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HTPC - is it for me?

Discussion in 'Desktop & Laptop Computers Forum' started by DLPMaybe, Apr 20, 2005.

  1. DLPMaybe

    DLPMaybe
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    Ok so this HTPC lark looks pretty cool but I am a bit confused. What I am about to ask must be a FAQ but I could not find a suitable response/sticky or FAQ so here goes.

    I have Sky+, Denon DVD (2800ish), Denon amp/receiver(3800ish I think), KEF egg speakers, (will soon have) DLP RPTV and PRONTO.

    Sky+
    This gives me the PVR functionality. Does a HTPC give me anything extra from the PVR perspective? I have read several people have hooked sky+ up to the HTPC; why?

    DVD
    I am going to have to replace my DVD to get a DVI output. This is where the HTPC, I believe, gives me some value. So where does a HTPC via DVI rank against stand alone DVD players? Assume a £1000 HTPC.

    AMP
    I assume I would keep the AMP and the HTPC should have an output to connect to the amp. Is this correct? Or will the HTPC hook up directly to the speakers?

    OS
    Does HTPC = MCE. If you take the PVR functioanlity out of the equation is MCE just providing a UI via infa red?

    PRONTO
    Does the MCE remote have an analog stick or anything else that will make my beloved remote sad?


    Sorry for the large number of questions and no doubt asking what every noob does when they first see the letters HTPC. Help will be appreciated!
     
  2. Kopite4Ever

    Kopite4Ever
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    DVD : if set up right a HTPC will blast any stand alone dvd player you try to match against it imo. a nice combo of Theatertek/zoom player pro + FFDshow + the setup article in FAQ will get you a long way and you will be amazed. not tried MCE yet as i have no real need i only use my HTPC for DVD using the combo mentioned above. my HTPC is connected to my Amp by spdif digital coaxial. most mobo's have it as standard now or you can get a dedicated soundcard (Audigy i recommend)
    cant really answer your Sky + Or Pronto things
     
  3. Mark Ward

    Mark Ward
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    HTPC Isn't for the faint hearted. When it's finally setup & configured correctly it'll give you a better output than a DVD receiver system.

    There is however a "middle" way where you could use an SDI modded DVD player through an amp for the sound and an HTPC as the scaler to the display that could prove a better compromise solution for you.

    To answer your points in turn...

    If you are going to include Sky+ into your system you'd be better off sticking with an amp for the sound side of things though.

    There's a good Freeview card made by Nebula that gives you some PVR functionality, but nothing as good as your Sky+ would be.

    Best HTPC solution for Sky is to use the digital audio out of the Sky+ Box into the Processor/Amp/reciever, and the S-Video or SDI Modded output from the Sky+ box into the HTPC for video. There's a very good (though complex) free peice of software called "DScaler" that provides a fabulous picture from an external source via a PCI Capture card.

    Most of us HTPC'ers use a software player like "Theatertek" or "Zoomplayer" rather than have a dedicated DVD player. If you chhose the right Graphic card Picture quality is fabulous from these is stunning. I compare my £1600 ARcam DV27 to my HTPC and went with the HTPC.

    For your purposes keeping an amp is the mosy straight forward solution. I've personally done away with an processor/amp and have gone for a very high end soundcard into active(include power amps) speakers. This was absolutely MILES better quality than my previous Lexicon MC1 and Rotel THX PowerAmps route, however importing external sources such as Sky+ is quiate a challend (though not impossible).

    I can't answer this one as I've yet to se MCE. I use XP-Pro and an IR-Man IR Reciever with a piece of software called Girder. Girder is also VERY hard to set up but once you've suused it you can set-iy & forget-it:)

    Over to someone else for this one too...

    Benefits of HTPC
    Acts as a very poweful/flexible scaler which gives you the ability to 1:1 pixel map to your display's exact panel resolution.

    Almost Inifinite Tweakability (though this could also be seen as a down-side)

    Ability to play WMV & other High-Def format movies that give a superior image to DVD.

    Ability to "Jukebox" your movie collection using free software like X-Lobby.

    Ability to store & Play MP3 collections on the same machine.

    Things to take into consideration

    Noise - Reducing the noise your HTPC makes can add significantly to the cost. Quiet PSU, Huge HeatSink/Fans, Fanless Graphic Cards etc.

    Reliability - I've nearly jacked the whole thing in on more than one occasion. Right now my system is running perfectly and has never been better. I had terrible trouble getting to where I am now though. Software tweaks, application solutions for display/audio problems. Software upgrades that break what was working prior to installation.

    Hardware Choices- Choosing the wrong Graphic Card, soundcard, CPU etc. can prove very costly.

    Security - It is a PC remember, so susceptable to the same hack, virus, trojan risks as any other pc.

    For most people who go this route it's a constant evolution of hardware upgrades whilst they discover what works for them.

    Where are you located? There must be someone in your area who'd be happy to show off their system and what it can do.

    Last point... Ask 5 people for a soilution and get 5 different answers. Everyone has their own ideas on the right way to do things. This means you need to do a LOT of research prior to buying all this kit.

    If I haven't put you off then maybe HTPC is for you.

    Mark.
     
  4. mrmoo

    mrmoo
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  5. DLPMaybe

    DLPMaybe
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    Thank you for the excellent replies.

    I am based in Watford.

    The idea of using the HTPC as a DVD juke box had not crossed my mind but would be very cool.

    You have not put me off but have given me a lot to think about :thumbsup:

    Cheers.
     
  6. Kopite4Ever

    Kopite4Ever
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    in the end its worth it. i spent about a month of constant tweaking/re-installing and gave up on numerous occasions only to have another battle with it an hr and 6 beers later :D there is always the forum if u get stuck as well :thumbsup:
     
  7. richjthorpe

    richjthorpe
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    Better picture quality when running through a deinterlacer and scaler software. Also can be burnt to a DVD.

    Richie.
     
  8. MattTheBeanster

    MattTheBeanster
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    It's a compete sod. Soon as you think you've got it sussed it goes awol again. But it feels so good when it's running smooth. All i can say is restore points. :)

    I have yet to get my dms2 (it may not be capable) of out performing my denon 2900. Though i am connecting the dvd via component and the dms by vga not dvi so not a fair comparison i guess.

    I connect the to my amp using the optical digital out, and a very nice sound it is too.

    The OS : MCE really needs to be judged as a whole. Saying "yeah but it's just x with an extra y" is pointless. It brings it all under a single very slick interface. Feels like using skyish.

    Pronto, yep it'll work, no there aren't any analog sticks. You even gain a couple of buttons left off most remotes. What you'll need to do though is edit the registry (or i think use tweakmce and change the universal setting) to stop the debounce commands. The mce remote sends alternating signals, mce by default expects one then the other, the pronto will only learn 1. this results in repeated button presses from the pronto not working.

    end of the day though i would say if you can handle putting in the time it's alot of fun.
     
  9. Dunkwho

    Dunkwho
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    most of the dvd vs htpc quality discussions refer to ffdshow to boost the image quality up to the "htpc beats dvd" level - its worth bearing in mind that ffdshow can't be used with mce :( htpcers looking for max quality generally end up either with a dedicated dvd htpc, or a system running a number of different apps (theatetec or zoomplayer for dvd, sagetv\beyondtv\showshifter for PVR, etc) and tie them all together with an overall interface app - something like xlobby or myhtpc (now defunct). mce does offer a snazzy all in 1 htpc app, personally my goal is functionality number 1, best possible quality number 2 (as long as is at least acceptable quality).

    I have to say ... if i had sky+ (and wanted to pay for it), i think i'd stick with that rather than enter the desperate world of htpc - fact is i'm a skinflint and want to replace my tivo\freeview setup with a dual tuner freeview system (mce does that) and can finance the switch to a htpc by trading off the cost of the replacement equipment.

    Duncan
     
  10. lisag

    lisag
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    A HTPC is a hobby, I think you have to enjoy tinkering to really get the best out of it.... although once you have it set up, if you leave it alone it should run ok. But it is a fast moving area, so some new hardware, software, drivers will catch your eye and before you know it you are back to square one again!

    It is a very good toy though, having the web, all your films, music, tv games at your fingertips on a big screen with 5.1 sound and a comfy sofa is very nice indeed.

    Oh, and you can use ffdshow with MCE through the new version of My Movies which supports playback via Theatertek. But... I find that the 6600GT graphics card with nvidia dvd codec and pure video produces excellent playback as it is.

    lisa
    :)
     
  11. Mark Ward

    Mark Ward
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    I second this, I've not bothered with FFDSHow since going over to a 6600GT with my Theatertek/NVidia codecs :smashin:

    Mark.
     
  12. DLPMaybe

    DLPMaybe
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    I think I am pretty much sold on the idea. A new hobby it is!

    So if I went the route of using Xlobby would I be able to put a DVD in the player press a single button on the pronto and have the movie playing. (I know I can do all the TV and amp bits its just the Xlobby bit I am worried about).

    Same with the sky+; will a macro of IR codes be able to get the deinterlacer and scaler software outputing the sky+?
     

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