Solved

HTPC advice for a setup

Posted on 2008-10-16
41
773 Views
Last Modified: 2012-05-05
Folks

The wife is not happy with the $200/month cable bill. It includes: internet, phone,3 DVRs, extended cable package (no premium channels), HD service for 2 tvs. I am looking to build a HTPC to 1) save some money 2) to have a more flexible setup. I figure it has to be cheaper than going the cable company's way- at least more flexible. Am I right?

Question: I need to know of a parts list/application list for a setup. Any ideas?

Requirements:
1. need HD support (already have TV's)
2. decent storage
3. quiet operation- I like the HTPC enclosures I see on the market now.
4. remote control
5. ability to watch in other rooms (does this require a whole new setup per tv??). It would be nice to have the ability to begin a program on on tv and finish on another. Is it possible for a cheaper "node" per extra tv?
6. a central storage for all media, perhaps?
7. Want the better flexibility these HTPC software packages offer. Even if it is just WIN mediacenter. Better suggestions welcome, however.

This HTPC will have access to the home network either wireless or wired. Thinking wired for the base station and maybe wireless for any additional tv's.

Any of you folks have something set up and working?

Thanks for any advice.
0
Comment
Question by:exhudson
  • 20
  • 14
  • 6
  • +1
41 Comments
 
LVL 12

Expert Comment

by:alikaz3
Comment Utility
I have a HTPC set up in an Antec Fusion case:

http://www.antec.com/usa/productDetails.php?lan=us&id=15739

It looks like it really "fits in" next to my PS3 and Pioneer Receiver. We have DishNetwork, which will not take a cable card to accept signals (dish uses their own proprietary decoding structure). You can work around this by getting an IR Blaster (IR sender, mimics your remote functions), then the computer can control the tuner box. I believe with most cable providers though an HD tuner card will work - but I can't say for sure. Your easiest way to confirm this would be to call the cable company and see if their service is compatible with computer tuner cards. I have also heard that some cable companies will lease you a cable card, for something like $10/mo.

Basically, this is what you need:

HTPC form factor case (I recommend that Antec one, there are LOTS of options though, take a look at Shuttles)
Tuner Card (and possibly + tuner box, IR Blaster)
HTPC remote + reciever (I picked one up for 20 bucks, works fine)
 - one thing to note about the remote, my Antec Fusion has a bult in IR reciever, that includes power-on functionality - doesn't sound much but is REALLY important if you want to be able to turn the computer on from remote
Big storage (500GB+)
Powerful CPU+RAM (I'd go for a Intel Core 2 Duo/Quad, and 2GB of RAM at least)
Powerful Video Card (I'd say Nvidia Gforce 8600 or better/equivalent)
Sound Card (If you have a DTS receiver, you want to get a nice card with optical output)
Cables (either a DVI-D to HDMI adapter cable, or component)

This is all pretty general, post back and I can answer specific questions.
0
 
LVL 12

Expert Comment

by:alikaz3
Comment Utility
>>ability to watch in other rooms (does this require a whole new setup per tv??). It would be nice to have the ability to begin a program on on tv and finish on another. Is it possible for a cheaper "node" per extra tv?

This is possible, but there isn't any packaged deal that does this. I've seen mythTV networks set up like that, also you could use a 3rd party media center program that records the videos in a common format, which could be read by another media center computer - but yes this would require another PC. (and I'm not sure of the legality of doing that, I know the network DVRs that I've seen use some sort of DRM protection to make them legal).

Do you have Verizon FiOS available in your area? They offer FiOS TV now in a package deal with their internet (which is WAY better than cable internet) TV and phone together. They offer a "Home Network DVR" as well, which is naively set up to let you watch the recorded shows on the other smaller receivers. That would really be a lot easier.

check availability here:
http://www22.verizon.com/Residential/FiOSTV/Check_Availability/Check_Availability.htm
0
 
LVL 12

Expert Comment

by:alikaz3
Comment Utility
*natively not naively :D
0
 

Author Comment

by:exhudson
Comment Utility
How about LinuxMCE? Have you used this?
It has a media "follow" option where youor media literally follows you.
Or is that just too much? I understand that it would require another pc
http://wiki.linuxmce.org/index.php/Picking_the_right_components


No verizon here.
0
 
LVL 12

Expert Comment

by:alikaz3
Comment Utility
Ah thats too bad about the FiOS, I've tried a MCE edition of ubuntu, was too complicated. I haven't treid that LinuxMCE, but it looks good. But definitely - setting up one of these linux HTPC networks will not be easy, you are going to need to tinker with it for a while. As long as you are ok with that, and having 2 computers to do this with all set up, then go for it! If you like I can quote you up a system using newegg.com, just let me know what your target pricerange is (make it at least $800). Also, do you want blu-ray playback capability? What about blu-ray burning?
0
 

Author Comment

by:exhudson
Comment Utility
It would be ideal if I could put it together for $400-500.

Blu ray is not a requirement at this time, but potentially in the future.
0
 
LVL 12

Expert Comment

by:alikaz3
Comment Utility
400-500 is going to push it, the "expensive" parts will be the case and TV tuner card (if you want HD tuner). I'll give it a try once I'm done with work today
0
 

Author Comment

by:exhudson
Comment Utility
It can be bare bones as much as needed.
I suppose I do need the "HD service" on my cable bill to be able to tune in HD channels, eh?


I appreciate it.

0
 
LVL 12

Expert Comment

by:alikaz3
Comment Utility
Yes you will need the HD service, and you still won't be able to have the tuner card "tune in" to most HD content. This type of content is usually encrypted by the cable company requiring the tuner box to decode it. But this doesn't mean you can't have the tuner box tune the channel, and output back to coaxial to go into the tuner card. Here is a tuner card that has the IR blaster included, and tunes HD:

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16815135004
0
 
LVL 12

Expert Comment

by:alikaz3
Comment Utility
And this might work out great for your other "client" media center. It's not a whole computer, but rather a dvd-player style device that can browse files over your network:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16815135004
0
 
LVL 69

Expert Comment

by:Callandor
Comment Utility
Cable companies should provide HD programming free for the non-premium channels; ie, the over-the-air channels which are mandated to be all digital in 2009.  You still need to get an HD tuner that is QAM-capable in order to view the programming, but at least you have a choice in that:http://www.ramelectronics.net/audiovideo/computer-i-o-cards/hdtv-cards/c20000-c22000-c22006-p1.html.

I run BeyondTV on my server which has a VBox Cat'e Eye HD tuner.  BeyondTV lets me set up my recording preferences and it gets the information over the internet.  The recorded files are in .tp format which are displayable by VLC media player (free) and any pc on the network can play them.  Wireless notebooks can also play them, but the playback can be intermittent without excellent quality reception.
0
 

Author Comment

by:exhudson
Comment Utility
Callandor,
I looked at the Beyond Tv and it looks easier than the LinuxMCE.
What kind of quality are you getting on remote tvs?

So, from what you say, the best bet is to have a homebase htpc, and a WIRED networked smaller pc or laptop for the remote tv? My only issue is putting another computer in the bedroom be it a laptop or otherwise. Ideally it would be a cheap client machine, much like my cable tuner now. something like this: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16815135004
but is there anything cheaper?
0
 
LVL 3

Expert Comment

by:AntecChris
Comment Utility
One way to really go on the cheap is to use one of our Veris Multimedia Station (MMS) remotes to turn a cheap case into an HTPC. Check out
http://www.antec.com/usa/ProductFamily.php?lan=us&PC=7
to see a listing of the HTPC stuff Antec makes.  

Of course the most elegant solution would be to get a case like the Fusion Remote, which blends in nicely with your components and comes with the remote control.  If it's outside your budget, then you can get a cheap case made by anybody and add either the MMS E-Z or Basic models. I hesitate to just call it a remote because all of our MMS models come with software that does everything the multi-media operating systems do. With the included software you can use XP Home and get the functionality of MCE. Another benefity of the Basic model over the E-Z is the ability to turn the computer on and off using the remote control. With the E-Z, which is just a USB device, you can turn it off but not back on.
0
 
LVL 12

Expert Comment

by:alikaz3
Comment Utility
Good call Chris, I have the Fusion, never seen the Multimedia Station devices before. The "Basic" model you spoke of sounds great because it can power the system on. I'll try to get quote up here today exhudson
0
 
LVL 12

Expert Comment

by:alikaz3
Comment Utility
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16811999191

That does look like a great substitute for a full HTPC case
0
 

Author Comment

by:exhudson
Comment Utility
Thanks for all the help.
I have been looking thru all the stuff everyone has sent and it looks great, but I am left a little confused.
All I want is a home base that will act as the server. A nice enclosure, decent storage, remote, etc. HD is nice, but not mission critical.

If there is a way to shoot movies to another computer (or a cheap client) then that would be great. I see BeyondTV does that and so does LinuxMCE. the DViCO system looks great, but would that be overkill for a client? Or should the DViCO  be the home base?
0
 
LVL 12

Expert Comment

by:alikaz3
Comment Utility
the DViCO I would say would be better used as a client. I'm not sure if you can use it as a server, or recorder (I remember having a discussion regarding TiVO-style appliances that record in a universal format - there aren't any, because selling a device like that isn't legal). You want to make a custom PC to record/serve, that DViCO would be able to play the media off of it. I know there are other companies that make devices like this too:

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16815116008
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16815116617
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16833122181
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16882103603
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16822173056

There are hoards of reviews on these types of products as well. I'd study them pretty thoroughly before buying one of these.
0
 
LVL 69

Expert Comment

by:Callandor
Comment Utility
The BeyondTV on remote pcs is high definition, because the remote pc is actually playing back a high definition recorded file.  The server can be located anywhere, as long as it has network connectivity and an antenna or cable hookup, and you can set up a wired or wireless client to the network.  Recorded programs can automatically be scheduled to be converted during the night to wmv or mpeg2 formats.  I have an early model DLink remote media center that plays mpeg2 files from the network, but this later version can handle other formats: http://www.dlink.com/products/?pid=547
0
 
LVL 12

Expert Comment

by:alikaz3
Comment Utility
Good call Callandor, I linked the DSM-520 in my last post (2nd to last link), the DSM-750 you linked looks like a newer upgraded version, but I think it has some problems:
http://www.amazon.com/review/product/B001193F1K/ref=dp_top_cm_cr_acr_txt?_encoding=UTF8&showViewpoints=1

Apparently the first batch is buggy/bugged. I'd research this issue as well, try to get some of these "later" released versions? Perhaps find it in a store where you could return it?
0
 

Author Comment

by:exhudson
Comment Utility
ok. ok.....
Media lounge is yet another option...looks good. DSM-720 looks better than the 520, but I read it still had crappy display. hmm..

Now, I have too many options!
0
What Security Threats Are You Missing?

Enhance your security with threat intelligence from the web. Get trending threat insights on hackers, exploits, and suspicious IP addresses delivered to your inbox with our free Cyber Daily.

 
LVL 69

Expert Comment

by:Callandor
Comment Utility
It appears that the early versions were defective (April release), but the subsequent versions worked fine.  One would hope that by now, all the buggy versions are gone or recalled.  The people who got good ones seem to be very happy with it.
0
 
LVL 12

Expert Comment

by:alikaz3
Comment Utility
And I can vouch for D-Link products, all the ones I have used have worked great.
0
 

Author Comment

by:exhudson
Comment Utility
ok, the dlink seems to be in the good price range for a client box. Perhaps I should give it a shot and see how it goes. It will access my MediaCenter PC, but does that mean my HTPC has to have Mediacenter on it or can I use BeyondTV? That is, is the dlink mediacenter-only?
0
 
LVL 12

Expert Comment

by:alikaz3
Comment Utility
"The default mode is a simple network-searching media player. It grabs content from shared folders, such as WMP 11 media libraries on Windows XP machines. It works reliably and plays movies and music, or displays photos, without too much hassle. Unfortunately, its interface is a shabby clone of Windows' media center and is annoying to navigate. For example, it shows only a handful of giant generic icons at a time when browsing files.

The other mode is the Media Extender, which offers a far superior user interface and cool extras like Internet TV, movie trailers, and even normal TV, as grabbed by a host media center PC's TV tuner card. In this mode, it had no problem adequately representing large media collections. High-def streaming is lovely, though you'll want a well-heeled connection to get it without chop. The extended media center UI is a bit sluggish, however, carrying a strong 'remote desktop' vibe when it's not actually streaming something."

http://gadgets.boingboing.net/2008/04/19/review-a-weekend-wit.html

Pros, cons, lots to consider :D
0
 

Author Comment

by:exhudson
Comment Utility
hm....
still, it may be better than trying to cannabalize an old pc just so I can watch tv in the bedroom. plus it would be quiet.
0
 
LVL 12

Expert Comment

by:alikaz3
Comment Utility
Yea I agree, probably starts up in a flash too, where a computer you are going to wait...
0
 

Author Comment

by:exhudson
Comment Utility
speaking of computers, you had that list? I will go ahead and give you the points.
0
 
LVL 12

Expert Comment

by:alikaz3
Comment Utility
Yea I keep saying I'll have that to you but haven't done it yet sorry :D I'll make sure to quote that up for you in the next few hours k?
0
 
LVL 12

Accepted Solution

by:
alikaz3 earned 500 total points
Comment Utility
Quote through newegg.com:

    SAMSUNG 22X DVD±R DVD Burner with LightScribe Black SATA Model SH-S223Q - OEM
    Item #: N82E16827151173
    $26.99

    Western Digital Caviar SE16 WD5000AAKS 500GB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s Hard Drive - OEM
    Item #: N82E16822136073
    $69.99

    Hauppauge WinTV-HVR 1800 MCE Kit 1128 PCI-Express x1 Interface - Retail  
    Item #: N82E16815116015
    $99.99

    XFX PVT84JYAJG GeForce 8600 GT 512MB 128-bit GDDR2 PCI Express x16 SLI Supported Video Card - Retail
    Item #: N82E16814150247      
    ($30.00 Mail-in Rebate)
    $79.99 (before rebate)

    Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi XtremeGamer 7.1 Channels PCI Interface Sound Card - Retail
    Item #: N82E16829102006
    $85.99

    Crucial 2GB (2 x 1GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 667 (PC2 5300) Dual Channel Kit Desktop Memory Model CT2KIT12864AA667 - Retail
    Item #: N82E16820146526
    $29.99

    ASUS P5GC-MX/1333 LGA 775 Intel 945GC Micro ATX Intel Motherboard - Retail
    Item #: N82E16813131243
    $47.99

    Intel Pentium E2180 Allendale 2.0GHz LGA 775 65W Dual-Core Processor Model BX80557E2180 - Retail
    Item #: N82E16819116052
   $69.99

    Linkworld Black body/ Silver strip Steel 6280-01 Micro ATX Media Center / HTPC Case - Retail  
    Item #: N82E16811164098
    $38.99

    Antec Mult-Station Basic Internal IR receiver and remote - Retail
    Item #: N82E16811999191
    $34.99

    Antec earthwatts EA380 380W ATX12V v2.0 80 PLUS Certified Active PFC Power Supply - Retail
    Item #: N82E16817371005
    $29.99

Subtotal:        $614.89


I know you wanted 400-500, but it you'd have to dump some pretty important features to do that.


The TV tuner card I chose is an HD tuner, and comes with a remote and IR blaster. You could go cheaper here but you won't get HD recordings...

I went with that cheaper case and power supply + Antec receiver panel, saved about 62 dollars from the Antec Veris Fusion (even though it is really nice :)

The sound card is pretty important if you want digital audio - of course I am assuming you have a digital 5.1 surround system on your TV. If you don't have a digital receiver, you won't need the sound card as the on-board audio will suffice and you can save $86 there.

The rest of the hardware is the best bang-for-buck you can get to drive a solid 1080p video playback as well as 1080p gaming.

Our HTPC at home is using this identical setup (except we have an E2160, the newer E2180 is better, and no tuner card, and we're using the Antec Veris) and we can play all games, play 1080p video, and it looks fantastic. I have our Pioneer receiver hooked in via optical through the soundblaster card, and I have a DVI-HDMI converter cable going from the video card to the receiver.



If you have any questions or would like info on using some other gear, let me know!
0
 
LVL 12

Expert Comment

by:alikaz3
Comment Utility
Oh and just so you know, I'd say I'm an 8/10 on HTPC OSs, and 10/10 on hardware design. I've built probably 300-400 custom gaming/corporate systems over the last 15 years - so you know my info is good :)
0
 
LVL 69

Expert Comment

by:Callandor
Comment Utility
Good choice of components, alikaz3.  I think those provide good value and the fact that you already built a system using them eliminates a lot of guesswork about compatability.  I hope you continue to make valuable contributions in the future for EE question askers.
0
 
LVL 12

Expert Comment

by:alikaz3
Comment Utility
Thank you Callandor.

Looking through the reviews for that case it seems that it prone to getting damaged during shipping (low build quality). This case seems like a safer bet:

hec Black 0.7mm Thickness SECC 7K09 Micro ATX Media Center / HTPC Case - Retail
Item #: N82E16811121027
$58.99

also, this one comes with a "baby" 270W power supply included so you won't need the Antec power supply ($10 less alltogether).

Subtotal 604.90
0
 
LVL 12

Expert Comment

by:alikaz3
Comment Utility
And one more change I have to make, that case only supports low-profile expansion cards, so I'd recommend this card:

SAPPHIRE 100236HDMI Radeon HD 3650 512MB 128-bit GDDR2 PCI Express 2.0 x16 HDCP Ready CrossFire Supported Low Profile Video Card - Retail
Item #: N82E16814102754
$69.99

Which drops the subtotal to $594.90, but no $30 rebate.
0
 
LVL 69

Expert Comment

by:Callandor
Comment Utility
I would suggest sticking with the Antec Earthwatts power supply - it is 80 PLUS certified in efficiency, and the components in it are of good quality.  The power supply can last a long time and provide years of steady use, and others have noted that this model is particularly good.
0
 

Author Closing Comment

by:exhudson
Comment Utility
Wow...it was a long, learning path for me, but you have really helped. I would give more points if I could. Thanks so much for the info. You went above and beyond!
0
 

Author Comment

by:exhudson
Comment Utility
This is probably the most exhaustive answer I have ever had on the exchange. This is exactly the information I was looking for. I urge those who are seeking a HTPC solution to read this thread.

Thanks to all.
0
 

Author Comment

by:exhudson
Comment Utility
Also, I am assuming that the OS need be Vista?
0
 
LVL 69

Expert Comment

by:Callandor
Comment Utility
No, HTPCs can be built with Vista, WinXP, Linux, and other OS'es.  It all depends on what applications you want to run and if they are available for that OS.
0
 

Author Comment

by:exhudson
Comment Utility
Ok, thanks much!
0
 

Author Comment

by:exhudson
Comment Utility
for a client system, I have also looked at
LINKSYS DMA2100 Media Center Extender
$114 at newegg.
N82E16833124281

looks pretty good.
0
 
LVL 12

Expert Comment

by:alikaz3
Comment Utility
exhudson

I hope you notice this comment today, Newegg has a shell shocker deal for that Antec Veris case today only (10-23-08), for $99 w/free shipping. This is an insane deal, I would definitely suggest picking it up! Just click the shell shocker icon on the newegg frontpage.
0

Featured Post

Do You Know the 4 Main Threat Actor Types?

Do you know the main threat actor types? Most attackers fall into one of four categories, each with their own favored tactics, techniques, and procedures.

Join & Write a Comment

This is about my first experience with programming Arduino.
With the shift in today’s hiring climate (http://blog.experts-exchange.com/ee-blog/5-tips-on-succeeding-in-the-new-gig-economy/?cid=Blog_031816), many companies are choosing to hire freelancers to get projects completed efficiently and inexpensively…
Articles on a wide range of technology and professional topics are available on Experts Exchange. These resources are written by members, for members, and can be written about any topic you feel passionate about. Learn how to best write an article t…
Where to go on the main page to find the job listings. How to apply to a job that you are interested in from the list that is featured on our Careers page.

743 members asked questions and received personalized solutions in the past 7 days.

Join the community of 500,000 technology professionals and ask your questions.

Join & Ask a Question

Need Help in Real-Time?

Connect with top rated Experts

10 Experts available now in Live!

Get 1:1 Help Now