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HTPC as PVR

Discussion in 'Computers' started by norman_maclean, Jan 23, 2003.

  1. norman_maclean

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    I currently have a setup with a Tivo. I love Tivo. I am starting to look at HTPC's, and am just wondering what I should do. I have an old computer hooked up to my reciever for playing mp3's. I would like to have something that has a display on the tv and a remote (mouse or remote) for selecting the music. I have looked at the AT 8500DV card, which comes with a remote, and also can be used as PVR.

    Anyone have anything like this? How is it navigating around for mp3's? Also, does the output to a tv compare at all to normal broadcast (like with my TIVO there is no distortion at all..)

    Thanks
     
  2. Andy Olivera

    Andy Olivera Screenwriter

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    Well, TiVo stores the material on a hard drive, anyway. I don't see why the quality would be any worse.

    There was an article detailing how to do this recently. It might've been in Popular Science, but I'm not sure. Try a search for it...
     
  3. Tekara

    Tekara Supporting Actor

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    I use a ATI AIW 9700 as a PVR on occasion and I must say it is quite excellent. the output quality is superb, it is very hard to tell the difference between a recording and the original; and it does include a program which can clean up picture quality some, I haven't played with it much since I'm on direct TV but it looks like it does great on making cable TV look a lot better.

    I don't think it could replace a Tico though, because you do have to hassle with the computer start-up and any problems to computer might have. The only real thing that would make me prefer a htpc pvr over a tico or replay is the ease of increase the storage capacity, although you can hack the tivo/replay to use a second hardrive.

    I hope that helps some, do feel free to ask any specific questions you might have.
     
  4. norman_maclean

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    Yeah, I realize Tivo is hard-drive based. I actually have one and could never go without one. It is Linux based and I have hacked it and added a larger hard-drive.

    Rob -- Do you actually output the recorded material to your TV or just watch it on your pc monitor? I've never seen an output from a computer to a tv monitor that was too good. My understanding is that new digital tv's with DVI inputs will show it well but otherwise it is not so good, however I have not seen much of either.

    I would use the computer only as a second PVR when 2 things are on at the same time that I want to watch (rare). Also, if you are sending to a tv what size? I am curious b/c I think on the larger screens (specifically RPTV) the signal would look bad....

    Thanks

    I forgot to ask, you use DirectTV and I have a friend without a Tivo interested in doing what you are doing. Do you have someway to set the DirectTV box to change the channel at the specified time so you can be gone and it will record or do you pretty much record it manually?
     
  5. Scott L

    Scott L Producer

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    That's a good point Norman. I'm getting an Asus TV Tuner for PVR use but still plan on using the VCR for normal TV watching. The S-video output on my GF4 doesn't look nearly as good as the RCA out on my VCR. [​IMG]

    But if I had a projector with DVI input that would be a different story.
     
  6. Tekara

    Tekara Supporting Actor

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    I use the output to a TV over S-vid, I can flip between a the picture going to the TV and the picture going to the comp then to the TV and I can't tell the difference. the card was designed to do that so I suppose it makes sense that it looks good. it's got a nice feature where anything I play in the ATI player get's outputed full screen to the TV even though it's only a window, or even minimized, on the computer.

    I have a 27" RCA it's not too too bad of a little TV. the signal that the card puts out to the TV is at 1024x768, HDtv quality as opposed to say the geforce line which only puts out a 800x600, so there's a definate difference. my other comp has a asus GF3 deluxe with TV out that I used to use, so I've seen the difference and it's definatly noticeable.

    as far as the directTV that is something I have been trying to figure out to do myself. there is supposedly a way to hook up a comp to certain recievers that have a seria port on the back, but mine lack that so I've no hope for it. I usually just set the channel set the timer then walk away, it's far from versitile but it's functional.

    once I get a wireless keyboard and mouse I will start using it to play games on the home theater, or use the PC as a jukebox. the visualizations look incredible on the TV everyone always has something to say when they see it.
     
  7. Brian Ruth

    Brian Ruth Supporting Actor

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    Norman:

    I'd say the 8500DV would be a good card if you have a slightly lackluster computer. It's somewhat affordable, plus I think the remote is a wonderful value. It's RF instead of Infared, so you don't have to have a line of sight to the signal receiver. In fact, I have it set up in my bedroom, and I have no problem whatsoever using the remote under the covers. It will be quite nice once I get everything in order. The only thing I don't like about the AIW cards is that their software sometimes leaves a little to be desired, but I'm sure you can use other capture programs with the card without much incident.

    If you have component inputs on your TV, I think all the AIW 8500 model has an optional converter that turns DVI into Component video, allowing you to hook up to your TV that way. If you can do so, it probably looks great.

    Are you still paying a monthly fee for your TiVo?
     
  8. Jeff Blair

    Jeff Blair Second Unit

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    You just want to make sure your old PC is fast enough. I am useing a PIII-550 to record right now. Every once and a while I get some glitchs, but not bad. If it was faster then it would be ok. I can't wait until I can get rid of this thing. [​IMG]
     
  9. norman_maclean

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    Yeah I still pay the monthly fee for Tivo. Know of a way to get around that I'd appreciate it ;-)

    I think I'm going to get the 8500DV card and see how I like it. Should be fun to play with. I like the idea of the RF remote as I could hook up to my tv and reciever using long S-video and RCA cables and control the mp3's from my living room to the computer in my bedroom...
     
  10. Brian Ruth

    Brian Ruth Supporting Actor

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    Norm... I ask because if you have an 8500DV, it might not be worth keeping your monthly subscription to TiVo. I find that for the $10 or so a month, the units themselves seem inadequate compared to computers. Then again, TiVos might have a better interface compared with the ATI board. I must admit I'm not too fond of the TV Guide that ATI uses... it doesn't automatically update, and the interface itself isn't that elegant.

    Up to you, though.... I'd keep the board a while and decide if you could dump your TiVo subscription. Realize that if you do, the TiVo becomes about as functional as a traditional VCR. [​IMG]
     
  11. Joe Hays

    Joe Hays Agent

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    Before you buy any card, check out which cards are compatable with Dscaler. If you will be recording using your video card, you will need Dscaler. It will make your image look much, much better. Here is the Dscaler home page:

    http://www.dscaler.com/index.php

    I have a video card that I could use to record with, but I also have my Tivo, so I never bother with the video card software. I have my Tivo plugged into the video card of my HTPC and watch on a 60 x 80 screen.

    Is the picture as good as HD?? No way, but Dscaler does make it look better.

    Personally, I would suggest sticking with the Tivo, there is nothing easier to setup, use and watch. I can't wait until the new HD Tivo comes out this summer. Then I can stop trying to get my HiPix card to do what my Tivo will do.
     
  12. KenE

    KenE Extra

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    Warning- TiVo fan-biased reply! [​IMG]

    One thing that might be confusing in the TiVo vs DIY DVR issue is the differences of DirecTivo vs a stand-alone TiVo. The stand-alone costs somewhere around $350-$400 plus or minus hard disk sizes. The newer (released Nov, was pretty hard to find in stock) Series II DirecTivo costs about $199 ($250 seems common now) and it's $4.99 per month ($10-$12 for the standalone). The downside is your source is ONLY the DirecTV sat signals (2 inputs). The upside is the digital path from your source.

    The ease-of-use and quality of result from a TiVo-based DVR, for the cost, is greatly worth it vs. a DIY setup. Maybe there's software out there that can do this, but the 2-week database of guide information, season passes, search and record flexibility, and simple interface (with hackability!), leaves the DIY solution lacking.

    Ken
     
  13. Steve Weeks

    Steve Weeks Stunt Coordinator

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    I just built my HTPC, using the AIW 9700 pro card. I have only been playing with it for the past weekend, but the output (s-video) looks just as good as cable on my 61' RPTV. I haven't had a chance yet to play with the "videosoap" program to clean up the image, but even without it the picture looks really good.
     

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