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Thinking About Building An HTPC

Discussion in 'Desktop & Laptop Computers Forum' started by admay, Jul 27, 2005.

  1. admay

    admay
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    I have been following various threads concerning the forthcoming Freeview/HDD/DVD recorders and on several occasions contributors have commented ‘of course you could always build a HTPC'. Now I have not previously considered an HTPC but thinking about it, if it will give me the same functionality then it is something that I might contemplate.

    My requirements are:

    • Freeview reception, including radio. Twin tuners would be nice but not essential
    • Record programs to HDD and be able to pause and rewind live TV
    • Play DVDs - multiregion because I have both region 1 and 2 discs
    • Archive recorded programs to DVD (preferably double layer) in a format that can be played on a standard DVD player.
    • VGA output to feed a Panasonic PWD7 display, no need for composite or TV out. A single connection between the AV stack and display is highly desirable.
    • Optical (or possibly coaxial) digital audio out to feed to an external processor. Probably no need for analogue audio.
    • Single integrated front end for all of these functions, ideally not requiring the monitor to be turned on if not necessary, e.g. for listening to radio. Something that completely hides the fact that it is a windows machine.
    • No plans for Sky but might get cable at some point in the future.

    Is this feasible?

    I don't play games and would rather use a high-resolution monitor on a standard PC for Internet access so this would be entirely audio/video based machine. Is there a Linux based software solution that would provide this or would I need to look at Windows MCE. I have built PCs before so the hardware is no problem to me but I am not familiar with any of the software options (yet).

    Finally, how long does a typical HTPC like this take to boot, either from cold or standby or is it usually left running 24/7?

    Any guidance you can give will be much appreciated, even if it is just to tell me that it can't be done and to wait for the Freeview/HDD/DVD boxes to arrive.

    Thanks,

    Andrew
     
  2. lisag

    lisag
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    Well, it is certainly possible but... if that is all you want to use it for I am worndering whether it is going to be an expensive and time consuming route for you in comparison to a stand alone Freeview PVR... are they available yet with HDD/DVD ethernet port?

    I would suggest that if you want to do this as a hobby, with the option to tweak endlessly and achieve awesome picture quality and upgrade in the future then go for a HTPC - if you just want to plug it in and it will work, then go for a PVR.

    What is your budget? A HTPC from scratch is going to cost at least £600 I would guess (with a nice case, and quiet components).

    Be interesting to see what others think....

    lisa
     
  3. owain_thomas

    owain_thomas
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    I think lisa has hit the nail right on the head. building an HCPC from scratch is not a five minute job, but can certainly be very satisfying and gives you a good level of customisability and can bring phenomenal quality.

    the PVR section would worry me a bit. I use a freeview card (nebula digitv) and it does a great job of scheduled recordings, it doesn't permenantly cache the incoming stream though so you don't have access to rewind as you do with, say, sky+. It does allow you to pause TV though so this aspect should work ok.

    as far as boot up times go, I leave mine on 24/7 and have not seen any good reasons to not do so.
     
  4. probedb

    probedb
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    Just a note about freeview radio is that Windows MCE 2005 doesn't use the radio stations as far as I'm aware, just the TV.
     
  5. admay

    admay
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    I was initially looking at something like the Panasonic DMR-EH60 but following comments about the recently released TUCT-100 I started to wonder whether it would really do everything as well as I wanted. Following some research I started to contemplate a HTPC solution because:
    • Higher quality video and the ability to output at the Plasma's native resolution
    • Easier to upgrade in stages, e.g. adding blu-ray drive without having to replace the whole unit
    • Possibility of twin-tuners - something that even the promised crop of Freeview/HDD/DVD boxes don't offer
    That's a shame, having used a TiVo a couple of times that is something that I was looking forward to.
    Not ideal but I could probably live with that. What about a Linux solution like mythTV though?

    I have also noticed that Windows MCE seems to record in a proprietary format. Will this cause problems burning to DVD for use in other players? Anyone any experience?

    Oh, and budget? Something not excessive but would allow more than the expected cost of the equivalent PVR/DVD, say around UKP750ish.

    Andrew
     
  6. lisag

    lisag
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    MCE does allow you to pause and rewind live tv.

    You could have the PC do radio, but would probably be outside of the MCE interface, unless you do streaming over the internet with one of the online plug-ins.

    If you use something other than MCE, then there probably is a solution that will allow you to do everything, but I have only used MCE personally.

    I don't burn many things to DVD but there are numerous plug-ins to allow you to convert the DVR-MS (recorded tv files), take a look at www.thegreenbutton.com, I think it is under 'developers corner'.

    The main advantage that I find with a HTPC is that I now have networked devices in the study (main PC) bedroom (xbox media center extender) and lounge (MCE machine) and can share all of my media files between each device, and store things on HDD instead of fiddling around with burning on to DVD.

    It sounds like you are interested in a HTPC, and if you have the budget and will enjoy the journey then go for it.... :smashin:

    lisa
     
  7. admay

    admay
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    Ooooh, now that's something I hadn't thought about. The ability to listen to radio from around the world.

    I'm beginning to like this idea.

    Andrew
     

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