Building a HTPC for DVD and HDTV

Discussion in 'Computers' started by Robert Silge, Oct 10, 2004.

  1. Robert Silge

    Robert Silge Agent

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    If this isn't the best forum to discuss this in please point me to the right subcategory, it's been a long while since I've posted here.

    This winter I'll be helping a friend build a HTPC for his game room, with a view to repeating the task this summer for myself. Wondering what current components are thought most highly of, and any advice or pitfalls to avoid that others who've done this before would offer.

    Thanks.
     
  2. bobE

    bobE Auditioning

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    The normal PC hardware components will work. Of course you want high end (800Mhz front side bus, 3+ Ghz processor). Need speed in order to play HD without buffering issues. I think the biggest issues will be your video card and the software. Microsoft Media Center is the best I have seen. Some video card include their own front end software, but just not as integrated with Window's XP. Video card should have HDTV tuner. Need HDMI or DVI outputs. Need quite fans too. Good luck.
     
  3. Mitch N

    Mitch N Stunt Coordinator

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    I like my ATI Radeon AIW. It has just about everything but the kitchen sink. It even has a decent front end and remote.
     
  4. Robert Silge

    Robert Silge Agent

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    OK, so this is showing my Digital TV ignorance, but in looking at some of the various cards available, am I correct in thinking that you plug your source into the card (digital antenna or digital cable for example) and all it can output is the picture? In other words, the channel selection is done via software.

    The reason I ask is that my friend plans on using this HTPC as a DVR as well, but I am very happy with TiVo and when I finally go HDTV I'd like to keep the TiVo options open. Can I output signal from these cards and let an HD TiVo change channels, etc? Or would I need a standalone digital receiver for that?

    It also seems that managing all of this is a bit challenging remotely. I've seen people talking about wireless keyboards and whatnot, and that sounds cumbersome. Can it successfully be controlled with some sort of remote and an IR to USB kind of deal?

    Thanks guys.
     
  5. Kevin T

    Kevin T Screenwriter

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    most htpc forums i visited recommend staying away from all in wonder type cards. mostly, they suggest the radeon 9600 or 9800 series. look into zalman fans for quiet cooling. also, you might need a program called powerstrip to adjust the resolution of your card to fit the screen because they're not always 100% compatible. i had multiple problems getting my 9600 pro to connect to my sony projector via dvi, but i got it sorted. for tv tuner, you might wanna look into hauppagge cards as they do the video encoding internally so you cpu doesn't have to work overtime. i can't recommend front end software as i built my htpc solely to play sd television and to be a digital jukebox. you might wanna check this forum:

    http://htpcnews.com

    they have good info regarding building htpc's, video cards, tv capture / turner cards, cases, and remotes. they're not very good in regard to answering posts quickly though. good luck.

    kevin t
     
  6. Scott L

    Scott L Producer

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    Building and using one myself I would definitely NOT recommend one for a friend. It's far from easy to use and setup unless you now what you're doing, and even then it's a challenge since nothing is really standardized. Just imagine your friend calling you every 15 minutes when something goes wrong. [​IMG]

    That said Microsoft Media Center 2005 has been getting great reviews. [​IMG]

    As for your other question, the HD cards change channels. Don't see why you'd need an HD TiVo to change them.
     
  7. Chris Pravetz

    Chris Pravetz Auditioning

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    Robert,

    The comments other have made are on target - you definitely want a fast processor and quiet fans. The All-in-Wonder card uses software codecs for video, so it will put more workload on your CPU than a Hauppauge card will.

    You have a few options for software Microsoft, Snapstream, and Meedio are the best options if you can wait a few weeks. Snapstream has BeyondTV, which is the PVR component and is releasing BeyondMedia shortly - which is the audio and add-ons side. Meedio has the audio and add-ons available now, and is adding the TV/PVR features this month. Both Snapstream and Meedio offer 15 day trial editions - try'em out and see what you like best.

    You can and should get a remote control for your system - the ATI Remote Wonder, FireFly and iMon are good options.

    All the video software I mentioned can control your tuner box via serial or IR. Your HTPC can share the tuner with your Tivo, or you can have the HTPC connected serially through the Tivo and use the IR to change the Tivo channels. All depends on what you want to do with each component - and how likely it is that someone will change the channel while the HTPC is recording your favorite show [​IMG]

    I put in a second DirecTV tuner for my HTPC, and have a Sony Tivo/Directv receiver as well - that way, there's no conflict over tuning.

    Good luck with your projects!
     
  8. Jeff Jacobson

    Jeff Jacobson Cinematographer

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    Be sure to get your HDTV tuner card before July 1, 2005. After that it will be illegal for retailers to sell them in the US. (Go here for more info: http://www.eff.org/broadcastflag/)
     
  9. bobE

    bobE Auditioning

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    One thing I forgot... using PVR to record in HD format is a big issue. Lots of pressure from Hollywood to curb piracy, so no standard has been adopted yet for recording in HD format. Microsoft does not support recording in HD format (not sure about 2005 version of Media Center). Media Center will do just about everything else. Does not mean you can't get it done, but you may need to do hunting for 3rd party patches. Unless you are a PC guru, likely you will spend lots of time trouble shooting. The technology is there from hardware, it's just software standards that are holding things up.
     

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