HTPC owners, please give your input, first experience in HTPC

Discussion in 'Computers' started by Ed Werner, Apr 29, 2003.

  1. Ed Werner

    Ed Werner Stunt Coordinator

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    Hi guys,

    I recently bought a Hitachi 57" widescreen and noticed that it has a monitor in port. The computer I have is a 2 year old PIII 600 Mhz laptop with a monitor out port and crappy 8mb integrated vid card (ATI AGP2x).

    I haven't tried hooking up the PC to the HDTV yet, but plan on trying probably tomorrow. I have a ton of questions. I will number them so if you guys want to take the time it will help keep the answers straight.

    1. Will using the HDTV as a monitor hurt the HDTV in any way except for the usual practices associated with avoiding burn in? Any specific adjustments I should make before hooking these two things together?

    2. Are any computer monitor cables better than others? Can I get one in about 10-15' length? Suggestions?

    3. Will I get the best possible picture with this cable, or should I get a monitor cable to component cable adapter? I doubt my computer sends a signal anywhere close to high resolution, but I dunno, I could be totally off track. How would you set it up?

    4. How reliable are wireless internet cards (its called pcmcia or something right?) I currenly have a wired pcmcia (or whatever) linksys card I use to hook to my cable modem.

    5. I am thinking of just buying a better laptop. I want a laptop because I take my comp to work with me to use in various word processing tasks and surfing/gaming. I am looking at a Sanus (debadged Alienware 51 laptop) on Ebay. I can get one with a 3Ghz HyperThreading processor with full sized Motherboard and Radeon 9000M vid card (1Gig RAM and something 2.0 sound). I believe (not sure tho) that it should also have a monitor out port on the back. I would like to be able to use it on my coffee table and make the minimal amount of connections (power, monitor, and sound) Do these computers have an optical out for sound? Would that be a good choice to do if it is an option?

    6. General comments and input? I guess if having a desktop style PC would be sooo much better for the same price(or less), then maybe I will consider it, but then I wouldn't be able to game at work (becuase my comp doesn't even meet min. requirements for most good games now). That would be a drawback since the portability seems to outweigh the small gap between desktop and laptop performance. Also, it seems that especially with the laptop I am considering, there would be little difference and it should be better than most desktops out there right now. The less spent, the better, but I am obviously willing to go as high as 2300 (thats what the sanus costs that I am looking at) but it would take a bit to save up that much. I want to pay cash is why.

    Sorry for being so long, and thanks in advance!

    --Ed
     
  2. Vince Maskeeper

    Vince Maskeeper Producer

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    Most don't have optical by default. This config is not ideal- HTPC is done best as dedicated machine without office bullshit or gaming nonsense installed. With the price of PCs at rock bottom levels, it's easy to have a real machine for HTPC.

    You could build or buy a top line HTPC for a grand.

    -v
     
  3. Ed Werner

    Ed Werner Stunt Coordinator

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    Thanks for the input.

    I thought with the 3.06Ghz processor, 5400RPM HD and 1Gb RAM and wireless cable internet it wouldn't have any problems, even if the memory is slightly bogged down with those other programs. I guess I am looking for that all-in-one mobile (if possible or equivalent) machine.

    So I take it you think the laptop is a bad idea? I am not afraid of building my own desktop. I actually was lookin into it before i got on my HT kick and I am addicted to both. I had a lot of brain farts when I posted this thread. Sorry. I know that PCMCIA slots are a term just for that, the slots. I am just fried from all this technology I have been readin up on lately (HDTV, Recievers, Speakers, DVD players, computers...you get the idea).

    If I was to build just a desktop pc for home theater, music and gameing would it be good to go with one of those microsystems that are out? I ask because it looks like one of those would fit nicely on the bottom audio rack shelf. I would only need cords to extend the keyboard, mouse, and joystick I guess so I can play from the coffee table. They make those right( I am guessing they do)

    I could go to newegg and price around a bit, but I am just looking for a foundation to start from, very fast gaming laptop, desktop PC or microsystem. I just don't know. Lets hear the pros cons to each!

    I will look in my TV manual tomorrow and see if there are any precautions or settings that Hitachi recommends for connection as a display for the laptop.

    Please everyone, chime in with your comments, I don't wanna make the wrong choice and burn 1 to 2K.

    Thanks,

    Ed
     
  4. Scott L

    Scott L Producer

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    Hi Ed, here are some points to bring up:

    1) If you do connect youtr laptop to your HDTV make sure you know what type of resolution the VGA input accepts. Plus make sure you set your refresh rate to 60Hz in the Display Settings.

    2) Getting a long VGA cable make sure it's shielded well. I went with sfcable.com. They have a 15' double shielded, dual ferite SVGA cable available for about $10. If connecting straight to your TV make sure you get a Male/Male cable.

    3) I would also recommend making a seperate PC for HTPC. Though the specs are lookin good on that laptop (minus the slow HD) that Radeon 9000 will age real quick. It would be even better to get a slightly slower CPU and a kickass vid card for gaming purposes. Laptops and gaming usually don't mix because the higher end graphics cards require a lot of power and most manufacturers won't stick em in their systems.

    4) Since I don't use my HTPC for DVD watching (32" Wega here) I set up an LCD, keyboard and wireless mouse on 2 coffee tables. If you plan on doing this make sure your keyboard and mouse are USB so you can just run 1 USB extension to your seat and daisy chain them off the one cable.

    Btw having a dedicated HTPC in your theater is very attractive depending on which case you choose. It's probably the best looking part of my crappy budget theater. [​IMG] Pic 1 Pic 2
     
  5. Vince Maskeeper

    Vince Maskeeper Producer

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    The main con to laptop/prebuilt is price and lack of the right parts. There are some very specific hardware choices that will provide you with the best performance for actual HTPC use- and few of them will come stock in a prebuilt system. The ability to customize so you get good performance is the key.

    -V
     
  6. Ed Werner

    Ed Werner Stunt Coordinator

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    Wow, thanks for all the advice guys, certainly alot of good points there and I plan on putting some of those ideas to good use.

    Scott L. Don't be so hard on your system, it looks very nice. Certainly more than what most people have, however don't measure yourself against what others have. If it brings a smile to your face and you have fun with it then who cares, right? I just say that cause I used to think little of my system, but I am very proud of it and am happy with the choices I have made. Not everyone makes 6 figures and can throw tens of thousands just to a HT. Its cool to be modest though. [​IMG] Nice job!

    I am gonna look into building a desktop (not use a laptop) for the HT. I do however want to surf and play games on this machine, as well as d/l music and play or even stream music from internet stations/file sharing, so I am gonna have to figure out what the "basics" are that I am gonna need to keep it running fast and smoothly. I am gonna buy a seperate DVD player for the HT so that won't be a priority (playing DVDs from the HTPC, never thought about it crashing while people are trying to watch it....very good point!)

    So anyone care to suggest what programs to use in this machine for the following:

    -OS
    -Anti-virus (for protection when surfing, file sharing, email and the like)
    -Good CD/DVD burner program
    -System maintenance (like something like/similar to Norton Systemworks would be good?)
    -Any other suggestions?

    I think I can spec out the hardware, but I have done this in terms of thinking of a regular PC. Is there any hardware that I should specifically consider for this PC since it will be for use on/with my HT? Even things that are creature comforts or will make my life easier are most appreciated.

    Thanks guys, you are the best.

    Ed
     
  7. Scott L

    Scott L Producer

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    Thanks Ed, I spent a lot of time on it, making it function just how I wanted. Visitors are always amazed at what it can do and it's not just about cool carpeting. [​IMG]
     
  8. Robert-Y

    Robert-Y Auditioning

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    -OS

    Windows XP - more home entertainment friendly than Windows 2000 (which is a business-oriented OS)

    -Anti-virus (for protection when surfing, file sharing, email and the like)

    Norton Internet Security

    -Good CD/DVD burner program

    -System maintenance (like something like/similar to Norton Systemworks would be good?)

    Generally have to hand it to Norton for the utilities.

    -Any other suggestions?

    Depending on your wireless setup, you may want to consider 802.11g instead of b. Higher throughput (similar to "a" but with greater range).
     
  9. Ed Werner

    Ed Werner Stunt Coordinator

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    Thanks for the advice. I have decided to just go with a wired system, I have the BEFSR41 4 port router that goes to a 5 port switch (linksys also) that my XBox and PS2 are connected to now. I have to put the HTPC on hold, maybe it can come out of our tax money next year.

    I have to finish some things out with my HT (audio rack, 4 pr speaker stands for rears- sanus) nother pair of FXi50 rear surrounds for 7.1, and I decided to go with RTi70 fronts (soon) and two 12" subs up front, one left and one right. I don't need a ton of power but I want good response and will have a 1G budget for both (out the door) Should I look at velodyne? It has to fit under my end tables (the KLH12" I have up there now does).

    I was also thinking of a bass management system, I swear I seen someone here mention one that you can independantly operate up to X amount of subs. Anyone know of anything like that?

    I also need some good power protection (just have a strip now) and I was thinking of conditioning also.

    Not to mention the various cables I will need (have most right now thank god) and end of year digital HD cable. Oh, I guess a component switch (audio....something, can't remember, can someone help me out here too?)

    Just an update on everything I have been thinking about. Oh, and I need a CD changer. [​IMG]

    --Ed
     

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