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Need help finding or building a PC for my living room (not a full blown HTPC)


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#1 of 7 OFFLINE   Mike~Sileck

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Posted May 31 2010 - 05:21 PM

Hey guys...been a while since I posted on here - love the new layout..



I just got a new TV for my living room, a 73" RearPro DLP from Mitsu, and I love it to death.  Only problem is that it doesn't have a VGA port, which sort of cramps my style.


In the past I had a smaller LCD display that had a VGA port.  I would hook my laptop up to it and play hulu and other downloaded videos and whatever else (occasional emulated gaming, etc.).  Audio was done with a simple Y Splitter to my AVR.  Nothing was digital audio wise, but some of the videos were 720p rips and whatever else.  1080p didnt work with my laptop (not powerful enough I guess).

Normally I'd just keep this set up, but I don't have an HDMI port on my laptop, and thats the only digital signal my tv takes.



I've taken this as a sign I need a new PC client for my living room so (a) I can do everything I wanna do / watch and (b) I don't have to connect / disconnect my laptop from my TV all the time.




This is where you guys come in!  I've seen lots of "smaller" desktop clients out there (some lenovos, dells, etc.), but I have no idea what the best bang for my buck is, and what the latest in smaller video cards / processors is.  I'm kinda a noob with computers, especially since my last purchase was said laptop, over 3 years ago.



Here are some requirements:

(a) HDMI out

(b) Small form factor


Some of my preferences:


I'd like this thing to handle anything from DVD rips to Blu-Ray rips up to 1080p without any problems.  I'd also prefer it had optical (digital audio) out, so I can take advantage of surround sound features.


I do sometimes mess with emulators, so I'd like that feature as well (and I own the games, I just don't like hooking up 100 systems...neither does the gf haha) - and by feature I just mean I'd like them to run smoothly and w/e (if it handles 1080p video I doubt this would be a concern).


I do NOT play newer games.  I will sometimes play around with sim city or something older, but I don't need to be running the newest modern warfare or crysis or w/e.

My tv is 1080p, so it needs to output that resolution.


Additionally, I have a server computer in my basement (its just an old computer with a lot of storage space that I save everything on) - and I typically just stream everything from that computer to anything else in the house (PS3, my laptop, XBOX).  What this means is I dont need much storage (at all) on the new computer.  So I don't need a TB drive or anything, just something small, quiet, and quick (which sounds like SSD...but those arent exactly cheap).


If not EXTRAORDINARILY expensive, I wouldnt mind a built in OTA tuner for HD signals.  I don't have cable at my house, I just watch OTA network TV, and if I could record a show now and then, that'd be cool too (it'd cut down on the hulu time).



So yeah, I'd like to do all of that, for under $500?  Absolutely under $750.


Possible?  Suggestions?  Questions to clarify?


Thanks so much - you guys are the best!!!!


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#2 of 7 OFFLINE   mattCR

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Posted May 31 2010 - 05:28 PM

Cheap but decent that accomplishes all of the above, is dead silent and works in the livingroom?

You could start with an Acer Revo, it will do 1080P just fine, handle MKV, and most native formats, and it's support for Windows MCE is solid.. you can get one all the way setup for about $ 250-$300, and they have HDMI out.

If you're willing to step up, you might look at the guide I have here, as well as others in several places, and you can find you can accomplish that + some for decent money.


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#3 of 7 OFFLINE   Mike~Sileck

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Posted May 31 2010 - 05:42 PM

Matt - Thanks for the reply!  When you say "step up", how much more do you mean?  I would like to stay under 500, but could work up to 700ish if the feature set demanded it.


I'll check out the Acer Revo!  Thanks...



Are there any new technologies I should be looking for specifically in models? (in terms of video chip or processor?)


TiA!



Edit:  I've also been looking at this (http://www.engadget....im-nettop-to-c/) for a bit...waiting for it to launch of course.  Would the Revo be extremely far behind the Q150?


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#4 of 7 OFFLINE   mattCR

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Posted June 01 2010 - 05:45 AM

If you need to go really cheap, look for anything Nvidia ION based.  Does 1080P with HDMI supports and DD/DTS output (will not output DTS-MA or TrueHD via Bitstream or HDMI, but will output uncompressed via Analog)  Cheap, dead quiet, solid performers.  The Revo and the Q150 are both ION based.


The one thing ION and those don't do well is act as a DVR (if you are interested in recording TV) for that, you'd want to "step up" and look at something AMD based, primarily because of the cheapness of the 785G chipset (now 890G) which offers DD/DTS (same as Revo, no LPCM or etc. except over analog)  but it gives you more PCI options, etc. for tuner cards.   Strengths: great performance, better if you might game, could have native blueray drive, etc.  Problems: not nearly as quiet.  Uses more energy.  Not as small.


Next step up is to take that second option and add a card that supports LPCM/Bitstream audio.. like ATI 5450, 5650, etc.


All depends on your taste.  You can do either of the first two for less then $400.


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#5 of 7 OFFLINE   Mike~Sileck

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Posted June 01 2010 - 01:08 PM

Thanks for the update / additional information.  I'm definitely leaning more towards keeping it simple and small, which sounds like I'm either going with the Revo or the Q150.

I'll wait until I hear something further from Lenovo regarding that Q150.  It's June now so we should see it soon.  Only concern on that one was the lack of analog outputs, but I guess if I can get the audio from HDMI (even though its not the top qual audio), it'll be enough for what I'm looking to do.  We'll see how it benchmarks price and performance wise against the Revo!


Thanks for your help!



(oh, and regarding the tuner concerns - if I were to get a USB tuner down the line, that should work just fine on those computers right?  It's not ideal, but it should work, if ever needed, right?)


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#6 of 7 OFFLINE   soitjes

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Posted June 03 2010 - 05:39 AM

I like these little motherboards, and they have HDMI :


http://www.mini-box....3IONT-Non-Delux


With a picopsu they are really silent (important if you like to have in your living room).


Only 155$, you should definitely be able to stay under 500$ in total.


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#7 of 7 OFFLINE   mattCR

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Posted June 03 2010 - 04:43 PM


Yes, USB tuner would be fine, but better still if you're after QAM (HDTV) look into SiliconDust Network tuners.


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