Custom built HTPC?

Discussion in 'Computers' started by Ronald Epstein, Jan 24, 2011.

  1. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Administrator
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    I am going down a dangerous road here.


    Logitech sent me their Logitech Revue controller box with
    Google TV. I will posting a review later this week.


    I can tell you that it has whet my appetite for something better.


    Just out of sheer curiosity I am wondering what it would cost

    to have someone build me a HTPC unit with at least an i5
    processor, 4 GB ram and a video card that can handle a

    coax and HDMI feed as well as an integrated Blu-ray player

    with Windows 7 64-bit. Would also need a wireless keyboard

    with trackpad.


    I know that these things can be home built for under $1k.


    Basically, I want to do what this Logitech Revue can do...


    * Surf the Internet while watching TV in a dual-view box

    * Interact with a program guide that allows me to search for

    programming, hit a key, and tell the guide to record that program

    to my hard drive.


    I can do all these things with the Revue unit. It's just that I long

    for a faster processor and the ability to add custom software
    applications and widgets like a computer.


    If a company could custom build something like this for
    about $1k I would consider it.
     
  2. CraigH

    CraigH Extra

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    Ron,


    I don't know if you have any desire to do this, but it is pretty easy to build your own HTPC. There are multiple sites out there that give you step by step guides. Go over to Newegg.com and you can put together a system and see the price.


    I recently built a PC, with AMD Phenom II 3.5 8 megs of ram 1tb hard drive, bluray burner, a very nice Lian li case and a 27" monitor for $1300.


    You wouldn't need the monitor, but may want to use a ss hard drive for a htpc. And it is really very easy to do. Not without some challenges but trust me if I can do it, anyone can. It took me about 4 hours to assemble the PC. And it doesn't get any more custom than if you do it yourself.


    If you liked putting together those radio shack radio kits as a kid than this is a fun project to take on. And I find it very satisfying as well.


    Good luck


    CraigH


    PS.

    My video card is a Radeon based 4670 with HDMI out. Heck, my mb even has an hdmi out. I also splurged and got the Logitech k800 wireless keyboard as well
     
  3. Cameron Yee

    Cameron Yee Executive Producer
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    Other World Computing just announced a turnkey package if you want to go the Mac route.


    http://arstechnica.com/apple/news/2011/01/owc-launches-turn-key-mac-mini-based-htpc-configuration.ars
     
  4. lilfleck

    lilfleck Auditioning

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    Probably will come out to around $1k if you have someone do it. It's a lot of labor to setup the software.
     
  5. mattCR

    mattCR Executive Producer
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    It depends on what kind of functionality you are really after. The price of doing HTPCs, even ones with full 24P, post-processing, DTS-MA/TrueHD bitstream support has plunged to the floor. The options you add onto it will increase your cost, but it's easy enough to get this all together cheaply enough.. AMDs new Zacate and Intels HD options make such a thing viable. Even with a cable card controller, viable options for under $1k are readily out there.
     
  6. lilfleck

    lilfleck Auditioning

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    Really? I don't believe it given the CPU he wants to put in there. Cable card readers go for more than $300, cpu+mobo+ram+case+HDs+OS will run him at least $600, unless he goes w/ a crap case. This is IF he builds it himself. I just think after shipping, tax, and smaller components, it will come out to over $1K plus labor if he has someone else build it.
     
  7. mattCR

    mattCR Executive Producer
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    Yes, really.


    The AMD Zacate boards (CPU+Board) export DTS-MA/DD over HDMI with full 1.4 compliance, and they look good ($120)

    Nice M-itx case, say $70 (Nmedia)

    2TB HDD: $69

    4G RAM: $39

    Bluray Reader: $49

    Remote: 29

    Win7 HP: 99



    Total cost in: $475 without a cable card tuner, add some if you want one, say:

    3 Position Cable Card Tuner (Silicon Dust) is $249; or Ceton's (which I use) $399.


    Way under a grand. If he wants to step up a bit, you can go Intel I3+H55 or I3+H67 (1155) boards.


    But all of these would get you HD Audio, 24p support, Bluray capability, plenty of storage for a tuner, native WebTV, SecondRun, MediaBrowser support, DLNA compliance, iTunes library integration... web on a TV.. and even the Zacate will pump up games at a playable 720P (and some 1080P rate)
     
  8. lilfleck

    lilfleck Auditioning

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    I agree, it's possible to do if he is building himself. Also considered using the CPU he requested in his original post... AMD is definitely the HTPC way IMO. I built mine w/ AMD and love it. Don't have the cable card--a little too rich for me.
     
  9. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Administrator
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    I can't build this myself. I am sure it's easy, but for

    someone who never has, do I want to risk doing my

    first HTPC on my own?


    I would need someone to build it for me, and that's

    why the question of having it done under $1k comes

    into play.


    Appreciate the answers here thus far.
     
  10. Andrew Pierce

    Andrew Pierce Stunt Coordinator

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    Take a look at the Dell Inspiron Zino HD. It can be had with a quad core AMD processor and 4 GB and upgraded graphics and Win 7 64 bit and a 1 TB drive for about $600. The main thing it's missing from your specs is Blu-ray. It looks like a standard form facter slim optical, so I don't know why they don't offer one as an option EDIT: I'm an idiot -- there's a blu version, looks like that one comes with 6gb of memory, with the processor upgrade you're looking at about $728. As for a wireless keyboard/mouse, Dell offers the Logitech diNovo remote style mini kb/mouse setup, but I prefer the Gyration compact keyboard/mouse combo if you have the space. Either way, there's another hundred and a quarter or so.
     
  11. mattCR

    mattCR Executive Producer
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    Ron-


    For what you're after something like a Zino isn't a very good solution. MC7 won't connect or control external boxes well, and if you end up wanting TV input, you're going to have a string of external boxes.


    Something like a Zotac is the smallest with a bluray, but most of the "best" HTPCs (IMHO) tend to be built a bit more like a receiver.


    (Zotac here:


    http://www.zotacusa.com/zotac-zbox-zbox-ad03br-plus-u-amd-e-350-apu-1-6-ghz-dual-core-all-in-one-mini-pc.html


    )


    The key requirement for making HTPC really worth it are:


    * Full HD Audio support over HDMI

    * 1.4a HDMI Compliance

    * Support for native Upscaler and De-interlacer for use with mixed media

    * TV intake method and QAM support

    * Access to Cablecard if you need it


    Most of the local PC companies near you should be able to do this for you. If they can't, PM me. I know of people who do this for country clubs; I can send you an example of what they use and help walk you through it.
     
  12. Andrew Pierce

    Andrew Pierce Stunt Coordinator

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    I'm pretty sure the ATI 5xxx card in the Dell supports the full gamut of HD audio over HDMI. It's HDMI 1.3a, rather than the 1.4a in the nVidia ION chipset which really only limits your ability to do 3D. You are limited to USB or (better yet) network based tuner cards/capture devices, and finally there's no ESATA -- you also need to use USB or (again, better yet) networked external storage.


    All those limitations can be worked around -- USB storage and tuners and capture devices work great. Network storage and tuners also work great and can live somewhere else in your house, which is awesome. You're locked out of the PCIe Ceton cablecard tuner, but there's a SiliconDust 3 tuner network cablecard model coming someday. There's still a real good chance the SiliconDust tuner will be generally available before the Ceton is. And the SiliconDust networks tuners can talk to multiple devices in your house.


    Windows 7 is the ONLY general purpose platform that's getting cablecard tuners. Not mac, and not linux. If you want to play with cablecard, you are going to be dealing with Windows Media Center 7. But that's not a bad thing, it's actually a great platform, IMO.


    I don't know what you mean by deinterlacing with mixed media -- the Dell box should be able to do anything the Zotac can do. It won't take a component or HDMI input from an external device and deinterlace it, but does the Zotac? Does anything in the under $1000 range?


    The big upside compared to an Ion/Intel Atom platform is that the Zino has about 10 times the CPU horsepower and significantly better graphics capability.
     
  13. mattCR

    mattCR Executive Producer
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    Andrew-


    I was thinking of something different, the prior Zino as an ATI 3200

    http://www.dell.com/us/en/corp/desktops/inspiron-zino-hd/pd.aspx?refid=inspiron-zino-hd&s=corp


    Which was of course, the ATI3200. The new one is a 5450. The 5450 does to DTS-MA/DD-HD Bitstream audio output, and can be setup that way.


    When I say "mixed media" what I mean is that those that in the ATI4000 and below, they struggle to really get the best out of video. They lack the "oomph" to do hardware acceleration and really get out of media what you are after. So, when I say mixed media, I'm talking about the ability to leap from MPG to VC1 to Flash with Hardware level DXVA so that you don't need a lot of whomp behind them.

    The new Zino with a 5450 is a good start to that; there is nothing wrong with this setup, outside of the fact of course that all your tuners would be USB.

    Ron had mentioned that he had used the Google to control his TV recordings. That generally works through a set of IR blasters and connection to cable boxes. This is feasible, but it works by either pass-through HDMI or no HDTV at all. Since 7MC doesn't allow for Pass-through HDMI, Ron would find that he would switch back and forth between his 7MC and his cable boxes or lose HD, or use QAM to only get basic options.

    A lot of those are fine; a good tuner with QAM support gets you basic cable + ClearQAM in most markets. But most people find the loss of non-ClearQAM HD a major loss and it means a lot of flipping back and forth from their 7MC.


    7MC is an excellent platform, and I recommend it highly. But I believe there are two routes to take: Either you dump your cable boxes, save the money every month and get Basic cable + ClearQAM and all the movies you want to store (popular because of the money you save) OR you get a CableCard tuner to have access to everything you want.


    Any inbetween solution (I want say, HD HBO, but the media center I want doesn't handle a cable card adapter) generally doesn't work out so well.

    A lot of it largely depends on what the end goals are. But any Media Center with a properly setup copy of: MediaBrowser, MyTV, SecondRun, iPlay and Netflix, iTunes Sync and a CableCard tuner makes for probably the best entertainment device on the market, period
     
  14. Paul E. Fox II

    Paul E. Fox II Second Unit

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    The AMD recommendation is a great one...


    For HTPC, I don't think you need to even bother with an i5...the i3 should do all you need (and more), and will keep the cost down a bit...especially if you don't need a dedicated video card. There were some issues with the initial run of the i3 but I think those are corrected and available now or very near to being available.


    Unless you're going to be doing a lot of heavy duty stuff with the HTPC, you really don't need a powerhouse processor to make it all happen and there are TONS of free things to make your life easier:).
     
  15. DaveF

    DaveF Moderator
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    7MC knows about the ClearQAM channels, provides guide data, and tracks the cable co's random shifting of the channels? My only point of reference is Tivo, which refuses to acknowledge ClearQAM channels on a basic cable input. The idea of an HTPC using HD channels on "lifeline" cable has some real appeal to me.
     
  16. mattCR

    mattCR Executive Producer
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    Yes, it understands ClearQAM, and while you have to manually address them, it can use the heck out of them. It's a quick walkthrough to get them ;)
     
  17. DaveF

    DaveF Moderator
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    Interesting. TiVo is hinting at a 4 tuner device, but current products suggest they won't execute well. A system that can work off lifeline cable could be useful.
     
  18. mattCR

    mattCR Executive Producer
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    Dave-


    For two years, I used lifeline cable ($14 month) and using ClearQAM had: TBS, TNT, ESPN, Bravo, SyFy, USA, TLC, Discovery, TCM, Disney XD, Disney, ABC Family and all the news stations + locals in full HD. I found with that combination for the most part, I had access to 99% of what I watched, and a Netflix subscription at $7 a month, which blended into my MediaCenter gave me everything else.

    Since we've been working on a new project, I've had to grab a cablecard and now subscribe to everything, but if it weren't being subsidized, I would have no problem going back.
     
  19. DaveF

    DaveF Moderator
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    I hope you'll find time to do some photo docs of your upgrade. I'm starting to think about what comes after my pair of TivoHDs (and since I pay the monthly sub, there's value to upgrading to a system with no monthly cost). I do OTA HD currently, but the Ceton card was cable-only last I looked. But I might need to get cable again, so a lifeline compatible system might be good. I'm in no rush, but I'm starting to think about it -- and prep my wife for a possible big change to our system ;)
     
  20. mattCR

    mattCR Executive Producer
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    I'm trying to update the other thread day by day with photos and walking through the process. The goal in that thread right now is: HTPC with full function for less then $500.
     

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