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HTPC-Tuner Cards and Comcast

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January 11, 2010 1:24:18 PM

Please forgive the newbie question. I am planning an HTPC build. If I were to go with a couple of HD tuners that would allow for the theoretical recording of four programs at a time, how does the Comcast box figure into the equation? Is the recording of four programs at once even a possibility? I would appreciate all the information on this topic I can get before I go any further. I'm thinking it is just not possible and hoping that I am wrong. I really do not want to be paying a monthly fee to Tivo for the ability to do this or for that matter going with a Comcast supplied DVR. That being said I am unable to figure out how the HTPC on board tuners would make use of the incoming cable feed. Thanks very much...
a c 84 B Homebuilt system
January 11, 2010 1:31:09 PM

I'm not that great with tuner cards, but the digital box makes it nearly impossible to set up. The tuners are mostly used for over the air transmissions. Comcast wouldn't have it any other way...
a b B Homebuilt system
January 11, 2010 11:06:43 PM

Quote:
I am planning an HTPC build. If I were to go with a couple of HD tuners that would allow for the theoretical recording of four programs at a time, how does the Comcast box figure into the equation?


It doesn't. With the Comcast set top box in the picture, it becomes your TV Tuner and it will only output one channel to your HTPC. Your TV Tuner cards, essentially, become nothing more than glorified video capture cards (all recording the same outputted channel).

However, without the set top box, you lose the ability to view/record the encrypted channels that you may or may not subscribe to and your set top box decodes for your TV.

The answer you are looking for is the Ceton Digital Cable Quad-Tuner Card. When this card is released (and you get a cablecard from Comcast), then you will be able to record up to four channels simultaneously (supposedly). Last I heard, they were supposed to become available sometime early this year.

FYI, I just checked the Services and Prices sheet Comcast sent to me when they announced their latest fee hike. Surprisingly, they don't seem to charge for a cablecard (I'm sure there's a catch there).

-Wolf sends
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January 11, 2010 11:18:14 PM

"I just checked the Services and Prices sheet Comcast sent to me when they announced their latest fee hike. Surprisingly, they don't seem to charge for a cablecard (I'm sure there's a catch there). "

-My understanding is the same. I spoke with Comcast, inquired about the cost of the cablecard and was told there is no charge for it. I am able to pick up 22 OTA channels well. They include CBS, NBC, ABC, FOX and the CW. I am going to go with an initial build that will include a "Hauppauge WinTV-HVR-2250 Media Center Kit Dual TV Tuner 1213 PCI-Express x1 Interface - Retail" tuner. Newegg has a 30 day refund policy. If it does not work out on my DLP tunerless television, then back it goes and the $157.00 pricetag just about accounts for the cost of a Tivo. Thats the plan anyway. Thanks for your input. I'm open to any and all suggestions you might offer. What a great forum! The build I am looking at looks like this...

CPU: Athlon II X4 630 ADX630WFGIBOX 2.8GHz AM3, $122. $112.99
CPU Cooler: Cooler Master 風神鍛 (Geminii S) RR-CCH-PBU1-GP, $32. $39.55
Motherboard: GIGABYTE GA-MA785GMT-UD2H AM3 AMD 785G chipset microATX, $89. $97.55
Memory: G.SKILL 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333 (PC3 10666) Dual Channel Kit Desktop Memory Model F3-10666CL9D-4GBNQ - Retail $100.98
Graphics Card (ATI): SAPPHIRE Radeon HD 4670 DDR3 1GB, $70. $85.97
Graphics Card (NVIDIA): XFX GT-220X-ZNF2 GeForce GT 220 DDR2 1GB, $70. =63.99+6.98
HDD: Western Digital WD6400AAKS 640GB SATA 3.0Gbps, $60. $69.99
PSU: Corsair VX450W CMPSU-450VX 450W, $65. $65.98
Case: Antec Fusion Remote Black microATX, with LCD/IR receiver/remote, $140. $154.94
TV Tuner Hauppauge WinTV-HVR-2250 Media Center Kit Dual TV Tuner 1213 PCI-Express x1 Interface - Retail Newegg $156.97
Blu Ray/DVD-R LG Black 8X BD-ROM 16X DVD-ROM 40X CD-ROM SATA Internal Combo LG Blu-ray Reader & 16X LightScribe DVD±R DVD Burner - Retail Newegg $99.99


$984.91
a b B Homebuilt system
January 12, 2010 12:00:07 AM

To be honest, I'd probably hold out until the Ceton card is released. Their website states it will be available before March 31st, 2010. Also, the HD56xx series graphic cards should be available. The downside is the MSRP of $400 of the Ceton card.

Problem with your build. The Ceton card will require it's own PCI-Ex16 slot. Since you're adding a graphics card, you'll need a motherboard that has two PCI-Ex16 slots. Also, since you're adding a graphics card, there's no real need to go with a 785G chipset anyway. You'll do fine with this:

Gigabyte GA-MA770T-UD3P for $70. Unfortunately you'll also need a different case as this motherboard is ATX and your selected case accepts only mATX boards.

Your other option is to stick with the 785G Gigabyte board and drop the graphics card. Dropping the graphics card and the Hauppauge TV Tuner card will cover more than half the cost of the Ceton card. The HD4200 integrated GPU should be more than enough to handle HD output to your TV, but since I prefer a bit of head room, I'm personally going with option (1).

BTW: Here is an interview from Microsoft at CES 2010 concerning the Ceton Card:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=edbV5EIvgak

-Wolf sends

Edit: One other thing. Recording TV takes up a LOT of HDD space. Recording HD TV content is going to take up even more. You may want to consider a case that easily accepts more than one hard drive.
January 12, 2010 2:52:58 AM

Sounds like great advice. I'd like to keep all of my options open for the future. Sounds like in order to do so it would be a great idea to go for an ATX build. Any recommendations for a case?
a b B Homebuilt system
January 12, 2010 11:36:09 AM

Personally, I like the NMediaPC cases even though they're not as highly reviewed. Others like Silverstone, but they can be a little pricey. Still others don't even want an HTPC style case. It's really up to you and what you like.

When it comes to cases, what you should probably do is find those that meet your physical requirements (motherboard form factor, internal hard drive slots, physical dimensions), then find those that meet your aesthetic requirements. Finally, read through the reviews of those that are left and see what other people thought of the case.

-Wolf sends
a c 84 B Homebuilt system
January 12, 2010 11:56:26 AM

I'll through my 2 cents in on the case. I built what is essentially being used as an HTPC, and absolutely hated the HTPC cases. I thought they were too small and too expensive. HTPC cases also have a reputation (especially the cheap ones) of having horrible cooling. Many also require a special (physical) size of PSU, so you have to get it with the case.

That said, I would follow Wolf's advice and look at a lot of cases. Just becasue it's an HTPC computer doesn't mean it has to use an HTPC case. I would start by looking at a lot of HTPC cases and pick the ones that you like and would work. Ignore the price for now. Then, go look at the same for regular cases, also ignoring the prices. Then compare the two sets and prices. Go with whichever one is your favorite and fits your budget.
January 12, 2010 12:37:30 PM

@Wolfshadw...
Funny you mention Silverstone. After sending last nights reply I was looking at cases and came up with this one.

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

It looks to fit all my criteria. It is bigger than I had originally planned on but will fit into my setup. Any thoughts anyone? Sorry I realize how newbie I must sound. Just looking to not "redo" anything although I'm thinking that with something that will prove inevitable.

....Totally off subject here but on my mind and have to share an experience. I just took a very first delivery from mono-price dot com. I'd read good review(s) all over about these folks but must say that my expectations were exceeded. I simply cannot get over the quality vs price. What I mean to say is really nice quality stuff for a fraction of what you would pay in any brick and mortar store. My package included an HDMI cable, HDMI switch, Iphone adapters. All are really nice and dirt cheap! Disclaimer: I have no association with them aside from being a happy consumer. Sorry about the off subject thing. Just had to share.
a b B Homebuilt system
January 12, 2010 1:43:43 PM

Looks like a decent case and it is well reviewed. I just wish they had better images of the interior. I'd like to see the drive space orientation/locations. I'm a bit confused about the description where it states no side air ducts, but the images clearly show them; both on Newegg's and Silverstone's site.

As for Monoprice, I continue to hear nothing but good things about them. I've not used them before, but I have a co-worker who does a lot of A/V work and swears by them.

-Wolf sends
January 12, 2010 2:56:52 PM

I'll throw in a third cent on the case with a question. Do you want remote capability or will you be happy with keyboard/mouse? I have the Antec case you mentioned at the start. I am very happy with it. It is quiet and cool. I use my Harmony One setup as an MCE remote to control it. Two cons about the case are the crappy LCD display/bright blue power light and it only holds two HDD's. I also built a server so the HDD capacity is not an issue. I would also suggest getting out your measuring tape. Where do you plan on placing the computer when it is up and running? Things to consider are keeping the fan ports open and with the depth of that Silverstone case you will also have to have room for all your cables you will be hooking up.

Hey Wolf, thanks for throwing that link up for the Ceton. This thing is starting to look real, eh? But $400? OOF.
a b B Homebuilt system
January 12, 2010 3:14:16 PM

@Supe_ - No problem. Just stumbled across the interview last night.
Love your avatar!

-Wolf sends
January 12, 2010 4:34:27 PM

Call me nuts and I may be opening myself up to flaming here but some thoughts. Lack of OTA channels and a need for cable in order to view network programming. Add to that a need for a DVR that history has taught you ya can't live without and an individual would probably be best served at this moment in time to go with a TiVo and perhaps a one year subscription, along with an HTPC that can support the addition of a cable TV tuner card when the cost becomes a bit more realistic for the masses. Thoughts? Now I face a bit more of a dilemma in that I am fortunate enough to get all the major networks very well with a very inexpensive OTA. My DLP however is about four years old now and has no tuner on board. I'm thinking about trying one of the TV tuners to see if my needs for content can be satisfied with the Comcast cable severed. Looks like newegg has a liberal return policy on the tuner card. If it doesn't work out then back it goes.
a c 84 B Homebuilt system
January 12, 2010 4:38:15 PM

Well, assuming what was said before about the cable companies giving you a TV tuner for free, and Comcast recently buying NBC mainly for Hulu, I don't think it's really necessary for a TiVo or tuner card. Actually, with the Internet, none of it is really required. There are plenty of free and legal ways to get the programing online. The only exception is sports, but there's no point in watching those live.
January 12, 2010 5:06:29 PM

@Mad. Care to share some of those content sites that you frequent? The better question might be how best to find the best of the best sites? I mean a comprehensive listing of sorts. I've googled the hell out of it and nothing compares to Hulu. In fact it was one of the motivating factors that got me started on this quest.
a c 84 B Homebuilt system
January 12, 2010 6:44:18 PM

Generally, every network has a part of their website that you can watch recent full episodes on. You might have to wait up to a week, but it's there.

I'm not a big streamer. My internet's a little slow for that. Thus, I can't point you to on that has everything on it, but I'm just saying that they're out there. With Comcast buying NBC (assuming that it's allowed to happen), Hulu will get a lot better too.
January 12, 2010 7:57:16 PM

Maykinit said:
..... an individual would probably be best served at this moment in time to go with a TiVo and perhaps a one year subscription, along with an HTPC that can support the addition of a cable TV tuner card when the cost becomes a bit more realistic for the masses.


In the meantime there are other uses for an HTPC. Storage of all your music, photos, ripped movies (DVD and/or Bluray) and home videos. I do not have a tuner as of yet for the HTPC and subscribe to Verizon Fios. I cannot imagine life without a DVR now with just the ability to pause live tv and skip commercials. I find the cable is a necessary evil but there is now too much content. What to watch? About the only thing I watch realtime is the evening news, everything else is from recorded shows on the DVR, an episode of a TV Series that I ripped from DVD or a movie, both on the HTPC. The only problem with the DVR is that it is not big enough and there is no way to increase storage. You may eventually experience that with a Tivo also.



So, get the Tivo or Comcast or stay with your 22 OTA channels and still build the HTPC with a possible tuner card upgrade in the future. You may find that once you start down this path many more things open up. You also may be so busy learning new stuff and ripping that you won't care what is on tv. LOL

Edit: I am a little confused. In regards to your plans on getting a tuner to see if it will fill your needs with Comcast severed. Do you have Comcast now or only broadcast OTA?

@Wolf -- Thanks LOL, it's your one way ticket to midnight........
January 12, 2010 9:13:45 PM

@supe_
I can understand your confusion. I have not been very clear. Actually it goes like this. I am coming to the end of a two year contract with DirectTv. I could make this story very long. I'll give you the short version. I started exploring my options I guess would be the way to start and bought an inexpensive OTA and was pleasantly surprised to find that just by hooking the thing up at ground level and reeling out the coax that came attached I was picking up a good number of stations. Mounting the same antenna in the attic go me even better results. So I purchased a relatively inexpensive outdoor antenna, mounted it to the DirectTv mast and the reception us as expected even better! The entire exercise above was because of a newly added kitchen television that I wanted HD on but was reluc
January 12, 2010 9:25:29 PM

Sorry... Was reluctant add another box to FREE for the small price of entering into another two year agreement with them. Two years was enough thanks! So my options are either Comcast cable whom I now subscribe with for my high speed Internet. Just as an aside the speeds I'm getting are amazing! This after divorcing myself of DSL service. I digress. I strted thinking about doing an HTPC justifying the cost by cutting my ties with DirectTv. A relatively quick payback. I am currently spending $105 a month with no premium channels with DirectTv. I'm leaning right now toward doing the Tivo for my tuner and DVR fuctionality. My DLP is about four
years old and does not have an on board tuner. I'm thinking of also pulling the plug on DirectTv and then take it from there.
January 12, 2010 9:29:28 PM

In addition I'll do the HTPC and skip on the tuner card(s) for the time being. Sorry about the multiple entries. Doing this from my iPhone.
January 13, 2010 5:45:38 PM

LOL, now that we got that solved. I have no experience with Tivo or directv but I can certainly understand not wanting another 2 year contract. I think at this point you should probably create a new thread in the NEW SYSTEMS BUILD that has a header/title more descriptive of your need for suggestions building an HTPC. You'll get alot more knowledgeable people looking in to help.
Also check out these links:
Suggested builds: http://www.tomshardware.com/forum/269162-31-recommended...
And it is helpful if you create your first post using this template:
http://www.tomshardware.com/forum/261222-31-build-advic...
Good luck and have fun. This has turned into quite a hobby for me!
January 13, 2010 6:02:38 PM

Thanks. Sounds like good advice. Seems to be a lot of that around here. I am really looking forward to this. I ordered my Tivo HD XL last night from Amazon and it looks like it arrives tomorrow! With any luck I'll be cutting th DirectTv cable and the associated bill on Friday! WooHoo!
!