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DIY HD HTPC Extravaganza

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February 24, 2006 7:14:59 AM

What do you think of the components we surveyed? And what about our picks?

More about : diy htpc extravaganza

February 24, 2006 4:45:56 PM

Quote:
What do you think about the cases we looked at? And how about the one we chose?

So.. you're only going to use two, and you're just guessing as to which you think *might* work well, not having actually installed any components?

Considering you have all of the cases in your possession, this seems a pretty lacklustre effort. Sure completeness would take time, but I remember a few weeks ago Aaron's column was all about how THG likes that sort of thing.
February 24, 2006 5:24:44 PM

Sorry to give the impression that the author had not actually used the cases that were chosen. No guessing was involved and two systems were configured, built and tested for the article.

The article is being published in installments due to the large number of products reviewed.
Related resources
February 24, 2006 10:59:56 PM

I am hoping the second chosen was the Lian-LI.

The main thing I am curious about is noise and temperature, and that it will fit an ATX motherboard.
February 24, 2006 11:01:16 PM

Seems like a lot of effort to do what a DVR can do. Will it be cheaper? That being said, I am looking to integrate a HDPC into my Home Entertainment System. Could this HDPC use an existing DirecTV tuner, stereo reciever, and HDTV to become a DVR, gameing machine and music server? Can the VIVO input on a Geoforce7800 GTX be used to transfer a HD signal to the hard drive?
February 24, 2006 11:04:33 PM

Quote:
Can the VIVO input on a Geoforce7800 GTX be used to transfer a HD signal to the hard drive?


No

You need a HD card like the MYHD MDP-130 to record HDTV signals.

Even then you are limited to local channels (2,4,5,7,11,13) for HD content.

If you think it is a waste then you probably shouldn't build one.
February 24, 2006 11:37:37 PM

Quote:
Sorry to give the impression that the author had not actually used the cases that were chosen. No guessing was involved and two systems were configured, built and tested for the article.

No, that wasn't the impression at all, it was more of a lost opportunity. The most important aspects of an HTPC chassis, heat dissipation and noise, aren't immediately obvious without putting even a rudimentary system in. You won't find the idiosyncracies without going a bit deeper.

Bearing that in mind, discounting all but 2 for this second stage seems like (albeit educated) guesswork. Of course if the purpose of the article is a broad overview of 'what to expect from an HTPC', that's reasonable. It's certainly no benchmark though.

(Oh, and.. the cheap Silverstone is probably the other. It's got a DVD writer installed in the main photo.)
February 25, 2006 12:55:53 AM

Quote:
Quote:

(Oh, and.. the cheap Silverstone is probably the other. It's got a DVD writer installed in the main photo.)


I hope not.

They need at least one regular ATX form factor case!!

:( 
February 25, 2006 1:30:04 PM

Since I already have a external tuner, isn't there a way to transfer the video/audio signal to the hard drive and then retrieve it back to the HDTV and stereo reciever? My goal is to utilize the eaisily expandable hard drive capablility of a PC, without being limited to the fixed storage space of HD DVR's.
February 26, 2006 1:15:54 AM

Quote:
Since I already have a external tuner, isn't there a way to transfer the video/audio signal to the hard drive and then retrieve it back to the HDTV and stereo reciever? My goal is to utilize the eaisily expandable hard drive capablility of a PC, without being limited to the fixed storage space of HD DVR's.


I don't think there is a way to copy content from a DVR like tivo to a computer to create extended storage.

At least not very easily.
February 26, 2006 7:15:43 PM

Quote:
Since I already have a external tuner, isn't there a way to transfer the video/audio signal to the hard drive and then retrieve it back to the HDTV and stereo reciever? My goal is to utilize the eaisily expandable hard drive capablility of a PC, without being limited to the fixed storage space of HD DVR's.


If your tuner has a firewire out then you can do it. Check out avsforum.com there HTPC section has a lot of info on it.

As far as the artical go's looks great cant wate for part two.
Personaly I want to see a good review of anything from atechfabrication.com (sorry my HTML sucks) I've been looking at them for years but there so exepencive.
February 27, 2006 12:11:39 AM

Great review of some of the cases out there. Whilst its impossible to capture every case on the market for HTPC, its disappointing that the Origenae range wasn’t brought up.

http://www.origenae.com/product_x11.htm
February 27, 2006 12:24:28 AM

Quote:
Great review of some of the cases out there. Whilst its impossible to capture every case on the market for HTPC, its disappointing that the Origenae range wasn’t brought up.

http://www.origenae.com/product_x11.htm


I am thinking they are sticking with widely available products.
February 28, 2006 5:23:56 PM

You're picks for both the cases and motherboard were outstanding. I can't wait to see what you guys recommend/pick for TV tuners and video cards!

Also- thanks for mentioning the fanless power supply- a lot of people consider that to be a "must" in HTPC's.

-mpjesse
February 28, 2006 6:59:32 PM

If you're not bothered about the HDTV capabilities of the AOpen board, why not use the MSI 915GM-FA4?

It's got your DDR2 slots, and is also widely available. Since you're using an external video card (presumably all-in-wonder flavour), the AOpen seems a waste. Again, with the dismissal of the more expensive chassis, this is confusing to say the least.

(Hoping the next part includes analysis of the PCIe X800GT-AIW, since that's what I'll probably be basing mine around).
February 28, 2006 9:14:06 PM

Hi,

I'm based over in the UK. Both the case and motherboard are unavailible over here for some reason or other. Any chance of giving us brits some advice on which items you would as a good second that might be availible over here.

Cheers,

Ros
February 28, 2006 9:24:53 PM

Quote:
I'm based over in the UK. Both the case and motherboard are unavailible over here for some reason or other. Any chance of giving us brits some advice on which items you would as a good second that might be availible over here.

Ebuyer.com stock the motherboard I mentioned in the previous post, and a good selection of mobile CPUs. Personally, the £50 Celeron M looks great for such low horsepower apps...

As for the case -- x-case carry all of the Silverstones & the Hiper. I've seen the Lian-Li around elsewhere too, but not recently.
March 1, 2006 3:47:45 AM

Quote:
You're picks for both the cases and motherboard were outstanding. I can't wait to see what you guys recommend/pick for TV tuners and video cards!

Also- thanks for mentioning the fanless power supply- a lot of people consider that to be a "must" in HTPC's.

-mpjesse


I've been in to the HTPC thing for a good while.

I'm curious why you chose a pentium M vs. an Opteron 150 or 165 for the proc. Opteron's have more horse power and only moderately more wattage requirements.

The reason I ask is that one other article I read tried to use an Pentium M for their HTPC solution and were dissappointed in the pentium M. They turned to an Opteron solution and were pleased with the results.

I'll be very interested in seeing the final numbers.

Great Article!
March 1, 2006 9:14:13 AM

What about underclocking a cpu to make it Fan less?
March 1, 2006 1:22:10 PM

I'm in the planning stages of building my first HTPC and was hoping to get good info from TH. Unfortunately this article didn't do anything for me. Maybe part 3 will have "the goods" but if parts one and two are any indication I shouldn't get my hopes up. Maybe the reason were given for what components were chosen for what reasons, if they were, I didn't see them.
March 1, 2006 2:13:58 PM

I've been building (and rebuilding) an htpc now for the past six months or so. I think before you talk about CPU choices, and motherboard form factors, fan noise, etc, you need to talk (especially for the casual readers) a bit more about front end & back end media servers.

Anyone expecting to build an all in one DVR for cheap will be dissapointed. The DVR's you get from your cable or sattelite company, or even TIVO's from the store are going to be cheaper to buy. So why build one? Because you can make it go further than they go, and because some of us find the monthly payments irritating. Another reason to DIY is the ability to add HD when you want it (although you will have to wait for the cable-card ready HD solutions and Vista).

A backend system would best be served with a nice dual-core and a motherboard that supports generous slots. (The dual-core allows it to continue recording programs, serving recorded & live programs, and converting recorded programs to divx or wmv all at the same time). Noise and visual appearance are less of a concern.

A front end system needs to be attractive and quiet. You can also choose from attractively prices media clients like MediaMVP (No HD though) and concentrate all your efforts on building a better backend system.
March 1, 2006 2:20:04 PM

More expensive but a very cool Idea!

I've been playing with this stuff for a while too and had come up with an idea of several small embedded linux set top boxes that would automatically terminal into a back end server for its menu. This would allow every computer or tv in the house to access every dvd, mp3, or pic on the server.
March 1, 2006 4:27:00 PM

I have been building HTPCs for years now and I’m glad that they are finally gaining notoriety as functional parts of a home theater. Since they’re still not main-stream though it’s hard to find places where you can find good educated advice on what to use in a build. Most of the articles that I read before my latest build outlined what not to buy, after the reviewer tried and failed to create a completely silent PC. That’s why I decided to post this. I have found, through trial and error, that the point is not to build a completely silent HTPC. The point is to build a computer that you can’t hear when you stand back 3 or 4 feet. I have gone to both extremes. My first HTPC was so loud that I could barely stand using it. After suffering for a while, I built another one that involved a water cooling kit. The water cooling was great, but I found that in order to get satisfactory results I needed to change the water/antifreeze solution periodically. It became too much of a commitment so I went back to air cooling.

I built my latest HTPC a couple of months ago in the Silverstone LC16M-B: which is hands down the best case I have ever used for a media pc. It’s classy, well designed/manufactured, and has good airflow. (Those skinny riser-card-style cases are a nightmare for quiet cooling.) I’ve gone through 6 different HTPC builds; all with different cases, and the LC16M-B is the only one that I have been 100% happy with.

I currently use an Athlon 64 90nm San Diego 3700+ because they are easy to cool. I get great temps with a small Zalman CNPS7000B running at silent speeds and the 3700+ provides sufficient power for multiple simultaneous recordings. I know, I know- Intel is better for video applications. In the real world though, I’ll wait the extra couple of minutes that it takes the 3700 to encode video if I can run at 30 degrees C in a nearly silent system. I used a Gigabyte GA-K8NF-9 because it has a passively cooled Nforce 4 Northbridge and good performance ratings. Generally I prefer Asus and MSI mobos, but I was seduced by the silent northbridge in the Gigabyte. (Those little northbridge fans are usually the first to become noisy, in my experience, and silence is the key with a media PC.) I took a chance and installed a fanned Zalman power supply and I’m glad that I did. It makes a negligible amount of noise- it’s a Zalman after all- and I find that I’m a little more conservative when it comes to power supplies. Having read several of the power supply round-ups at Toms I am really skeptical about the long-range stability of a mid-range passively cooled PS. Besides, the Zalman was cheap and can be replaced easily if it ever becomes noisy.

The rest of my HTPC involves a Hauppauge WinTV-PVR 500 MCE dual analog TV tuner, a Fusion High Def OTA tuner, An Audigy 2 ZS Sound Blaster, 1GB of Corsair RAM, An Asus X550 passively cooled video card and 2X 250GB Western Digital SATA hard drives. It runs Windows MCE 2005 which I prefer to Myth TV and does the job superbly.

Hope this info is useful to someone looking to build an HTPC. You won’t regret it.
March 1, 2006 4:35:58 PM

Thanks to both IvoryJohn and Huckleberry_Hotbody for sharing your HTPC-building insights.

It would be great to be able to put together an article with pix of your systems along with any other info you'd like to share.

If you (or anyone else reading this thread) are interested, please contact me at comments@tomsnetworking.com. Thanks!
March 1, 2006 5:32:57 PM

Quote:
What do you think of the components we surveyed? And what about our picks?


It didn't seem terribly useful. The reviews (if you can call them that) lack virtually any substance, and you give no reason for WHY you ultimately picked the components you picked. I assume you feel the intel will run cooler/quieter, but you don't state that in the conclusion. In fact, you say almost nothing of value in the conclusion.

Is there a reason you went with DDR2 over DDR? I'm not sure. Is DDR2 faster? I don't know, no benchmarks were given. Why Kingston? I'm not sure. All of this should be given in the conclusion.

Did you build a system with the various components? I'm guessing you didn't. Maybe the Seasonic's (which I'm guessing is the quietest p/s, given their reputation) wires can be tucked out of the way. It's not known. I know in my mid-tower (a completely different beast i admit) the modular wiring of OCZ's modstream doesn't really make things much neater than a regular P/S.

Maybe the rest of this multi-part review will redeem the article, but at this point, I see no meat.
March 1, 2006 5:58:19 PM

This DIY guide is to me hardly even a primer. There are so many different choices out there right now that it's impossible to include all options. Each person is going to have different priorities for what they want to accomplish. The review sofar hasn't even stated what their ultimate goal is.

I tend to do things one step at a time. First my standard desktop computer is set up with just under a terrabyte of storage to save media on. For the longest time I just used my modified xbox that was networked to the desktop machine to play media.

One motherboard that just came out this week from DFI the RS482 Infinity looks to be far superior to anything in this review. Integrated HDTV, 939 Socket, 4 sticks of DDR, Integrated optical toslink for 8 channel audio, firewire, and gigabit ethernet for streaming HDTV. The ATI Chipset looks great sofar and it can take a pci express video card.

As far as quiet is concerned if it's quieter than the stock xbox fan, or the hard drive in my comcast dvr then i'm more than satisfied. For the record the xbox and comcast dvr are very loud.

For the time being i'll stick to the comcast DVR and stream content to my desktop computer using a firewire capture card. Silverstone cases generally are very good unless you can afford an Atech Fab case.

Thanks for listening to my ramblings.
March 1, 2006 9:40:25 PM

I've enjoyed the two articles about building a HTPC. In fact the nMedia HTPC200 case that was chosen was one that I have considered using on my next PVR build.

What got my attention though was the decision to use the Gigabyte i-RAM as the hard drive. After re-reading things as well as a lot of the other posts I guess there might be a distinction that needs to be made between a HTPC and a DVR, PVR or home-made TIVO computer. I’ll use PVR from now on for this type of computer setup.

8 gigabytes of ram might be sufficient to hold the operating system as well as a few other minor applications for use with a HTPC, but wouldn’t in any way be enough to work with a PVR. With this type of setup the more drive space that you can afford to have the better off you will be.

I agree with one of the previous posts that you do not have to build a completely silent HTPC or PVR, but you do need to have one that you cannot hear from a few feet away. I am on my third PVR computer that has made it’s way into my home entertainment center. It’s based on an AMD XP 2800+ using a SilenX iXtrema Plus power supply that is rated at less than 14 decibels. I’ve got 4 SilenX 80 mm fans also rated at less than 14 decibels running inside this case. One of the fans is cooling the processor, one cools the drives and the other two are ducted from the bottom front of the case towards the video card, processor and power supply. I’m also using an nVidia 6200 video card with passive cooling. All of this inside a standard Enlight ATX desktop case. It's not an exciting case like so many of the true HTPC cases, but it costs an awful lot less than they do. This system is extremely quiet and cool and runs 24/7. But a standard ATX desktop case is large and your entertainment center needs to be able to accomodate something of this size. That's why I've considered the microATX form factor for my next PVR project.

Yes, you can buy a TIVO from your local cable company or satellite provider for a lot cheaper. But I too just don’t like paying the monthly fees and have ended up with something that is a lot more versatile.
March 1, 2006 9:51:53 PM

JmpnJimBob
We actually haven't said what we're using for a hard drive yet. The iRAM was just mentioned as an interesting alternative if you don't mind being tight on storage space as you appropriately point out.

Sorry for any confusion caused.
March 2, 2006 11:25:37 AM

You mention that the nmedia case comes with a built in VFD but it's an LCD and it's not programmable.
March 3, 2006 7:18:49 PM

*moved to DIY HD HTPC Extravaganza- Part 2: Mobos, CPUs, Memory*
March 7, 2006 11:03:13 AM

First, thanks for explaining the strange choice of the AOpen ;) 

As a complete series, it's a good document of the author's thought process, but rather than serving as a guide, it looks to be more of a cautionary tale... or, rather, notes on how you really need to do some substantial homework to evaluate your needs before you buy a single component. I guess this article would have to be several hundred pages long to go into the usual depth you might expect side-by-side reviews from THG.

Can't say i'm in agreement with the choices made, but it's all down to personal preference. I did find the omission of *all* ATI all-in-wonder solutions pretty confusing though; I believe the 2006 (x1300) can be passively cooled quite easily? Even if you didn't choose one, surely a mention would be good. Eitherway, an X800XL AIW or such would have given you both DVB-T tuner and high end video, add an Arctic silencer and you're sorted & silent, with 2 devices in one saving space. Even with the lack of HD support, at least it'd be there as a second tuner. People like having 2 tuners, you know...

The nMedia based system did look very neat indeed, however the Sugo seemed somewhat [um, entirely] pointless. Sort of like a big old DVD player... one could get the same results from a VIA Epia based box (albeit an always-on), or even a *gasp* micro Hi-Fi. Again this is personal preference, but having to look at that tacky ASour thing would not be an option. Yuck!

One final note.. there was little mention of software. I did pick up on the passing reference to PowerCinema. I've used that myself (Theater 500-based setup) and would find it difficult to recommend to anyone. It's pretty enough to use, but functionality is appalling. I don't believe they offer an EPG in the US, either, so that may be of concern!
March 7, 2006 1:18:08 PM

Quote:
What do you think of the components we surveyed? And what about our picks?


I did not read any of the articles except for the header titles at the bottom.

All three articles seem to be a waste of time if you are not going to discuss the lack of HDCP compliance from either mfg. for HD content.

Why invest when it will be obsolete at any moment.

The failure to discuss the pathetic performance of DVD software also seems to evade the author.

HTPC's have a long way to go before they are worth building.
March 7, 2006 5:30:14 PM

Thanks for reviewing all this gear. I have been reading the site for years!

Not sure why everyone is so negative about it. It provides a good intro for people who intend/desire to build their own HTPC. It is becoming more popular and friends now are intrigued by the 'little computer' I have sitting next to the 37" LCD.

One comment though on connecting the PC to the screen. S-vid or composite are no options at all, I'd recommend VGA or DVI (and maybe soon there is only HDMI 8O ) but have not tested component.

I did some tetsing myself to see if it was worth investing in a DVI vid card over VGA, as you can see here in this article I posted on another board:

Change VGA to DVI-D for connecting to LCD panel, Worth the DVI GPU investment?

Maybe most people do not have a choice right now as their TV's do not support VGA/DVI/HDMI but if there is this option, go for it right away!

Groeten,

Bas
March 7, 2006 5:55:49 PM

Agree that S-video and composite video can't support HD. Hope that we didn't accidently say composite anywhere in the article when we meant component video.
March 7, 2006 6:03:22 PM

After reading all three articles, I agree that this does read more like a case study, where certain parts are used to build....yet functionality is not really evaluated.

I am not a seasoned HTPC builder, but I did turn my PC into a home theatre. What I would really like is for everyone on this thread to post what their own setup is, how well it functions and which parts they recommend.

My setup is actually a full sized PC, but this apeals to me because I have cut costs significantly by making my PC my stereo, TV, PVR, DVD player and workstation. My PC already consisted of:

Athlon 64 X2 3800+ 2GHz 1Mb Cache Manchester
MotherBoard: DFI LANPARTY UT nF4 Ultra-D
Memory: Crucial Ballistix 2x1GB 184-Pin DDR SDRAM Unbuffered
DDR 500 (PC 4000)
Power Supply: Enermax EG651P-VE-24P ATX 1.3 EPS/SSI 550W
Sound: Sound Audigy 2 ZS
Video: Nvidia GeForce 6600 GT
Hard Drive: Deskstar 7K250 SATA 250GB
Disc Drive: NEC 3520A Dual layer DVD+RW
Speakers: Logiteck Z-5300e
Case: Coolermaster Wavemaster (Silver)
Keyboard/Mouse: Creative Wireless

I subscribe to COMCAST digital cable including HD channels and Premium channels like HBO,etc. Being a first timer, I went with the ATI HDTV wonder single tuner PCI card which comes with a USB RF remote control.
It also has S-video and Coaxial connections (one for TV and one for HD antenna)

The HD Antenna doesn't work well for me, and I already get HD from my digital cable provider so I don't really care. I go S-video from cable box to tuner card and DVI from graphics card to TV.

The downside of digital cable is that I have to use the digital cable remote and guide. I have to schedule records using the ATI multimedia software and enter show titles and times manually. The quality of regular tv and HDTV are downgraded some but not too much. I'm more of a mouse and keyboard type so I don't really use the ATI remote except to adjust volume. The functionality of the remote is minimal anyways, as most are these days. I tried that Imon remote and software as well and it's not very impressive. I've heard that Beyond TV is a good choice of software but have not tried it. Has anyone? The ATI multimedia center has some good features such as Video Desktop and the ability to save records in various formats including: DVD (high quality), VCD, MPEG4, AVI and WMV.

I would be interested to know what other people are doing and how it works out. Hope this helps someone.
March 7, 2006 6:23:56 PM

Does the cable box give you any output besides S-video, which can't support HD signals
March 7, 2006 7:07:45 PM

Yes it gives DVI and component as well, but unfortunately the TV tuner card only has S-video and Coaxial inputs. The LCD TV has DVI and Component inputs as well. So, I use the Component input on the TV as a direct connection from the cable box, allowing me to watch HDTV crisply on another input.... but without the capabilities of ATI multimedia software. I use the DVI input on the TV as a direct connection from my Geforce graphics card. Is this the most logical setup?
March 7, 2006 7:21:37 PM

As a cheap college student I am left with more free time and alot less money then most of you. First, I could care less if my htpc has a fan, since there are already three computers running in my dorm room whats one or two more fans. Second, why not build an AMD HTPC its a hell of alot cheaper with a Antlon 3200+ and more powerful. Third, why not use free software such as GBPVR from www.gbpvr.com it can do everything media center addition can do and with the proper add ins can run commercial skipping and old video game roms. It is even vista beta compatible as well as win xp, win server. Finally, if you paste in a few add-ins to a Snapstream firefly you have an radio remote good to 35 ft away that works flawlessly for $50. This results in a good to go htpc for $700-800 if you shop carefully and don't pay for some of your suggested $100 remote control software. It is true my way is not quite as user friendly but it has more more features than yours and if you kick in girder and a UIRT IR blaster you can remotely control your cable box or a separate music system. But for the rest of you with thousands of dollars to spend by all means go fo rthe rediculous stuff you don't need.
March 7, 2006 8:03:38 PM

I agree with you. I admit I put a lot of money into my PC... but I can afford to. But when I decided to transform it into a home theatre, it seemed to me all I needed was a tv tuner, remote control and multimedia software.
I am interested in the free software you suggest. Do you use it with digital cable? Can you tell me about it's capabilities?
Can you explain the UIRT as well?

Thanks.
March 7, 2006 8:46:47 PM

good post. I am planning to build a HTPC that will be used as a music server, HD DVR and a gameing machine. It will be tied into my Samsung 1080P HDTV and my Denon 7.1 ss reciever. No multitasking. No constraints on size, noise or looks. I will put behind wall (large open space) with cordless keyboard.

What should I use for an OS? MS XP pro, pro64 or media
center? Forumz are littered with bad HDTV DVR on PC stories, what has been your experience to avoid the pitfalls.

proposed system: Please rip if inclined to do so.

AMD 64 3800+ (cheapest 2.4 GHz, will upgrade yearly)
ASUS A8N32-SLI (for future upgrades and features)
Corsair 2 GB 3500LLPRO SDRAM (ASUS recommended)
eVGA Geforce 7800 GT (2x?) (depends on pricing after 7900 goes on sale)
(2) WD caviar 320KB HDD (one for music and one for HD DVR)
WD Raptor 74 GB HDD (for OS and gameing)
MYHD MDP - 130 HDTV tuner
BOX ?
March 7, 2006 9:09:07 PM

Ok first this free software is not for the faint of heart it is alot more configuring. If you go to www.GBPVR.com in the wiki they will explain how to do pretty much whatever you want to do. The list of compatible hardware is huge http://gbpvr.com/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Hardware/DetailedCap...
. I run a haugpage 150 MCE of win XP pro (this requires a software mpeg2 decoder such as cyberlink of the one that comes with nero). I also use a firefly remote which is not designed for GBPVR but can be made to work by pasting in the supplied xml profile from the GBPVR wiki you simply paste the text they provide into a notepad file and save it as an xml where they tell you it will work (website http://gbpvr.com/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Manual/Firefly ). If you go a little further and edit the global xml file you can launch the program just by pressing the big firefly button(its pretty easy). UIRT is a $50 IR blaster that simply sends back IR signals I don't currently own one but many people in the GBPVR forum do and this would send back a signal to the cable box to change channel if say you have digital cable. Here is a list of known compable IR blasters
http://gbpvr.com/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Config/ChannelChange... . Girder is a program that you have to buy(I think $50) but it can be used in conjuction with firefly to program tasks such as outputting IR signals to other devices and control apps. A less expandable but more convenient apporach is to just get a PVR 150 (not mce) it comes with a remote, IR Blaster, and S-video in and component in tuner(I think it also has a stereo sound in too as a headphone jack but not sure). People brag about recording direct TV easily with this rig. GBPVR can do everything you computer can handle it can paly dvd's, go into your itunes xml and play anything not copy protected on your playlists(need my music plugin), pause live tv, record live tv. It gets your channel listing free in the US simply by setting up a zap2it account when you install the capture source. You simply go to the showlisting and choose record this show or record this show everytimes it occurs on this channel or record this show everytime in this time slot. It also has an alphabetical listing of all show scheduled to be available in the next 3 days. GBPVR also comes with open source pluggins than enable you to do anything from skip commercials to check the weather or the theater listings. When you first set it up it is a little daunting with all the settings but in reality all you need to do is set up a capture source and choose your video and music folders for a basic setup. There is more available at the forum where you actually talk to the people who write the program and its pluggins. I simply haven't found anything this program couldnt be configured to do with a bit of work.
March 7, 2006 10:04:42 PM

I am disappointed that SageTV was not mentioned in your HTPC Extravaganza piece. This seems to be the best all around HTPC software suite I have seen, who's networking features, and community support, are outstanding. The ability to share TV Tuner cards accross multiple desktops, laptops, and other HTPC's (they even now have an appliance that will run as a client) should not be overlooked. Also, the expandability, the ability to add multiple tuner cards, in multiple systems, and all integrate fully with each other, is awesome. The user interface is better than any STB DVR I have used.

Also, I would not shy people away from using the motherboard's onboard GPU for HTPC means. My HTPC's GeForce MX onboard video decodes HD video flawlessly, using the NVidia MPEG2 decoder, and saved me a LOT of money that would have gone to waste throwing a uber-fast 3D card in there. Also, for most users who are likely to dabble in HTPC's, a tv out is neither required nor desired, as they likely have an HDTV, which would be much happier running over DVI, RGB, or component. My HTPC, which cost me about $500 to piece together, serves as my DVR (for OTA HD, AND analog cable) an HD Upscaling DVD player, media jukebox, and runs virtually silent when idle (fans sometimes spin up when playing HD media, though cannot be heard over the soundtrack). I am also able to watch recorded and/or live shows anywhere in my house, on my wireless notebook.

Just some suggestions from someone who's been dabbling in this for some time.

CraziFuzzy
March 8, 2006 7:51:22 AM

Can anyone tell me what OS they are planning to make the tests on?
I cant find any in the articles, but I do hope that it's not just Windows, I sure hope they are gonna make tests under Linux too.
March 8, 2006 4:03:24 PM

Quote:
Can anyone tell me what OS they are planning to make the tests on?
I cant find any in the articles, but I do hope that it's not just Windows, I sure hope they are gonna make tests under Linux too.


I too would like to see a Linux verison tested.

Moreso, it would be really decent if a Linux developer could produce a modified, stripped down OS that worked as a Media centre, with very easy to use menus, applications that are for HTPC usage, and web access.

Now, I don't mean just install a debian-like OS and say "done!" - what I would like to see is a GUI that specifically groomed for easy usage. Sure, a secure back door for administrating it would be great, but keep it simple, i.e. Tivo simple, no tech speak, easy to understand language, simple interface. If an multimedia app is opened it should open full screen for video and a simple interface for audio.
March 8, 2006 4:06:32 PM

How come you guys didn't test the MYHD MDP-130?
March 8, 2006 8:13:48 PM

Why this graphics card?

I am just curious about this choice of graphics card....not that it doesn't look like it would do the job, but in pricing these out it looks to me like newegg has heatsink-only cards with "HDTV/S-Video/Composite Out" outputs from $46-$150 (placing this choice solidly at the top end).

I like the newest and niftiest stuff too, but if we are making the assumption that after its initial configuration this computer will only ever be viewed using a television set, is anything gained by the higher end cards? (I know the answer to that with games, but not necessarily for TV.)

For instance this card:

SAPPHIRE 100141L Radeon X1300 256MB 128-bit DDR PCI Express x16 Video Card - Retail


For $84 (but on sale for $69)...I'm sure that I could scrounge up performance comparisons showing clearly that the 6600 is a much higher performing card generally, but under what circumstances would you expect me to notice that I've paid about half the price if I bought this card instead?

(This is a genuine question, not a criticism.)
March 8, 2006 9:15:11 PM

Not to harp on the budget thing...but contemplating a $200 processor on a $300 motherboard, I have to wonder again what is gained besides the heat factor?

Though I can find quick charts on Tom's Hardware to give me a general idea of how much heat the M 740 will create (and next lowest looks like Athalon 64 3500 Newcastle), what I can't seem to find is how fast this processor is compared to standard processors? And furthermore (as with the graphics card) will this be noticed on a TV only construction?

For instance, how does an Intel Pentium M 740 (on a $300 motherboard) compare to a $85 Sempron on an $85 motherboard as far as speed and heat? (For that matter, how much processor usage will be noticed in this construction anyway? A separate physical TV ripper card should be handling the bulk of the chores for the ripping and the graphics card should be handling the output...how much processor do you really need for this? ...especially in light of the choice of this M processor which seems (though again, I can't find the chart, could be way off) very low-end processor-speed-wise.

Besides heat, if one were considering building one of these things, and didn't happen to have an office full of free review samples laying around, would one regret the choice to get an $85 Sempron, any-old-$85 board, and an $85 graphics card over these decidely more expensive choices, as far as the performance of the PVR (again, with TV as the only output)?
March 8, 2006 9:26:51 PM

brw02005, I think you have an excellent point about building a HTPC on the cheap. Sounds like a great article. Anyone want to write it or co-author it?
March 8, 2006 9:29:52 PM

Re the UIRT, this is from http://www.usbuirt.com/

The USB-UIRT is a USB version of the now-notorious UIRT (stands for Universal Infrared Receiver Transmitter). The USB version offers a simple plug-and-play solution without having to deal with some of the hassles of the classic serial-port (RS-232) version.
March 8, 2006 9:32:13 PM

Quote:
Can anyone tell me what OS they are planning to make the tests on?
I cant find any in the articles, but I do hope that it's not just Windows, I sure hope they are gonna make tests under Linux too.


For System #1 Microsoft Windows XP Professional was used, but XP Home would have worked, too

For System #2 Microsoft Windows MCE 2005 was used.
!