What HTPC setup do you have plusses and minuses

Discussion in 'PC Hardware, Software and Displays' started by Sxotty, Nov 21, 2005.

  1. Sxotty

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    I thought we could start a list of what the folks here have and what they like and dislike about it.

    I have
    ATI 9600
    Hauppauge mce250 (tuner card)
    Avermedia a180 (HDTV card)

    Shuttle Nforce2 ultra (with DD encoding)
    512MB ram
    Athlon 2500+
    Logitech lx500 (mouse keyboard wireless)
    ATI remote wonder 2
    300GB HDD

    Radio Shack 15-1880 HDTV antenna


    I like the system, though it is only barely powerful enough to do HDTV.
    The avermedia card works ok, but the software for using it in conjunction with with windows XP pro, is craptastic. The signal meter is very tiny and impossible to tell if you are helping or hurting, and the default settings do not use the GPU to accelerate (which is necessary for HDTV resolutions).

    The best thing is the antenna, which is amazing, it is cheap <$50.00 and it has excellent reception for the size. Seriously it is amazing.

    The keyboard and mouse work from the couch, but I use the remote wonder instead.

    There is one problem with it though, you can barely get the mouse on the remote to work when watching HDTV b/c the CPU is maxed, so perhaps a better rig would help with that.

    For anyone thinking about getting an HTPC: I can only say do it it truly is awesome once you get everything working...It can be a bit of a pain, but I never want to go back to the regular method of watching TV/DVDs again.
     
    #1 Sxotty, Nov 21, 2005
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 21, 2005
  2. Jawed

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    A64 3500+, 2GB RAM, X800XT AIW (AIW bit is not being used). 309GB disk space - about 13GB free - usually a bit of a nightmare :cry: even though I burn lots of stuff to DVD.

    Nebula DigiTV PCI card for the reception of DVB-T in the UK (Freeview) - also does radio.

    Soundblaster Live! Value PCI card.

    Sennheiser 560 Ovation headphones (old and battered but still sound great) running off the line-out of the soundcard.

    Iiyama Pro 450 19" CRT monitor.

    ---

    The Nebula gets very heavy usage (typically 4-6 hours per day recording). Luckily it averages about 0.25% CPU when recording so it doesn't impact gaming in any notable way.

    I use VideoRedoPlus to cut the adverts out of everything. Extremely tasty and efficient bit of software.

    I don't burn DVDs as DVDs, I simply dump MPEG2 video files to them. I use DivX Convertor to compress the stuff I'm not too bothered about (never to archive) - even at the best quality setting I find it fairly yucky: even though TV broadcasts are often of low quality, DivX manages to make them look (and sound) worse.

    I really like the Nebula card and the user interface of the software. It just works - problems are always due to the broadcasters futzing around with multiplex settings etc. The only nitpick is mine is an old one that needs babying for signal strength.

    One day I may connect the PC to the telly via a wi-fi box...

    Jawed
     
  3. zurich

    zurich Kendoka
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    I don't do the 'cable TV thing' on my HTPC, rather I find the 'BitTorrent thing' a little easier on the wallet (and higher quality/more convenient too!).

    That said, my HTPC set is as follows:

    Athlon XP 2400+ (slllowwwwllly aging)
    640 Megs DDR ram
    Asus nForce 2 DLX w/SoundStorm (out to a DD 5.1/DTS 5.1 system over spdif)
    Radeon 9500 Pro 128 megs of ram
    ~180 gigs of HD space

    In other words, a bunch of old PC parts cobbled together in a dead sexy Ahanix d.Vine 5 aluminum HTPC case with a wireless k/b :)

    This runs over DVI to a Dell 23 inch LCD Monitor/TV hybrid, with 1280x768 native resolution. I use FFDshow to upscale to the native res with subtle filters applied, and the image is razor sharp (especially HDTV encodes!).

    Overall my impressions of the set up are very positive. I live in a small bachaelor apartment, so 23 inches is more than enough (~7 foot viewing distance). The text in Windows is more than readable, and the video quality is great. SoundStorm/my 5.1 setup is starting to show its age a little wrt sound quality, but for your average reality TV shows/SouthPark etc. it's already more than enough.

    I do get free basic cable which I watch from time to time (ie: hockey or the news), but I haven't bothered hooking it up through the PC because any shows worth watching a) I'm not home for and b) since a), I just download them in HDTV.
     
  4. MuFu

    MuFu Chief Spastic Baboon
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    Our "student-special" (donated bits!):

    Antec Aria
    Athlon 1800+
    768MB PC2100
    Asus A7N266-VM
    Deskstar 180GXP 80GB
    Radeon 9550 128MB (64-bit, ooohh)
    MS Wireless combo

    WinXP
    Zoom Player Pro
    Sonic Cinemaster DVD Decoder
    ffdshow (denoise3d + mild asharp)
    PowerStrip
    DigiTV Client (server is in my room)

    Hooked up to a Tosh prog scan TV via RGB @1024x576. Looks sweet.

    Best thing about it is the VGA=>SCART cable which cost nothing to make and has improved the picture quality in an alarming manner (vs. S-Vid). I had no idea SD video on a CRT could look so damn good. DigiTV is neat but tends to crash our router sometimes. Apart from that we can't complain - performance is adequate and there's tons of storage space on the LAN.
     
    #4 MuFu, Nov 21, 2005
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 12, 2005
  5. Sxotty

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    Yeah perhaps we should just list our favorit and least favorite thing so people might gain some idea.

    Mufu what does a SCART cable buy you? I was under the impression that was simply like regular analog, or s-video in a different pin layout...
     
  6. MuFu

    MuFu Chief Spastic Baboon
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    It's the only way to get an RGB signal into this TV. You're right - SCART can carry various different video formats, as a well as audio.
     
  7. l15741

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    Hey, I though this would be a good time to jump in with everyone discussing what they like and don't like...

    I want a tuner card, however I don't know which to get... The biggest difference between them seems to be the software, however I know quite a few people just use other software...

    So I ask what would you recommend to someone who appreciates good quality video and audio, however is hardly a video/audiophile. I would probably be listening most of the time on a little 2.1 setup since my cable company doesn't have 5.1 unless you have their high def package anywise... I would be either using a 27" regular old TV but that is going out I think so I might be using the spare 19" CRT that’s been in the back of the closet forever soon.

    I am new to this, so I would need the whole package, the card, the software, any tips... And all the things I don't even know I need :). Cheaper is better, but I would rather spend more on something that works then less on something I'll be fighting all the time...


    Thanks for any help you choose to provide.
     
  8. Sxotty

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    To be honest if you are not for spending a lot I think you could get by with a pretty darn cheap tuner card now. Find what software you want to use and check compatible hardware though.
     
  9. _xxx_

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    Get the Hauppauge WinPVR150, the best for the price.
     
  10. l15741

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    Ok, thanks, it's nice to know it's not to important what brand. Also I was looking in to the model posted and it's not on newegg I could find and I googled it and no where on the first page was selling it... Anyone have any idea where I could get one?

    The holiday buying it starting a litte earlier then expected, however if it's not to bad I might still be able to pick it up right away still... Thanks for the help and I'll be looking around.


    Now back to Thanksgiving dinner...
     
  11. Sxotty

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    He suggested a brand, Hauppauge, I have a Hauppauge 250 and I must say they make excellent hardware it is top notch stuff.

    You said you did not care that much about quality, and if that is the case I think you might be better served figuring out what software you want and then seeing what hardware it supports and buying whatever is cheapest.

    But, brands DO matter if you want the best quality.
     
  12. Bjorn

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    Athlon 64 3200
    512 Mb RAM
    MSI Micro ATX, Ati R200 (?) chipset motherboard. No DVI out unfortunetly and thus:
    GF 6200 + PureVideo decoder.
    StLabs Gb Ethernet
    Hauppage PVR 350
    160 Gb Samsung Spinpoint HD
    HD "TV": Sony HS50, dvi cable. Will probably go optical DVI when then house that we´re building is done.
    And by that time, a HDTV capable TV will join the Sony projector in the living room. The girlfriend says that our old bulky CRT is NOT going into the living room in the new house. And i´m not complaining :)

    I stream all movies/tv shows from my main computer, Gb made quite a bit of difference there. Other then that, a pretty nice setup. A reformat some time ago and the rollup2 sp for MCE made it pretty stable also. Was rather shaky before that.
     
    #12 Bjorn, Nov 26, 2005
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 26, 2005
  13. wireframe

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    Nobody using a Theater 550 Pro? I was very interested in this product at one time, but then it just seemed to drop off the radar. Does this have something to do with RAW support, like using it to capture DivX or are there other reasons? I figure MPEG-2 is about as good as it gets for PVR applications unless you have extremely powerful hardware.
     
  14. nutball

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    Yeah I've knocked up one of these, and the picture quality is awesome! Well worth the investment of time and solder!
     
  15. Farid

    Farid Artist formely known as Vysez
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    I putted up a HTPC (SDTV) with some old parts I had. (1800+, K7T266 Pro2, 512MB 2100, 2x 80GB HDD)

    I didn't have any (in a working state) graphical card, so I went out and bought a cheap fanless card with S-Video output, a Radeon 9250 (powered by the incredible RV280...). That's just when I remembered why people like to say that Ati drivers sucks.

    The thing never ever outputed anything in color throught S-Video, no matter what I tried...
    I just got pissed and switch the GF3Ti200 off my "internet box" and put it into my HTPC.
    Makes more noise, but at least works like a charm.
    Now, of course my Web box cannot be use to try demos or anything related to gaming (I get rendering bugs on every DX8.1 class games).

    I also have one of my modded Xbox that I use as a HTPC (XMBC rocks).
     
  16. Sxotty

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    I haven't tried that product, but I have tried other ATI home theater products, tv wonder, the remote etc. And my experience has been pretty poor. I say without reserve that ATI has cleaned up the Video card drivers to perfection (perfection meaning that they are as good as anyone else which means they are the best in marketing speak), but their peripheal drivers have been quite frustrating to me, and I am quite turned off from buying anything from them again. That is my own experience though, and perhaps it is better now, but the remote wonder 2 was a similarly frustrating experience.
     
  17. JCLW

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    Location:
    Toronto
    Asus P5GDC (i915)
    Celeron 330J (2.66)
    1GB ram
    80GB XPpro/Apps
    4x 200GB RAID 5 (600GB usable) storage

    X700pro S-video -> 20" CRT (32" LCD in 2006 budget)

    P5GDC Azalia DDLive! S/PDIF -> Yamaha HTR-5740

    It gets the most use as a file/ftp server (my dad and I both run large redundant arrays, and back up our data to each others computers for safekeeping as we live 2-1/2 hours apart), but I also play music and movies from it. The biggest problem ATM is the screen is so painful to use. Hopefully with a new LCD TV I'll be able to use it as an HTPC a little more.

    When I get a new TV I might throw in a TV tuner. We'll see.

    edit: Oh, nearly forgot my favorite part: MS Bluetooth keyboard and mouse. Picked them up for CDN$30 refurbished. Very nice. First wireless input devices I've used that are completely "laggless".
     
    #17 JCLW, Dec 12, 2005
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 12, 2005
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