Which PC bits to buy to convert my PC to a MCE 2005??

darkovo

Active Member
I've got a aopen XCcube PC (like a Shuttle) and would like to convert to a Media Center 2005 PC.

I would like to be able to record/watch 2 programs at the same time (so a twin-tuner card or 2 tuners) so I can plug in both a Sky+ box (with no subscription but with a S-Video Out Connection); and also connect standard Freeview capable aerial into the tuner card on the PC.

Currently have & don't expect to have to change:
1. 512MB RAM
2. Pentium 4 3.2Ghz Processor
3. Windows XP Pro SP2
4. 1xAGP slot
5. 1xPCI slot
6. Onboard 5.1 Sound with decent Optical in/out connections etc
7. USB2, Firewire etc
8. 16x DVD-Writer
9. 32" Philips CRT
10. AMP & Speakers etc

I know I need the following:
1. Media Center 2005 (probably without Update 2!!)
2. AGP (not PCIe) Video Card - Currently have 64MB DDR nVidia GeForce4 MX but this probably needs replacing with something better??
3. Bigger Quiet SATA HDD - Currently have a EIDE 120GB Maxtor but it's a bit noisy and my Motherboard has SATA connections so will go for a 250GB or something.
4. Twin-Tuner PCI card - was looking at one of the Hauppauge range and the WinTV-PVR 500 seems to fit the bill (expensive though), but am open to suggestions.
5. Remote control (if it doesn't come with the tuner card).

What i'd like to know is...
1. Is there anything else I need?
2. Can anyone give me some recommendations where to buy the extras I need (normally use ebuyer or similar).
3. What about if I went for an all-in-one AGP card (so Video and tuner on the same card aka ATI All-In-Wonder) & also a separate PCI Tuner card, so still get twin tuners but they need to at the same time (sort of!) & not conflict etc, this may work out cheaper than just one card with a twin-tuner??

Thanks in advance :)
 

tdodd

Active Member
You need to carefully consider your plans to attach different signal sources to your MCE box. MCE can support two/twin tuners but they must work from the same programme guide. So you can have 2*DVB-T or 2*Analogue or 2*Sky but not one Sky box and one DVB-T box. Since NCE can only use one programme guide the programming and channel numbering has to be the same on both tuner inputs or MCE won't have the faintest idea what is really going on with the second signal source.

If you have Sky+ then I do not understand why you want to connect it to you MCE PC in any case. You will lose picture quality and accomplish what exactly?

External STBs have several disadvantages over an internal source card. I know. I have a digibox attached to my Shuttle MCE PC. The problems are.....

1) The lovely crisp mpeg2 digital signal received by the digibox has to be converted to PAL composite or s-video and squirted along wires to the analogue tuner card, which then promptly converts the analogue signal back to mpeg2 again to write to disk. To replay that mpeg2 recording has to be decoded again and squirted back out to the TV. Unless you use a proper VGA/DVI connection to the TV then you are going to get a relatively ropey picture out over composite or s-video.

2) Channel changing is accomplished by the MCE PC firing off an IR blaster signal to change channel on the STB. This is definitely not 100% reliable. Many is the time I've ended up recording the wrong channel because the STB thought it got a 1116 channel instead of 116, for example. It it simply not reliable.

The same problems will occur with any external STB. In contrast if you have a DVB-T (twin if you like) tuner card in the PC you will remove a whole sequence of mpeg decode/recode and the analogue signal connections that join them together. As with Sky+ the recording will effectively be as good as the original broadcast.

If you want to connect Sky+ to the PC to archive programmes to disk or DVD then that is fair enough, but MCE is useless for making ad hoc recordings from alternative signal sources and you will do better to step outside the MCE interface and use something else. Also, your tuner card will need to be analogue in order to capture the Sky feed, so that buggers up the idea of a DVB-T second tuner in your SFF PC.

My advice would be to keep Sky+ completely separate and get a (twin if you like) DVB-T card for the PC, obviously ensuring it is MCE compatible. That way all your recordings from both Sky and DVB-T will be preserved in their original mpeg2 glory and not processed into oblivion. Connect both devices by VGA/RGB or better and you're well away.

Regarding your kit list, apart from taking into account my comments above, you need to include an mpeg2 decoder (I like the nVidia decoder, available for purchase from www.nvidia.com)

FWIW my video card is a simple Radeon 9600 card (fanless!). It is important to keep the noise down and a fanless card is very helpful but that does mean nothing too powerful. My card is fine for SD TV and will handle 720p WMVHD material too but stutters on 1080i or 1080p stuff.

My favourite suppliers are eBuyer, Scan, Misco, Dabs, Savastore but I generally just do a price search and go with the cheapest deal overall. Touch wood I've not had a problem yet.
 

darkovo

Active Member
Thanks for the great reply, looks like I'll forget putting Sky+ through the PC, I just wanted to remove my subscription to Sky so get the free stuff, but might as well get rid of it altogether and just go with the 2*DVB-T tuner card.
Any idea which card is the best for this (or 2 separate cards, like 1xall-in-one on the AGP slot & 1xPCI tuner card)?

As for the "Regarding your kit list, apart from taking into account my comments above, you need to include an mpeg2 decoder (I like the nVidia decoder, available for purchase from www.nvidia.com)"
Is the mpeg2 decoder just the software or hardware? Wouldn't I get this with the new card/s I need to purchase? Sorry a bit of a Noob when it comes to some bits :rolleyes:

Thanks again
 

tdodd

Active Member
The recordings are stored on your hard drive in mpeg 2 format. The ENcoding is done by the TV card, if it's an analogue card, or just passed straight through if its a DVB-T or DVB-S card. But when it comes to playing back the recordings you need an mpeg2 DEcoder (software). MCE is a bit fussy about which ones it works with. If you have PowerDVD or some other DVD playback software then you might find yourself lucky and already have a suitable decoder. But I have tried a few decoders and far and away the best for me was the nVidia one. It was $20 available as an online download. There is a 30 day free trial available. If you specify your country as outside the Europe you avoid VAT. I think I put Zimbabwe or something. Net cost in sterling was about £10.67. We should not be paying VAT on imports under £18!

If you're happy with Freesat channels from Sky then you might want to get an MCE compatible DVB-S tuner card and then you can plug the cable from your Sky dish straight into the back of the PC and avoid all the aggro of degraded signal quality and dodgy channel changing. I don't have personal experience of this solution but I guy called Nigel Barker has been experimenting with such a solution. He hangs out on the MCE Usenet newsgroups, and probably elsewhere too. There are a couple of "budget" cards from a German company called Technotrend or something like that and rumour is that the Hauppauge Nova-S Plus card works too. Native support is for the German market but a few registry hacks should get it sorted for the UK, so Nigel says.

Alternatively, if you are dumping your Sky subscription your Sky+ box will still serve as an ordinary digibox and, as I have done, you could connect it to an analogue card in the PC - but don't bother with a twin tuner unless you have two Sky boxes to feed to it.

My long term aim is to get an MCE compatible DVB-S card that has a CI to allow me to plug in a CAM and use my Sky subscription card with the FVB-S PCI card. But I don't think that option exists today, and if it did it would be risky as Sky may do something to render the decryption useless if they change their protection mechanism. Also, Sky HD is around the corner and comes with its own HDD for recording and no MCE PC today will be able to record that signal in high def. I'm not intending to rush into HD straight away but I would love to get Sky subscription channels recorded accurately in good quality without paying out for Sky+ on top of my MCE machine.
 

Rambles

Distinguished Member
tdodd has given you very comprehensive advice, so I won't add much except to say that many of us on here like to use Nvidia's purevideo technology which works with the nvidia dvd codec (software) combined with a compatible nvidia graphics card (hardware) here is the link
 
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deksawyer

Active Member
If you're connecting your MCE pc to a CRT tv, then my advice would be to go for an ATI Radeon card, at least a 9200 128mb and use a VGA-SCART cable as well as Powerstrip to obtain 1st class results..

D.
 

tdodd

Active Member
That's exactly what I do, but from a Radeon 9600 card. The benefits are clear to see both in picture quality and running a 1024*576 native 16:9 resolution out to the TV. That adds 30 minutes to the visible planner information and an extra column of icons for Albums, Photos, Videoes etc..

I had the lead custom made for me by Keene for £39.50 including VAT and delivery.
What I really hanker for is a nice new HD TV with 1280*720 or 1366*768 and a DVI connection from the PC. But that's a bit too much expense for me right now. :-(
 

stephinson

Standard Member
just got 2 of the pvr 150
http://www.hauppauge.co.uk/pages/prods_mce_kits.html

not used the one that has 2 tuners but must be the same as you have only 1 pci socket

Using mce 2005 with 2 of these pci cards in, mce downloads freeview tv listings just like sky+ but all free

just pick which channel you want to watch or record
it will record 2 different channels or watch one while it records the other

it then saves the program as an avi file all named up with the date

just use mce to browse what you have recorded

could not be any better

just make sure you can get freeview

and buy at least 2 300 gig drives
 

darkovo

Active Member
:thumbsup:
All excellent responses to my questions, think it covers everything now, time to do some digging on t'Internet for some prices & get building!

May go for the twin-tuner PCI Hauppauge WinTV-PVR-500 with the included remote etc. Just going for the DVB-T option (not Sky analogue or direct dish connection option).

2x300GB HDD's seems a bit excessive though, don't think i'll go that far but at least look at getting the most for my money.

I'd also like to trial the Sky HD option but they've hacked me off with their crap service and I've lost patience & confidence with them (and also only want to keep Sky for the Discovery & Challenge channels - not going to miss them that much!!!). I'm sure there'll be issues with HD also and we pay for their "Beta versions".

Thanks again.
I'll post again when all is up and running - may be a few weeks though.

:hiya:
 

darkovo

Active Member
Just checked the spec of the Hauppauge 350 and it's analogue only, bugger I want DVB-T, any ideas which twin-tuner card has DVB-T only? (I've seen some that can do either analogue or Digital but no twin-tuner DVB-T type).

Thanks again..again
 

darkovo

Active Member
OK last post before bed, bloody banging still going on outside anyway (fireworks!!)...
Looks like there isn't a twin DVB-T type card out at the mo' Hauppauge bringing one out early next year but haven't seen anything else??

What about the 1xPCI DVB-T & a 2nd USB2 DVB-T box? Anyone suggest which ones that are reliable and work together and also with MCE2005 + EPG etc?

OK I'm off :boring:
 

Rambles

Distinguished Member
There is a twin DVB-T card that has just come out, but it uses a PCI-express slot. There is also a twin card that can fit inside your pc (any empty slot) but uses usb connections.

www.thegreenbutton.com and www.xpmce.com are good MCE resources. I think the Hauppage Nova-t work ok together PCI/USB2.
 
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HiZ

Active Member
darkovo666 said:
OK last post before bed, bloody banging still going on outside anyway (fireworks!!)...
Looks like there isn't a twin DVB-T type card out at the mo' Hauppauge bringing one out early next year but haven't seen anything else??

What about the 1xPCI DVB-T & a 2nd USB2 DVB-T box? Anyone suggest which ones that are reliable and work together and also with MCE2005 + EPG etc?

OK I'm off :boring:
http://www.avforums.com/forums/showthread.php?t=242406
 

nigelbb

Well-known Member
tdodd said:
If you're happy with Freesat channels from Sky then you might want to get an MCE compatible DVB-S tuner card and then you can plug the cable from your Sky dish straight into the back of the PC and avoid all the aggro of degraded signal quality and dodgy channel changing. I don't have personal experience of this solution but I guy called Nigel Barker has been experimenting with such a solution. He hangs out on the MCE Usenet newsgroups, and probably elsewhere too. There are a couple of "budget" cards from a German company called Technotrend or something like that and rumour is that the Hauppauge Nova-S Plus card works too. Native support is for the German market but a few registry hacks should get it sorted for the UK, so Nigel says.
He hangs out here too:) See my updated post today on the Hauppauge Nova-S-Plus.
 

The Atheist

Well-known Member
does the type of DVD drive have much of an impact on picture quality of DVD playback. Currently using lg dvd-rw drive n picture isn't great, just wondered if there are any specific drive models that are better for DVD playback?
 

darkovo

Active Member
OK went for the PCWorld offers of Nova-T PCI card for £39.99 & Nova-T USB2 for £59.99 (Free delivery & also used Promotion Code NHSDiscounts for an extra 5% off!), also a MCE Remote from Savastore for £21.73 + P&P.
Hopefully when they all arrive i'll be able to get them working together with no problems.

I don't think the PCI card has on-board MPEG2 decoding but think the USB does, will post my findings when all up and running!

May go for a different option in the future but at least this option is not costing too much & yes I can sell the devices if I swap in the future!!

Other bits I have bought are a 300GB Seagate SATA drive & AOpen nVidia 6800LE 128MB Video Card & will be using the nVidia PureVideo Decoder within Windows.

Thanks for all your help. :thumbsup:


The Atheist - As far as the question regarding the DVD drive playing the Movie, I wouldn't have thought this would degrade the quality, this should be the decoder software used on the PC, if the playback is choppy it could be the DMA setting within Windows?
 

darkovo

Active Member
All up and running with Update2, works fine but stuck on a few things:

I have the following - 3GHz PC, nVidia 6800LE, 1xNova-T USB2 & 1xNova-T PCI tuners, connected to my TV via S-Video to S-Video Lead (from back of 6800LE).

1. I have a 32" Widescreen CRT TV and can't get MCE to see it as 16:9 format, just sees it as 4:3, yes Zoom works but this stretches the image and lose the top & bottom bars etc, used nVidia's tweak tools & MCETweak v2 but no option for 16:9 format (tried redetecting the TV with different leads, S-Video to S-Video & S-Video to Scart, same issue).

2. MCETweak v2 has option for using Universal Remote Control's, I have installed the Hauppauge Infrared Driver and it works in MCE/PC for the Sound level but won't change the channels or anything else, is it possible to use Hauppauges' Remote Control with MCE - any hacks??

3. Slight Stuttering on some channels - ITV & 5 etc (just glitches every 5 seconds or so), I'll try the latest nVidia PureVideo version (only tried 77.79), will also try latest PowerDVD and let people know tomorrow, latest I have is PowerDVD v6.0.623 - is this version OK with MCE, is there a newer version that anyone has used?

4. I want to be able to have the PC Monitor/TV connected & work independently, if MCE is in full screen I can't move the mouse & keyboard on my PC, is this normal? I'd like to be able to do things on the PC at the same time as having MCE full screen.

5. Don't know if I need to but I thought my TV should run at 50Hz and not 60Hz that the Graphics card/MCE detects it as? Is this correct/should it matter?

Any help with the above is greatly received.
Thanks
 

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