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The Biggest Media Center PC Ever

By - Source: Tom's Hardware | B 20 comments

Everybody has some form of home entertainment system. Ranging from standard televisions with mediocre DVD players to the latest high-definition LCD or plasma displays with custom built HTPC’s. Regardless of what you might have in your home right now and what you have paid for it, I bet it doesn’t even come close to some of the offerings from Life|ware.

Life|ware specializes in digital entertainment and home automation systems. These guys really got some cool stuff. Stuff that ordinary people can actually afford and might want, to stuff that ordinary people will never see in a life-time.

Check out the small gallery here!

Enter Life|media. Last year at Cedia2007 Life|ware displayed a Quad-recording Media Center with Four CableCARDs. That unit came packed with a Xeon Quad Core CPU, 4 GB RAM and 4TB of storage. All that for just $15,000! The unit is capable of recording four HD channels simultaneously while streaming HD video to four Xbox 360’s running the media center extender at the same time. During its live demonstration it was utilizing only 57% of its total processing power.

If you had a hard enough time wrapping your head around that, take a look at what Life|ware brought to Cedia2008!

The LMS-810. This time around Life|ware crammed a eight CableCARD tuners into a dual Quad Core system with 12 TB of RAID 5 storage. This baby is capable of recording all eight HD video streams at the same time it is outputting ten HD streams without breaking a sweat. One could only imagine the cost of something like this. There was no mention of price this time around however, but pricing could be similar to that of a decent new vehicle.

The average person will never need something like this, but it is a very cool and raw display of power. Now to decide, do I buy a crazy system like this and walk to work every day for the next year? Or should I just go buy a new car?

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  • -2 Hide
    eklipz330 , September 5, 2008 9:52 PM
  • -2 Hide
    eklipz330 , September 5, 2008 9:54 PM
    "Stuff that ordinary people can actually afford and might want, to stuff that ordinary people will never see in a life-time."

    15grand is by no means affordable... i used to have some good respect for this site, now its nothing more than a blog.

  • -1 Hide
    grieve , September 5, 2008 10:15 PM
    15k is affordable, its not 150k. Is it money well spent? HELL NO!

    Really 15k to record four programs at once… LOL how sad! I could build 2 PCs to do the same job for about 2000-3000 bucks. (I bet 1 PC can do this)

    If you’re an idiot and have 15k to burn… what the hell go snag one of these… perhaps two? ALSO when you get back from the store, ive got a bridge to sell you!
  • 1 Hide
    radnor , September 5, 2008 11:02 PM
    Grieve, it is a out of the box solution. I bet on those 15k software licenses take a heavy toll. Although is a bit off in toms, it is still a interesting article.

    Many PC are being used atm as HTPC. Even mine got a HDMI cable to the TV when i wanna see HD movies.
  • 0 Hide
    joex444 , September 6, 2008 3:57 AM
    Well, this isn't really talking about HTPCs in the sense of playing back HD movies. Granted, if the movie is in Windows Media format you could play it on a 360 through MCE; but what about other formats? With an HTPC and a Blu Ray drive you could watch Blu Rays, and for $130 (BD ROM) and a spare semi-modern PC, that's what you'll get.

    Companies like this, which in all probability paid TH, make massive profit margins off of their products. As well built as it may be and as easy as it could be to use, the actual hardware can be obtained for much cheaper and the software could all be replaced with something like MythTV, which happens to be free. The one thing I will say about their 12TB solution is that it requires 13 hard drives and an expensive PCIe RAID5 controller. The controller is probably $500, and each drive is around $180. Retail cost of around $2700 just for the array subsystem. Then you need to find a case to house the drives (pretty common 13 drive rackmount units), which is usually a couple hundred more. The use of dual Xeons, for all we know are using 2 of the $1000 CPU variety. Of course the board is going to be expensive. And the power supply needs to be pretty good. Not to mention the 8 CableCARD devices, which obviously need some sort of special interconnect since boards don't have 8 PCIe slots (10 with the graphics and RAID). All in all, we're probably looking at around $6500-$7000 in hardware costs. The rest is simply installation, configuration, warranty, and of course, profit.

    My HTPC is only used for playback, but for $150 and being a couple years old, I have to admit it's able to playback 1080p with DTS without any problems (X2 4200+, 2GB RAM). If I wanted it to record HD, the hard drive (Seagate 7200.7 120GB) would never work and to be able to encode from M2TS files into x264 would take longer than its worth.
  • 1 Hide
    Anonymous , September 6, 2008 4:11 AM
    "These guys really got some cool stuff. Stuff that ordinary people can actually afford and might want, to stuff that ordinary people will never see in a life-time."

    No where does he say 15 grand is affordable for the ordinary person.. Actually he seemed to make the point that most people ordianry people wouldn't need such a thing.. He just states that they also make lesser systems that are affordable. At least thats how I took it.
  • 0 Hide
    customisbetter , September 6, 2008 4:36 AM
    eklipz330"Stuff that ordinary people can actually afford and might want, to stuff that ordinary people will never see in a life-time."15grand is by no means affordable... i used to have some good respect for this site, now its nothing more than a blog.

    Im going to have to agree. Make it a little more professional guys!!!
  • 0 Hide
    ravenware , September 6, 2008 4:46 AM
    WTF is a cable card?
  • 0 Hide
    V3NOM , September 6, 2008 6:04 AM
    i mean seriously. tom's can't even spell ever anymore?? i have lost all respect for this site and i bet they don't even read our comments guys...
  • 4 Hide
    jkflipflop98 , September 6, 2008 6:58 AM
    CableCard is the new breed of TV tuners for the PC. They allow your PC to simply act as if it were your cable box. Thus it allows you to record on demand, HDTV premium channels such as HBO and Showtime, and all the specialty stuff that only your cablebox can do.

    The rub here being that cable companies don't want to lose control, so there's only 1 place that is licensed to make a cablecard-compatible tuner : ATI. That restriction is not enough, you see not only is ATI the sole supplier of these devices, but the bios of the PC it's attached to much be flagged with a special key. If your PC isn't stamped with this bios key, the tuner will fail to operate.

    I imagine this key is very expensive. 4 of them (to run 4 cablecards) probably cost a fortune. That's not the entire reason for the insane cost, but it can't help any, either.
  • 1 Hide
    Luscious , September 6, 2008 9:01 AM
    The problem with companies like this is that they'll rip you off big-time with hardware costs and at the same time murder your mom with labor charges. I was at a show in San Diego last year dealing with custom home theater installers who back then were already charging $100+/hour just for labor.

    Clearly this stuff is for people who shit gold nuggets, were standing in the wrong line when brains were being handed out and have never in their life touched a HDMI cord.
  • 0 Hide
    Joe_The_Dragon , September 6, 2008 3:50 PM
    With out a 8 two way cables cards / tru2way don't buy it.
    You will miss all the SDV channels + PPV + VOD.
  • 0 Hide
    dannyaa , September 6, 2008 5:04 PM
    Just because an individual couldn't afford it or need it doesn't mean it is not worthwhile news. Many people who read these stories, myself included, have business or work for media/tech-centric companies where something like this could very well be put into use. I'm glad I know about this technology for that reason.

    Further, it gives me insight into the kind of equipment that will be becoming mainstream in the next few years.
  • 0 Hide
    invlem , September 7, 2008 6:13 PM
    For $15,000 I'd expect it to fit in my pocket...
  • 0 Hide
    Darkk , September 8, 2008 3:01 AM
    $15,000?? Cheaper just to go Netflix and order blu-ray movies.

    I currently have a homebrew HTPC running BeyondTV 4.9 with QAM support and it's nice. Alot cheaper to boot!!

    Ah well, people who have money to burn let em.

  • 0 Hide
    kitsilencer , September 8, 2008 8:10 AM
    Now to decide, do I buy a crazy system like this and walk to work every day for the next year? Or should I just go buy a new car?

    Buy a car.
  • 0 Hide
    techguy911 , September 8, 2008 1:22 PM
    Thats too big it takes up too much space and cost too much nobody would buy it, something like this on the other hand is very small, dead quiet and takes VERY little power.

  • 0 Hide
    TwoDigital , September 8, 2008 2:11 PM
    Clarification about the definition of "CableCard" above... it will allow you to watch (or record, if certain bits aren't set in the broadcast) TV just as if you were watching it on your encryption-aware cable box. It will *NOT* let you watch or record on-demand.

    Also heed what Joe_The_Dragon said above regarding Tru2Way. We're going to have a BIG problem coming with CableCard as companies begin to implement broadcast switching schemes to increase bandwidth. Your existing CableCard will still be able to 'see' the common broadcast channels set up by your cable company but some channels will simply be 'missing.' Tru2Way-protocol cards create a bi-directional interface between your cable device (the HTPC in this case) and your cable company which can 'turn on' channels you will want to watch. They also will be able to process multiple streams so you won't have to have an HTPC with a ridiculous *8* CableCards installed in it.

    Your mileage may vary. My cable company is Comcast and they are backing Tru2Way in the long term, but who knows how long that road is.
  • 0 Hide
    darcotech , September 8, 2008 3:02 PM
    I see many people saying this could be done easily and much,much cheaper. SO why not one project on Tom's for one HTPC with "just" two tuners, RAiD5(3TB) and similir. lets make one Windows and one Linux team and see who would make better and cheaper system with focus on "better".
  • 0 Hide
    megamanx00 , September 9, 2008 6:40 AM
    But can it play Crysis ^_^