilst listening and having a beer is almost a schoolboy dream.

    Being able to quickly select some tv progs to record (two at the same time) is great, thought the quality on fast moving sport, e.g. footie is a tad tiresome - artifacts etc, and I guess I can now show people my photos - but that is pretty boring thing to inflict on guests, isn't it?, anyway they do look good on a 32 inch crt telly and saves paper.

    Don't use it for surfing, email etc like I hoped to as the desktop quality from 3-4m isn't good enough.

    In fact if you are after quality! then I would think that you will get better from dedicated components. Perhaps vga/dvi into lcd/plasma is better, but I can't afford such stuff at the mo.

    It is a good experience when working, but I think it does take some committment, it's not a consumer item yet.

    The big question is whether I would do things differently if I could go back?

    I think that when I've paid the credit card off in 6 months, I think I'll be saying it's worth it, but I do like my gadgets...

    :smashin:
     
  4. GrahamMG

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    A blu-ray drive for a PC is already on the cards (HP I believe!).

    Lisa forgets a few costs though and a few days (weeks) getting it to work.....
    I'd use a nice hifi sized HTPC case and some nice quiet components as well..... A serious processor might also be a smart move with hi-def around the corner and naturally a high spec sound card if you want a real hi-fi killer.
    £1k is not unreasonable given the uses and performance it can buy, of course if a specialist does it for you it will cost you for their time also....(saves many many hours of configuration fixing.....).......
     
  5. inzaman

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    I was in the same predicament back in August and chose the HCPC.

    The reason for going the HCPC route was the flexibility that this allowed and the fact that i can upgrade when more advanced components come out, i.e hddvd and bluray and the thought process that in theory i just buy two drives for the pc to add to the current dvd drive and i have all three formats, far neater and cheaper (i hope) than three players.

    Having got into HCPC it has opened up a whole new area for me mainly post processing via ffdshow and a movie juke box where i load my movies via dvdshrink to a hd or hd's.

    My initial pc cost £360 (i built this myself) and since then i have purchased three 200gig hds and two icy boxes for movies. I have had a couple of crashes and a sata drive go down but since about Jan it has been stable (fingers crossed).

    I dont play games or surf the net on it it is purely for dvd viewing and post porcessing.
     
  6. inzaman

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    Also meant plus the cost of the OS and powerdvd/Nvidia codecs so add another £90 or so which takes it to about £450 for the initial PC cost.
     
  7. lisag

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    :rolleyes: Yes fair point, I never said it was easy!

    Also, I did get the shuttle when I had a 28" CRT TV, and only used it to watch films (in fairly poor quality), but since I got my plasma it has bought it to life and I have now upgraded and use it all the time... Actually wish I had gone for something bigger than a shuttle, with more operational PCI slots, but then fan noise would have been trickier to avoid - the shuttle comes as a kit with a silent x psu and silent cpu cooler, and thermo thingy qualities to keep everything cool(ish). And is a really good price considering it is a case, mobo, psu and cables all-in-one.

    lisa
     
  8. Stellavision

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    I've just built quite a high spec desktop machine which will be in the same room, but I want to keep this for internet, gaming, photo editing etc..and have a nice HTPC case on my AV shelf.
    Building it will not be a problem, but I would need to find the right case to fit my space, but also not have to fiddle too much with specialist small components.
     
  9. GrahamMG

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    Lisa.
    I think we will all agree that once you have finally got everything working and put in everything you require and are brave enough to add up the costs it will be very much the wrong side of £1k with 33k or more not uncommon for specialist builds but the world it opens up and the fact that you can upgrade it in bite sized chunks has an appeal not much else in the home theatre market can match.....

    Guys.

    At the beginning concentrate on the right motherboard, CPU (at least 3.4Ghz 800MhzFSB), plenty of good quality fast RAM (1GB...) and a top notch graphics card (6600GT for instance), large fast disk drives (1TB is not uncommon......) and good quality PSU and cooling. After that we have DTT cards, the best sound card you can afford, remote control, front end OS overlay, media playback (video and audio), RGB capture, software scaling, hi-def file capability, VFD displays, fast ethernet, etc...... If your not on top of your game with HTPC technology it is always best to talk to those that are and get a quote (UVEM for instance), if you add up the cost of the bits above on Dabs.com you will see that a full house setup will cost rather more than £1k and the knowledge that guys like Phil lovingly put into the build are not cheap either but if you want fuss free and complete you wouldn't expect them to do it for nothing (Phil's system training is also first class)...... I have many years in this game and although I find it straightforward to do this stuff myself I still buy UVEM PC's as necessary as my time is also money...... Be honest and consider all the costs before you decide to throw a PC together but the end result is far better than any off the shelf one box hifi effort......... No DVD player is better.....
     
  10. lisag

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    OK, I can see how it could creep up to £1k, but 33?? ;)


    All of the above sounds very, very cool, and I am sure I will end up with that sort of spec at some point, but I am honestly pleasantly suprised at how well my lowly shuttle with an Athlon XP2700, 512mb DDR333, nforce2 mobo, onboard sound, 7200rpm IDE drives copes with everything I throw at it. I have never had any stuttering, the pq is fab on my plasma, and the CPU and RAM usage is never near maximum capacity. The only time it struggled was with 1080p High Def material, but it copes with 720p very well.

    So, a HTPC on a budget for a first-timer is definitely worth the effort - in my opinion :)

    lisa
     
  11. KITT

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    Can you guys post up your PC specs please, specifically gordonfmoore as I'm interested in what you're using to output to a CRT TV

    cheers

    Matt
     
  12. JonMace

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    You could go down the premade route as well it will cost between £1k and £1.5 depending on the options. I went for the DMS II 1GB ram and 400GB HD around £1.4K depends on what you have to spend.

    There are extensive threads on both the artisan and the DMSII on this forum, I think on both machines nothing is perfect get, but they are getting close.

    I have a Denon 2910, the PC is much better and adaptable I can use plugins as appossed to needing a Denon update
     
  13. lisag

    lisag
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    Actually this was with my FX5200 AGP card, just re-tried with my new 6600gt AGP card and it now plays 1080p without a hitch...... so, ner.... :smashin:

    :D
    lisa
     
  14. dekoded

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    My HTPC specs are:


    Shuttle sn45g (on board 5.1 spdif)
    athlon 3200+
    512mb ddrpc2700
    40gb hdd
    16 x dvd rw
    shuttle remote control

    I use winxp pro, tt, ffdshow.

    Excluding software it cost approx £450 to build.

    What convinced me to build a HTPC was the poor PQ from my dvd-player (pioneer dv-565) even using an expensive component cable to my PJ (Z2) I still got a much better picture from the external monitor output of my laptop which only has 64mb shared graphics!

    My only complaint against a HTPC is that it can never be as easy to use as a dedicated dvd player (although TT is very good), but then again a HTPC can do so much more than a dvd player and it can be upgraded easily.

    If I was to buy another dvd player I would get a SAMSUNG DVD-HD945, as it costs £180, has a HDMI socket and an in-built scaler!
     
  15. GrahamMG

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    Yer I was tired it should say £3k (or I could blame a duff shift key!).

    Oh and BTW it is very very cool and for a girl to say that gives me hope that I'm not a nerd!
     
  16. GrahamMG

    GrahamMG
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    The 6600GT is a very good choice......
     
  17. hebawom

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    I've got this visualisation, and although its hugely better than any of the windows ones, one thing annoys me. In media center, it introduces a mouse pointer. e.g I'll listen to a few tunes with g-force (it loads mouse pointer come up, but quickly fades away) then I go into my movies (plug-in) and I have the mouse pointer there on the screen!!

    I'm wondering if I have some overlay setting wrong, or if this is just an issue with having g-force as your default visualisation?

    Anybody else noticed this?
     
  18. CrispyXUK

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    Im going to build one just for video & audio with a bit of MAME mixed in, what sort of spec would you recommend? currently Have an M-Audio sound card so I wont need a flash motherboard, just one that works, also I'd like a reasonably priced power supply.

    Thinking of getting a gigabyte 6600gt connected via component, would this be better than component from my 575a? and can the component connection switch between 720p@50hz / 720p@60hz

    Cheers dudes

    /cant beleive im making one again :)
     
  19. jon stallard

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    I've recently started to 'use' my HTPC instead of playing around with it (settings etc) and have to say that once you get beyond the fiddle factor, as a bit of living room kit with a purpose, it's astonishingly good.

    You know that you can alter, as others have said, almost any single component as an upgrade for less than the price of the latest Hi Fi gear. But the icing on the cake for me so far has to be pausing live TV.

    That is the single best thing since sliced bread. No more incontinent near misses, Tea or G&T making can now be done properly and I imagine the ability to hold a kids program whilst they go and tidy something up is a good bonus too :smashin:

    It's got to be quiet though and that is half the art I think of a decent HTPC. That and making it look like it's a bit of hi tech Hi Fi and not an item from a showroom shelf out of PC World.

    For anyone that's interested, my spec is this (I cut and pasted it from my order history hence the precise details):

    Chieftec Desktop ATX Black/Silver case, not the prettiest case so will be the next change but it's roomy and once under my TV, will be OK for the time being.

    Nexsus Real Silent 350Watt Power Supply Unit, quiet as you like.

    MSI 915P Combo-FR 800FSB, 2xDual DDR2 533, 2x DDR 400, PCI Express SATA, Raid.... I couldn't decide what the best motherboard was so opted for this. Seems a reasonable stab to me. Sound from the 7:1 on board chip is pretty impressive.

    NEC Black ND3520 DVD writer. Does what I want it to do.

    CoolerMaster Hyper 48 SILENT P4, CPU cooling fan. This should be on the outside, it looks a work of art with it's copper cooling pipes!

    MSI NX6600GT-TD128E GeForce 6600GT , graphics card, so far doing OK on Svideo to CRT thanks to this forum. It came with a noisy fan too but thanks to some advice here and Kustom PC, I changed the fan to a far quieter one

    2x 533MHz 240Pin 512MB DDR2 RAM DIMM 1.8V, I have not tested it I'm sure

    Intel Pentium 4 530 3.0GHz, said you needed min of 3.0ghz for HD TV so I did.

    Seagate Barracuda SATA NCQ 7200.8 160GB, could only afford one at the time but the beauty is I can add a 300GB one if I want (or bigger maybe soon)

    Microsoft XP Media Centre 2005 OEM

    Novatech 52x Max IDE CD ROM Drive Black, bought another drive but not sure I needed to. Still, it was only £10 so why not.

    Microsoft Media Centre Remote Control, this is a cool remote control.

    Novatech 4 Port USB2 Hub Powered, I prefer these than have a rats nest of usb cables coming out the back of the PC.

    Microsoft Wireless Optical Deluxe Desktop PS2/USB, I can type from across the room. I can't see what I'm typing mind :)

    2x TwinHan DVB Freeview TV cards

    Belkin 54 wireless network card

    So all in all, I can't hear it from about 6 or 7 feet away. I've no idea what the db figure is but 'can't hear it' is a pretty good benchmark. The only problems I've had have been the confusing screen during the OS installation, svideo out to the CRT and basically not knowing if I was heading in the right direction for some things. This forum has helped for all of those things.

    Cost? Has to be over £1,000 but I bought bits over a 2 month period. I am toying now with seeing how cheaply I could make a HTPC, still in a decent (horizontal) case, MCE but maybe only one TV tuner and not go for HD TV capability but still quiet enough for a living room. I reckon £400 :eek:
     
  20. Endeavour

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    Thanks for posting this Stellavision, as I am going through a similar process. I am going through a ground up upgrade of my system. My original plan was to change my old Denon 3802/2800 combination for a 3805/3910 one. But since I bought a Shuttle with MCE on this Xmas for my daughter and have since converted my son's - I have started to wonder about using a HTPC in my main system. The main attractions are:

    1. Replacing DVD, DVD Recorder, Freeview box etc with a single box
    2. HD storage and streaming of CD, DVD, iTunes
    3. Big screen gaming
    4. Twin DVI out as I will have an LCD and Projector to feed.
    5. Remote control via WiFi
    6. Futureproofing for HD DVD and playing WMV HD now

    As far as I can see, the only functional downside is the unavailability of SACD and possible complications for linking to Satellite HD feeds

    My main concern at the moment is the outright performance of HTPC as a source compared to the 3910 which is argueably the best you can find short of silly money. The spec I will am working on is roughly Athlon 64 3500, NForce 4 board, 1Gb RAM, ATI X800XL, Terratec Universe Soundcard and 300Mb SATA drive (with more network attached). My projector will be a 1280*720 DLP and the speaker system will be Artcoustic.

    So the question is:

    1. Picture Quality - how will DVD output at native resolution compare with the 3910 which will be scaling DVD to 720p either in the projector or the player.

    2. Audio quality - how will they compare for sound both for movies and CD given that they will be both using the DAC's on the amp.

    3. If q2 is won by the 3910 will the difference be big enough to outweigh having everything online. I would be using cd images or very low/lossless compression.
     
  21. Stellavision

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    I've got another possible solution to building a whole new pc for HT, which is to keep my 1910 for ease of use for the kids and to use my exhisting pc in the lounge for HTPC as well. I have a good system with a 3 gig P4, 1 gig of PC533 RAM, a Radeon X850 XT, Audigy 2 ZS, and a sweetspot video proccessor so I may as well try and get something extra out of it.

    My first problem is the connectivity. It is not practical for me to run another dvi cable out at the moment, (all cables are under floor boards and newly fitted carpet) but I do already have an RGB cable fed to my tv. The best way I can think of utilizing this for Hi Def output is to by a pc RGB to component convertor. Would this be any good or is there a better solution?

    My next need would be software. It seems that TheatreTek is the preferred choice for dvd, correct?

    And last but not least, remote control. I am thinking of the latest Logitech which could also be used for Sky, etc...would this be any good for pc use as well?

    Ta.
     
  22. Endeavour

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    If you have one already, you could get a DVI switch. Many to One switches seem to be reasonably available - unlike the many to many I was looking for.

    Will you be running XP MCE on the PC? If so a learning remote can be taught the codes from the MS remote. There is also some software to allow you to control an MCE machine using a PocketPC over WiFi (useful if its to be hidden away). Additional software will let you use IR with other devices (using Pronto style CCF files). I plan to do some experimenting with this soon.

    My kids (12 & 10) both have MCE PC's and have no problem getting around. I usually rely on them to train Grannies, Aunties, babysitters etc. to get things out of my setup!
     
  23. Stellavision

    Stellavision
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    What do you mean by 'dvi switch'?

    I'd just thought I would keep XP Pro as my OS, although I have got a 200 gig drive and a 120 gig drive so I could always dual boot if I needed.
     
  24. Endeavour

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    A switch to let you connect two sources via DVI and output to a single display eg. Cinameteq. I found a few but most of them had that very scary £POA attached.

    From (painful :() experience, you have to install MCE as a fresh install which is a real bind if you have an existing machine in a nice stable state with lots of software on.

    Dual boot would get round that and might even be adviseable for a gaming/MCE machine.

    I suppose it also begs the question of multitasking. A HTPC can replace a multitude of other devices but how many can it replace at once. To replace a PVR it needs to be on all the time to pick up the timer. Can it cope with recording Top Gear at the same time as you set a new best lap on TOCA Racer?
     
  25. Stellavision

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    OK thanks.
    The actual cable problem is it's location. I could easily just use RGB for my 17" monitor to free up the dvi. My pc is on the oposite end of the room to the rest of my AV gear and I don't want a cable trailing accross the room when I spent so much effort getting all my other cables under the floor. This was one of the main reasons I wanted a seperate HTPC in my AV corner.
    Having said that, I suppose it would be cheaper to have my carpet fitter come out again if I went under the floor again, but I'm not too sure if Mrs Stella would agree.
     
  26. lisag

    lisag
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    Never tried it myself but I understand you can use a cat5 cable to carry video from a pc, they would be easier to hide?
     
  27. Stellavision

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    I can't network my PC to my TV though.

    Another option springs to mind, which is to strip the pc I have and to rebuild it into a dedicated HTPC case in my AV corner. I'm just pondering how I could keep my desk of peripherals connected, scanner, printer, camera, etc...
    Blue tooth USB?
    A cheap server?

    It's starting to give me a headache all this thinking!! :rolleyes:
     
  28. gordonfmoore

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    @Kitt

    My Setup
    --------
    My System:
    m/b: i855-GMEm-LFS,
    cpu: Pentium M 1.6,
    ram: 1G DDR333,
    h/d1: 120G IDE
    h/d2: 200g IDE was SAT, but that eventually died after loads of hassle,
    g/c: Radeon 9600, Catalyst Driver 05.3
    tv: two Hauppauge PVR 150MCE oem. Driver 2.0.18.22316
    s/c Turtle Beach Riviera cheap but has optical out.
    dvd: LG DVD RAM
    Powerstrip 3.58
    PowerDVD 6
    Coolermaster Cavalier 4 incl 300W p/s

    TV is TV is Toshiba 32MW7DB a 32 inch CRT at 100Hz Has three scart inputs, only one is rgb compatible.
    NTL Di4000N STB
    Marantz RC5000 universal remote controller
    Pioneer Receiver VSXC301

    The VGA-SCART cable is diy - parts from Maplin, search this and other forums for details:

    I highly recommend the Pentium M route (and there's a much more versatile board now, expensive though, but v quiet.

    :smashin:
     
  29. lisag

    lisag
    Well-known Member

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    Apparently it is not networking, you just use the cat5 cable instead of a video cable, with new connections I found a bit of info here
     
  30. JohnS

    JohnS
    Active Member

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    :eek: $299, it will be a possible great product if it ever becomes more reasonable to buy.
     

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