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$1500 Home Theater Setup?

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February 27, 2011 2:54:37 AM

Alright so, Iam on a budget at the moment of $1500 to max out a spare room in the basement. My budget was originally $5K, but finishing up the room ATE away most of it, $500 for a couch and seating. So that leaves $1500 for:


-Projector or a Plasma TV

-Surround Sound System

-Blu-Ray Player (BOUGHT!)

-HTPC?


I have my PC in another room almost right next to the theater so I think I can just run a HDMI cable from my GPU through the wall into the other room to the TV or Projector? Or do I really need a HTPC? I never really had my own home theater so I dont know what else I will need? I actually skimped on the couch since I will upgrade it anyways down the line. I'd like to spend more towards the TV and less towards the surround sound, and upgrade that in November for Black Friday. Thank you!
February 28, 2011 3:35:14 AM

home theater PC's are for people who watch the same movies over and over again.

do you listen to music often?
because if you do listen to music often, it would be advised to put the music on the computer for faster browsing and access.
besides, once you touch audio onto the computer.. there are a load of options to make your current sound system sound much better.

internet video on the television.. like youtube videos.. is another solid reason for a home theater PC.
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February 28, 2011 2:26:48 PM

Like anywaypasible says, having a home theater PC is certainly a plus, but as you suggest, it's a lot cheaper to just run an HDMI and USB cable through the wall and using your current PC (in the other room) for storing your music and video libraries. There are customizable wall plates at most home improvement stores for running network, HDMI, USB, and PS2 cables through the walls.

With that in place, you only need some way to control the PC. Personally, I use this Microsoft Media Center Remote Control and this Microsoft Media Center Keyboard to control my HTPC. Note that the remote control I linked also comes with the IR receiver. This connects via USB (hence the need for the USB wall port) to the PC and allows wireless control of the PC. There are other options, of course. I just linked what I use so you have some idea of what you're going to need.

One more note based on my experience. On a dual monitor setup in extended mode (note sure about clone mode), Windows Media Center will only display on the primary screen. Using my Radeon HD 4670 and Catalyst Control Center, I set up a hotkey to toggle the primary display to get around this.

Next up is either the HDTV or Projector. One of the primary concerns here will be the room dimensions and the seating arrangement. For instance, my living room, where I have my projector set up, is 19' x 12'. With my projector, the 17' throw distance (the distance from the projector lens to the screen) gives me about a 11' screen. Since my projector's maximum resolution is only 1280x724, if I sit much closer than 15', I start to notice the "screen door" effect (example). With a smaller screen size and/or higher display resolution, you can minimize this effect.

Another concern with a projector is cabling. You need to remember that the projector is on one side of the room and possibly even ceiling mounted, while your speakers are on the other side. Do you really want to run either a video cable or speaker wires the length of your room? If you decide on a ceiling mounted projector, how are you going to get power to it? Are you going to have to run an extension cable across the ceiling and down the wall to a power outlet? If it's not ceiling mounted, is the seating arrangement such that no one sits between the projector and the screen?

Next, there is lighting control. While newer projectors can probably handle ambient light better than my BenQ MP610 projector, I need to get my living room fairly dark when watching movies. Are you able to control the lighting in your room?

Finally, there's cost. Again, a lot depends on your seating arrangement and room dimensions. While you can probably get by with a 720p projector ($500-$800), I'd really recommend going with a 1080p projector ($900-$1200). Add in all the extra costs associated with the projector (screen, lighting control, long cables/wires, etc...), you're pretty much at the limit of your budget and we haven't even discussed the surround sound system yet.

Obviously, just going with a large screen HDTV eliminates most (if not all) of the issues, but even with all the cons towards using a projector, if you can work around them and have the room size to truly enjoy it, I highly recommend going that route.


This is an old image of my living room from before I got the pull down screen. It's just some screen material pinned to the black-out curtains that cover the windows along my 12' wall. Hopefully, you get the idea of what the results can look like.

As far as the surround sound system is concerned, the primary issue is whether or not it does HDMI audio processing; meaning, does the system process and output the audio from an HDMI cable to your speakers or does it just pass it through to the video display. My Onkyo HT-S3300 does not do HDMI audio processing, so I have to run a separate audio cable to the receiver. Since your PC is in the other room, that's something else you need to consider. You'll also need to take into account the number of devices you want to connect (HTPC, Blu-Ray, etc) and how they're connected (HDMI, Component, etc...).

Given the strict budget of $1500, I'd say a 1080p projector setup is outside of your range. A 720p projector setup is doable, but you may not be 100% happy with the results (I'm about 95% satisfied). A large screen 1080p HDTV setup should be within your budget range and is probably the easiest to set up.

Hope this helps.
-Wolf sends
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March 2, 2011 1:19:22 AM

Wolfshadw said:
Like anywaypasible says, having a home theater PC is certainly a plus, but as you suggest, it's a lot cheaper to just run an HDMI and USB cable through the wall and using your current PC (in the other room) for storing your music and video libraries. There are customizable wall plates at most home improvement stores for running network, HDMI, USB, and PS2 cables through the walls.

With that in place, you only need some way to control the PC. Personally, I use this Microsoft Media Center Remote Control and this Microsoft Media Center Keyboard to control my HTPC. Note that the remote control I linked also comes with the IR receiver. This connects via USB (hence the need for the USB wall port) to the PC and allows wireless control of the PC. There are other options, of course. I just linked what I use so you have some idea of what you're going to need.

One more note based on my experience. On a dual monitor setup in extended mode (note sure about clone mode), Windows Media Center will only display on the primary screen. Using my Radeon HD 4670 and Catalyst Control Center, I set up a hotkey to toggle the primary display to get around this.

Next up is either the HDTV or Projector. One of the primary concerns here will be the room dimensions and the seating arrangement. For instance, my living room, where I have my projector set up, is 19' x 12'. With my projector, the 17' throw distance (the distance from the projector lens to the screen) gives me about a 11' screen. Since my projector's maximum resolution is only 1280x724, if I sit much closer than 15', I start to notice the "screen door" effect (example). With a smaller screen size and/or higher display resolution, you can minimize this effect.

Another concern with a projector is cabling. You need to remember that the projector is on one side of the room and possibly even ceiling mounted, while your speakers are on the other side. Do you really want to run either a video cable or speaker wires the length of your room? If you decide on a ceiling mounted projector, how are you going to get power to it? Are you going to have to run an extension cable across the ceiling and down the wall to a power outlet? If it's not ceiling mounted, is the seating arrangement such that no one sits between the projector and the screen?

Next, there is lighting control. While newer projectors can probably handle ambient light better than my BenQ MP610 projector, I need to get my living room fairly dark when watching movies. Are you able to control the lighting in your room?

Finally, there's cost. Again, a lot depends on your seating arrangement and room dimensions. While you can probably get by with a 720p projector ($500-$800), I'd really recommend going with a 1080p projector ($900-$1200). Add in all the extra costs associated with the projector (screen, lighting control, long cables/wires, etc...), you're pretty much at the limit of your budget and we haven't even discussed the surround sound system yet.

Obviously, just going with a large screen HDTV eliminates most (if not all) of the issues, but even with all the cons towards using a projector, if you can work around them and have the room size to truly enjoy it, I highly recommend going that route.

http://i32.photobucket.com/albums/d8/Wolfshadw/Easter001.jpg
This is an old image of my living room from before I got the pull down screen. It's just some screen material pinned to the black-out curtains that cover the windows along my 12' wall. Hopefully, you get the idea of what the results can look like.

As far as the surround sound system is concerned, the primary issue is whether or not it does HDMI audio processing; meaning, does the system process and output the audio from an HDMI cable to your speakers or does it just pass it through to the video display. My Onkyo HT-S3300 does not do HDMI audio processing, so I have to run a separate audio cable to the receiver. Since your PC is in the other room, that's something else you need to consider. You'll also need to take into account the number of devices you want to connect (HTPC, Blu-Ray, etc) and how they're connected (HDMI, Component, etc...).

Given the strict budget of $1500, I'd say a 1080p projector setup is outside of your range. A 720p projector setup is doable, but you may not be 100% happy with the results (I'm about 95% satisfied). A large screen 1080p HDTV setup should be within your budget range and is probably the easiest to set up.

Hope this helps.
-Wolf sends


Well, like I said, Iam not looking for an amazing surround sound system, like a $90 from Target will be fine for now. I saw this projector:

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...


now the room, its PITCH BLACK, the only lights will be along the floor and they are dim like the movie theaters and even they can be turned off via multiple switches in the room. The screen will be 100-120" and the projector can be placed anywhere from 9-18 feet away from the wall, doesn't matter to me. So would that work, considering there are ZERO windows in the room? that room was built for a home theater but was never complete, all the wiring is already done, like an outlet on the ceiling, holes for speakers, and so on. the only cable not already holed out with a HDMi cable from my room, which I can do myself.
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March 2, 2011 8:29:57 AM

Well, it sounds like you're all set then and yes, that projector would work very well for your Home Theater Room. Here are a couple links for the projector you linked:

Projector Central specs page
Projector Central Calculator page

Based on the calculator page, you shouldn't have any problems setting it up for the image size you want and based on the Newegg reviews, I think you'll be very happy with the purchase.

As far as the cons I had listed:

Room dimensions, seating arrangement, and the "screen door" effect don't sound like they'll be an issue. 1080p projector, 16' throw distance, 120" image display... you can probably sit as close as 12' from the screen, but you can figure that out once it's set up.

Cabling - Sounds like you're pretty handy with a set of tools, so in addition to ceiling mount power, I'd probably recommend multiple video ports as well (if you haven't already, probably two HDMI and one component). I like that the projector you've chosen does have dual HDMI inputs as well as a component video input.

Lighting Control - Non-issue. You've got that covered well.

Based on your description of your Home Theater Room, about the only other concern I would have is heat/air flow. Projectors do put out a significant amount of heat. As long as you have some sort of air circulation in and out of that room, you should be fine.

Viewing screen - Some people are perfectly happy displaying an image on a flat gray/white wall. I was mostly happy displaying my image on a tacked on piece of material. Obviously, you don't need an actual pull-down (or even motorized) movie screen. If you google "DIY Projector Screen", you'll find plenty of examples on how to make your own screen. For a dedicated Home Theater Room, I'd recommend going this route.

Sound system - It's hard for me to recommend going with a cheap system now and upgrading later, but as I mentioned before, it sounds like you're pretty handy with a set of tools, and with speaker holes and wiring already in place, you should be able to work around it.

I really think you're going to enjoy the finished project and I'd love to see pictures of it.

-Wolf sends

P.S. Two more recommendations for the room:

1) Popcorn Machine/Microwave oven for movie snacks.
2) Mini-fridge for cold beverages.

You really don't want to be running all the way upstairs, to the kitchen for a refill in the middle of a good movie. :D 

P.P.S.

If you're a sports fan like I am, figure out a way to connect a TV signal to your projector; either a TV Tuner card in the HTPC (like I have) or a direct cable/satellite connection to the projector. There's nothing quite like watching the big game on a 120" screen with a few friends or family, a heaping plate of hot wings/pizza and a good supply of cold beverages!
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March 22, 2011 2:57:07 PM

hmm.. well you could search online for quality products that you could purchase with that amount. go and read some info here hedmag(dot)com and you'll be able to decide which one. :bounce: 
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March 24, 2011 12:43:35 PM

Forget the projector, a large screen TV will make you happier
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March 24, 2011 2:44:54 PM

soundguruman said:
Forget the projector, a large screen TV will make you happier


I'm curious as to why you'd say that. My brother has a very nice 55" 1080p and my sister has an ok 60" 720p. Both are nice enough, but neither gives that "full room, actual movie theater" ambiance that my 720p projector does. I'd really like to know your reasoning.

-Wolf sends
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March 24, 2011 9:42:34 PM

Hmm, I dunno about a $1500 system - if it were me I think I would wait for my EOY bonus and get back close to the original $5K budget. There's nothing like spending $$ and then not being completely happy with the system, esp. if you're going to be spending a lot of time looking/listening to it..

As for Windows Media Center - aren't there tablet apps to let you control your HTPC remotely? IIRC there are several for the iPad. The advantage there would be to see as much of a movie synopsis (or online reviews, IMDB links to the actors, etc) or even preview as much of the movie as you want. To me, that is the conrol device of the future - forget keyboards & mice, just use the touchscreen to control everything :) .
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April 3, 2011 7:35:35 PM

Best answer selected by motheninja.
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April 3, 2011 8:02:22 PM

Wolfshadw said:
Well, it sounds like you're all set then and yes, that projector would work very well for your Home Theater Room. Here are a couple links for the projector you linked:

Projector Central specs page
Projector Central Calculator page

Based on the calculator page, you shouldn't have any problems setting it up for the image size you want and based on the Newegg reviews, I think you'll be very happy with the purchase.

As far as the cons I had listed:

Room dimensions, seating arrangement, and the "screen door" effect don't sound like they'll be an issue. 1080p projector, 16' throw distance, 120" image display... you can probably sit as close as 12' from the screen, but you can figure that out once it's set up.

Cabling - Sounds like you're pretty handy with a set of tools, so in addition to ceiling mount power, I'd probably recommend multiple video ports as well (if you haven't already, probably two HDMI and one component). I like that the projector you've chosen does have dual HDMI inputs as well as a component video input.

Lighting Control - Non-issue. You've got that covered well.

Based on your description of your Home Theater Room, about the only other concern I would have is heat/air flow. Projectors do put out a significant amount of heat. As long as you have some sort of air circulation in and out of that room, you should be fine.

Viewing screen - Some people are perfectly happy displaying an image on a flat gray/white wall. I was mostly happy displaying my image on a tacked on piece of material. Obviously, you don't need an actual pull-down (or even motorized) movie screen. If you google "DIY Projector Screen", you'll find plenty of examples on how to make your own screen. For a dedicated Home Theater Room, I'd recommend going this route.

Sound system - It's hard for me to recommend going with a cheap system now and upgrading later, but as I mentioned before, it sounds like you're pretty handy with a set of tools, and with speaker holes and wiring already in place, you should be able to work around it.

I really think you're going to enjoy the finished project and I'd love to see pictures of it.

-Wolf sends

P.S. Two more recommendations for the room:

1) Popcorn Machine/Microwave oven for movie snacks.
2) Mini-fridge for cold beverages.

You really don't want to be running all the way upstairs, to the kitchen for a refill in the middle of a good movie. :D 

P.P.S.

If you're a sports fan like I am, figure out a way to connect a TV signal to your projector; either a TV Tuner card in the HTPC (like I have) or a direct cable/satellite connection to the projector. There's nothing quite like watching the big game on a 120" screen with a few friends or family, a heaping plate of hot wings/pizza and a good supply of cold beverages!


I actually finished up the room and the total length of the room is a little over 20' in length with a width of 175" and change. I finished mounting everything and I actually got some cash from Lockerz (another $500) so I was able to buy the following:

Epson 8350 for $1000 BRAND NEW on eBay (came with HDMI Cables, ceiling mount, and a bunch of other cables)
Samsung 7.1 Wireless w/ Wifi and Blu-Ray Home theater System (retails for $750 but my buddy bought it for me, and he works there so it was like $600 and change during a sale)
Old School Popcorn Machine (with wheels kinda like a cart, custom built by me the popcorn popper I got online $50 brand new for the cooking components)
Sno-Cone Machine (my GF likes em so I bought one for a little over $100)
I was also able to get a display case like the kind at the movie theater for cheap since a theater near by went under at the auction for $20


For the HTPC, I bought a cheap old Dell Optiplex System and gutted it and cleaned it and upgraded some parts, All together about $100. Its specs:

-Core 2 Duo @ 3.6Ghz
-4GB of DDR2 Ram @ 1066Mhz
-150GB Velociraptor
-Access to a network drive
-500W PSU
-Radeon 5770
-Random Mobo

I also spray painted the entire case jet black.

Other equipement I have in the room:

-Router/Modem
-Xbox 360 Slim with Kinect (black friday doorbuster)
-Logitech DiNovo (got as a present)
-Logitech 1100 (got it as a present too)
-DirecTV HD Receiver(hooked up to a 2TB USB drive to essentially make it a HD DVR too, $5 a month)
-Old VCR (for my parents old tapes they watch)
-Yamaha iPod Dock (works on all iPods/iPhones/iPads)

All that stuff I have in a closet that is vented in with cool air since that is where the heat is usually there. before venting, the temp in it was close to 90 without the venting and after it dropped to around 70. The projector really doesn't get hot since I attached at exhaust pipe and push the hot air into the open ceiling where it disperses.

My next plans:

-I have an older Celeron PC, which I will hook up to a cabinet and turn it into an old school MAME, SNES, NES cabinet. (~$400)
-Get a Digital Display like a Current Movie playing sign on the hallway leading into my theater. (~$150)
-Old School Pop Dispenser with the hose and tap. I actually have a wetbar at the moment but its right outside the theater in my rec room. (~$75 to build or ~$200 to buy)
-Get some real Home Theater seating (~$1200 for 4 seats with massager or 8 seats w/o)
-Add some LED lighting on the ground (~$50)
-Control everything with my Logitech 1100. Lights, Devices, EVERYTHING (~$10)
-be able to adjust my screen size on the go. Currently, I can change from 60" to 120" size on my Wall, the quality is great from the multiple coats of crystal paint but I want to be able to vary my screen size from 60" to 157" so the Kinect is more fun. (FREE but I need to adjust my mount)

Any other suggestions?
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April 3, 2011 10:27:42 PM

I'm loving how this is all turning out for you! I also like the addition of the Sno-Cone machine. Gotta keep the significant others happy!

I've been wanting to build a MAME cabinet for years, but I just don't have the room for it in my small apartment (not even a small, table top cabinet).

Honestly, I can't think of anything else to add.

Wolf sends
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April 4, 2011 5:32:17 AM

Wolfshadw said:
I'm loving how this is all turning out for you! I also like the addition of the Sno-Cone machine. Gotta keep the significant others happy!

I've been wanting to build a MAME cabinet for years, but I just don't have the room for it in my small apartment (not even a small, table top cabinet).

Honestly, I can't think of anything else to add.

Wolf sends


Well not only her but even I sometimes like a sno-cone, but it's great for parties! The Mamet cabineTs I built a ton of them. I made one for my dads office, numerous on craigslist and eBay. The hardest part is the cabinent itself if you build a custom case for whatever moniTor, joystick, and pc you use. If you need help, hit me up and I can hook you up for some basic info to get you started. They don't take up much room. It's about the space of a standing adult. I actually built one a while back, it's a portable Mamet cabinet. It's essentially a acer revo in a briefcase, and the briefcase has threaded hole so if you ever want to play, just screw in the joysticks and button and connect to a tv or use the 15" screen like a laptop with the inside has threaded holes too.

I actually found someone that sells home thater stuff like candy, seating, condiments and other stuff really cheap. What your home thater setup?

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April 4, 2011 3:12:09 PM

Well, I just live in a small one-bedroom apartment. My 19'x12' living room doubles as my home theater.

Components:
1) HTPC - Athlon Dual-Core/4GB RAM/TV Tuner Card/Comcast Cable
2) Audio - Onkyo HT-S3300 5.1 Surround Sound System
3) Video1 - BenQ MP610 Projector (max resolution 1280x724 / non-HDCP compliant)
4) Video2 - Olevia 232T HDTV (32" 1080i/720p HDTV)
5) Projection Screen - EliteScreens 140" manual pulldown.

Since my projector isn't HDCP compliant, I haven't bothered with blu-ray just yet, but that's the next upgrade (1080p HDTV and Projector). Because I live in such a small apartment, the kitchen is literally five paces away, so no need for a nice popcorn machine like the one you got. Of course, it doesn't have to be just popcorn. Having the kitchen so close, I can do pretty much anything from popcorn/chips to a full fledged dinner.

My only real problem is seating. I mean it's perfect for me, alone (I have a nice recliner), but if I have a friend over for a football game, they get the recliner and I get my simple office chair. See, I *really* am limited on space.

I'm not into console games, so I don't have an XBox, Wii or PS3. If I want to play games, I have another PC right next to this one and a KVM with Audio for that. Being so limited on space, you can believe me when I say I don't have room for a full sized or even a table-top MAME cabinet.

Right now, I'm just using my laptop as my MAME device, but the original plan was to use an old Dell Optiplex GX270 that I picked up for $10. I was going to go ahead and build a full size cabinet for it until I started looking around and found no place to put it. If I ever move into a larger place, I'll revisit the idea. If I ever get a house with an unfinished basement... LOOK OUT! :D 

-Wolf sends
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April 4, 2011 9:58:13 PM

Wolfshadw said:
Well, I just live in a small one-bedroom apartment. My 19'x12' living room doubles as my home theater.

Components:
1) HTPC - Athlon Dual-Core/4GB RAM/TV Tuner Card/Comcast Cable
2) Audio - Onkyo HT-S3300 5.1 Surround Sound System
3) Video1 - BenQ MP610 Projector (max resolution 1280x724 / non-HDCP compliant)
4) Video2 - Olevia 232T HDTV (32" 1080i/720p HDTV)
5) Projection Screen - EliteScreens 140" manual pulldown.

Since my projector isn't HDCP compliant, I haven't bothered with blu-ray just yet, but that's the next upgrade (1080p HDTV and Projector). Because I live in such a small apartment, the kitchen is literally five paces away, so no need for a nice popcorn machine like the one you got. Of course, it doesn't have to be just popcorn. Having the kitchen so close, I can do pretty much anything from popcorn/chips to a full fledged dinner.

My only real problem is seating. I mean it's perfect for me, alone (I have a nice recliner), but if I have a friend over for a football game, they get the recliner and I get my simple office chair. See, I *really* am limited on space.

I'm not into console games, so I don't have an XBox, Wii or PS3. If I want to play games, I have another PC right next to this one and a KVM with Audio for that. Being so limited on space, you can believe me when I say I don't have room for a full sized or even a table-top MAME cabinet.

Right now, I'm just using my laptop as my MAME device, but the original plan was to use an old Dell Optiplex GX270 that I picked up for $10. I was going to go ahead and build a full size cabinet for it until I started looking around and found no place to put it. If I ever move into a larger place, I'll revisit the idea. If I ever get a house with an unfinished basement... LOOK OUT! :D 

-Wolf sends


well you have a HTPC, even thought of partitioning a HDD to cut of about 10GB of space and install Linux or something and buy a wireless arcade joystick and use your 140" as a MAME emulator? total space taken up? your lap.
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April 4, 2011 11:21:18 PM

ROTFLMAO!!!! :lol: 

No. I can't say that I ever did think of that! I just can't see playing Asteroids on a 140" screen! For the time being, I'm happy with my laptop as my MAME system. However, I do have a USB Arcade controller. My laptop does have an S-Video output and my projector does have an S-Video input... Hmmm!

-Wolf sends

Edit:

Ok, so while Asteroids didn't work out so well (really need a keyboard or X-Arcade controller), Moon Patrol, Xevious, Star Wars, and 1942 all worked out real well! I'm pretty sure there is a MAME plug-in for windows so I wouldn't need to create a new partition and reboot every time I wanted to switch.
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April 5, 2011 2:39:17 PM

Wolfshadw said:
ROTFLMAO!!!! :lol: 

No. I can't say that I ever did think of that! I just can't see playing Asteroids on a 140" screen! For the time being, I'm happy with my laptop as my MAME system. However, I do have a USB Arcade controller. My laptop does have an S-Video output and my projector does have an S-Video input... Hmmm!

-Wolf sends

Edit:

Ok, so while Asteroids didn't work out so well (really need a keyboard or X-Arcade controller), Moon Patrol, Xevious, Star Wars, and 1942 all worked out real well! I'm pretty sure there is a MAME plug-in for windows so I wouldn't need to create a new partition and reboot every time I wanted to switch.


They have emulators I had an older core 2 duo that ran xp and I think it's called mame32 which has box art and everything. If you have a wii you can use that too.
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April 5, 2011 3:37:19 PM

Sorry. What I meant to say was I think they have plug-ins for Windows 7 Media Center which is what I run on my HTPC. My laptop runs Windows XP and I do have MAME32 installed on that which is what I used to test those games on the big screen.

-Wolf sends
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February 25, 2012 7:59:35 PM

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