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Building an HTPC

Discussion in 'Computers' started by MichelleNichole, Feb 25, 2007.

  1. MichelleNichole

    MichelleNichole New Member

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    I currently have a Infocus SP4805 projector. I am receiving OTA HD through a Panasonic DirecTV OTA receiver. I want to make an old 850Mhz PC into a HTPC. I read in a thread several days ago about being able to not only use my PC as a HT but also as TIVO with the ability to record one movie while watching another and the ability to stop and rewind the current movie I am watching. I am looking for what kind of hardware and software I will need to accomplish this. Also, any suggestions as to what products to buy and not to buy would be appreciated.
     
  2. Rommel_L

    Rommel_L Well-Known Member

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    A system with a 850Mhz CPU is just too slow specially with the advent of HD, not to mention the outdated technoology it uses...
     
  3. MichelleNichole

    MichelleNichole New Member

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    Okay. So what do I need then?
     
  4. Kimmo Jaskari

    Kimmo Jaskari Well-Known Member

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    A fairly modern CPU is a must. Processing high definition video takes a lot of horsepower. I'd recommend a low-end Intel Core 2 Duo, for instance, or AMD's dual core Athlon series though Intel is currently the one to beat. A gig of ram, two would be even better, a fast hard drive, two would again be better, and a graphics card that can do HDCP and has HDMI out - Geforce 7000-series or better probably or ATI X1000-series.

    Pretty much a fairly high-end rig if you want it to really work, in other words.

    I'm not entirely sure the Infocus can handle HDCP. If it can't, you are out of luck due to the studio paranoia and their insistence on closing "the analog hole"... and never mind how much it hurts the consumers, while the pirates just crack the encryption instead. But, that's another rant (fueled in part by the fact that my otherwise nice 720P projector has no HDCP and will have to be replaced.)

    Also, while the 4805 looks very good, it has only 800 x 480 in resolution. Sort of a waste to run HDTV through that, as that is usually either 1280 x 720 (720P) or 1920 x 1080 (1080i/p).

    For the "proper" setup you are looking at a bit of an investment, in other words.
     
  5. MichelleNichole

    MichelleNichole New Member

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    The 4805 does do 1080i and it does look good using my current HD receiver.

    So you do not recommend getting a HDTV card for the PC?
     
  6. Kimmo Jaskari

    Kimmo Jaskari Well-Known Member

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    Yeah, I've seen the newer model of the 4805 and it did look surprisingly good showing HD even though it is a fairly low resolution model. You're still not getting much higher resolution than your average DVD though, but the better source material does look better than the DVD, I guess.

    I don't think an 850mhz PC can handle HD video. To make a PC based PVR, you'd need a modern PC. I've never tried using a PC as a HD-PVR but my 3.2Ghz Pentium IV could not play back 720P material stutter-free if it was encoded with H.264... my dual-core Athlon XP 64 4200+ however does well. So based on those experiences and assuming the load is similar when using a HD-card in the PC you probably wouldn't be happy.

    I may be wrong, of course. It's been known to happen. [​IMG]
     
  7. PhillJones

    PhillJones Well-Known Member

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    The other way to do it is use a graphics card with hardware acceleration. I play back HD material on my AMD Athalon-2400M, clocked at 2200MHz with an nVIDIA 6600GT using the nVIDIA purevideo codec. Actually, I can nearly playback stutter free using using ffdshow but it's pushing it. The new nVIDIA cards have acceleration for H.264.

    It's not always the lack of CPU power that causes skipping. It's recomended that if you record HD, you use a separate physical disk to the one on which the OS is located and that you format the disk with 64k blocks.

    To be honest HTPC is not really a mature technology so be prepared for endless fiddling till you get it to work. Lots of people try to get a PC-DVR to work and end up having to give up because they don't have the time to get it to work. Check out the sageTV or green button forums. It's crazy.
     
  8. Rommel_L

    Rommel_L Well-Known Member

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    Actually, it is. It is not as idiot-proof as a lot of people think it is. The potential builder still need to their homework concerning the capabilities of their HTPC and the technical competence to pull it off...
     
  9. Parker Clack

    Parker Clack Schizophrenic Man
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    I have an HTPC with a AMD 64, 1G of RAM, dual tuner Hauppauge, 400G HD and 6600 Nvidia. I don't record HD but I can play back HD from my HTPC to my RPTV. I am thinking of picking up one of the new HP units with the Intel dual core, 2G of RAM, 500G HD, extra media slot, 7600 Nvidia , dual tuners and Vista for around $1,100 which is hard to beat when building your own.

    Parker
     
  10. Kimmo Jaskari

    Kimmo Jaskari Well-Known Member

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    I think the post above just underlines that a HTPC that is going to be doing HDTV duty needs to be pretty beefy. An 850Mhz should work for non-HD material though; I use my Xbox (the first generation one with a 700 Mhz Celeron CPU in it) to watch DVD's and other video clips that are non-HD and that works very well indeed, but of course I don't record on it and it definitely can't do HDTV.

    HD acceleration in the graphics card can help, but one really can't rely on that - and the underlying PC still needs to be pretty powerful even if the accelerated drivers will help bring the load on the machine down some.
     
  11. PhillJones

    PhillJones Well-Known Member

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    It depends what you mean by mature, it's a bit of a flashpoint word so maybe I shouldn't have used it.

    To be clear, what I mean is that HTPC is not plug and play, especially for HD. Most people have at least some problems and you need knowledge beyond that which is included in the manuals for the applications.

    I have an HTPC working very well at the minute but the learning curve was kind of crazy. I had to learn about everything from the native refresh rate of my plasma screen to how to the difference between a transport stream and a program stream and which demulitplexors work well with both.

    Two years down the line, I don't yet have it doing everything I want it to. It doesn't yet play my ripped music bit perfect, as I've not got Asio or kernal streaming. Some people are saying on the forums that the MC application I use doesn't play well with ASIO so I'm in two minds as to whether to try it.

    So you see, I say it's not mature as it's still a tweakers paradise but if that's the sort of thing that floats your boat, some people have some truely impressive systems running.
     
  12. Rommel_L

    Rommel_L Well-Known Member

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    When HTPC started, it didn't even include HD, a new technology that hasn't matured/accepted/widespread. But for everything else (dvd, music, games), it is. HTPC with HD capability will eventually mature, maybe in the next 6-12 months.

    I bet that you wouldn't have any problems if your HTPC doesn't try handle HD. You cannot assume that the components that you currently have can run HD material without any problems.
     
  13. Kimmo Jaskari

    Kimmo Jaskari Well-Known Member

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    The HD part brings new needs to the setup - one thing being the never sufficiently accursed need to run HDCP just because the MPAA is (much like the Empire in Star Wars) tightening its grip on our system(s)...

    Now it's not enough that the gear can handle the load and be otherwise fine, now it also has to be all-digital and all-copy-protected, or else.

    Meanwhile, the HD discs are being cracked and copied left and right, so as usual it is only the legitimate users who suffer from the copy protection. Grrr.
     
  14. PhillJones

    PhillJones Well-Known Member

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    My system actually works pretty well right now. I record and play back HD, have my music on it, photos etc. The problems that I did have were nothing to do with lack of power and they certainly weren't all HD related.
     
  15. ChazEd

    ChazEd Member

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    Newegg.com has bare-bones HTPC boxes that you can add components too. As a video editor, I'd look at quad core processors and don't scrimp too much there. Also...when recording...never ...never NEVER record to the main C drive... always designate a separate drive for your AV files. eSata would be a good connection interface too... Antec makes a hot-swap drive caddy that you can install in the box for changing out drives if you want to save files and use off-the-shelf SATA drives. Keeps things from being cluttered.

    I'm looking at doing this eventually but I have too many other things I need to deal with before I go that route
     

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