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Sub-$400 solution for pushing video content from PC to HDTV?


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#1 of 6 OFFLINE   Adam Lenhardt

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Posted January 23 2011 - 08:25 AM

I was looking in the Best Buy weekly ad and came across this:
http://static.hometh...um.com/imgrepo/

Which at first glance seemed to be exactly what I was looking for. Great price, handles the Xvid AVI and H.264/AC3 MKV files I currently watch on my PC. My main concern is that I've read nothing that tells me it plays Windows 7 Media Center files, and I've heard mixed things about 1080P24 playback; some reviews say it works flawlessly with them, others say it stutters or has lip sync issues; it is still however a definite possibility. The small size is nice too.


Then I thought about getting more ambitious and getting an HTPC for this purpose. While I realize that wouldn't come in at a $199 price point, I would like to get fairly close if I went this option:

    [*]
    http://i.dell.com/da...ro-504x350.png

    Inspiron Zino HD 410


    Average Customer Rating:
    Posted Image 3.8  out of 5   (25 Reviews)
    Posted Image
    18 out of 25(72%)customers would recommend this product to a friend.

    Which would provide me a whole second Windows 7 Media Center installation that could network with the
    Windows 7 Media Center on my main PC. I don't need a Blu-Ray player or even a TV Tuner card (since I
    already have a stand-alone Blu-Ray player that works great and an excellent TV Tuner card in my main PC).

    My main concern with this option is that even if you upgrade the processor, you're still running a machine with an AMD Athlon™ II X2 P340 (2.2GHz/1MB cache) processor. I'm worried that's not powerful enough to handle streaming 1080P video from Hulu et al. For the $199.99 for the WD TV, I would be willing to forgo online streaming. But If I'm putting $300+ down, I want to be able to do it all.


    I'm also a bit concerned by the mixed customer reviews; some love it, but roughly 1 out of 4 don't.


    [*] Custom HTPC

    The biggest problem here is that I'd be in way over my head, and the costs start escalating rapidly. I don't have a lot of space in my cabinet, so I'd be looking at a Micro ATX motherboard to fit into the smallest case possible. Right now I'm considering:

    Posted Image
    Intel Core i5-655K Clarkdale 3.2GHz LGA 1156 73W Dual-Core Unlocked Desktop Processor BX80616I5655K
    Item #: N82E16819116369
    Return Policy: CPU Replacement Only Return Policy

     
    Posted Image
    Western Digital Caviar Blue WD6400AAKS 640GB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive -Bare Drive
    Item #: N82E16822136218
    Return Policy: Standard Return Policy

The Core i5-655K has onboard graphics, that handle 1080P flawlessly, so I don't have to worry about a graphics card. I'm still not sure what I'd do for a case (or a power supply, if the case doesn't have one built in.) Likewise, I'd still have to do research on memory. Is what I've posted above a good start? If not, what would you recommend instead? If so, what else would I need to fill it out and get it up and running?
  I just thought I'd get feedback here before I made any decision.



#2 of 6 OFFLINE   DaveF

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Posted January 23 2011 - 12:09 PM

I can't help with the HTPC questions; hopefully MattCR or other will chime in soon.


But I always like to ask: before spending a few hundred dollars, do you have a device that would do the trick? Tivo? Xbox? AppleTV? It sounds silly, but sometimes people don't know about some of the features or hacks for other devices that can do some or all of what they want. :)


I'll let the pros handle the meaty questions on the hardware you're looking at :)



#3 of 6 OFFLINE   Adam Lenhardt

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Posted January 23 2011 - 02:13 PM

I looked into an Apple TV, but it just doesn't have the file format support I need. If I bought a lot of videos from the iTunes store, that'd be the way to go. But 80 percent of my videos are AVI files encoded in Xvid, with another 10 percent MKV files. Neither are supported by the Apple TV. An Xbox 360 would do some of the things I'm looking for, but I have no interest in buying an Xbox 360 just for that.


At the moment, I'm leaning towards the Western Digital media hub. It plays all of my non-Windows Media Center videos natively, and reading over the specs, I should be able to feed my Windows Media Center recordings to it through the "Play To" feature in Windows 7.



#4 of 6 OFFLINE   DaveF

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Posted January 23 2011 - 03:11 PM

Right. I don't mean to suggest you buy any of those. Rather, if you already had one of those items, you might be able to accomplish what you want without spending as much, or any, money. (though it might require some hackery or changing your process some to make it work :)


I've heard good things about the WD media boxes, but don't have personal experience.



#5 of 6 OFFLINE   nolesrule

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Posted January 23 2011 - 04:09 PM

Do the Boxee Box or Roku or Popcorn Hour support the formats you need? Those are other STB options.


I know Boxee does mkv. I've been testing the PC version of their software with some of my TV DVDs.



#6 of 6 OFFLINE   Adam Lenhardt

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Posted January 24 2011 - 02:20 AM

I appreciate that, Dave. Thanks for the suggestions, Joe. I've also throught about Roku, but right now I'm still favoring the WD box.

If I do decide to take the plunge tomorrow, I'll definitely right up a review and let other members know my impressions of it.