Finally got the Mrs's to buy into the idea of dropping the set top boxes for a Windows Media Center setup. I ran a HTPC with a cable card turner alongside of the FIOS's DVR in the living room for a few weeks and it sealed the deal. Having all of our movies, live TV, DVR, and web content available in once place is pretty terrific.
Fortunately, condo living in NYC means I'm not going to need to stream to a ton of screens. I've toyed with the idea of using several HTPC's a HDHomerun prime or 2 for live TV in the bedrooms and office, but came to the conclusion it's probably going to add a bit of complexity with regards to DVR scheduling.
My ?#1. Has anyone in the forum had any experience with the Ceton Echo? The reviews seem to be getting better with each new firmware upgrade. How do they compare with a set-top box in your opinion as far as speed, GUI, and reliability?
If they work as advertised, having a centralized DVR for scheduling, low power draw, minimal maintenance, and the thin OS always on aspect is a win win. I see other discontinued extenders available but their release dates scare me someone considering how far low power processors have come recently.
?#2. Do you see any potential bottlenecks in this setup.
Phenom II X6 @ 3.0 win7x64 - 8GB DDR3
64GB SSD for OS - 2 x 2TB (RAID 1) (Movies & MP4 converted TV) - 1 x 2TB (DVR Recordings)
1 x WinTV 2650 (2 Tuners) - 1 x HDHomerun Prime (3 Tuners)
3 x Ceton Echo
CAT 6 and an isolated Gigabit switch for the WMC network.
I can't directly answer #1 as I do not own a Ceton Echo. I do own the Ceton InfiniTV4 PCI-E however, and as a comparison the Comcast's Digital Set Top Box, 95% of the time it works exactly the same. There is an issue (probably with the line from Comcast) where changing channels, the channel will not come in. If I hit the Up Channel button and then the Down Channel Button once or twice, this usually resolves the issue.
As a DVR, it's been nearly flawless and the one complaint I would have isn't the fault of the hardware. The downloaded programming guide isn't always 100% accurate. Sometimes the guide will say Program A is playing when in fact Program B is. If my DVR function is set to record Program A, I get a great recording of Program B, but I have to tell my system to forget that it already recorded Program A and re-record it the next time it comes on. If you're recording a Television series, this can become a pain.
As far as your hardware is concerned, you shouldn't run into ANY problems. You can see my HTPC specifications in my signature and it was able to record three programs simultaneously while I watched a fourth. As far as extenders go, the general rule of thumb is one processor core and 2GB of RAM for each active extender.
I like and nearly purchased the Infinitv 4. The original reviews from several years ago are what got me interested in this project entirely. I went with the 2650 because it was a $75 cheaper initial proof of concept. Ultimately purchased the HdHomerun for my second tuner bank due to them being network accessible from my lappy and main PC.
The processor in your HTPC is basically the processor spec I used to test the DVR originally. I had the same box running with an unlocked x2 Sempron 145. It worked great unless I had too many background processes running. I recently bought an 8320 so the x6 moved to the primary HTPC, didn't think the 145 would cut it for live TV, encoding and streaming at the same time. I'm still trying to figure out the final DVR-> Mp4 (via. MC Buddy) workflow. Right now I'm thinking convert and remove commercials after 3 days. Although, I'm still having a few issues with correct auto folder creation and naming conventions for shows. I can't figure out how to automatically create folders for seasons with no recorded episodes.
My experience with the DVR is very similar to yours, couple hiccups but overall has exceeded my expectations. I had read that 2GB per extender previously but forgotten it. I think I'm just going to go ahead and order two 8GB sticks, MB only has 2 slots and when I leave NYC I'm sure I'll have more screens to service. WAF factor is huge, and frankly after a few cocktails I don't want to be trouble shooting.