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Is a TIVO style HTPC possible?

Discussion in 'Desktop & Laptop Computers Forum' started by Mark Ward, Mar 17, 2003.

  1. Mark Ward

    Mark Ward
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    I'm not looking for lists of components or software that you guys recommend (I'll study the forum first)...

    But...

    Does the Hardware/Software exist for a HTPC to record FreeView DTT in the same way or a similar way to TIVO or Sky+ box?

    Can DVD-Audio disks be played via the box or will I need a separate DVD-A player?

    I'm considering building/buying an HTPC and want a lot of options:-

    RAID with 2 Huge (120gb+) Drives, LAN(Pref Wireless), High End Audio, High End GFX, HD3D, Quiet/Silent fans. Will all these things squeeze into a decent HTPC case?

    If I switch from Extron Scaler to HTPC is there any way to get the PC to do my external source scaling? specifically VCR, but also DTT depending on answer to TIVO question.

    Many thanks,

    Mark.
     
  2. halephil

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    Hi Mark,

    A Nebula Electronics DVB-T card will give you what you want for Freeview and the latest software for it includes an EPG which is really nice to use. Recordings are perfect with little CPU overhead. You'll find more on this card in the Forum.

    For DVD-Audio you'll need a Audigy 2 as currently this is the only card that includes a necessary software player. Other cards meet the required hardware spec, including the latest M-Audio Revo, but there's no software player support yet.

    The rest of your requirements is fairly straightforward.

    Regards, Phil
     
  3. JohnS

    JohnS
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    Hi Mark,

    The H3D is the way to do external source scaling but probably overkill if its just for a vcr. Get a decent cpature card with composite and svideo in like the Flyvideo tv100 (boxed as Packard Bell PB-TV100 in PC World £39.99), combine this with dscaler and get probably 95% for the performance of the H3D. If your talking SDI modded DVD players then of couse it is another matter and you will need the H3D.

    Not tried the Nebula card yet myself but its on my list of things to add.:)

    Regards
     
  4. cwinson

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    John (Spicer),

    A quick follow up question on the H3D:

    When using the H3D with DScaler, is the internal Faroudja software used for de-interlacing and scaling, or is this all handled by DScaler ?

    The reason I ask is as follows :

    I have a Sky+ box & TW100 PJ, which already has Faroudja software in-built. At present, I'm using the JS RGB->Component converter to get best signal out of the Sky box. The picture is OK, but I would like better :( (if possible). I have thought of using an HTPC and H3D, but I'm a bit sceptical whether it will improve things, particularly bearing in mind the software is the same.

    Any thoughts ?

    Chris
     
  5. JohnS

    JohnS
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    cwinson

    The Faroudja software does the deinterlacing in a H3D or you can use Dscaler instead, the graphics card does the scaling so this bit at least should be better done by the HTPC as opposed to scaling in the PJ.

    I haven't used a H3D myself so cant comment on just how good it is or not, but I see it as a far too expensive solution if all your going to use it for is capturing svideo and composite from sky etc.. Sooner or later the deinterlacing ability of Dscaler will overtake the hardware Faroudja (its close now by apparantly)and then all your left with is an expensive capture card. By all accounts teh H3D is quite user friendly, but then with a powerful enough PC you can have dcaler set up with lots of auto select options, about the only thing I change manually is the aspect ratio.
     
  6. cwinson

    cwinson
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    John,

    Thanks for the reply

    To confirm, I'm actually trying to capture Component from the Sky box as opposed to Composite & S-Video.

    Either way, it looks like the best option for me would be to buy a cheap(ish) S-Video capture card in the short term and possibly upgrade to a Component capture card as and when they becomes available without all the additional stuff wrapped up in the H3D.

    Rgds,

    Chris
     
  7. JohnS

    JohnS
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    Thats exactly where I'm at at the moment, via dvi to my HS10 the picture can sometimes be superb (depending on the quality of the original Sky broadcast).

    I'm sure in the next year or so we will see a cheap component capture card and negate that particular advantage that the H3D has.
     
  8. Mark Ward

    Mark Ward
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    Thanks for the replies..Good news that I could get Tivo(ish) from the HTPC. Looks like I'll be doing some research:)

    I'll trawl the threads for the recommend best Case, HDD, GFX, CPU, Fans etc. to go for and post a suggest config in a separate post in a few days.

    Looks like DScaler will be ample for now, just need to make sure I get the fastest processor I can afford.

    Thanks,

    Mark.
     
  9. Mark Ward

    Mark Ward
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    OK..

    After some quick research ....

    My HTPC will need to record DTT like a TIVO, have Wireless Lan to my server, Have Audiophile Sound & Top Graphics. Ideally I'd like a motherboard with onboard Raid 0 to allow mirrored 120+gb drives.

    Am I asking the impossible?

    Current thoughts:-

    HTPC Configuration
    Case:- Prefer HTPC Case??? Would prefer a tray loader though
    PSU:- Enermax EG365P-VE Whisper Quiet Dual Fan PSU Will I need bigger?
    MBoard:- Intel Chipset Motherboard I845 (8x AGP) with Raid 0
    Processor:- 2Gig+ Pentium4
    Memory:- 1GB Ram Crucial MemoryIs this overkill?
    Storage:- 2 X 120gb+ Liquid Bearing IDE's
    Backup:- Raid 0 Controller on Motherboard
    Network:- Wireless LAN 22MBit (Allow Dialup Modem Share & Internet via Server)
    DVD-Rom:- Quiet Region Free Drive??? Tray Pref. DVD-R(W) Poss??
    Vid Capture:- Flyvideo tv100 (Packard Bell PB-TV100)
    DTT:- Nebula Electronics DVB-T
    Audio:- M-Audio RME DIGI 96/8PAD?
    Graphics:- Radion 9500Pro???
    OS:- XP-Pro or Win2KPro

    Software:-
    TheatreTek 1.5
    IRMan
    Powerstrip??
    DVD-Genie
    D-Scaler??
    IR Port?
    IR Keyboard (Pref with built-in mouse control)?

    I will also need to research silent fans etc.

    So Cards..
    Audio, GFX, LAN & DTT Card... That's 4 Card Peripherals, 2 hard drives (and DVD Writer for the Captured TV programs would go amiss either). What kind of output power PSU would I need?

    I could cut the LAN card by running a Cat5 Cable and using a MBoard with LAN built-in, but it's a long & complex cable run to the server.

    I haven't ruled out HD3D and using external DVD, DTT Etc. but as selling my DV27 & Extron Scaler would give me a good start towards a beast of an HTPC so a 1 box solution would be preferable, even if I need to look at the better looking Desktop or Midi Tower Cases rather than a HTPC case.

    I'm not needing comments on the specific makes/models of kit, I'll do more research on that, but as a concept I can't help feeling I'm not taking the right approach here. Cooling won't be easy/quiet with that lot.

    Any thoughts?

    Thanks,

    Mark.
     
  10. JohnS

    JohnS
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    Hi Mark,

    When it comes to HTPC less definatly is more.

    From what I'm told the Nebula DTT card is capable of recording to a mapped drive on a server, so my proposed solution is to forget the wirefree lan, go wired and install a raid storage solution in your server if you haven'y already. Less drives in the HTPC= less noise and less to cool. Less PSU requirement= less heat.

    If you want some ides to run cables I can probably offer some ideas;)

    With regard to surfing on the HTPC I use XPpro on my HTPC and my desktop and using the network, use the Remote Desktop Client to take control of my desktop machine. This means there is no antivirus or non HTPC orientated apps on the HTPC. This works wired or wirefree.

    If you use both of these ideas 1gb of ram is overkill, 512mb is really but for the price of it I dont see the point running 256mb.

    Stability in a HTPC is everyones goal and the more going on in the box, the more chance of having problems.
     
  11. Mark Ward

    Mark Ward
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    Thanks for the comments John

    This is my original thought too, though when I started to think what the HTPC could potentially do then I started to get a bit carried away:)

    Wired will require a long, complex run to my "Server" main PC.

    The Idea of the Raid was so that a drive failure would mean having to reconfigure the HTPC. I guess a scripted "Ghost" Image copy of the single 120gb drive periodically would provide an adequate solution. I'll think in terms of doing that.

    Do you know whether the HTPC can playback stored TV programs from the server via Cat5 Lan realtime? Wired Lan would be available directly from the motherboard so 1 less card in the HTPC there:)

    I've a feeling this job will be a little beyond my abilities:)

    I'm not intending to "surf", ie. web browse regularly from the HTPC, more a case of being able do download patches, drivers, fixes etc. directly to the HTPC and use EPG guides for DTT via the net.

    To be honest I only settled 1Gig 'cos ram is so cheap, but I'm not looking to throw money away so if it's not needed I'll buy less:).

    There seem to be quite a few types of ram out right now, until I've chosen the motherboard I won't know which type to go for. Any type better for HT use than the others?

    And I'm very happy to scale back my plans.

    So...

    DVD Writer will be in the server
    Extra HDD Storage again in the Server
    Lan will now be via Motherboard
    Down to 1 massive HDD
    Processor & Memory to be decided

    Leaves GFX card, Sound Card, Capture Card & DTT Card with 1 HDD so still need 1 AGP & 3 PCI slots.

    So looking for a small motherboard with 3 PCI & LAN onboard?

    I understand that better/faster processors = more heat too, where would be a recommended compromise point for these?
    2.53GHz (533FSB) P4? Radion9500 sound a bit too much?

    Also, these smaller cases surely = less air. Since I have the room I guess a bigger HTPC case would be my best solution?

    Thanks,

    Mark.
     
  12. JohnS

    JohnS
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    I can help you with that, I run wires reguarly, over half a mile of cat5 in my house.;)
    Definitly need to become familiar with Ghost if your not already, its saves loads of HTPC headaches.
    The nebula does this fine apparantly. I really must get round to buying one.:)
    Take control of the server remotely and download using that, store them on the server. All available as and when you want them from the server across the lan. The remote control sounds complex but is simple once you've done it.
    Its all motherboard dependent really. Some here obviously swear by the Intel solutions but I've not had any problems with the newer Via chipsets now that I've learnt how to keep them cool. Relatively cheap too.:)
    The chip is plenty good enough for everything that you can throw at it for now, a bit overkill really. You could buy an Nforce mobo and xp2100+ for the price of the chip alone and it will easily cope with what we're talking about here and when it wont the next chip upgrade will be cheap too. As for the 9500 I like mine a lot but remember a passive cooler to remove the fan from it.

    Do you really need a massive harddrive in the HTPC when it has external storage. My HTPC with xppro and all the apps I use is only 1200mb, so I have my 40gb split into 3 partitions, C is a raw xp pro without drivers for a quick Ghost clone if I need it. D and E are the finished working OS which means I have two chances for it to boot and if you change something trhat goes wrong its really simple to clone back the image from the other one that works.

    Less air and smaller is harder to cool, tower works better than desktop case if you can accomadate one.
     
  13. Steve Bate

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    I spoke with Mark re Intel but that was when he was considering the H3D, there were big problems with Via chipsets and H3D, if no H3D no problem!!

    Steve
     
  14. Mark Ward

    Mark Ward
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    I may well be in contact about that John, thnaks. It occurred to me that the electrician who's fitting ny new screen (who dodn't trun up last Friday:mad:) may well be able to do that fairly easily too.

    I use terminal server for work so I'm familiar with remote controlling.

    Sounds good to me. Basically I just looked at the performance/price ratios the 2.53GHz (533FSB) P4 can be bought for £138.25 + VAT but 2.8 is disproportionally more.

    If I really don't need it I'm more than happy to save the money.

    I figured that a 120gb drive would give me plenty of data storage for the TV caputured programs. I can send to server if I ever need more. Remember the 2 x HDD and RAID 0 were for backup reasons. Now I'm thinking about "Ghost" 2 drives won't be necessary. I'll partition for C: for OS D: for Programs and E: for data. Doesn't seem any point going for a smaller drive.

    I can definitely accomdate a server tower, however the aesthetics of a HTPC, even one of the larger ones appeals to me more. I'll check out which are quietest, have best cooling etc. over the next couple of days.

    I already bought the OS (XP Pro) OEM from Scan for £110.16 Incl Delivery & VAT and I'll research the other necessary software costs.

    As far as Intel chips. I haven't ruled out H3D completely as the idea of still using a DVD player (SDI) has appeal (not least of which the HTPC needn't be in the room at all). But if I take that route later I'll merely buy the H3D, Intel Chip (and Mobo) later when they'll all be cheaper anyway.

    You've got the DIGN case haven't you John. Would this still be the case of choice for you? I'd really like your opinion as you appear to take cost/value considerations into account and I can appreciate that!:)

    This has been a real help,

    Thanks John,

    Mark.
     
  15. JohnS

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    Check out Scan for the price of either the A7V8X about £70inc or the A7N8X about £95inc. There have been a few comments that the Nforce chipset is more stable but I haven't had any probelms with the Via KT400 in the A7V8X. That and the XP2100+ @£70 inc makes a cheap starting point. You've possible seen me rave about the Thermalright SLK800 hsf and a Panasonic Panaflo 92mm which you can just squeeze onto it. Hefty at £60ish but worth every penny. My chip temps are 47C at full load with a single fan CPU (Seisonic SS300) and no case fans. It will even cope with overclocking my chip to XP2700+ speeds and still only reached 54C after 2 hours of Dscaler, (but I dont run it like that now as there really is no need at the moment the 2100 is plenty).

    I dont know if there are issues with Nforce and H3D so the extra £20 may leave you that option for the future if there isn't.

    I've got a Dign case that was available from the AVS powerebuy and its okay. The lmp from the top of this forum I would expect to be better as an all alluminium design (so should cool easier) but of course requires a slot loading dvd rom. There is a Dign available from quietpc which is a newer design than the one I've got.
    Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, just make sure it can take an ATX board.:)
     
  16. Underscore

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    This caused me to go to the Seagate site. I would like the extra capacity for PVR use, but get rid of heat is more difficult than not generating it in the first place. However, the power consumption specs for the 80 and 120GB are identical. Given that the 80 is £75 inc. and the 120 £105, I will probably still go for the 120GB.

    On the heat generation side, what is the thinking regarding PC2100, PC2700 and PC3200? Obviously, the higher the speed, the more heat but is it significant and is the performance gain worth it?

    _
     
  17. Mr. Wilby

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    Another option, and one that I'm currently playing with is using the excellent MythTV for my TV (a la Tivo) style viewing.

    Its linux... that's the only bad thing (if you can say that ;-), so you do need a BT8xx card in order to get the TV stuff working... but I'm a bit of a linux novice... in fact I only installed linux to try and get Myth working, and it took about one weekend from start to end (picture + sound).

    Well worth it, but you have to have the right hardware... also... linux is a bit scary ;-)
     
  18. JohnS

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    Thats interesting and not something I'd considered.

    No idea, I have too machines of similart spec, one with PC2700 and trhe other with PC3200 but cant say I notifce much difference heat wise thats not an effect of the processor speed. Might be interesting to have a swop about and see if it makes any difference though.
     

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