Digital home theater setup options?

Hi All,

I am setting up my Home Digital Entertaiment from scratch and I want to set it up so it is viable in the future.  The future I believe will all be 100% digital (Music, Movies, TV, Games etc)... therefore I don't see any sense in buying and setting up DVD players, HDD Recorders etc.  My ideal setup would be something like the following:

1) A Centralised Digital Storage Device.
REASON: to store all Music, Movies, TV programs, Games, Photos and anything else that might be accessed via digital mediums.
POSSIBLE SOLUTION: I am thinking a PC would be most suitable for this.

2) An Everyday Visual Display.
REASON: for everyday use like watching broadcasted TV shows, as well as veiwing stored digital mediums.
POSSIBLE SOLUTION: most likely a Digital LCD TV.

3) A Home Theatre Display.
REASON: for watching Movies, playing games, watching Sporting or other special events.
POSSIBLE SOLUTION: most likely a Data Projector.

4) A Audio Sound System.
REASON: to provide sound support to the visual mediums in points (2) and (3).
POSSIBLE SOLUTION: a 5.1 Home Theatre sound system of some sort.

Points of Concern/Questions:
a) I would like the above setup to be as neat/clean/asthically pleasing as possible... minimum wires, having a PC sitting in my lounge room next to the LCD TV doesn't look to good.
b) How to easily access say a PC and select the digital media to be played... again having a keyboard and mouse hanging off a PC in the lounge room doesn't look good.
c) Playing broadcasted TV channels through a PC to a display, can this be done?
d) Record broadcasted TV shows onto the PC to watch at a later time... like we use to do with VCRs... can this be done?

The closests examples of a suitable setup I can think of are:
1) Use an XBOX 360 instead of a PC.  This as its own HDD to store files on and play back.  PROS: The 360 looks neater and tidier then a PC.  It appears to do most of what I need it to do.  CONS: HDD is limited on the 360, I would want atleast 1TB HDD and a PC allows for that.  I don't think a 360 can play or record broadcasted TV.

2) Use APPLE products.  The iMac and iTV in combonation to synch digital media and play it in my Home Entertainment setup.  PROS:  Apple products look very neat and clean.  Are supposedly easy to use.  CONS: I have never used APPLE products except iPod and iTunes on a PC.  iTV I believe also has HDD limitations of I think 500GB and it updates its data from the iMac (or iTunes on a PC... not sure how well that works).

Sooooooo ... there you have it.  I have only just began researching into this.  I know what I ideally would like... I am just not sure on if it is possible with minimal hardware devices and wiring.

I would appreciate any comments and suggestions about how I might achieve my desired setup.
Thanks in advance.
Who is Participating?
What you're looking for is now known as a HTPC (Home Theater PC). Pop over to and check out some of the setups there.

I'd stay away from both the Xbox and Apple options as you'd be boxing yourself in. As far as I know, they don't support High Definition 1080p signals, and I'm betting you're going to be wanting that either now or down the road for certain. Everything's going HD. =)

A HTPC will be relatively inexpensive, you can drop 1TB drives in there no problem, it will be upgradeable (say the video card down the road), and they can be very easy to control.

As for #2, and every day visual display, any good quality LCD TV should do the trick, in the 42"-65" range I should think.

For the home theater display, consider a drop-down motorized screen and a quality projector. That way the room will look 'normal' for every day use, but when you want to drop in the latest HD-DVD/BluRay movie you will have a *REAL* theater. Warning: Projectors need dark rooms to look their best, you might need to add drapes/etc to control light.

4, for the audio system there are a thousand ways you could go. Just be sure to get an Amp/Preamp that will support HDMI so that it can do any switching you might need (like from your HD cable box to the HTPC to an Xbox or PS3, etc).

The setup I use is:

133" Dalite High-Power Motorized Drop down screen.
Panasonic AE-1000U 1080P Projector
Sherwood Newcastle 965 Preamp
Rotel 1077 7x100 true Digital Amp
Klipsch Speakers all around
Velodyne 15" Powered Sub

And one important bit not to forget: Buttkickers! I know they sound kind of silly, but they can add a huge amount to your home theater experience at a low cost and help keep your neighbors from calling the cops.

Trust me, when you pop the Transformers HD-DVD in there, dim the lights, drop down a 133" screen and let the Klipsches and Velodyne sing, the buttkickers add in that extra PUNCH and you can FEEL every robot slam into the pavement.

I hope you have a good budget for this. =)
Options and more options:

1) Centralized Storage
- Xbox 360 Offers 120G HDD
- Linksys or other brand Wireless Media Center
- SAN (I have a 500GB san I bought for under $200 from Frys)

2) Everyday Visual Display
- Digital LCD TV
- Computer Monitor that can display TV from PC or Media Center

3) Home Theatre Display
- Projector
- Large viewable screen 80" - 100"

4) Audio Sound
- 7.1 Surround Sound Receiver

For your points of Interest:
a) Neat/clean as possible, you can go wireless with almost all of this. Your Storage can either be wireless G/N for streaming, your display can have wires concealed in the walls (ie: wall mount flat panel screen). Display screen can be ceiling mounted and motorized to expose/conceal. Audio you can use clear wire or even wireless speakers.

b) Again you can use a PC-wireless, you can use an XBOX or XBOX 360. And you would simply use a remote with a Media Center PC or XBOX System.

c) Yes you can play broadcast, cable and HD channels from a regular PC monitor. Either through a video card addon, Media Center extender software or through an XBOX system itself.

d) Media Center PC, XBOX 360, Linux MCE, OpenTivo all methods of watching and recording your own shows with your own DVR onto a PC.

My setup is as follows:
XBOX 360
Windows XP MCE Computer (in a different room) XBOX connects to XP Computer
1 SAN (500GB), Shared network storage of 2TB on another computer to access recorded movies, games
Sony Receiver/JBL Speakers

From any TV in the house that either has a Linksys Media Extender, or an XBOX I can watch and view live TV and recorded TV. The XBOX 360 has a feature to download, record and watch Live TV that will be available within the next month or two. I currently use an upgraded XBOX with 750GB hdd for one of my media extenders and recording shows.

I have 5 TVs in the house and each TV can access its own recorded movie/TV show, play games, send messages to each TV, Caller ID display on each TV. This is all from equipment I had gathered over the years. But can be done minimally with an XBOX 360, Windows PC (Vista/XPMCE)
PCs don't have to be ugly - see what cases are available here:

Snapstream has software and a remote called Firefly that let you integrate a TV tuner, recorded videos, DVD player, photo album, MP3 collection, and other sources on your PC:

I have a video server PC that has a high-def VBox Cat's Eye tuner that is functionally equivalent to a Tivo and I can watch videos from any machine on the network.  I have a JVC G15 projector with a 100" screen and an Acurus ACT3 preamp and Acurus amps for sound. is a great recommendation for learning how to set up your own home theater and addresses all the details of setup.
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kayseeAuthor Commented:
Thanks everyone for your input.  As I stated I am just starting the research part of things and as I start acquiring the hardware in coming 6 months I don't want to spend $$ on things I will replace in 5 years time (well... atleast minimize depreciation $$).

You have all provided me with options and resources to further my research into a solution.
Yep, research twice, buy once. ;)

Buy quality equipment the first time around and it should last many, many years.

Heck, some of the Klipsch gear I have around the house I've had for more than 20 years, and it was bought used then!
kayseeAuthor Commented:
Exactly Dozer42.  The only piece of equipment I have thus far (that I will use in the new setup) is a BenQ PB6200 data projector, it is about 2 years old now but I have no complaint about it, so I will initially keep using that.

I will look at buying the other parts in the new year... but so far am thinking along the lines of:

HTPC - I like the looks of the "Moneual" brands thus far, especially the silver/platnium boxes (I haven't seen any white or coloured boxes yet).
LCD - Will just price around for best bang for my buck... nothing overly huge needed there.
Audio - Will look into best quality wireless and astecially appealing systems I can afford at the time.

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