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Replacing Cable with Web / Netflix - What Type of System?

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November 8, 2010 9:27:48 PM

My girlfriend and I have come to the conclusion that HD cable tv is just way too expensive, especially considering we what we watch consists of a select few tv shows or reruns of things like Scrubs and Seinfeld. We figure we can replace cable with a netflix subscription, a hulu plus subscription, and just regular web streaming (e.g. espn streaming for sports, that type of thing).

The question is what type of system we need to build to do this. My biggest concern is that I know I have had issues in the past getting computers (or, more specially, gfx cards) to interace properly with HDTVs. Now, these past experiences were primarily with a Vizio that had an odd resolution (something like 1366 x 968 or something weird like that). The TV that this new system will be on will be a 55" Samsung (1080p, etc. etc.)...will this eliminate the resolution issue I've had in the past? (basically, the picture always look distorted because the graphics card didn't like the Vizio hdtv)

I've read through a few of the posts on HTPCs on this forum...will these rigs do basically what we're looking for? Again, our intentions are to watch netflix (both streaming and blu-rays), streaming online tv (hulu, etc.), and playing back HD move files (I have a ton of movies and tv shows on external harddrives that'd I'd like to consolidate into one integrated system).

Thanks
November 8, 2010 9:32:23 PM

I think any gpu in this past generation will be able to work just fine. Most of them have hdmi out, and the ones that have dvi you can just buy a dvi to hdmi cable (works perfectly for me). The only thing that is messed up when i hook up my desktop/laptop to a tv is the scaling (picture doesnt take up the entire display, or too big for display) but this can be fixed in your graphics settings.
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November 8, 2010 9:32:59 PM

That is exactly what HTPCs are designed to do. With either a low-power AMD or nVidia graphics card, or the Intel H55 motherboard, you should be able to play back 1080p video with HD sound.

What sort of capacity requirements do you have for your ripped movies? Most HTPCs only have room for 2 or so hard drives, so if you need 4+ TB, you may also be looking at a NAS setup in addition to an HTPC.
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November 8, 2010 9:56:50 PM

coldsleep said:
That is exactly what HTPCs are designed to do. With either a low-power AMD or nVidia graphics card, or the Intel H55 motherboard, you should be able to play back 1080p video with HD sound.

What sort of capacity requirements do you have for your ripped movies? Most HTPCs only have room for 2 or so hard drives, so if you need 4+ TB, you may also be looking at a NAS setup in addition to an HTPC.


Well that's good to hear...like I said, my past issues (which involved the radeon 4890 in my desktop) could have been a result of the strange resoultion that the vizio had.

In terms of capacity, currently everything is on external harddrives (about 3.5 tbs worth). I don't know if it's feasible or advisable to simply play content directly off the external hd via usb (this is what I've always done in the past...however, that was only ever a movie or a tv show at a time, I can see where issues may arise if I was constantly play media directly off the external

So a NAS setup is the best solution for that?
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November 8, 2010 11:33:36 PM

I currently use the PS3 for this same function. With the new release of Hulu Plus (Hulu STD for standard users coming soon), Netflix app, large hdd and Blu-Ray player you can't beat it for $300. No drivers to download or update, stream music and movies from your PC or plug in a portable HDD. How can you go wrong?
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November 8, 2010 11:47:02 PM

this ...

jimmyzline said:
I currently use the PS3 for this same function. With the new release of Hulu Plus (Hulu STD for standard users coming soon), Netflix app, large hdd and Blu-Ray player you can't beat it for $300. No drivers to download or update, stream music and movies from your PC or plug in a portable HDD. How can you go wrong?

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November 8, 2010 11:47:05 PM

jimmyzline said:
I currently use the PS3 for this same function. With the new release of Hulu Plus (Hulu STD for standard users coming soon), Netflix app, large hdd and Blu-Ray player you can't beat it for $300. No drivers to download or update, stream music and movies from your PC or plug in a portable HDD. How can you go wrong?


We've considered this, but there will always be things that the PS3 can't do...for example, streaming a show from a website (for those networks that don't support Hulu)

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November 8, 2010 11:52:45 PM

pretty much any non-celeron cpu (atom D series 1.6ghz or better) and a video card with 256MB of VRAM or more. 2gigs of system RAM at most and a HDMI port. A hard drive. Everything else is simply optional. You may want bluetooth with it with bluetooth mouse and a small bluetooth keyboard.

DGalt said:
We've considered this, but there will always be things that the PS3 can't do...for example, streaming a show from a website (for those networks that don't support Hulu)
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November 8, 2010 11:59:07 PM

xxsk8er101xx said:
pretty much any non-celeron cpu (atom D series 1.6ghz or better) and a video card with 256MB of VRAM or more. 2gigs of system RAM at most and a HDMI port. A hard drive. Everything else is simply optional. You may want bluetooth with it with bluetooth mouse and a small bluetooth keyboard.


Is there any benefit (or downside) with going with the Intel H55 mobo with a Core i3 (so using the integrated gfx instead of a discreet card)?
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November 9, 2010 1:54:09 PM

DGalt said:
Is there any benefit (or downside) with going with the Intel H55 mobo with a Core i3 (so using the integrated gfx instead of a discreet card)?


The H55 & core i3 cost slightly more than an AMD setup, but you save on not buying a graphics card. I decided to go core i3/H55 for my recent HTPC build, and I'm pretty satisfied so far. It's about even, in my book. i3/H55 can bitstream HD audio & video, just like the newer graphics cards do.

You certainly don't need to go with a NAS setup/device, was just thinking it might be worth considering in the future if you have a lot of media that you're storing. For the time being, you probably just want to go with an HTPC, and if you find yourself with a growing library, consider some form of NAS.
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November 9, 2010 3:38:52 PM

coldsleep said:
The H55 & core i3 cost slightly more than an AMD setup, but you save on not buying a graphics card. I decided to go core i3/H55 for my recent HTPC build, and I'm pretty satisfied so far. It's about even, in my book. i3/H55 can bitstream HD audio & video, just like the newer graphics cards do.

You certainly don't need to go with a NAS setup/device, was just thinking it might be worth considering in the future if you have a lot of media that you're storing. For the time being, you probably just want to go with an HTPC, and if you find yourself with a growing library, consider some form of NAS.


I guess the next question is whether or not we should just buy a dell inspiron 580s. It uses the i3 / H55 (as far as I can tell) combination. Trying to piece the same system together and I'm coming in a few hundred dollars over the dell system (mainly b/c I'd have to buy windows 7)
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November 9, 2010 3:56:11 PM

you can look at my $700 build in the 'Best Configs' list. It was made in Early september, so the overall price is down.

The 'nifty' case I had at the time had the look of an old time radio, and has gone up in price from $89 to $119, but other costs have come down.

I'd grab an X3 445 now instead of the X3 440, though you could get away with an X2 235. 4 GB of DDR3-1333 from G.Skill or Mushkin is down to $59.99 now. $69.99 for the 1 TB Hard drive (or $99 for a 2 TB now). I'd keep the Blu-Ray Burner (if you really want to keep it, you can burn a copy then clear out hard drive space).

I'd go for a GTS 430 instead of the 5570 now, but either can game at medium settings as well as HD Audio bitstreaming.

the HD card will pull over-the-air HD video
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November 9, 2010 4:12:17 PM

ScrewySqrl said:
you can look at my $700 build in the 'Best Configs' list. It was made in Early september, so the overall price is down.

The 'nifty' case I had at the time had the look of an old time radio, and has gone up in price from $89 to $119, but other costs have come down.

I'd grab an X3 445 now instead of the X3 440, though you could get away with an X2 235. 4 GB of DDR3-1333 from G.Skill or Mushkin is down to $59.99 now. $69.99 for the 1 TB Hard drive (or $99 for a 2 TB now). I'd keep the Blu-Ray Burner (if you really want to keep it, you can burn a copy then clear out hard drive space).

I'd go for a GTS 430 instead of the 5570 now, but either can game at medium settings as well as HD Audio bitstreaming.

the HD card will pull over-the-air HD video


I won't be playing any games on this rig....that's what my desktop and the xbox 360 are for :lol:  ...primary concern is smooth video playback (either streaming or from media files)
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November 9, 2010 4:48:06 PM

no problem. just noting it is possible :) 
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November 10, 2010 2:34:06 AM

DGalt said:
I guess the next question is whether or not we should just buy a dell inspiron 580s. It uses the i3 / H55 (as far as I can tell) combination. Trying to piece the same system together and I'm coming in a few hundred dollars over the dell system (mainly b/c I'd have to buy windows 7)


I don't see any of the 580s models that offer a blu-ray drive. You might look at the build I'm working on, though, if you haven't already:
http://www.tomshardware.com/forum/298555-31-tentative-b...
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November 10, 2010 2:47:02 AM

I wouldn't suggest what is being put together in the above thread over something like a Core i3/H55 system.
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