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2012 Multi-room HTPC


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#1 of 90 OFFLINE   DaveF

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Posted December 29 2011 - 07:36 AM

To summarize: 2012 brings a new job and move out of state, selling my current house and buying a new place in Virginia. God willing and the creek don't rise, next year could be a lovely year to do a multi-room HTPC system.


But I don't know. I'm just starting the research. Most important is WAF (wife approval factor). This would replace a pair of TivoHDs, which my wife loves. And we're both Apple people; usability is important. If a Windows Media Center as DVR is markedly inferior to Tivo in usability, all the tech specs in the world won't matter: it will be veto'd by the master-planning committee.


So I need to find video demos and reviews of a 7MC system in action -- something I could plausibly build and configure. A hyper-configured system that's brilliant in execution but unreasonable for a duffer is no good to me :)


I believe there are some videos in this forum, but I don't recall what thread they're in. Pointers to those are appreciated.


Other good links, be it YouTube or other are good.


I need to know good or bad, how this compares to Tivo. Getting a false impression, spending over a $1000, and then being disappointed and having my wife mad at me is far worse than deciding up front this is not the system for me and aborting before I get started.



#2 of 90 OFFLINE   mariotolico

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Posted December 29 2011 - 09:19 AM

and take a very good italian coffee

#3 of 90 OFFLINE   mariotolico

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Posted December 29 2011 - 09:20 AM

and take a good italian coffee

#4 of 90 OFFLINE   DaveF

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Posted December 29 2011 - 10:30 AM

Links

http://hd.engadget.c...-center-review/

This indicates I build a 7MC HTPC, set my Xbox into Extender mode and I'm done. DVR on live TV at both locations. Rip Blu-rays to HTPC and Xbox can see the whole library. Matt's described this before but I've never had time to watch his videos. This Engadget review is really impressing me. I still don't know how it feels compared to Tivo, but the appearance looks pretty comparable.


But there are some major weaknesses. The top two might be deal-breakers.

  • Only one Live TV buffer, so when you change the channel you lose it.
  • Can't record the buffer.
  • Configuring the display is still a mess. Things don't act as you'd want, it's a mystery to figure out what Microsoft's idea of a monitor or built-in display is, etc. All we want to do is to be able to turn off overscan for goodness' sake.
  • Settings for single recording are still useless, can't even record extra on a show without extending the entire series.
  • Still no resolution pass through, so everything is scaled to one resolution.
  • Grid guide still won't take up the entire screen.



http://www.engadget....7-media-center/

Very positive comparison of 7MC compared to Tivo Premiere. But we watch live TV, sometimes toggling between two tuners, and sometimes using both multiple TVs. This might make an HTPC unworkable for my wife and my usage. Which would be a bummer, because otherwise I'm getting pretty excited about what a 7MC can do and also the project itself.


While DVR owners probably don't spend much time watching live TV, it is still an important feature. .... But TiVo has a few tricks too, like the ability to control both tuners and keep two live buffers -- Media Center makes you record both channels to maintain multiple buffers (you can have up to 16 of these if you max out the number of tuners). 


Double-ugh. Confirming the inability to record a program from the start that's in the live buffer. And the 7MC tuners don't crank along in the background 24x7? We enjoy Tivo's "Suggestions", but it sound like Windows Media Center only records what it is programmed to record, and if there's in the queue, turns off effectively.


Another great old school TiVo feature that's great for watching live TV is its ability to record the buffer; on Media Center if you decide to record a show half way through, the recording only includes from that point forward. Speaking of which, the TiVo's buffers are running 24x7 so the odds of turning on the TV and discovering something cool is lost in Media Center.



But here WMC gets a potential win, though I won't know if it matters until I get a new place with cable and see if it has copy restrictions enabled.



A category that we give TiVo credit for inventing, also easily goes to Media Center. TiVo's older hardware limited its network throughput and in most cases there isn't enough throughput for real time transfers. So the TiVo solution is to copy a show from one DVR to another so you can watch it in another room. The problem is that most cable providers mark their programming as Copy Once which means another copy can't be made for the bedroom. The TiVo Premiere's hardware can easily manage this but its software still only facilitates copying instead of streaming. Meanwhile Media Center offers the same fate, but with one big difference, the Xbox 360 will act as an Extender for Media Center. This means that all the content is streamed from the PC to the 360 and Copy Once DRM doesn't get in the way. Of course even the new 360 isn't exactly the ideal set-top box in a number of ways, and so it isn't a solution for some. Both desperately need the meaning of Copy Once redefined to more closely compare to the way Amazon or iTunes's DRM works, but in the meantime Media Center wins this one because although the 360 isn't the perfect extender, it is better than TiVo's solution, which is nothing.



http://www.hometheat...real-hd-machine

(comments TBD)




#5 of 90 OFFLINE   mattCR

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Posted December 29 2011 - 04:18 PM

I've tried to post several videos.. I think I'll try to relink them in this thread, hold on


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#6 of 90 OFFLINE   DaveF

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Posted December 30 2011 - 12:42 AM

I recall you put up some build and demo videos, but I haven't tracked them down yet. If you can cross-link some, that would be cool. Posted Image



#7 of 90 OFFLINE   mattCR

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Posted December 30 2011 - 03:54 PM

Check the thread right below this one, I bumped it back to the top ;)


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#8 of 90 OFFLINE   DaveF

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Posted December 31 2011 - 05:36 AM

Link added to my previous comment.



#9 of 90 OFFLINE   Adam Lenhardt

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Posted December 31 2011 - 09:47 AM

Very positive comparison of 7MC compared to Tivo Premiere. But we watch live TV, sometimes toggling between two tuners, and sometimes using both multiple TVs. This might make an HTPC unworkable for my wife and my usage. Which would be a bummer, because otherwise I'm getting pretty excited about what a 7MC can do and also the project itself.

As long as you have multiple tuners installed, you should be good to go. The Infinitv 4 has four tuners built in as part of the M Card setup. Installing multiple single or dual tuner cards into your HTPC should accomplish the same thing.

#10 of 90 OFFLINE   DaveF

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Posted December 31 2011 - 06:01 PM

I'll have to search for clarification on that. I think they were using a dual-tuner setup, but only had one channel of live TV. My inference was that's a limitation baked into Windows, only running one tuner of live TV at a time. But perhaps not.



#11 of 90 OFFLINE   DaveF

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Posted January 03 2012 - 01:38 PM

I've had some ongoing concern and confusion, based on the Engadget review and Tivo comparison, on live TV with an extender. There's been some discussion in the Ceton thread, and my concerns are mostly allayed, summarized in this comment:




Quote:
Originally Posted by mattCR 

As far as live tuners;  you have as many recording as you want (well, up to twelve) and as many as 5 live tuners (1 in the main, and then 4 extenders)




#12 of 90 OFFLINE   DaveF

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Posted January 03 2012 - 02:11 PM

Having addressed some feature concerns and technical questions, I should back up and consider my goals. I do have some specific hardware purchase ideas, but it would be good to stay away from purchase decisions until I've confirmed my general goals can be achieved.


I thought I was going to build this system last year, summer of 2011. That didn't happen. This year is looking realistic, maybe this Spring, with a new job, new apartment, and new cable subscription.



In a previous thread, I'd outlined some goals:

http://www.hometheat...30#post_3806894



I'm going to revise the goals, to try and be more realistic and higher level:

* High WAF :)

* Dedicated hardware for replacement and upgrade to my two TivoHD units (living room and bedroom)

** 4 tuners minimum

** use with cable subscription (hopefully FiOS service)

** Always on, 24x7 operation

  * Quiet, even silent, operation   * Future-proof to add third room extension for possible future "media room" after home purchase * Master "brain" unit in one room that controls & streams all tuners, programming, media; simultaneously streaming any content to other rooms

* All units operable by Harmony One or other Harmony remotes

* Serve as digital library for all my content, approximately

** 100 hours HDTV

** 100 Blu-rays

** 200 DVDs

** 400 CDs

** 10,000 Photos


* Standard HDMI connection to HDTV and receivers for A/V; 3D capable for future-proofing


* Integration with online services (e.g. Hulu, Amazon Instant, Netflix, NBC.com)


* Simpler configuration desired.

** Willing to adjust storage file formats to simplify setup: Convert DVD / Blu-ray to iPhone / iPad use would be nice, but is done infrequently

** Do not want to spend 6 months converting content from disc to HTPC


* Budget: $3000 max, $1000 target (excludes cable card subs, or other subscriptions needed)



#13 of 90 OFFLINE   DaveF

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Posted January 03 2012 - 02:41 PM

Some thoughts on budget assuming a 3 year usage.


Option 1:

Keep current pair of TivoHD's

$22/mo for 3 years

Total: $790


Option 2:

Upgrade to Tivo Premiere: 2 * $100

$20 + $15 / mo for 3 years

Total: $1460


Option 3:

Upgrade to Tivo Premiere: 2 * $100

2 x $400  Lifetime subs Total: $1000     Assuming no subscription-guide subscription for a 7MC system, and assuming it's as good as Tivo's service, then I can spend about $800 - $1000 up front for a 3 to 5-year system and be basically breaking even. Maybe if I called Tivo, I'd end up with a cheaper upgrade price as an existing customer.   And as a fun personal project, and hoping to enjoy my movies and music more with a holistic solution, this is worth spending $1000 - $2000 to achieve.

#14 of 90 OFFLINE   mattCR

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Posted January 03 2012 - 02:53 PM

Your budget is definitely doable.  And you'll have some advantages with Media Center you simply don't with TiVo.   (you're comment about movie/video storage is definitely one of those).   Let me think for a bit on how you might best accomplish your goal.


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#15 of 90 OFFLINE   DaveF

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Posted January 03 2012 - 03:24 PM

I've already started collecting hardware ideas at NewEgg, to get a sense of budget. It's taken some effort to change my thinking from fastest-CPU-I-can-afford to a adequate-and-efficient. This should be publicly visible


HTPC Wishlist

https://secure.neweg...spx?ID=19266106





#16 of 90 OFFLINE   mattCR

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Posted January 03 2012 - 03:46 PM

I just get "this wish list is empty"


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#17 of 90 OFFLINE   DaveF

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Posted January 03 2012 - 11:17 PM

Hmm...I'll try to fix that this evening. Don't quite understand NewEgg's lists.


If it were expected to be worthwhile, I could wait on Ivy Bridge. The one preview I read made it sound designed for HTPC use.


Here's my list, a collection of possible basic hardware choices



Posted Image

My Wish List Details


HTPC

Qty. Image Product Description Unit Price Savings Total Price
2 Posted Image
SILVERSTONE Black 8.0mm aluminum front panel, 0.8mm SECC body GRANDIA GD04B Micro ATX Media Center / HTPC Case
Model #:GD04B
Item #:N82E16811163158
Return Policy:Standard Return Policy
In Stock
$99.99   $199.98
1 Posted Image
SILVERSTONE Black Aluminum skin reinforced plastic front panel, 0.8mm SECC body MILO Series ML03B Micro ATX Media Center ...
Model #:ML03B
Item #:N82E16811163174
Return Policy:Standard Return Policy
In Stock
$59.99   $59.99
1 Posted Image
Antec Mult-Station Basic Internal IR receiver and remote
Model #:Mult-Station Basic
Item #:N82E16811999191
Return Policy:Standard Return Policy
In Stock
$36.99 -$11.00 Instant $25.99
1 Posted Image
Link Depot 6 ft. Computer AC Power Cable Model POW-6
Model #:POW-6
Item #:N82E16812189160
Return Policy:Standard Return Policy
In Stock
$3.99   $3.99
1 Posted Image
GIGABYTE GA-Z68MA-D2H-B3 LGA 1155 Intel Z68 HDMI SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 Micro ATX Intel Motherboard
Model #:GA-Z68MA-D2H-B3
Item #:N82E16813128495
Return Policy:Standard Return Policy
In Stock
$124.99   $124.99
1 Posted Image
Antec NEO ECO 400C 400W Continuous Power ATX12V 2.3 / EPS12V 80 PLUS Certified Active PFC Power Supply
Model #:NEO ECO 400C
Item #:N82E16817371029
Return Policy:Standard Return Policy
In Stock
$59.99 -$15.00 Instant $44.99
1 Posted Image
Intel Core i3-2105 Sandy Bridge 3.1GHz LGA 1155 65W Dual-Core Desktop Processor Intel HD Graphics 3000 BX80623I32105
Model #:BX80623I32105
Item #:N82E16819115090
Return Policy:CPU Replacement Only Return Policy
In Stock
$134.99   $134.99
1 Posted Image
Intel Core i3-2125 Sandy Bridge 3.3GHz LGA 1155 65W Dual-Core Desktop Processor Intel HD Graphics 3000 BX80623I32125
Model #:BX80623I32125
Item #:N82E16819115093
Return Policy:CPU Replacement Only Return Policy
In Stock
$149.99   $149.99
1 Posted Image
Intel Core i3-2120T Sandy Bridge 2.6GHz LGA 1155 35W Dual-Core Desktop Processor Intel HD Graphics 2000 BX80623I32120T
Model #:BX80623I32120T
Item #:N82E16819115094
Return Policy:CPU Replacement Only Return Policy
In Stock
$134.99   $134.99
1 Posted Image
G.SKILL Ripjaws X Series 8GB (2 x 4GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Desktop Memory Model F3-12800CL9D-8GBXL
Model #:F3-12800CL9D-8GBXL
Item #:N82E16820231428
Return Policy:Memory Standard Return Policy
In Stock
$44.99   $44.99
1 Posted Image
SAMSUNG EcoGreen F4 HD204UI 2TB SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive -Bare Drive
Model #:HD204UI
Item #:N82E16822152245
Return Policy:Standard Return Policy
In Stock
$179.99   $179.99
1 Posted Image
LITE-ON Black 12X Blu-ray Burner with Blu-ray 3D feature SATA IHBS112-29 - OEM
Model #:IHBS112-29
Item #:N82E16827106346
Return Policy:Standard Return Policy
In Stock
$109.99 -$10.00 Instant $99.99
Subtotal: $1,204.87




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#18 of 90 OFFLINE   DaveF

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Posted January 04 2012 - 12:56 PM

I roughed out a complete system to check realistic cost: about $1600 with extender. No effort was made to save cost, but a few items are on sale. I already have Windows 7 and an Xbox 360, so it's closer to $1300 for me.


It might be missing additional software costs (for going beyond 7MC)  and a RAID, if media size requires more than a simple hard drive.



Item

Cost

Details

Tuner

$300

Ceton InfiniTV 4

Case

$100

SILVERSTONE GRANDIA GD04B

Remote IR Port

$37

Antec Mult-Station

Motherboard

$125

GIGABYTE GA-Z68MA-D2H-B3

Power Supply

$60

Antec NEO ECO 400C

CPU

$150

Intel Core i3-2125

RAM

$45

G.SKILL Ripjaws X 8GB F3-12800CL9D-8GBXL

Hard Drive

$250

WD Caviar Green 3TB IntelliPower

Blu-ray

$110

LITE-ON 12X BD-R with 3D

Power Cable

$5

Link Depot 6 ft. 

WiFi Card

$20

Rosewill RNX-N180PCe 802.11b/g/n PCI

Keyboard & Mouse

$100

Wireless

Windows 7

$100

OEM

Extender

$200

Xbox 360 4GB

HDMI Cable

$10

Monoprice.com

Total

$1,612





#19 of 90 OFFLINE   mattCR

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Posted January 07 2012 - 12:03 PM

I like the build a lot, that's basically what I've done.   I will add a few things:


(1) Remember to include a Microsoft MCE Remote - unless you already have something like a harmony to configure

(2) Use Win7 HP for the most part.  You can use pro, but there is minimal (no real) benefit in this application

(3) Is that a BD-Writer?   I'm assuming so.   That's a nice benefit, but it won't come with burning software, and as a reader, I often find you're better with cheap BD-ROMs which can be had for about $65.

(4) The powercord that comes with the Antec is already 6 feet and measured.  I'd use it, save your money ;)


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#20 of 90 OFFLINE   DaveF

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Posted January 07 2012 - 03:11 PM

Cool, thanks!


I've got a Harmony One, and will buy some appropriate IR receiver module. I might get a Microsoft MCE remote kit to help with setup to start (rather than the generic remote I linked above).


I've got Win7 HP. I bought the 3-license family disc for Parallels on the Mac last year and have a license or two to spare.


I'd be OK with a BR reader. But that particular BR writer was recommended at AVS; there was a note that some other BR readers now throttle or prevent ripping, and this one was known to work well and fast.


I didn't realize the case came with a power cord. And I probably have some packed away at home. Posted Image




I'm uncertain what to do about hard drive space. I estimate I need 5TB to rip my library, or about 1.5 TB if I transcode / recompress.

* My wife and I watch special features.

* It seems silly to take the great BR quality and reduce it with lossy transcoding and decompression.

* Ripping looks like maybe an hour per disc. But transcoding / recompress is like 4 hrs per BR movie?


This is beyond my current knowledge: how to reasonably setup and use 5-6TB of disc space in a Windows system. Buy two 3 TB drives and tell Windows to pull content from two drives? Do I need to setup a RAID? Is that affordable? Searching NewEgg for RAID cards is not encouraging. Cheap ones have bad reviews. Good ones are 20% of my budget. Any comments are welcome.



I'm reconsidering 4GB over 8GB RAM. MS suggests you only need 3GB for a head + two satellite system.

(I wish Microsoft had useful information about their Media Center system. Their info is barely more than hand-waving.)




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