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Home theatre PC done dirt cheap

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November 8, 2011 6:45:35 AM

Hey guys,

I'm currently using a beat-up original x-box running XBMC as my living room media player, pulling things off my UnRaid server array. However, the times, they are a-changing. What with everything moving towards h264 .mkv and 720p and what have you, the old x-box just can't keep up. Sure, I can convert things so they'll play, but that's seriously time intensive and has to be done through my gaming PC, and even then....

Basically, I'm thinking of trading out my venerable black box for an honest to goodness HTPC (or more accurately a PC hooked up to a tv) in the near future, and I'm trying to get a handle on what kind of kit I'll need to make it work. The problem being that I'm poor, and almost everything that talks about HTPCs seems to think that 1000 bucks is totally reasonable.

So whats the minimum hardware and software I need to:

a) Pull media off my server (that shouldn't be too hard... its just SMB over wired GB ethernet).
b) Playback modern codecs and formats.
c) Play bluerays etc

Again, price is the key here. Lower is better.

I'm just kinda confused I guess. Reviews about Llano and sandybridge talk about their various media capabilities and whats better and so forth, buuuuuut my beat up netbook happily pulls video across the network with no complaints or judders or what have you. Now, obviously that's not playing back at 1920x1080 but you get what I'm saying here... It absolutely doesn't take that much grunt to get it working. All of our home PCs are either old or dirt cheap, and happily drive 1080p video...
a b B Homebuilt system
November 8, 2011 7:19:07 AM

I'd go for Llano. What's your budget exactly?
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November 9, 2011 12:19:46 AM

I don't really know what my budget is... I'm not doing this for a little while yet, I just want to know what kind of specs are needed to get where I need to be.

Thanks for the suggestions btw.

Will something as low-spec as a 5450 definitely drive HD video properly ?
a b B Homebuilt system
November 9, 2011 5:13:44 AM

Yes, it definitely will :)  You don't even need a GPU for watching videos, Intel HD Graphics is fine for that. As is the integrated graphics on Llano.
!