Get your HTPCs out for the (insert gender pronoun)!

MI55ION

Distinguished Member
It’s 2021, technology has moved on and so has the demand for HTPCs. It's been almost a decade since the last thread of this type and whilst I appreciate HTPCs have fallen out of vogue in recent years in favour of smaller but very capable streaming devices, there are still some of us who appreciate HTPCs and their incredible power and versatility. In that spirit let me kick start this thread with a brief intro to my HTPC journey…

I built my first HTPC in 2013 based on an Intel i5 4670K and Asus Z87I Plus C2 housed inside Cooler Master Elite 130 mini ITX case. When it comes to HTPCs, form factor is important and I felt I got the case wrong. So in 2017 I changed it to a Fractal Design Node 202, something that could easily pass for an amplifier and would fit nicely inside the AV cabinet.

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Although late to the party, as my HDR content grew, early 2019 I changed the GPU to a passively cooled Gigabyte GT1030 since the old GTX650 couldn’t handle HDR content.

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Then came 2020 and in the midst of a lockdown I decided to build a new AMD based PC with up to date spec for my pc/office room and turn the old PC into a 60TB server. This meant the HTPC no longer required its own internal storage which was perfect for what was to come next.

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2020 summer heatwave, temps hit above 55°c on idle in the HTPC. The existing Cryorig low profile air cooler was about 10°C cooler than the stock intel cooler when I installed it and almost silent in comparison but it was time for a change. I decided to modify the case with an angle grinder and cut out a section of the middle bracket to accommodate a water cooler. This brought the temps to a more respectable 37°c on idle and 40-45°c under load.

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With all the extra HDD space at disposal, started to save all HDR movies uncompressed, this was chewing through disk space and the GT1030 was now struggling with the higher bitrate count on some movies, maxing out at 100% utilisation and stuttering. So you guessed it, was time to change out the GPU again. The best small form factor I could find was a Gigabyte 1650, it breezes through anything I can throw at it at 30-40% max utilisation.

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Whilst at it, upgraded the RAM to 16GB, bit unnecessary but you could never have too much I suppose.

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No HTPC is truly complete without a controller, so I got a new dedicated Windows Air Remote, having been through quite a few over the years, really is one of the best on the market today, the gyro is spot on. Just a shame it doesn't have built in rechargeable batteries as it seems to drain them fast (about a month) under heavy usage. Not a big deal, picked up set of triple A rechargeable batteries.

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So there you have it, the evolution of my HTPC. I hope more people can chime in with their experience….
 

sea surfer

Distinguished Member
What do you use as your front end for viewing 4k movies?

Your HTPC looks awesome, I'm looking to change my OPPO 203 for a streamer or go down the same route as yourself, as long as it can play everything flawlessly with all the audio codecs, all the streamers that I'm reading up on all seem to have flaws with playback.
 

MI55ION

Distinguished Member
LG 65B8 mostly and Optoma HD300X for 3D content with the kids or when I need that cinematic feel. It's in a semi dedicated space so not fully light controlled, mixture of white and black walls and blackout blinds. When we move to a new place (two years from now 🤞), will be building a fully dedicated room.

It plays everything and then some. I'm using it for room correction of all the full range speakers (JRiver media player) since the AVP is purely audio-centric 7.1 channel unit. Shouldn't be an issue for you with the Anthem, you'd just set the HTPC to bitstream and away you go, full fat Atmos plus ARC.
 

aquatarkus

Active Member
Hi nice HTPC and write up, i still use my HTPC runs Emby Theatre as the head end with Emby server installed on my Windows 10 server upstairs with 30TB of HD space.
I also have a Zidoo Z10 pro again with Emby running (the Android TV version this time) find they both have their pros and cons.
I also set up a Zidoo Z10 in my daughters room as she kept messing up the pup the pc I'd built for her.
Regards
KeithW
 

MI55ION

Distinguished Member
Hi nice HTPC and write up, i still use my HTPC runs Emby Theatre as the head end with Emby server installed on my Windows 10 server upstairs with 30TB of HD space.
I also have a Zidoo Z10 pro again with Emby running (the Android TV version this time) find they both have their pros and cons.
I also set up a Zidoo Z10 in my daughters room as she kept messing up the pup the pc I'd built for her.
Regards
KeithW

Cheers fella, haven't tried Emby yet. Might give it whirl. Although to be honest I'm quite satisfied with JRiver as it is. It acts as media player, media server and EQ device.

The built-in apps of TVs around the house recognise JRiver Media Server and although the GUI isn't as polished as Plex or having JRiver installed on a PC, it does the job of pulling a movie/show just fine.
 

Donnacha

Distinguished Member
Fantastic looking HTPC ...... puts my messy old thing to shame !

I've just ordered a GT 1030 to see if I can playback my UHD rips on my projector....hopefully its not been wasted if you say it struggles it high bit rate stuff? It should arrive tomorrow so will give it a try asap
 

MI55ION

Distinguished Member
Fantastic looking HTPC ...... puts my messy old thing to shame !

I've just ordered a GT 1030 to see if I can playback my UHD rips on my projector....hopefully its not been wasted if you say it struggles it high bit rate stuff? It should arrive tomorrow so will give it a try asap

I don't believe it, we need pictures! :D

When it comes to UHD the 1030 is borderline adequate in my experience, too close to reaching its limits with some titles. When it started dropping frames, I decided it was time to move on. It lacks the effortless smoothness and fluidity of picture compared to better cards. Fingers crossed its sufficient for your needs.

Might be of interest to some, when looking at Nvidia based GPUs I did notice Gigabyte consistently had better selection of HDMI/Displayport interfaces vs their rivals which make them ideal candidates for HTPCs. The 1650 for instance has dual HDMI and displayport for connection to multiple devices, in my case: AVP, TV and projector.

51FvbYJaQtL._AC_SL1500_.jpg


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It can also run direct from the motherboard, no external power source required which may be of benefit to some.
 

Donnacha

Distinguished Member
you can see the beast here, at the bottom:

1613406584317.png



If only I saw your post yesterday before I ordered the GT1030.....trying to get hold of a gfx card these days for a sensible price is nigh on impossible !!
 

MI55ION

Distinguished Member
you can see the beast here, at the bottom:

View attachment 1460985


If only I saw your post yesterday before I ordered the GT1030.....trying to get hold of a gfx card these days for a sensible price is nigh on impossible !!

Now that's a blast from the past, relics from the next gen format war and even a tape deck. Haha. I've got a couple of them HD DVD addons plus the big daddy Toshiba HD-XE1, just can't get rid of them - sentimental value! Classic Silverstone case, we need to see what's inside, don't be shy now. :)

Yes you're right and I know exactly what you mean, the situation with GPUs is unprecedented: first the pandemic shut down production for a while, then a major supplier of parts factory caught fire and finally the astronomical demand for PC parts have all lead to a massive worldwide shortage. It's had a knock on effect on the used market. Good time for sellers, not so good for buyers. Hope things return to normal soon.
 

Donnacha

Distinguished Member
That's an old pic to be fair. The amp is now a Marantz, the Xbox 360 is an Xbox One X, there's a Panasonic 420 4KUHD Bluray player as well. Even the turntable has been updated. The HDDVD drive is still being used with the HTPC and the cassette deck is taking up space :)

There's even a USB DVB box there that uses DVBViewer for Freesat telly trough the HTPC.

If you look at my sig there's a link to my home cinema room and you can see the updated rack somewhere. The HTPC hasn't change much other than adding an LG UHD friendly drive last week.

Its horribly messy inside my HTPC but I'll take a pic when I add the GT1030 over the next day or two.
 

MI55ION

Distinguished Member
Looking forward to it.:smashin: I'm surprised others haven't jumped in yet considering all the veteran PC experts on here.

I used the HD DVD drive to rip my collection so quite useful for that purpose. No more annoying forced ads or legal warnings to sit through.

I'll take a look at your build thread, need to get as many ideas together as possible...
 

Donnacha

Distinguished Member
So got the GT1030 yesterday and installed it and the drivers last night. Also added MPC-BE/HC and madVR to try out my 4kUHD rips.

Didn't spend too much time on it, but before going to bed I had Tenet and Flash Gordon playing back pretty smooth in HDR BT2020 24fps....however at 1080p. I couldn't find how to output at 4K? I changed the PC resolution to 4K (which made everything tiny) but when I started the movie it reverted to 1080p. Pleased I was getting HDR though, so will play around again tonight to see if I can enable 4k resolution.
 

MI55ION

Distinguished Member
What media player are you using?

JRiver will switch to HDR mode then switch back to normal when you stop/close the programme. Shouldn't have to do anything in Windows other than set the resolution of your display device.

Edit: To avoid turning everything tiny in 4k use the "scale and layout" panel, e.g.:

Screenshot 2021-02-17 105604.jpg
 
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Coulson

Distinguished Member
So got the GT1030 yesterday and installed it and the drivers last night. Also added MPC-BE/HC and madVR to try out my 4kUHD rips.

Didn't spend too much time on it, but before going to bed I had Tenet and Flash Gordon playing back pretty smooth in HDR BT2020 24fps....however at 1080p. I couldn't find how to output at 4K? I changed the PC resolution to 4K (which made everything tiny) but when I started the movie it reverted to 1080p. Pleased I was getting HDR though, so will play around again tonight to see if I can enable 4k resolution.
Mpc-be doesn't work with HDR yet if I remember correctly from the forums (mostly in Russian). Mpc-hc does pass through HDR. I use my Shield or Chinoppo (DV) to play 4k rips. I use my HTPC to play 3D. I wouldn't use MadVR with a GTX 1030, just the player. Unless of course you configure it for pass through HDR and not much else.
 

Coulson

Distinguished Member
Looking forward to it.:smashin: I'm surprised others haven't jumped in yet considering all the veteran PC experts on here.

I used the HD DVD drive to rip my collection so quite useful for that purpose. No more annoying forced ads or legal warnings to sit through.

I'll take a look at your build thread, need to get as many ideas together as possible...
Up until recently I was using my GTX 1060 then RTX 2060 laptops which work pretty well :)
 

Donnacha

Distinguished Member
@Donnacha

Could it be the HDMI cable lacking bandwidth?
Yeah thought that....got another cable arriving today to ensure the chain to the projector is full bandwidth ready
Mpc-be doesn't work with HDR yet if I remember correctly from the forums (mostly in Russian). Mpc-hc does pass through HDR. I use my Shield or Chinoppo (DV) to play 4k rips. I use my HTPC to play 3D. I wouldn't use MadVR with a GTX 1030, just the player. Unless of course you configure it for pass through HDR and not much else.
I was using MadVR as the renderer in both MPC-HC and BE, just passing through HDR to my projector. Thinking small steps at the moment, if I can get my 4K rips to playback in full 4K at 24fps with full audio, then I'll be very happy. Might get tempted into MadVR tweaking when the price of GFX comes back down to normal levels.

.....in the end its just a bit of fun tweaking this stuff :)
 

Coulson

Distinguished Member
What do you use as your front end for viewing 4k movies?

Your HTPC looks awesome, I'm looking to change my OPPO 203 for a streamer or go down the same route as yourself, as long as it can play everything flawlessly with all the audio codecs, all the streamers that I'm reading up on all seem to have flaws with playback.
I would stick with the Oppo unless you really need a nice GUI front end. The Shield is great and plays just about anything you throw at it. But when I play the same film on my Chinoppo there is a definite increase in bass fidelity. Not a huge difference but it is noticeable. I'm guessing the other less powerful Android boxes will be the same. The ATV 4K plays almost everything but it won't pass through lossless Atmos/DTS:x. Neither box plays Dolby Vision (The Shield can but with caveats).

Apparently there is a way to get an Emby front end working on an Oppo but the process is a bit arduous.

I was using MadVR as the renderer in both MPC-HC and BE, just passing through HDR to my projector. Thinking small steps at the moment, if I can get my 4K rips to playback in full 4K at 24fps with full audio, then I'll be very happy. Might get tempted into MadVR tweaking when the price of GFX comes back down to normal levels.

.....in the end its just a bit of fun tweaking this stuff :)
This tweaking stuff is very time consuming and only fun when it works lol. Paradoxically the cheapest way to get a decent GPU right now is to buy a new computer which is weird.

I've been playing 4k rips for so long I forget sometimes that it can be problematic. I recently got HDR working using mpc-hc but that was just testing.
 
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Conrad

Moderator
I'll be swapping my 1080ti FE for my now relegated 2070 Super at the weekend so I plan on adding some pics of my pair of machines then.

Downstairs I have a Silverstone LC17 (Snap!) but in silver. That runs JRiver and reads all its content from the server upstairs. It feeds my AVR and 60" plasma. We use downstairs for regular TV, iplayer, etc.

Upstairs the "server" (really just a desktop in a big case with a lot of disks in it) acts as my main desktop machine and has a 49" super-ultrawide monitor which is awesome. I bought that when we went full lockdown and I wanted to upgrade from a pair of 21"s. With my wife working from home too we needed at least one more, so figured why not get something lovely.

The bedroom we use as an office is next to the bedroom we use as a cinema. I used to have a PC in both rooms but I had some issues in the cinema with both heat, and noise coming though the processor where I'd crammed a whole PC into a relatively small case - a phantek evolv shift x. It looked lovely but it was a nightmare to work with, got hot, and I'm sure the tight space was what was causing noise over the HDMI and USB connections.

So I rebuilt the office PC in a much larger case (Fractal design Define 7 XL), added the GPU, and ran long cables through into the next room so the PJ in the cinema acts as a second monitor on the main PC. I have a keyboard and mouse in the cinema using USB over ethernet which works really, really well. I have a harmony elite and I've used gyro remotes, although not the one listed above so I'll investigate that, but for me you just can't beat a keyboard and mouse.

I'm running JRiver with MadVR and I use MadVR for all the tone mapping, although I'm getting my PJ calibrated in a couple of weeks so I'll be able to properly compare the MadVR tone mapping and the JVC solution. Now my problem is heat again. 12 disks and a big GPU are keeping things a bit warmer than I'd like. I've already got a watercooler on the CPU and I don't want to take the heatsinks of the GPU. I'm thinking of replacing the disks with larger disks so that there are fewer of them, which will help with heat generation and airflow, but that'll happen over time.

Or I could split the machines again, stick the storage in the garage and have a smaller machine in the office with just the GPU and an SSD. That would allow me to upgrade the processor at the same time.

There's always something, isn't there :)
 

Coulson

Distinguished Member
I'll be swapping my 1080ti FE for my now relegated 2070 Super at the weekend so I plan on adding some pics of my pair of machines then.

Downstairs I have a Silverstone LC17 (Snap!) but in silver. That runs JRiver and reads all its content from the server upstairs. It feeds my AVR and 60" plasma. We use downstairs for regular TV, iplayer, etc.

Upstairs the "server" (really just a desktop in a big case with a lot of disks in it) acts as my main desktop machine and has a 49" super-ultrawide monitor which is awesome. I bought that when we went full lockdown and I wanted to upgrade from a pair of 21"s. With my wife working from home too we needed at least one more, so figured why not get something lovely.

The bedroom we use as an office is next to the bedroom we use as a cinema. I used to have a PC in both rooms but I had some issues in the cinema with both heat, and noise coming though the processor where I'd crammed a whole PC into a relatively small case - a phantek evolv shift x. It looked lovely but it was a nightmare to work with, got hot, and I'm sure the tight space was what was causing noise over the HDMI and USB connections.

So I rebuilt the office PC in a much larger case (Fractal design Define 7 XL), added the GPU, and ran long cables through into the next room so the PJ in the cinema acts as a second monitor on the main PC. I have a keyboard and mouse in the cinema using USB over ethernet which works really, really well. I have a harmony elite and I've used gyro remotes, although not the one listed above so I'll investigate that, but for me you just can't beat a keyboard and mouse.

I'm running JRiver with MadVR and I use MadVR for all the tone mapping, although I'm getting my PJ calibrated in a couple of weeks so I'll be able to properly compare the MadVR tone mapping and the JVC solution. Now my problem is heat again. 12 disks and a big GPU are keeping things a bit warmer than I'd like. I've already got a watercooler on the CPU and I don't want to take the heatsinks of the GPU. I'm thinking of replacing the disks with larger disks so that there are fewer of them, which will help with heat generation and airflow, but that'll happen over time.

Or I could split the machines again, stick the storage in the garage and have a smaller machine in the office with just the GPU and an SSD. That would allow me to upgrade the processor at the same time.

There's always something, isn't there :)

This is literally my entire Home Cinema (minus rear speakers obviously) :) In case it is't obvious, the PC is the little black box on the floor with the blue light lol. I should really include my Oculus Quest as that is an essential part of my viewing with the PC.

IMG_20210221_005015.jpg


Compact PC internals shows the airflow issues :)

IMG_20210221_005653.jpg
 
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Conrad

Moderator
Is that Kodi?
 

ChuckMountain

Distinguished Member
Could it be the HDMI cable lacking bandwidth?

No a passive cable does not play a part in the negotiations of what the source and sink support. With this type of thing it’s usually a software issue. The cable not having enough bandwidth will present itself as issues when trying to display the higher settings.

Yeah thought that....got another cable arriving today to ensure the chain to the projector is full bandwidth ready

As above, it will only solve the problem if the previous cable was having issues once the selection has been made.

How long is it and what cable did you go for?
 

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