Why and what is an HTPC

Discussion in 'Computers' started by Jarett, Jan 14, 2005.

  1. Jarett

    Jarett Stunt Coordinator

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    Hey all,
    I've been scouring over home theater info for a long time now but i've never been informed as to what the purpose of a home theater PC would be. What would the purpose of having one be and what sets it apart from a regualr desktop computer? Thanks all,

    Jay
     
  2. CRyan

    CRyan Screenwriter

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    Nothing really sets it apart from what a "regular" desktop PC would be. Just that you would pick components for specific purposes. Genenrally, people set up an HTPC for video playback on a projection system. The system requirements for something like this are not that high. You jsut need a vide- card that can output what you need (i.e. DVI).

    The purpose in large are to scale DVD video. You can up res a DVD image to display whatever resolution you want. And you can do this pretty well at a much cheaper cost than a standalone video processor.

    To me that is an HTPC. Some expand it further to also include video capture and recording and music storage and playback.

    C. Ryan
     
  3. Ian-Fl

    Ian-Fl Second Unit

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    What I think is great about an HTPC is it's flexibility. A DVD player will always give you the same picture and sound.
    Software and the right hardware can take a theater to a different level if you have the patience to sort it all out.
    I think also the cost/performance is right up there. I don't have incredible vast sums of money to throw into my theater so it occurred to me the source of my media player has to be up there in order to squeeze out the best.
    People spend thousands on video scalers and yet processors and video cards are so powerful now for a fraction of that cost.
    If you decide to go that route do your research and build it. You can save a couple of hundred and have a few evenings being moderately challenged.
     
  4. Vince Maskeeper

    Vince Maskeeper Producer

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    There is a post answering this exact question in the FAQ AND PRIMER, link in my sig.
     
  5. Scott L

    Scott L Producer

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    HTPC gives you bragging rights to people who have more expensive equipment but don't like to fool with PCs.
     
  6. Kevin T

    Kevin T Screenwriter

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    i have a htpc and expensive equipment. do i get the tops for bragging rights? i mainly use my htpc as a digital jukebox randomly playing about 5000 mp3s. it's connected to my projector but only for the cool winamp visualizations. i still use my denon dvd player for movies. i attempted to use the htpc for dvd playback as well, but the learning curve for powerstrip was higher than i wanted to bother with since i already have an overly capable dvd player.

    kevin t
     
  7. Scott L

    Scott L Producer

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    Kevin I'm with you. I've tinkered with so many settings and tried out so many programs and filters that my brain is numb. When I can afford a Faroudja-based Denon I will definitely be going that route and let the htpc handle everything else. Unless I need region-free playback that is.
     
  8. Sami Kallio

    Sami Kallio Screenwriter

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    I use my HTPC to play my region free movies as my Denon can't. Denon does have much better picture and it is less hassle to use but the HTPC plays movie backups much better. Main reason why I built one was as a jukebox playing wav-files and playing games on my projector. For region free movies I could have always gotten a $30 DVD player so that's not a reason enough to get one.
     
  9. Vince Maskeeper

    Vince Maskeeper Producer

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    Sami,

    What model Denon do you have? For me, DVD scaled to 720p from HTPC, I have never seen an affordable dvd player that could do even close. All the scaling players I've seen have all kinds of issues like macroblocking.

    -Vince
     
  10. Sami Kallio

    Sami Kallio Screenwriter

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    Denon DVD-1600 vs ATI Radeon 9600SE. There was a big advantage to the Denon. I haven't yet tried the new 9800XT. I'm not upscaling so that might have something to do with it (not that I'm a big believer in upscaling).
     
  11. Vince Maskeeper

    Vince Maskeeper Producer

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    When you're using a digital panel, one way or another it's going to get scaled. Since my PJ has a less-than stellar upscaling circuit, so it works best to feed it 1024x768 or 720p.

    I have the Denon 1910 with the flawed Dcdi 2301 chip... and my old ATI with theatertek looks considerably better at 720p. I don't think the 1600 does upscale (If i recall it's progressive only)-- and I'd guess your display would be a big figure in the mix.

    Interesting, in my house the newer Denon versus an older ATI, the ATI wins: in yours with an old Denon and a new ATI- you give the edge to Denon.

    Although I don't think it would be a huge difference, in my case the connection types are a little different, but...

    -Vince
     
  12. Sami Kallio

    Sami Kallio Screenwriter

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    I have a CRT front projector that is limited to 720 * 480 so no upscaling. Picture is over 100 inches so even a small difference shows clearly. Component connections were used, with the ATI it was with an DVI adapter.

    The picture with the ATI wasn't bad at all, just not what the Denon was able to do. Then again, the picture was much better on it than on my old Sony standalone DVD.

    Would I benefit from experiencing with different coders? I'm using WinDVD, PowerDVD didn't work well with digital output. PowerStrip was used to configure the secondary display to 720*480. I'm thinking of getting 6600GT next and leaving the 9800XT to my gaming computer, I saw an article about NVidia's new software for it and the picture was better. Can't remember where I saw it.
     
  13. Tony Loewen

    Tony Loewen Stunt Coordinator

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    I have my 2-year old pentium 4 2.0ghz computer driving my sanyo z2, and I would say that after admittedly quite a few hours of tweaking with programs like zoomplayer and all of the associated codecs and ffdshow, I have not seen a better picture. Whenever anyone comes over for a movie night, they all say it's 10 times the picture quality of, say, Famous Players. Especially when you consider the cost. I already had the PC, and it wasn't really doing anything, so after a cheap chaintech sound card with optical out (bit-perfect) and a cheap sapphire 256mb video card, I invested about $200 for a video scaler/post-processor on par with stand alone units in the multiple thousands of dollars. Plus I can have all of my dvd collection archived and through a front end like xlobby, I can search through my video collection with cover art and write-ups, and start any movie with a press of a button on the remote control. Not to mention digital PVR capability and an audio jukebox that can also be set up as a karaoke player. If I want, I could get a few x10 devices and automate the house (lights, screen, doorbell indication, answering machine, pretty much whatever you can imagine).

    If you want plug and play, htpc's aren't really the way to go. But if you are into tweaking and pushing things to the limit (or past), and have the time and drive to set up something that will blow pretty much any store-bought dvd player out of the water, not to mention the other things listed above, they really are the answer. One hell of a cool factor once you get everything working, if you ask me. And as far as constantly having to play with them, I haven't had to do anything in a few months (knock on wood).

    HTPCs. Much more than a fancy dvd player.
     
  14. Chris

    Chris Lead Actor

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    I've become a pretty solid advocate of HTPC. After setting up my MCE2005 box, I use it often.

    Now, I see where for people with short collections, it's an "eh" thing, but to me, it's like a TiVO on steroids that I just can't beat.

    Outside of using it for a TiVO, I'm able to record shows off to DVD when I want, get great output @ 1080i from DVDs that looks better then my Samsung upscaler player. Sound output is good (though my Denon 3805 handles most of that).

    The fact that I can archive in HD-DiVX and get great output is worth it as well.

    Here's the way I setup my system now:

    HTPC:

    AMD64-3000+; Geforce 6600GT AGP; Nforce3 Ultra board (Chaintech); ATI HDTV + ATI eHome TV cards; Aopen DVD-R, 160G SATA. Bamn! Record HDTV. Record TV. Watch DVDs. Listen to Radio. Browse the internet. Surf my collection of MP3s and other items.

    I get better output to my Sony HDTV via this unit using NDVD with the new system (PureVision) is so good it puts every other DVD player I've ever seen to shame.

    Right now, I'm storing 800GB of data just for media center. TV shows, complete series that I can't get on DVD (yet), internet only series, family videos, MP3s, etc. The ability to just browse to it with a remote control? Genious.

    I do know many who forgo a receiver and get an 8 channel sound card and decent PC speakers and *wham* a better HTIB then most of what you can find for less then $1,000.

    But for me, it's just become another piece in my HT, but I do enjoy it [​IMG]
     

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