I need some advice on building my first HTPC/DVR. I primarily want it to record/watch over-the-air HD programming (ATSC), streaming online TV (e.g. Netflix), DVDs, and possibly Blu-ray. My HDTV accepts HDMI or D Sub. I am not much of a Linux person, so as of now I am planning to go with Windows 7 Media Center.
All suggestions are welcome.
CPU: I have read a lot of good reviews with AMD Llano (better graphics and lower cost than Intel route). Is an A4 adequate, or is an A8 overkill, dual/triple/quad core?
When/why would I want to re-encode (honest question, not trying to be smart)? Is that only if I want to convert to a different format (like ripping DVDs/blu-rays)? I like the idea of getting the A4 to save money, but would the A6/A8 offer any benefits?
Yeah, re-encoding is only done when you either want to convert to a different format (say for example, an iPod compatible format) or if you are trying to save storage space at the cost of quality (shrink a 1080p blu-ray to 720p, for example).
A6 and A8 have better built-in graphics, but the A4 graphics are perfectly fine for media duties.
5400rpm drives are quieter, run cooler, and typically come in larger capacities.
Thanks for all the input. I pulled the trigger tonight and ordered the A6-3500 to get the slightly better built-in graphics and additional core per your suggestions (it was only $20 more). I also got the GIGABYTE GA-A75M-UD2H FM1 motherboard for the additional PCI Express slot (just in case). I picket up a case, Seagate Barracuda Green 2TB hard drive and the LG burner (BH12LS38) last night at Fry's.
Someone has asked me if I have checked to see if the integrated graphics can handle audio over HDMI. The thought never even crossed my mind, but I am not sure when to confirm. Any thoughts?
The system is built and runs great. So now for the follow up questions. Is there a way to have audio through HDMI (to my TV) and via optical (to my old receiver) simultaneously? I would prefer to not have to modify the configuration manually each time I decide which type of sound to use. I am currently using Windows 7 Media Center.
Also, is there a way to skip commercials automatically for programs recorded over the air? Perhaps I should use something other than Windows 7 Media Center to achieve both of these?
2) AutoHotKey. This is a program that runs on your system and allows you to set up a hot-key combination (like ALT+F12) that runs a scripts which switches your default audio output. This is what I use.
As far as skipping commercials, look at a program called, "ComSkip". It might be what you're looking for.
Some receivers have the ability to pass HDMI audio to the TV when the receiver is not in use. My new Yamaha does it, but my old Yamaha did not. Check and see if your receiver has that capability for the easiest solution to your question about running multiple audio out.
I'll have to look into Comskip. I have just started a 30-day trial of ShowAnalyzer, but have not had much luck with it (not very accurate, and it appears to be dead). Comskip development seems to be very alive and well, but does not yet support live tv yet, but is at the top of the developer's todo list.
Unfortunately my receiver is too old and does not support HDMI. I will hopefully get some time this weekend to play with the audio options you described.
I just re-wired it so that audio goes from my HTPC to the TV via HDMI and then from the TV to receiver and it works great! I am thankful this TV supports this functionality since my receiver is so old. This is actually the most convenient setup because now I do not have to change the input to the receiver depending on the source of the audio. It is always configured correctly by default.
I have also tried ComSkip. Although I have only tried it on a few shows so far, I think this program is great! It has been very accurate on commercial so far. I am anxiously waiting for ComSkip to support live tv, but otherwise it is great and extremely easy to set up.
I also have sleep mode working properly now. The HTPC goes to sleep when it should and wakes up few minutes before the next scheduled recording.
So, everything is now working the way I wanted. This has been a fun learning experience. Thanks to all for the suggestions/guidance.
The only question left is whether GBPVR/NextPVR is better than Windows 7 Media Center and worth switching over. Any opinions/suggestions/guidance?