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New htpc from old stuff

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November 11, 2012 2:39:48 PM


Approximate Purchase Date: Whenever. If the price and benefit is reasonable, maybe this week.

Budget Range: I am mostly interested in what this would cost and what an htpc can really do. So, sky is the limit, but please consider a reasonable cost/benefit. I hope to get the build to do everything it can do; let me know if I can get it to do something useful I haven't thought of yet. I don't anticipate it will cost too much since I'm asking to build around aging equipment, but the old stuff can be upgraded in the future and the new stuff reused.

System Usage from Most to Least Important: TV from an antenna, blu-ray and dvd's, hulu, streaming netflix if they start improving their selection, radio, CDs (I still have some of those. I'm old.). Everything a home entertainment center does, except I don't have cable TV. I am fortunate to be in google fiber's area but it will be a year before they get to my neighborhood, so someday I might have google tv.

Are you buying a monitor: No

Parts to Upgrade: What I currently have is an asus p5k-e motherboard, intel core2 duo E8400 3GHz and stock heatsink, 2x2 GB ram, geforce 8800gt, 430 watt antec earthwatts power supply. My thought is that it doesn't take much to push HDTV, so I should be able to build around this and am looking for your advice.

I expect I will need a new case, tv tuner card, maybe a sound card if I can replace the receiver I have now (which might be dieing :(  ) and probably new speakers. Also, I suppose an SSD to run the OS on if that's practical and perhaps a couple 1TB drives to mirror for storage. Or, since the system is old and slow, would I just want to run everything off platter drives? The computer would sit under the tv, it's set up so I can run a wire in the wall more or less from anywhere to anywhere. what I hope to do is replace the netbook I'm currently using for hulu, the receiver I have that's dieing, and probably my blu-ray player because I can and my CD player because I just don't use that very often. I suppose a card reader would be nice too for the cards in my camera and phone.

Do you need to buy OS: I have a windows 7 home premium 32bit that I'm not using. I'm not positive I can reuse it, but I think it's only been used with the motherboard mentioned above so I would like to try. I'm not sure I need the extra speed x64 will give if I'm only using this for home entertainment.

Preferred Website(s) for Parts: I use newegg but anything else is fine. There is a microcenter near here too.

Location: kansas city, MO

Parts Preferences: stuck with building around what I have. let's try to keep some heavy metals or whatever out of a landfill.

Overclocking: probably not

SLI or Crossfire: no, unless someone really thinks that would have some benefit

Your Monitor Resolution: +/- 40" tv 1080p

Additional Comments: I appreciate any help and new ideas you can provide, and would love to hear about the most a person can get out of an HTPC (not used for games)

And Most Importantly, Why Are You Upgrading: save my old computer from the landfill and replace my aging home entertainment equipment.

More about : htpc stuff

November 11, 2012 4:05:50 PM

With both digital and analog sound on the motherboard, you may not even need a sound card. Perhaps only a TV tuner card since you really aren't talking a lot of processing power at all. Your current set up should function adequately in that role I would think. Oh, add a few hard drives
November 12, 2012 12:58:39 PM

i think i would want some sort of sound-in. if i'm running speakers from the computer since my radio is dieing, i may want to watch regular tv on the tv instead of through the computer. i'm not sure if there is anything else i would have coming in for sound, but that seems to be most of the function of my radio right now. i also don't know anything about optical or s/pdif for audio. the motherboard does include 8-channel high def audio, which should be adequate, but doesn't have the same sort of 'clip wires here' plug-in i'm used to for speakers. i have a fair knowledge of how computers go together but not so much for entertainment systems.

This is kind of new to me, so I guess I'm just going to have to try it out and see if it works for me. I'm not going to want to wait for the computer to boot up and then pay attention to click stuff if I turn on charlie rose in the morning. he's mostly just on for background noise.
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November 13, 2012 10:46:32 AM

so, i think what i've learned is that the receiver primarily does 2 things which a pc is just not meant to do. the receiver inputs sound from multiple devices and provides and interface to select which device should be heard, and it has an amplifier. i'm not sure why, but it seems a PC is just not going to do those things.

the htpc is not a way to consolidate devices; rather it is a way to add more content to a home theater. you get internet, netflix, hulu, mp3s, etc. also, if you don't already have a dvr you can get a tuner and record tv. this is especially useful for someone who might be holding on to a recording of a football championship for years. you can backup content to a second drive, or burn it to disk, or copy it however you want which i don't think the cable company will let you do. i think that's about it right?
November 13, 2012 11:17:17 AM

Yeah, that does about cover what an HTPC can do - and no, it (unfortunately) cannot take the place of a dedicated amplifier although it can perform the component role quite well.
Again, not a lot of processing power needed. Just storage space. If I might suggest a RAID 1 configuration (provides redundancy in data) for your data as a way to safeguard without ending up with a stack of DVD's of recorded media.
November 13, 2012 2:45:58 PM

A Home Theater PC is a lot of different devices all boxed into a single unit. It's just not every device.

It can be a TV Tuner, but your HDTV already has one.
It can be a cable set top box, but you don't have cable.
It can be a DVR for OTA transmissions.
It can be an FM Radio tuner.
It can be a CD/DVD/Blu-Ray player.
It can be a tie-in to any number of online video sources like Netflix and HuluPlus.
It can be used to play PC games on your big screen TV.

I don't think any reasonably priced Sound Card and set of PC Speakers is going to give you a good full room sound (unless it's a very small room the PC is in). Since your current receiver is dying, I think you should definitely replace it.

I really don't see anything wrong with any of your current system components. My only real concern is your graphics card and whether or not it's HDCP compliant (required for blu-ray playback). If it is, then your only concern is either running audio over DVI or using on-board S/PDIF to get full surround sound. If your current graphics card is not HDCP compliant, then you will need to replace the card; Preferably with one that has a native HDMI output.

Replacing your receiver (which seems to be the greater issue), is more along the lines of how much you want to spend. I spent $350 on my Onkyo Home Theater in a box (HT-S3200) and I'm completely thrilled. Some people wouldn't be happy spending less than $350 on one pair of speakers.

For your HTPC, I'd recommend any $60-$100 NMediaPC or SilverStone HTPC case. If your current graphics card is not HDCP compliant, I'd recommend going with a Radeon HD6450 graphics card for solely video playback. If there is any gaming to be done, up the graphics card to at least an HD6670.

I may be a bit out of the loop, but I don't see free OTA transmissions and requiring a great deal of DVR space, initially. Adding hard drives would be a secondary (but still necessary) requirement. For me, if the choice came down to more DVR space or a new receiver, go with the new receiver.

-Wolf sends
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