The HTPC FAQ - Building and configuration of your HTPC

Discussion in 'Home Entertainment Computers' started by Theydon Bois, Aug 21, 2008.

  1. Theydon Bois

    Theydon Bois
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    ======================================================================
    Update 26-01-2010 It has been a while since this FAQ was first drawn up and there have been quite a few changes in the HTPC world.
    Please can you provide feedback in this thread (particularly about how you would prefer to see this info, ie. one monolithic thread or just links etc)
    ======================================================================


    Welcome to the HTPC FAQ!
    --------------------------------


    I have written this FAQ (with the help of contributers indicated within) to help answer some questions for those of you thinking of taking that wonderful step into the world of HTPC's.

    I have tried to set it out in a way that makes it flow, ie the base parts you need, followed by information on how to amend the cost of components should you be on a budget, or require a silent or gaming machine.

    It has been deliberately written to be slightly generic, simply becuase we all know that tech changes so quickly and adds additional information like frontends and other useful software to then entice the reader into viewing the builds he or she is interested in.

    Once you have read all you need and feel confident of your choices, please create a thread within these forums (its always better to get someone to have a quick look over your spec) then get busy building! :D All we ask is that you take plenty of pictures of the build, then come back and post a link back to your thread. That way others can see your choices, and your final glorious Home Cinema Personal Computer. :smashin:


    :lesson: If you have any contributions, please read the last post in this thread - it shows what I think the FAQ still requires. Of course if you think we have missed anything, please feel free to post the info and we will add them to this guide as well as credit you accordingly.

    :lesson: To keep this thread tidy, I or any of the other MOD's will delete comments once they've been addressed.

    Thanks, and dont forget the thanks button to those that help you! :smashin:


    ///// Index \\\\\


    Post 3 : HTPC Hardware - Covers hardware required and tips on how to make your PC Silent, fall within a Budget, or suitable for Gaming.

    Post 4 : Which Front-end is good for you? This post covers Windows Media Centre on XP, Vista and Windows 7 platforms, as well as Media Browser.

    Post 5 : Which Front-end is good for you? Continues here with Media Portal

    Post 6 : Which Front-end is good for you? Continues here with Meedios, XBMC and No frontend.

    Post 7 : TVCards - Information on TVcards and which is needed for Terristal or Satalite channels.

    Post 8 : Other Software - Video Players such as PowerDVD and KMPlayer and utility software such as Deamon Tools and AnyDVD are explained here.

    Post 9 : Which Codecs should I use? - This covers the wonderful world of codecs and how they can improve the look and performance of your HTPC during playback.

    Post 10 : Audio Playback - Details how you get your lovely amp to play lossless audio from your shiney Blu-Ray disks.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 26, 2010
  2. Theydon Bois

    Theydon Bois
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    HTPC Hardware

    A HTPC build is very similar to a PC build, normally with the exception of the style of the case and maybe the addition of a TV card or two and topped off with a smart frontend like VMC or MediaPortal.

    Your base build should include the following and you should be looking at around a base cost of approx £500 (a AMD 780G Vista based HTPC with TV Tuner card, Blu-Ray drive, 1Tb HD and £100 case inc PSU).

    This price will then be modified depending on your choice of categories: Silent, Budget or Gaming and the price modification is noted below in the relevant sections.

    • Case
    • CPU & Motherboard
    • RAM
    • Graphics card (optional if you are using a board with capable onboard GPU)
    • TV Tuner card (Optional)
    • PSU (If not included in the case)
    • Optical Drive
    • Hard Drive
    • OS

    So what parts should you get? This is a question that could vary wildly from one person to the next, but I hope that the following will help you decide your component choices and also the type of HTPC you wish to build.

    ///// Case \\\\\

    Something as simple as a case can cause much variation from user to user, and is the item that is greatly influenced by budget. Most people view the definition of a HTPC by its case and the fact that it intergrates into the rest of your AV kit by looking like the expensive AMP you have sitting next to it, rather than looking like a beige box.

    As a rough guide, a normal HTPC case such as the Antec NSK 2480 will set you back around £90 but the prices can range from cheap and cheerful: Extra Value Black Opera ATX Desktop Case 500W PSU (20+4 pin) - Ebuyer ....to being a brushed metal masterpiece: Zalman HD160XT-PLUS Home Theatre PC Case

    Make sure you check to see if your case choice comes with a PSU and also take a look at Silverstone, Antec, ThermalTake, Zalman and Lian Li for more ideas, as well as looking at the choices made by forum users (all detailed below)

    Lastly, and this is important, make sure your choice of case will fit the motherboard (mATX, of ATX) that you buy or are going to reuse!

    ///// CPU & Motherboard \\\\\

    If you are building your HTPC with new components, quite a few builds are based around a AMD 780G board (or the newer 790GX version) with a AMD 4850e or 5050e based AMD processor, which costs around £130.

    AMD 780G solution

    The cheapest option is currently a board based on the 780G chipset with a low powered AMD processor. This will manage nearly all 1080p material but may struggle if hardware acceleration can't be used (such as on poorly encoded mkv's) requiring something like the CoreAVC Codec.

    The audio on this chipset is limited as it will only pass through DD/DTS via S/PDIF (i.e the same as connecting an amp via an optical or coax cable) or stereo - it will not handle any form of HD audio.

    Intel 9300/9400

    A more expensive option is to use a Motherboard based on the Geforce 9300/9400 chipset, which are more powerful than the 780G and take the more powerful (and sometimes more power consuming) Intel processors.

    These chipsets will handle 7.1 LPCM over HDMI meaning that it will transmit 8 channels of uncompressed audio so you can decode HD audio signals on your HTPC and output them as uncompressed audio.

    This option is currently the best you should be choosing if you are starting a new build, combined with a Core 2 Duo CPU.

    ///// Graphics card \\\\\

    Most new HTPC based solutions are offering onboard GPUs that are capable of 1080p playback. If you do need a GPU, for instance if you are re-using parts that will not use a newer Motherboard, and are not using the GPU for gaming then look for a GPU with a heatsink (passively cooled) rather than a fan.

    Dedicated GPU

    Pro: A better choice of GPU; choice between ATI or NVidia regardless of chipset; Better for Gaming.
    Con: Stock models can be noiser; Uses a PCI-E slot; More power consumption.

    There are other implications with graphics cards however. The ATI 4xxx cards are capable of 7.1 LPCM and will handle 1080p but it has been reported that they can have issues correctly handling 24fps playback. The Nvidia cards on the other hand will not do audio but seem to cope better with 24fps playback, so research outside of this guide is required for more information on these two subjects.

    Which manufacturer?

    ATI has a fix for Black levels, while NVidia does not
    Nvidia cards are reported to be better at 24fps playback
    CoreAVC is handled by NVidia cards but not ATI
    NVidia dedicated cards do not do audio

    ///// Audio \\\\\

    Although I have briefly touched upon audio within the graphics and motherboard sections above, please check the post below by Jameson_UK, he details things in far greater detail than I ever could! :smashin:

    ///// RAM \\\\\

    Look for at least 2Gb of RAM, especially if you are using Vista. If fact, as RAM has decreased so much in recent months, people are picking up 4Gb, even if they have a 32 bit OS, simply because 3.2Gb is better than 2Gb.

    That extra may help if you for instance if you are running multiple tasks such as watching a blu-Ray while recording TV.

    ///// TV Tuner Card \\\\\

    This requires a more detailed explanation - please see the post below at the end of this thread.

    ///// PSU \\\\\

    If your chosen case does not come with a PSU, then look for a decent branded PSU (Corsair, Coolermaster, Enermax, Be Quiet) at around 400 to 500W. If you are gaming, or intend to stack your case with 6 hard drives, then you need to look for a higher rated model.

    Modular PSU's are also very recomended, as the lack of unwanted cables help to eliminate air traps, while allowing better airflow.

    ///// Optical Drive \\\\\

    With the LG Blu-Ray/HD-DVD combi drive at around £75 and a few HD-DVDs still available for £3 at HMV this is a cheap way into viewing some hidef films. Yes you are paying for dead technology, but you can pick up 5 HD-DVDs for the price of one blu-ray and its an excellent start into the world of hidef movies. The LG also comes with a limited version (to 2 channel unless you use SPDIF) of PowerDVD7.

    A standard Blu-ray drive is around £50 now so unless you are on a tight budget and even if you dont have any Blu's yet, its a worthy purchase.

    ///// Hard Drive \\\\\

    Currently there are only two choices for most people - The supurb Samsung Spinpoint or a Western Digital Green. The 1Tb drives are the current sweet spot of price/storage at around £70ea [June 09].

    It is not recommend to add a small drive for the OS and another for storage as you limit future expansion and are adding another source of vibration and heat for any of you trying to keep things silent. Instead, partition a single drive for the OS, and that way if you need to start again you do not have to move or lose your media collection to a rebuild.

    ///// Operating System \\\\\

    Vista is reported to have a better VMC over XP's version, while Windows 7 improves on this even more. Of course if you are using MediaPortal or Meedios it makes no difference which OS you use.

    Windows 7 is getting a lot of love recently, and up until recently was available as a free download. This has now stopped, but keys are still available as of writting (August 09).

    Another question that arises is the choice between a 32 and 64 bit OS, and personally I have not seen a good arguement for 64bit in a normal HTPC. So unless you are using far more than 4Gb and are running 64 bit apps there seems to be no real benefit. None of the software would be utilising its full potential, and 4Gb = 3.2Gb in 32 bit which is more than enough in a HTPC. Additionally, people have had troubles with codecs and 64 bit systems.

    ///// Keyboard & Remote \\\\\

    Most people use the Keysonic, which not only is cheap, but very useful. Looking like the bottom half of laptop it combines mouse and keyboard together in one unit.

    Those of you with more cash to flash or wanting to keep the keyboard unit on display should take a look at the Logitech DeVino range.

    Information required for Remotes, Harmony is a popular choice, as is the MCE remote.

    ///// HTPC Types \\\\\

    Now you know roughly what you need to buy, whats next? This is where your build path deviates - will you go Silent, Budget or Gaming, or a mixture of more than one?


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Silent HTPC Build


    This is the most obvious choice for starting a HTPC build and the one that I opted for. This is the choice for you if you want your HTPC to be as silent as a DVD player or simply less noisy than your current Sky+ or Freeview box.

    So how do you reduce noise?

    Firstly, look at how the component parts will fit within your case. Silence is a sum of all parts and the key is to get all parts contributing as minimum as possible to the overall total.

    A more budget (or even very expensive slimline) case can have some impact on airflow and airflow is quite important as you do not want trapped pockets of hot air within your case. One of the reasons a 780G/9400 board solution is mentioned many times is because it includes a 1080p capable graphics card meaning that a seperate card does not generate its own heat or become an airtrap.

    Heat generated by the CPU and GPU and other parts within your HTPC build can cause the fans of your case and CPU to increase their speed to increase airflow and reduce heat, and the byproduct of this is the increase of noise.

    ///// Heatsink \\\\\

    You can offset this in a few ways, firstly by replacing the heatsink with a better one such as the Sythe Mini Ninja:

    Scythe Mini Ninja Socket 478/775/754/939/940/AM2 Heatpipe Cooler - Ebuyer

    These dedicated heatsinks provide more efficient cooling through well designed heatsinks and/or fans that operate at far lower speeds with better construction.

    Fans mounted on heatsinks such as the Ninja push the air more directionally out towards the case fans as they are side mounted rather than draw the heat to the top of the case (as OEM heatsinks do) where there may be no ventilation.

    Heat drawn to the top of the case could be a problem to some people, who due to space reasons stack other AV kit on top of the HTPC, meaning this heat is then directed towards the base of that kit instead.

    ///// Case Fans \\\\\

    The humble fan can make a massive difference to the noise level of your HTPC. One of the important details of a case fan is CFM (Cubic Feet per Minute) or simply the airflow generated by the fan over time.

    The next detail is the db (decibels) - the sound level of the fan in question. As a rough guide, sub 20db becomes background noise, while 10db becomes more or less inaudible from a foot away. If a fan shovels air at 30CFM but has a db of 35 then its going to be noisy.

    The last factor to be taken into consideration is RPM (Revolutions Per Minute.) A smaller fan such as a 60mm one will have to make more revolutions to provide the same CFM as a larger fan and more likely to be noiser to keep up.

    Most good fans can provide an excellent combination of all three attributes to give maximum airflow with minimum noise levels, regardless of the size of the fan.

    Add to this that some fans even come with rubber grommets to minimise the vibration that could be caused between fan and case if they are screwed in, and you start to see why the humble fan is an important factor for anyone building a new HTPC.

    A selection of 80mm fans, ranging from £5 to £15:

    80mm Sharkoon 1000 "Golf Ball" Ultra Quiet 8.9 dB(A) Case Fan - 11.4 CFM - Scan.co.uk

    NF-R8 80mm Quiet Case Fan

    Red Wing 80mm Quiet Fan

    An example of replacing stock parts - On the left I have used a Mini ninja and 3 x 80cm 9db Sharkoon Golf Ball fans. The Golf Balls came with rubber Grommets as shown on the right.

    [IMGlink]http://castle-grounds.co.uk/htpc/images/fan_grommet.jpg[/IMGlink]

    ///// Other Components \\\\\

    Modular PSU - A modular PSU in your HTPC will help to elivate potential heat trap issues. A good PSU (which imho should always be chosen over something cheap) will normally have lots of connections and a HTPC may not use more than a few of them.

    A modular PSU will allow you to remove most of the extra cables allowing air to move more freely.

    Hard drives & vibration - Some HTPC cases come with rubber grommet mounts for drives, while some people have gone for more customised solutions, using either solid state drives (very expensive!) or using rubber string mountings on laptop 2.5" drives.

    Deksawyer used this method, check this post - just scroll past the cheese.. :D

    GPU with heatsink - If you use a GPU (for example if you have not gone for an onboard solution) and you are not gaming, look for a GPU that has a heatsink as a cooling option rather than a fan for the reasons explained above. They do run hotter, but have no fan to cause additional noise and most GPU fans are not the quietest of devices.

    If you do want something with a little more grunt, check the GPU section under the gaming section below.

    How does Silence effect the cost?

    The overall base cost of building a silent HTPC will probably increase by approx £150 for additional cooling (heatsink and case fans), a better/larger case and/or modular PSU.

    There is nothing to say that you have do everything mentioned though - a new heatsink and case fans at £30 to £40 increase in the base cost could make a vast improvement.


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Building on a Budget


    A budget build normally covers one or more of the following:

    • Reduce the cost of the case
    • Potentially sacrifice silent running by using stock parts
    • Reuse old parts (or buy from the Classified's)
    • Sacrifice gaming abilty

    ///// Case \\\\\

    The case is normally the first thing to be sacrificed to keep the cost down. I paid nearly £200 (without a PSU) for my case, but if its going into a cupboard or feed to a tv from under the stairs do you really need to spend that much money?

    For around £90 you can get an Antec HTPC case including the PSU which quite a few members here have used.

    NSK 2480-UK - Antec NSK2480-UK V2 Desktop Media Centre Case for uATX with 380W Earthwatts 80%+ Eff PSU - Scan.co.uk

    Of course to some who simply wants to try out a HTPC, £90 may make a huge dent in any budget, so something Extra Value Black Opera ATX Desktop Case 500W PSU (20+4 pin) - Ebuyer may be ideal.

    ///// Stock Cooling \\\\\

    This is simply using the fans supplied within the case bought, or perhaps using the heatsink that comes with the CPU. Although sacrificing the silence is normally the 'be all and end all' to some people bulding a HTPC, to others they just simply need their build to be quieter than their very noisy Sky+ or Freeview box while saving a few quid to buy a better CPU or Mobo.

    ///// Re-use old Parts \\\\\

    This is where the term budget blurs - You may have all the guts of a PC and need a few other parts to 'finish it all off.' Now a seemingly modest £300 budget only needs a case and perhaps a HDCP compliant GPU.

    Also, dont forget to check the Classified ads here at AVForums - you never know if someone is selling off a piece of kit due to an upgrade that may be just what you need.

    Computer Classified Adverts - AVForums.com

    Back in early 2008 (and still relevant now) Mickwall did quite a lot of research on the subject playing multiple files on different specs to come up with the below information. Check the information in his thread to see if your 'old parts' are up to the task. Please dont fool yourself into thinking you will get away with less than is advised - you are better off saving your beer money for a month or two longer and get the parts you may lack.

    From Mickwalls thread - "People always ask what the minimum spec is for a HTPC, here's what I believe.

    For Seperate motherboard/graphic card solutions: 2.0ghz dual core processor; 1gb ram (2gb preferable for Vista); A graphics card capable of decoding HD 3470+ series, plus Nvidia 8x00 series to name but a few). It also has to be HDCP compliant for Blu-Ray and HD-DVD playback.

    For integrated all in one solutions then its got to be: 780G Mobo; 2GB RAM; AMD Athlon 64 X2 4x50e "


    ///// Sacrifice Gaming Ability \\\\\

    Probably not a problem to most people - I use my HTPC for a spot of light Emulator gaming, there is nothing like blasting the cobwebs away with a spot of Robotron on a 40" screen and I am using a card (Ati 3470) that is comparable to the onboard solution of a 780G board.

    If you are re-using a motherboard, then you will be looking for a HDCP compliant GPU, which can be found easily for £30 or so.

    How does Budget effect the cost?

    You are reading this because you have a budget to stick to, but please do not skimp on the CPU or Mobo combo. Choose the AMD 780G board and AMD xx50e based AMD processor, even if this causes you to sacrifice the standard of case you wanted. You wont regret it!

    Stick with only 2Gb of RAM and drop the HD size to 320Gb or 500Gb rather than a 1Tb - you can add more drives later as cash becomes available. Use a standard DVD drive rather than Blu-Ray, drop the TV tuner card and with the points mentioned above you can reduce the base cost of a build by £150.

    Examples of Budget Builds

    Dave_Parki_UK - http://www.avforums.com/forums/home-cinema-pcs/948383-budget-htpc-build.html

    AndrewTaylorUK - http://www.avforums.com/forums/home-cinema-pcs/976156-turning-old-pc-into-media-centre-feasible.html

    willj12 - http://www.avforums.com/forums/home-cinema-pcs/978453-my-first-htpc.html

    chrisburns75 - http://www.avforums.com/forums/home...rns-attempts-another-fusion-780g-variant.html

    Sheepish [£280: Hiper Media Chassis; 780G & 4850e] - http://www.avforums.com/forums/home-cinema-pcs/983185-sheepishs-budget-slimline-htpc.html

    Hallsy [£295: Silverstone LC13 case] - http://www.avforums.com/forums/home-cinema-pcs/1032696-hallsys-htpc-budget-build-thread.html

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    HTPC gaming Build


    A Gaming based HTPC will normally change a build to incorparate the following, and is normally taken by those of you that want to game on your 40"+ TV's rather than having a seperate HTPC and Gaming PC or console.

    • Normally Intel based build
    • Gaming adds cost
    • Usually noiser (unless watercooling or 3rd party GPU fans)

    ///// Intel based Build \\\\\

    The normal solutions will probably be ignored as you have no use for an onboard GPU, and so can choose the best board and CPU combination that falls within your budget, and will be more likely looking at a Quad or high end Dual Core (E8xxx) CPU or even get an i7 board and CPU.

    ///// Cost Increase & Noise \\\\\

    The screen size of a 40" LCD will normally be 1920 x 1080 so dont kid yourself into thinking a £75 GPU will suffice. A PS3 does its 'high-res' gaming at 720p so you will want a card that can game better than a console, probably something like a 4870 or GTX260.

    Ignoring the cost of the card, the knock on effect of the card and its accompanying heat are likely to have implications regarding extra cooling (See the Silent HTPC section above with respect to Case fans and Heatsinks). GPUs get very hot and so have a fan thats pretty much on all the time which in turn generates heat inside the case. The case fans and heatsink have to work harder to shift that heat, which then generates the noise.

    So now that you understand the implications, take a look at 3rd party VGA cooling:

    Quiet PC UK - Quiet Graphics Card Coolers

    There is also the watercooling route - but I am not qualified enough to talk at any length about it. Razors HTPC build is a watercooled gaming rig monster (now an i7 build), and his recent thread on his new addition to his HTPC explains how to strip down a GPU and add a water cooling heatsink.

    http://www.avforums.com/forums/home-cinema-pcs/972521-razors-watercooled-silent-gaming-htpc.html

    ///// How does a Gaming build effect the cost? \\\\\

    Gaming is likely to add £500 to the overall base cost, bring the total cost to around £1000. The increased cost of an Intel build over the AMD build, a decent £200+ GPU, an upgraded case and PSU and all the additional cooling options you can get (dont forget the the GPU coolers) to help keep the noise and heat levels down.

    For watercooling, you are likely to need up to £900 more to the budget, £500 or so as indicated above, plus £400 for something like the Zalman unit and GPU block, bring the build total to approximately £1400.

    Other Gaming Builds

    kalababa - http://www.avforums.com/forums/home...ng-machine-loads-pictures-future-updates.html - A Silverstone LC20 case with i7 940 and a ATi 4890.

    ///// Further Reading \\\\\

    I have really only touched upon the surface for the details on a gaming HTPC here. For more detailed info on gaming with your HTPC, check Razors The Gaming HTPC Thread, where he gives advice on setting up a joypad for a more console like approach to gaming, more detail on recomended component parts and software to help optimise your build.

    He also gives far more detail on costings, and specs a few machines from low to ultra high budgets.
     
    Last edited: Aug 25, 2009
  3. Theydon Bois

    Theydon Bois
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    What frontend software is the best to use?

    This question is subject to personal taste really. A cop-out answer perhaps, but with some wonderful skins available for Media Centre or Media Portal, any one of them could suit your mood, room colour or simply the day of the week it happens to be when you decide.

    Below we as a forum have completed information on the the various frontends that could be used, as well as links to those members of AVForums that have used that specific frontend.

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Microsoft Media Centre
    Written by Stephen Neal

    Vista
    Vista Media centre is included for free with Vista Home Premium and Vista Ultimate.

    XP
    There is also a version of Windows XP, called Windows XP Media Center Edition, which includes the Media Center application and is heavily based on XP Professional. XP Media Center Edition, if still available, was only available as an OEM purchase - though it was opened up to small system builders (and widely available from Amazon, ebuyer, scan, dabs etc.)

    Media Center is not available as a separate purchase - it is only available bundled with the above OSs.

    Images supplied by dazza32

    [IMGlink]http://i125.photobucket.com/albums/p42/dazza32/VMCdvdlibary.jpg[/IMGlink]

    [IMGlink]http://i125.photobucket.com/albums/p42/dazza32/VMCdvdlibaryinfo-1.jpg[/IMGlink]

    Tuner Support
    As standard these support analogue OR digital terrestrial (aka Freeview) capture cards only, though they support two tuners to allow recording of two channels at the same time, or live viewing of one show whilst recording another. There are registry hacks to increase the number of tuners above 2. Media Center can support IR blasters to allow Sky or Cable set-top boxes to be remotely controlled by Media Center, and used with an analogue capture card.

    There are also some DVB-C (cable) and DVB-S (satellite) solutions that have specially written drivers that will pretend to be DVB-T (freeview) tuners and will work with Vista and XP Media Center with a bit of work (including encrypted services)

    Vista TV Pack
    There is an OEM-only (currently only available to big vendors it appears) additional upgrade for Vista Media Center, called Vista TV Pack, which adds much better support for MHEG5 "Press Red" interactivity on Freeview (and with a registry hack MHEG 5 interactive on Freesat as well) and also useful things like DVB Subtitles. It also adds native DVB-S (though not for encrypted content or DVB-S2) satellite reception. TV Pack also changes the Recorded TV format from DVR-MS to WTV (to allow things like subtitles to be recorded) - but many 3rd party apps are DVR-MS only at the moment. TV Pack - like Vista Media Center and XP Media Center - only supports MPEG2 TV broadcast, but TV Pack can be persuaded to display H264 (and thus BBC HD) with a hacked DLL, and ITV HD can also be received with the MHEG5 registry tweak. The TV pack fully supports multiple tuner types - so you can have both DVB-T and DVB-S tuners in the same install. Vista Home Premium is limited to 2 tuners of each type, whilst Ultimate allows 4 tuners of each type. The previous multi-tuner registry hacks no longer work AIUI.

    Remote Control
    The official Microsoft USB IR Media Center remote control and receiver (including IR Blaster), and the Philips model, are the best IR solutions for Media Center, many other 3rd party IR solutions have limitations (no alphabet entry or coloured button support for example)

    There are a number of excellent movie jukebox plug-ins for managing movie and TV show collections within Media Center, such as MyMovies and VideoBrowser.

    The Green Button
    The Green Button - Your Media Center Community has a very good guide to TV Pack and Vista Media Center and BBC HD as well as lots of useful discussions about various Media Center topics.

    Multi-room etc.
    Whilst it is not currently possible to stream Live TV from one Media Center to another, it IS possible to stream Live TV (and watch Recorded TV) on Media Center Extenders (from Linksys for example) or an Xbox 360. Extenders have much more limited codec support - and don't always play files that play happily on Media Center PCs. Cabled networking is recommended.

    Windows 7 also promises improved Media Center support, and is expected not to require hacks to support H264 broadcasts, and has improved facilities for sharing Recorded TV folders between networked Media Center PCs.

    Downloads

    Standby Tool - Added by thepharcyde

    Slick Solutions - MCE Standby Tool (MST) - Should resolve all standby issues, i.e. shutting down all fans. PC turns on/off in seconds.

    Builds using Vista Media Centre

    Tony Yates - http://www.avforums.com/forums/home-cinema-pcs/766885-htpc-sanity-check-me-build.html

    Stephen Neal - http://www.avforums.com/forums/home-cinema-pcs/869770-case-advice-second-htpc-build.html

    Deksawyer - deksawyer's Omaura TF8 hi-def slim media player build

    Huggy - http://www.avforums.com/forums/home-cinema-pcs/969270-huggys-first-htpc-build.html

    x1nick - http://www.avforums.com/forums/home-cinema-pcs/977227-my-1080p-htpc-build.html

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Vista Media Centre Mods - MediaBrowser

    Groove has written a supurb guide to getting this up and running on your VMC based HTPC, and has been very helpful in his posts to those needing that extra bit of info to get someone else up and running. If you did'nt quite like any of the MediaPortal skins and VMC does exactly what you want but love the fanart based skins, then read Grooves post and just look at the pictures below.

    Info from Groove - "Mediabrowser is a plugin for VMC. VMC is all still there, but MB is an option to launch from the standard VMC interface. So it doesnt replace it, just adds functionality to it."

    http://www.avforums.com/forums/home-cinema-pcs/938625-mediabrowser-running-customised-vmc.html

    Images supplied by Groove

    [IMGlink]http://www.iamgroove.co.uk/myimages/new%20mb/menu2.jpg[/IMGlink]

    [imglink]http://www.iamgroove.co.uk/myimages/new%20mb/cf1.jpg[/imglink]

    [imglink]http://www.iamgroove.co.uk/myimages/new%20mb/tv.jpg[/imglink]

    Builds using MediaBrowser

    Groove - http://www.avforums.com/forums/home-cinema-pcs/938625-mediabrowser-running-customised-vmc.html and http://www.avforums.com/forums/home-cinema-diy/592961-grooves-new-lounge-floating-wall-build.html

    Daveybryce - http://www.avforums.com/forums/home-cinema-pcs/985345-daveybs-htpc-7mc-upgrade-build-thread.html

    *Nov 09 Update* Davy is now running Media Browser on Windows 7. Link updated.

    "Windows 7 MCE has come long way since XP MCE and Vista MCE in terms of it's codec support, native DVB-S/S2 support and intuitive interface. The codec support list is vast and requires hardly any external codec packs and directshow filters to get it to work. So for a first time user it's ideal.

    My thread shows the overall look that can be acheived, using various applications and tips on software to use, also how to add in 3rd party codec support should you wish to do so. There are plenty of links on the first page to help you find things easily."
     
    Last edited: Nov 18, 2009
  4. Theydon Bois

    Theydon Bois
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    What frontend software is the best to use? ..Cont

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------
    MediaPortal


    Description
    [taken from their website]

    MediaPortal turns your PC / TV into a very advanced MediaCenter / HTPC. Our software allows you to listen to your favorite music & radio, watch and store your videos and DVDs, view, schedule and record live TV as a digital video recorder and much much more. You get MediaPortal as Open Source software. This means you can help in developing MediaPortal or tweak it for your own needs with lots of innovating plugins from our great community. Get your free copy of this outstanding mediacenter now!

    Description

    MediaPortal is not tied to any specific OS and so can be installed on top of XP or Vista in either 32 or 64 bit versions. The frontend is hugely customisable by simply choosing one of the many skins available; of which themselves can be modified by users or the developers offering different styled menu configurations.

    Add to this the multiple plugins that can be configured for anything from Youtube to RSS feeds, and you have something that should be able to cater to anyones needs.

    Some of the skin developers are now wrapping other plug-ins inside their skin - take for example StreamedMP, which includes the popular Moving Pictures and TVSeries plug-ins without the need for seperate configurations, which really does help the user bypass some of the more detailed setups.

    Screens below shown are the latest version of MediaPortal with the StreamedMP skin.

    [IMGlink]http://www.castle-grounds.co.uk/htpc/images/stream-menu.jpg[/IMGlink]

    [IMGlink]http://www.castle-grounds.co.uk/htpc/images/stream-mp-30days.jpg[/IMGlink]

    [IMGlink]http://www.castle-grounds.co.uk/htpc/images/stream-tv-24.jpg[/IMGlink]

    Downloads

    The latest version can be downloaded from the Media Portal website, which as of April 09 is version 1.0.1.

    Skins to customise the look and feel of Media Portal, such as StreamedMP, Monochrome, Aeon, Black & White etc can be found here.

    Popular Plug-ins for Media Portal, such as MyEmulators, myTV Series, Lastfm etc can be found here.

    Automatic refresh rate changer - Changes refresh rate depending on the framerate of the media selected.

    Satellite TV EPG over the air rather than via XML download - Added by timbow

    For The Record A scheduling program for MediaPortal.

    MPstandbyHandler - MediaPortal Forum - A program which enables the ability to record TV in MP on resume (by killing and resuming TVService). - Added by Bushbrother

    Configuration help

    Although referencing an older build of Media Portal, the guide from ProjectHTPC showing how to configure KMPlayer with MediaPortal is an excellent starting point and one that I mention frequently in my thread (although I neglected to add it here until it was pointed out to me, thanks Whisler!). This guide is what got me starting the combination of the two software apps, and I cant see a reason for me changing this. Highly recomended.

    Builds using Media Portal

    Theydon Bois - [Zalman 160+ Case; E6600 + ASUS P5B; ATi 3470; Windows Vista] - http://www.avforums.com/forums/home-cinema-pcs/718709-theydons-htpc-pc-upgrade-project.html

    Maxamus - Using a custom Monochrome skin; Internal MP player; DVD playback; No TV card used.

    Whisler - http://www.avforums.com/forums/home-cinema-pcs/779572-htpc-not-htpc-my-question.html

    DPM - http://www.avforums.com/forums/home-cinema-pcs/727418-building-my-first-htpc.html

    KMark40 - http://www.avforums.com/forums/home-cinema-pcs/809318-total-hd-htpc-build-4.html

    CallMeSteve - http://www.avforums.com/forums/home-cinema-pcs/906075-my-monster-htpc-build-thread.html

    BushBrother - http://www.avforums.com/forums/home...-htpc-build-5050e-780g-mobo-antec-fusion.html

    FoxUK - http://www.avforums.com/forums/8329994-post11.html

    srv128 - http://www.avforums.com/forums/home-cinema-pcs/975351-my-first-htpc-build.html

    Ninja 12 - [Silverstone CW02; AMD 780G + 5050e; Windows XP] - http://www.avforums.com/forums/home...htpc-build-warning-long-thread-lots-pics.html

    bjarvis2785 - [HTPC/CCTV build] - http://www.avforums.com/forums/home-cinema-pcs/984828-htpc-cctv-build.html

    yetanotherbob - [Fusion Max case, Intel build] - http://www.avforums.com/forums/home-cinema-pcs/984164-bobs-having-bash-htpc.html

    beaniator - [CW02 case, AMD6400+, 8800GTS] - http://www.avforums.com/forums/home-cinema-pcs/991232-my-htpc-build.html
     
    Last edited: May 26, 2009
  5. Theydon Bois

    Theydon Bois
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    What frontend software is the best to use? ..Cont

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Meedios


    Description

    Meedio is a very powerful and configurable Home Theatre front-end for your PC.Official releases have since ceased and the official forums abandoned. The vibrant developer community have moved here and the activity has only increased. We now have over 450 freeware plugins for Meedio, as well as numberous other projects.

    MeediOS | Bringing Media to Life

    Images supplied by emotionaltrout

    Movie Detail View

    [IMGlink]http://i323.photobucket.com/albums/nn461/emotionaltrout/FilmDetails-2.jpg[/IMGlink]

    Movie Thumbs View

    [IMGlink]http://i323.photobucket.com/albums/nn461/emotionaltrout/ThumbsView-1.jpg[/IMGlink]

    TV Shows view

    [IMGlink]http://i323.photobucket.com/albums/nn461/emotionaltrout/tvshows.jpg[/IMGlink]

    Builds using Meedios

    EmotionalTrout - http://www.avforums.com/forums/home-cinema-pcs/979386-my-meedio-htpc.html

    http://www.avforums.com/forums/home-cinema-pcs/779572-htpc-not-htpc-my-question.html

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------
    No FrontEnd​



    Description

    Some people prefer the use of no frontend at all, either due to their expectations of the software, or that one version does not cater for all their needs, or why bother when you can simply pick from within Windows Explorer?

    Builds using No Frontend

    Mickwalls Build Mk2 - The most popular base build, Mickwall uses the 780G AMD solution in a Fusion case, which people then add a Blu-Ray drive and a frontend to.

    Razor
     
    Last edited: Apr 29, 2009
  6. Theydon Bois

    Theydon Bois
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    DVBViewer - Information written by Presuming Ed [Please post your thanks here]

    Put as simply as I can, DVBViewer is a PVR solution for Windows. It's like Sky+ for Windows. Compared to, say, Mediaportal, DVBViewer is very strong when it comes to viewing or recording satellite and terrsetrial TV. However, if you built your HTPC as a film library and player, then the Mediaportal / XBMC path is probably more suited to you. On saying that, DVBViewer does play all those files, and there is now a movie library / fanart generator in alpha.

    [Mod Comment Theydon Bois] - Nov 09 Images sadly inactive.

    http://i602.photobucket.com/albums/tt104/_presuming_ed/Casino.jpg

    Why I chose DVBViewer

    A full DVB-S,DVB-S2,DVB-T, DVD, MPEG-2, AVI, h264 and Bluray media player
    Comprehensive HTPC media player with skinnable interface
    Recording service - a background Windows service which schedules and handles recordings, offering a web interface for remote EPG, timers and recordings access
    Built-in support for UK Freesat and Freeview EPGs

    DVBViewer is not free software, however the full version only costs around £15. After that all updates, plugins, add-ons are freely available. Similarly to most other clients available, specific codecs, especially h264 ones, will have to be sourced separately.

    Its main strength lies in its PVR capabilities. This is the area where its developers place the most emphasis and it shows - I haven't seen anything else come close. Following is a list of reasons why I prefer it to everything else I've tried.

    Advanced automatic EPG search and timer population

    For me this is better than series link. I've created several EPG search entries which the system uses as a basis for recording programmes as and when it encounters them in the EPG. It automatically downloads and updates the EPG whenever I'm watching any Freesat channel (or as a daily 1 minute task if I want it to) so is always working 8 days ahead. Therefore at any time I can see what programmes it's set to record over the next week. There are several fields I can use to narrow down the searches - it will add programmes to the timer list based on text string in title, subtitle or description, specific channel, multiple channels or all channels, day of the week, time window and so on. In basic terms, it records my favourite programmes for me and I don't have to do a thing.

    http://i602.photobucket.com/albums/tt104/_presuming_ed/epg2.jpg

    Full PVR functionality

    Everything you'd expect if you're used to Sky+. Pause, rewind, record, 4 differently structured EPG interfaces all at the touch of a button. Additionally, compared to Sky+ it'll record all of the BBC interactive channels and ITV HD. Viewing encrypted channels is not straightforward and requires extra hardware as well as a valid Sky subscription.

    http://i602.photobucket.com/albums/tt104/_presuming_ed/HTPCmenu.jpg

    HTPC interface

    The interface (or 'OSD' as it's called in DVBViewer world) is intuitive and stylish. I can do anything from set a programme to record to view Xvid, h264, MPEG2 files over a network connection, read RSS feeds, check the weather and listen to music. It's skinnable and there are some very well crafted skins available, including a (XBMC) MediaStream port. My favourite is Concinnity 3D.

    http://i602.photobucket.com/albums/tt104/_presuming_ed/BBCHD.jpg

    Multi-tuner support

    DVBViewer will support as many DVB-S, DVB-S2 and DVB-T tuners as I can throw at it. Terrestrial and Freeview channels can be mixed together in the EPG to present one group of all channels to the viewer.

    Streaming to LAN clients

    DVBViewer recording service has a built in uPnP media streamer which enables it to stream either recordings or live TV and radio channels to any uPnP compatible LAN client. I therefore do not have to watch my recordings on the box I recorded them on. Additionally, I can have all my satellite and terrestrial cabling taken to one point, then install DVBViewer on other PCs in the house and watch TV on them as if the cables were directly connected. Using this method, the recording service can also manage all my tuners, ensuring that there is one available for any imminent recording.

    Peripheral support

    I haven't come across an HTPC peripheral it doesn't support yet. My Hauppauge remote control works it nicely and my iMon LCD panel shows me what channel I'm on, programme I'm watching, song I'm listening to etc.

    The main area where it loses out to Mediaportal and similar applciations is the library functionality. While it will happily explore local and network drives in the HTPC interface and use icons I specify for movie folder icons, it doesn't have the library functionality that XBMC and Mediaportal enjoy. Personally that's not a major factor, DVBViewer still plays the film and does it well.

    So by way of a quick summary, I'd strongly recommend DVBViewer to anyone whose primary requirement from an HTPC is to replace a Sky+ or Freesat+ box. However, if your HTPC is going to be a media player then DVBViewer is probably not for you.
     
    Last edited: Nov 18, 2009
  7. Theydon Bois

    Theydon Bois
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    What other software should I be looking at?

    This section covers software that is not related to the frontend, including Image mounting tools and media players such as KMPlayer or PowerDVD to play Blu-Ray disks.

    Software titles in Green are free, other software listed requires payment of sorts (one off or yearly payments.)


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Utilities


    Any DVD & Any DVD HD Added by thepharcyde

    Any DVD & Any DVD HD - AnyDVD works in the background to automatically remove the copy protection of a DVD movie as soon as it's inserted into the drive, allowing you then to backup the movie using a DVD backup tool such as CloneDVD and CloneDVD mobile. You can also remove the RPC region code, thereby making the movie region free and viewable on any DVD player and with any DVD player software.

    It also can help overcome some HDCP issues. It comes in two versions, Standard and HD

    A 21 day full software trial is available.

    TVRename

    TVRename and TVRename User Guide.

    - Ability to parse folders for TV shows and download info from thetvdb
    - Ability to rename files to the same format used by thetvdb (this is very useful for the MPTV series plugin for media portal)
    - Highlights missing episodes / seasons
    - Includes a calendar showing when programmes are due to air
    - Integrate the programme into an RSS feed for vista sidebar.

    NatBur's TV Renamer

    NatBurs is another simple TV renaming tool, and one that can be used to monitor folders or simply rename individual titles.

    It works by accessing the tvdb.com database and matches season and episode details to the episodes given title. You can also create 'masks' to apply the episode detail as you see fit.

    Deamon Tools Lite

    Deamon Tools is a virtual drive emulator and creates a virtual CD drive which enables you to mount ISO images. This is used to trick a PC into thinking an psyical disk (Anything from a normal CD to Blu-ray) has been inserted into the machine which you can then train to autoplay with the software of your choice.

    Deamon tools has an advantage over VCD (see below) for people using Media Portal as DT is intergrated into the software.

    Please make sure you get the Lite version of Deamon tools, as other versions contained an annoying toolbar.

    Slysoft Virtual Clone Drive

    Another Virtual Drive Emulator, Slysofts Virtual Clone Drive is rated higher than Deamon tools quite often, without taking into consideration that its made by Slysoft (who have the habit of actually listening to their customer base.)

    The latest version (June 09) has a Deamon Tool emulator, meaning that it can be incorporated into a MediaPortal build for instance.

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Players


    VLC Player - Added by thepharcyde

    The VLC Player is a player capable of playing AVI/MKV 720p & 1080p/DVD's (excluding Bluray/HD-DVD Discs) that will decode sound and video in one simple program.

    KMPlayer

    KMplayer is imho one of the best media players in recent years, having many built in codecs and native support for all kinds of media playback files such as .mvk, .avi, .mov and .mp4. It is also simple to apply external codecs such as CoreAVC as well, to help offload CPU load.

    Its current build version is 1434, dated December last year, although the forums are still kept up to date.

    It is used by many of the MediaPortal builds as it seemlessly blends in with the frontend software, and has a very well managed menu, customisable keys for remote binding, and more options and configurations that you can shake a stick at.

    SlyPlayer

    Just added for reference, as its not been released as of 25th August 09, but could just blow everything out of the water if/when it arrives. With reports of HD-DVD playback (although possibly without menu structure) it could help lots of people who either bought too early into the market, or those like me that took advantage of firesales and HMV to stock up on cheap HiDef content.

    http://forum.slysoft.com/showthread.php?t=28240

    Some quotes from James:


    See here for more updates on feature lists and possible release dates.

    PowerDVD

    PowerDVD is software to playback your DVD collection, whether SD (Normal DVDs) or Hidef (Blu-Ray and HD-DVD). PowerDVD currently is being used across three different versions due to the removal of HD-DVD playback from versions 8 & 9.

    Version 7: Included with the LG Combi drive, although as a cut down version, PowerDVD 7 allows HD-DVD playback out of the box and Blu-Ray.

    Version 8: An updated version which added some extra components including Moovie Live. HD-DVD playback was dropped from version 8, although there where some workarounds in how to get this to work. I had this running happily for a while, but with constant updates from Cbyerlink to enable newer Blu-rays to play, this workaround eventually stopped working. I believe 8 was quite quickly superceeded in favour of version 9.

    Version 9: No HD-DVD playback. They have included a kind of frontend into the application as well as modifications to improve the quality of SD material.

    Trial versions do not allow Hi-def playback.

    WinDVD

    Trial versions do not allow Hi-def playback.

    AVForum member Description needed

    Arcsoft Total Media Theatre

    Arcsoft TMT is another DVD playback suite of software that can handle Blu-ray playback, which also allows intergration within Vista Media Centre. Gvers has a guide here on the software, to detail more info on its capabilities.

    http://www.avforums.com/forums/home-cinema-pcs/989042-guide-arcsoft-totalmedia-theatre-aka-tmt.html
     
    Last edited: Aug 25, 2009
  8. Theydon Bois

    Theydon Bois
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    Which Codec's Should I install?

    This covers the wonderful world of codecs and how they can improve the look and performance of your HTPC during playback. The following threads will be helpful to you and dont forget to say thanks in their respective owners threads. :smashin:

    ---------

    http://www.avforums.com/forums/home-cinema-pcs/959403-video-playback-basics.html - By Jameson_UK.

    This guide is largely for those using Windows Media Player (WMP), Windows Media Centre Edition (MCE), Vista Media Centre (VMC) and MediaPortal (MP) but the concepts are generic across all players.

    ---------

    HTPC Codecs & Players - Help and Configuration - By Mickwall.

    ---------

    http://www.avforums.com/forums/home...ial-mkv-mp4-via-64bit-vista-media-centre.html - This thread contains an excellent guide from x1nick with plenty of step by step instructions.

    ---------
     
    Last edited: Mar 19, 2009
  9. jameson_uk

    jameson_uk
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    Audio Playback

    Until fairly recently with the advent of HD formats and new (HDMI) connection, audio for your HTPC used to be quite simple. You had standard stereo and then they added 5.1 surround in the form of Dolby Digital (DD) and Digital Theater System (DTS) and that was it. Now you have all sort of audio formats and many different combinations of hardware which can lead to confusion. The hardware here is not just the HTPC but can include TV, amps and receivers which all offer different options.

    With video things are easier, you decode the video on your HTPC and pass the decoded video out in a standard format to your TV. You can replace your TV and it will have no impact on your HTPC. Audio muddies the water a little in that some decoding can be handed off from the HTPC to an external amp. This gets more confusing as the same signal could also be decoded on the HTPC and then output to the same amp in a different format.

    So in order to try and put this all together let us look at the different types of connections as this is the first part of the jigsaw.

    Analogue Connections
    These connections are either 3.5mm stereo jack or phono connections. In the simplest case you can connect the output from one of these outputs straight to your TV or amp using a standard headphone to red/white phono lead (the same as you would use to connect an iPod to an amp).

    These connections are capable of just about any output from low quality stereo to 7.1 HD soundtracks (*)

    The thing to remember about these connections is that all decoding is done on the HTPC; hence you will need codecs installed for all the audio formats you want to decode.

    One big plus of this connection is that if you have an older amp with analogue inputs then you can send any signal you can decode on to your HTPC to your amp. (hence in theory you can send HD audio to an older amp with 5.1 analogue inputs(*))

    One negative is that the digital to analogue conversion is done by the DACs on your soundcard. Depending on the quality of the DACs on your soundcard this might not be a great idea.

    To get this option working you normally need to set your speaker settings in both Windows and your player to 5.1 /7.1

    Optical / Coaxial
    Although optical (TOSLINK) and coaxial audio connections may appear very different they both actually send the same signal (S/PDIF) and for our purposes here are identical. Most motherboards tend to have an S/PDIF output from the onboard soundcard and this is usually sufficient for most Home Cinema setups.

    S/PDIF is capable of sending 2 channels of uncompressed audio (2.0 PCM) or a DD/DTS bitstream. This means that if your amp is capable of decoding DD or DTS signals that you can output them straight from your HTPC to your amp and it will handle the decoding and the DACs in the amp will be used.

    Normally to set this up you need to set your speaker settings in your player to SPDIF and it will all happen automatically (normally does not matter what speaker settings you use in Windows)

    HDMI
    This is where things have gotten a little messy recently. HDMI is a standard connector but having a HDMI connection does not imply any functionality for audio. The capabilities of various HDMI connections in terms of audio range from none (eg. most Nvidia dedicated cards) to S/PDIF (eg. the 780G motherboards) to 8 channels of uncompressed audio (eg. Geforce 9400 motherboards and ATI 4xxx/5xxx dedicated cards) to HD audio bitstreams (Asus Xonar HDAV 1.3).

    HDMI is the only digital connection capable of carrying HD Audio. HD audio is a fairly complex area so if you want to know more, read the FAQ
     
    Last edited: Dec 16, 2009
  10. Theydon Bois

    Theydon Bois
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    TV Card Info - Written by Wolvers [Please direct any thanks to this thread]

    Overview
    Adding a TV tuner card can transform you HTPC from a simple device just for storing and playing all of your media to a fully functional ‘Personal Video Recorder’ and media device that all of the family can use and enjoy.
    There are now lots of free to air channels that are available, through your aerial or satellite dish, so why not take advantage of this and build up a collection of all of your favourite TV shows and make sure you never miss another episode of Freaky Eaters! For those too busy to sit down and watch them you can even take your recordings on the road with you, watching them on your laptop, netbook, in-car DVD player or even your mobile phone.

    Broadcast Standards
    The two ways of receiving Digital Video Broadcasting (DVB) to consider are DVB-T (terrestrial through an aerial) and DVB-S (through a satellite dish). If you have an aerial, that’s capable of receiving DVB, connecting it to your TV card is as simple as plugging it into another TV or set top box. With an existing satellite dish, a 4 or 8 way LNB will allow you to connect more tuners.
    Analogue TV signals are going to be phased out in the next few years so there’s no real point in building your system to receive it, unless of course that’s the only signal you can currently receive.
    Future DVB standards will include DVB-T2, high definition terrestrial broadcasts, and DVB-S2, high definition satellite broadcasts, which are backwards compatible. While you may see DVB-S2 cards on sale now, it isn’t broadcast in the UK yet and isn’t necessary to receive the high definition channels that are already available.

    Hardware
    The choice of TV tuner cards available today is wide and varied and there should be something out there to suit most HTPC builds. Both DVB-T and DVB-S cards are available in PCI, PCI-E and USB as well as full and half height cards. Also available are ‘hybrid’ cards, that can receive more than one broadcast standard, and dual tuner cards that allow you to record one channel while watching another (or record two channels at the same time).
    Here are some examples of popular TV tuner cards;

    Hauppauge NOVA-T-500 (dual DVB-T / PCI)
    image should show two RF connectors

    [​IMG]


    NOVA-HD-S2 (single DVB-S2 / PCI)

    [​IMG]

    Blackgold BGT3540 (dual DVB-S / dual DVB-T / dual analogue / PCI-E)

    [​IMG]


    One thing to consider when purchasing a tuner card if you’re already using, or plan to use, XPMCE, Vista or Windows7 in your HTPC is compatibility with Windows Media Centre. Check the manufacturer’s website for details or look for the logo on the box.

    Software
    Arguably, the simplest and best software you can use with your new tuner card is Windows Media Centre. If you already have your HTPC running XPMCE, Vista or Windows7 then you have all of the software you’ll need for a fully functional PVR and media centre that’s simple and intuitive to control. As long as your hardware is fully compatible then all you may need to do is install the latest drivers and follow the TV tuner set up wizard. MCE will download the latest guide listings for you too, although sometimes they do require a little tweaking.
    The MCE interface is designed to be used with the Microsoft remote control and is very simple to use.

    Guide and OSD in Windows7 (incl 'My Channel Logos')

    [​IMG]




    [​IMG]




    One of the problems with MCE is its lack of updates. Because of its integral nature, significant upgrades only happen when a new version of the complete operating system is released. Of course this means the expense of purchasing a new license.
    The ‘TV Pack’ was released for Vista in 2008, bringing with it DVB-S, multi tuner compatibility and HD channels, but was only officially released to OEMs and as such isn’t supported by Microsoft. These features were added to the beta builds of Win7 and it is believed that they will stay for the retail release. DVB-S can be used in Vista’s Media Centre as some manufacturers supply a driver for their cards that convinces Media Centre that you’re using a DVB-T card. This works well, although no HD channels are available like this.

    Other PVR Software

    WinTV is an example of one of the software suites that is supplied with a tuner card; in this case WinTV comes with Hauppage hardware. Some of the advantages of using the software that arrives in the box are regular updates (with new features for example), better support and guarantee compatibility. Another example would be Compro DTV which is supplied with Compro Videomate tuner cards.

    If you’re not happy with MCE, or the software that comes with your hardware, it’s also worth checking out 3rd party apps like DVBViewer, ProgDVB, My Theatre and Dream DVB.


    Insert excellent DVB viewer info by Presuming Ed?


    High Definition Channels

    With HD ready and Full HD televisions becoming more and more popular, it was just a matter of time before high definition channels became more freely available. There are currently four high definition and free to air channels in the UK of which only three are available via Free-Sat. BBCHD and LuxeTV are simple to receive, and should be picked up by your software’s channel scan, but ITVHD is a little more complicated to tune in to as it’s broadcast as a ‘red button’ channel (see the link below). Unfortunately, at this time, Channel 4HD is only available through Sky, although they state on their website that it will be available on other platforms in the future.

    Instructions for receiving ITVHD in Win7
    iTV HD in windows Media Center 7 - Hauppauge UK Forum

    Further information and discussion regarding Sky through DVB-S cards:
    http://www.avforums.com/forums/windows/1265186-howto-sky-through-dvb-s-card-within-mce-part-3-a.html
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 9, 2010
  11. Theydon Bois

    Theydon Bois
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    Thanks for reading!

    The HTPC sticky is nearly done but there will always be revisions made, and I am still missing a few things to make it complete, and so need your help. :thumbsup:

    - Details for anywhere you see AVForum member Description needed such as entries for WinDVD. I dont want a link back to the manufacturer, or a cut and paste of their blurb, I could have done that. I want your opinion. Why do you use it?

    - Details for other places that are already filled in. Have I made an error? Is an entry out of date in some way? Let me know.

    - If you are new to the world of HTPC's, was this thread useful? Is there a question that you feel was not answered by this thread?

    Either add some info to the http://www.avforums.com/forums/home-cinema-pcs/974077-htpc-sticky-needs-you.html or post in this thread below and I will address your question and make sure others do not need to ask again either.

    Now pat yourself on the back, grab a coffee, and start your own build thread. You are obviously entitled to create your build thread in any manner you see fit (within the AVForum rules, natch) but these following questions may help you add more depth to your thread.
    I hope to add more questions later but this should start you off, and most importantly, dont forget to say thanks for any that do help you in your threads.

    Again, thank you for taking the time to read all of this and I hope that the sticky helps you to build your own HTPC! :smashin:

    - Theydon Bois

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    HTPC FAQ Revisions

    August 2009

    • Updated main FAQ: More amedments and formatting to various posts within the guides.
    • Removed Windows 7 link for download as it has expired, updated Slyplayer info with what is known.
    • More Notes to convert
    • 24k+ Hits!

    June 2009

    • Updated main FAQ: More amedments and formatting to various posts within the guides.
    • Added Windows 7 links
    • Added Wolvers TV Card guide
    • 18k+ Hits

    May 2009

    • Updated main FAQ: More amedments and formatting to various posts within the guides.
    • Added DVBViewer, a PVR solution for Windows: Written by Presuming Ed
    • Added info on the KMplayer, and details on the possible player from Slysoft, Slyplayer.
    • FAQ Views just under 16.5k [24/05/09]

    April 2009

    • Software Section: Changed layout, added information on: Deamon Tools; Slysoft Virtual Clone Drive; PowerDVD
    • Jameson adds brilliant post on Hi-Def Sound formats and how to achive them.
    • Added images for Meedios from Emotional Trout
    • Updated main FAQ: Added links to some more kit; added section about Classifieds; Reworded Intel / Gaming build; Header changes;
    • FAQ Views hit 14k+ [28/04/09]
     
    Last edited: Aug 25, 2009
  12. Theydon Bois

    Theydon Bois
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    To add

    http://www.avforums.com/forums/home-cinema-pcs/1044943-guide-how-build-htpc.html


    http://www.avforums.com/forums/home-cinema-pcs/1042509-black-levels-colour-spaces-confusion.html


    http://www.avforums.com/forums/home-cinema-pcs/1013271-jonlads-first-htpc-build.html

    http://www.avforums.com/forums/home-cinema-pcs/977227-my-1080p-htpc-build.html

    http://www.avforums.com/forums/home-cinema-pcs/1045329-budget-build-htpc-mediaportal.html

    http://www.avforums.com/forums/home-cinema-pcs/1043009-builds-my-first-htpc.html

    Note from Bmullan:

    Hopefully their next product will be as good:

    http://www.avforums.com/forums/home...de-make-ac3-5-1-through-spdif-work-vista.html
     
    Last edited: Aug 9, 2009
  13. tux99

    tux99
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    I would like to add the following link to this very useful (but rather Windows centric ;) ) guide, which is about choosing a good motherboard for a Linux HTPC (XBMC, MythTV with VDPAU support):

    LinuxTECH.NET - Best Linux HTPC Motherboards

    It also contains an example build with parts list of a HTPC that would work great with XBMC and MythTV.
     
  14. Theydon Bois

    Theydon Bois
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    Additional TV Card info for Windows 7

    Tuner cards that work with Windows 7 Media Center - http://thegreenbutton.com/forums/t/67677.aspx


     
    Last edited: Aug 25, 2009
  15. Theydon Bois

    Theydon Bois
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  16. Daveybryce

    Daveybryce
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    Theydon ole chap, could you change the quoted text under my build link to....

    "Windows 7 MCE has come long way since XP MCE and Vista MCE in terms of it's codec support, native DVB-S/S2 support and intuitive interface. The codec support list is vast and requires hardly any external codec packs and directshow filters to get it to work. So for a first time user it's ideal.

    My thread shows the overall look that can be acheived, using various applications and tips on software to use, also how to add in 3rd party codec support should you wish to do so. There are plenty of links on the first page to help you find things easily."
     
  17. Manni01

    Manni01
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    Great thread, thanks!
    You may want to add a section about MyMovies, as it's one of the best front ends I know. It's an add-on for Media Centre, which can also be used as a very powerful collection management only (for example if you have a dedicated Media Player, for which it can generate tags).

    Here is a link: My Movies - Home

    They have just released a new version which works great in Win7.
     
    Last edited: Nov 27, 2009
  18. huxley

    huxley
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    Great thread.
    Bit of info with regards to daemon tools
    Deamon Tools Lite as good as it is has a nasty side effect with a system using anydvd to rip discs.
    It grinds to a halt when ripping.
    This is down to the SPTD driver Daemon tools uses.
    Users having this problem should run the uninstaller DuplexSecure - Downloads
    And switch to virtual clone drive instead.
     
  19. Davyhulme

    Davyhulme
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    Hello,

    Very grateful for all the effort you've put in...

    Is it the unearthly hour or is Deamon Tools actually spelt Daemon Tools?

    Cheers,
     
  20. huxley

    huxley
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    Indeed it is :hiya:
     
  21. 0ldfart

    0ldfart
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    This thread is out of date. AMD arent making athlon I cpu's any more. The Athlon II 'e's are not covered. No mention 5 series radeons (bitstreaming audio). Windows 7 is no longer in RC stage. No feature about 7MC in Microsoft Media Center section. Nothing about Clarkdale. There are more recent/silent hsf's than Ninja Mini. "builds using Mediaportal" are 18 months old - most of these parts are no longer being made. Codec installs are different for 7MC than for previous OS's because of its x264 and mpeg 2 inclusions. Nothing about SSD's. Info about WHS would also be useful.


    It needs some attention if you can spare the time :)
     
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2010
  22. Daveybryce

    Daveybryce
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    Hey oldfart,

    The Mods know it's out of date, however there is a good chance that we will be getting a Wiki page where this stuff can go along with the updated post to go here.

    You are right that there is soo much stuff that needs to added/removed but all in time.
     
  23. 0ldfart

    0ldfart
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    In that case, would it be possible to put a disclaimer at the top, to alert n00bs to this?

    It seems that its still being referenced in current threads and new system builders may not know a P4 from a core i7.

    Out of date info probably isnt doing them any favours while the Wiki is being set up :)
     
    Last edited: Jan 24, 2010
  24. jameson_uk

    jameson_uk
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  25. 0ldfart

    0ldfart
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    Im in the process of writing a guide for the MediaPortal Forum. Please PM me if there are any sections you would like me to contribute to the FAQ here.
     
  26. Theydon Bois

    Theydon Bois
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    Yep it is in need of an overhaul - 780G is more or less defunct and its possible that the i5 661 could take over (or one of the other media enabled chips) - and as Jameson says we need the help to do so.

    It takes someone to be able to collate all that new data and process it the way I did, and let me tell you, it took a very very long time. This flew by when I was looking to build myself, or trying things on a new HTPC, but mine is pretty stable, and I am very happy with it and unless someone I know wants me to build one I will be back here reading someone else's collated data.....:D
     
  27. 0ldfart

    0ldfart
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    The Guide I referred to above is finished. I have taken a different tack to Theydon's, focusing on general principles of quiet HTPC building, rather than specifics of hardware. The idea being that when the Guide dates, it should be able to be updated with minimal editing. I didnt want to replicate the information in Renethx's thread, as he has already covered a lot of ground and I didnt want to repeat work that had already been done.

    If anyone's interested to have a look, the thread is HERE. Feedback appreciated via PM if anyone has any suggestions.

    Still happy to contribute here if anyone wants a hand.

    Cheers :)
     
  28. jameson_uk

    jameson_uk
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  29. Daveybryce

    Daveybryce
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  30. Iccz

    Iccz
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    There hasn't been any more progress on it yet, but once I'm back from Scotland (going on Friday coming back on Tuesday), I'll be making a push to get this up and running, adding some basic content and hopefully testing it to make sure it is ready for going "live".

    I think once we've got the initial shunt to get it moving we should make quick progress.
     

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