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Icrontic's ultimate HTPC - Holiday 2009 edition

Comments

  • chrisWhitechrisWhite Littleton, CO
    edited Nov 2009
    I'd rather have an Apple TV. /trolling

    Actually, this looks really solid, seems like a great solution at a reasonable price that has all the bases covered. I'm not really a TV guy though, any TV I watch is streamed via Hulu & Netflix, there's a lot of overlap here with what my system does but definitely to a whole new level.
  • Nate_LapTNate_LapT Royal Oak MI.
    edited Nov 2009
    we have a nice win7 HTPC on a 40" in our living room. Once Win7 RTM released and Netflix support happen it got so much better to sit back with the remote and our favorite 1080p film.
    Just throw a decent THX sound system on that box and enjoy. Best investment my roommate has made to our place.
  • Nate_LapTNate_LapT Royal Oak MI.
    edited Nov 2009
    chrisWhite for the amount of tv you do watch you just record it in the background while you work just load it up later. Cant wait for the Hulu integration.
  • mas0nmas0n dallas Icrontian
    edited Nov 2009
    It's also useful for more than just TV + Netflix. I'm in the process of getting all my movies to disk, and Media Center is a nice way to browse/watch.

    I use several plugins, including Media Browser. It's a little more robust and customizable than the integrated movie browser.

    When I have some time, I was thinking about putting together an article for customizing WMC, including launching Hulu and other apps from within WMC, editing your menu, playing MKV files, and more.
  • edited Nov 2009
    Sounds like a dynamite machine, but I believe you have understated the cost. The components you have shown add up to $1026, but then you have to add $100-200 for the case, and some unknown amount more (up to $100 or more) for quiet cooling (which is necessary in an HTPC.
  • edited Nov 2009
    Oh yeah, I should have also added the cost of a multi-component PC/TV/sound system remote control.
  • edited Nov 2009
    Also, I was thinking that this machine may be "way overkill" unless you plan to store tons of movies and/or TV shows on the disk, and if you also intend to use it as a gaming machine.

    It would be good to know what "end-user features" it can and cannot support (like: watch & record digital & analog TV from cable, over the air and internet; handle 1080p video; recording can be done on schedule; play CD, DVD & BlueRay disks; record CD & DVD; video output via HDMI, DVI, VGA, or component; audio output via HDMI, optical digital, stereo miniplug, or 7.1 miniplugs; handle simultaneously 2 sources to 2 outputs; minimize number of cables between components; control by multi-component remote control; operate under very low power when inactive; and what else?). I saw a $200 machine that can meet all of my current requirements (but not all that I have listed here).
  • WinfreyWinfrey waddafuh Missouri Icrontian
    edited Nov 2009
    It is a bit pricey but remember this is Icrontic's Ultimate HTPC. You can definitely get great functionality out of a cheaper system.
  • ButtersButters CA Icrontian
    edited Nov 2009
    Been mulling over building HTPC, it would probably be my next build. I'll probably wait for an ATI 5000-series IGP, if they are in the pipeline, unable to find leaked news on any board like this yet.

    The Lynx platform looks promising for HTPC in 2011. But I don't think I'd wait that long.

    The TV Tuner card does come with a remote, don't know if its multifunction or just PC. I'd also factor in a wireless keyboard/mouse, and possibly an XBOX 360 controller for PC, might be able to control Media Player with this controller, etc.
  • Nate_LapTNate_LapT Royal Oak MI.
    edited Nov 2009
    The remotes I've used weren't true universal remotes. strictly pc only. we just keep the tv remote near by for power only. volume is controlled from windows.
  • mas0nmas0n dallas Icrontian
    edited Nov 2009
    The box presented in the article is great, but it's pretty easy to piece together an HTPC.

    Mine is a small old HP box I bought from a client for $75 with a no name motherboard, 40GB IDE hard disk, and Athlon X2 4800+. I used an Antec Neo 500 for a quiet PSU, 2GB of DDR2, Zalman CNPS7000b-Cu, and a gigabit NIC all from from my parts bin, then bought an HD4350 from Newegg for $20 after mail in rebate. Assuming you have storage elsewhere on the network, this is all you need for a rockin' HTPC. The case is not attractive, but my home theater setup has a cabinet.
    mkv is easy. quick regedit.
    You also need a splitter and probably an AC3 filter, but yes, easy.
  • airbornflghtairbornflght Houston, TX
    edited Nov 2009
    mas0n said:
    It's also useful for more than just TV + Netflix. I'm in the process of getting all my movies to disk, and Media Center is a nice way to browse/watch.

    I use several plugins, including Media Browser. It's a little more robust and customizable than the integrated movie browser.

    When I have some time, I was thinking about putting together an article for customizing WMC, including launching Hulu and other apps from within WMC, editing your menu, playing MKV files, and more.
    What plugins do you use? I have my computer running to my marantz receiver over hdmi and that hooked up to my tv/speakers and w7mc is amazing just having some of my movies backed up and direct tv running to it.

    Best part is if I want to watch tv and do work I can drag the window over to my main monitor and make it smaller. Also, a guide on getting playing mkv files would be amazing. And as far as netflix is concerned. I was less than impressed with their selection so I canceled my trial with them.
  • mas0nmas0n dallas Icrontian
    edited Nov 2009
    I use Media Browser as a browser replacement for both TV and Movies, Music Browser as a replacement for the default music browser, Media Info to show codec info inside Media Browser, and RadioTime for streaming radio. Then, some registry edits to remove anything I don't need and Media Center Launcher to add applications (Hulu, Chrome, etc)

    I also use metabrowser as a metadata manager and have edited the Media Browser config file so that actor images from metabrowser show up in Media Browser.

    Getting MKV to play in Media Center is pretty easy. Install the Haali splitter, install AC3 filter, do the registry edit Nate linked to above. If you're running some sort of codec pack, you probably won't need to do anything other than the registry edit, but codec packs are usually more harm than good IMO, and pretty much unnecessary in Windows 7.
  • bobbob
    edited Nov 2009
    I would think you are offering good advice, but your prices can be beat. Shame on you for linking to your affiliate account at Newegg. You lost my respect.
  • primesuspectprimesuspect Detroit, MI Icrontian
    edited Nov 2009
    They are clearly labeled affiliate links. We make no secret of it.

    Everybody has their opinions, but I personally prefer transparency to absolutely inundating the site with ads. I'd rather do less ads and more affiliate marketing personally, brother... but somebody's gotta pay the bills. Is it going to be you?
  • UPSLynxUPSLynx The Dean of Computer Graphics Redwood City, CA Icrontian
    edited Nov 2009
    Really? calling us out because we encourage affiliate links? Would you rather us have animated, talking popups that move graphics onto the screen on a Z-buffer level above all of the content? You think running a site is free?

    Icrontic has some of the most non-intrusive ads I've ever seen on a site of this magnitude, and it achieves complete transparency in regards to how things like that are handled. Honesty is much more valuable to us than deception and money.
  • AlexDeGruvenAlexDeGruven Not as tall as Bobby Tallbeer. Twilight Sparkle is overrated. Meechigan Icrontian
    edited Nov 2009
    UPSLynx said:
    Really? calling us out because we encourage affiliate links? Would you rather us have animated, talking popups that move graphics onto the screen on a Z-buffer level above all of the content? You think running a site is free?

    Icrontic has some of the most non-intrusive ads I've ever seen on a site of this magnitude, and it achieves complete transparency in regards to how things like that are handled. Honesty is much more valuable to us than deception and money.
    This.

    IC is one of a very small number of sites that I turn Adblock off for.
  • drasnordrasnor Hawthorne, CA Icrontian
    edited Nov 2009
    Eh, I did my HTPC for $600 two years ago and it can do all of the above perfectly. Your Radeon IGP might decode h.264 in hardware faster than your 9600GT, but the 9600GT results are still perfectly acceptable. I don't care how fast it does it as long as it's at least 30 fps and as you say the gaming performance is far superior. Anything with DVI can do HDMI with the appropriate cable from Monoprice.

    OCZ has been great to Icrontic, but honestly for an HTPC build you have no business overclocking. Any decent RAM will do; if you're spending over $70 w/o rebates for 4 GB you're doing it wrong.

    In the interest of full disclosure, that $600 figure is a little misleading; it helps to have access to a well-stocked Goodwill. I picked up my Logitech Harmony 510 and bt8x8 TV tuner there for like $20 total. Yeah, mine can't do Blu-Ray yet or tune ATSC over-the-air, but those features are coming.

    Why spend close to $300 on a green 2TB hard drive when you chose a high-wattage quad core processor? Seagate desktop 2TB 7200.12 drives were $160 at Frys last weekend, have a better warranty, and have a design power of like 9W which you're not going to notice with that space heater you've got mounted on your motherboard.

    I would also argue that Mythbuntu or XP with MediaPortal are still solid OS choices.

    To me, this looks like $250 short of a pretty decent desktop gaming machine.

    -drasnor :fold:
  • primesuspectprimesuspect Detroit, MI Icrontian
    edited Nov 2009
    DVI is not HDCP compliant.
  • edited Nov 2009
    This is a good build, but is it really cost-effective to build your own HTPC anymore? I just purchased a similar build (actually, I think its better w/ the exception of the power supply and hard drive size) for under $700 from HP. Where is the added benefit for the additional money?
  • primesuspectprimesuspect Detroit, MI Icrontian
    edited Nov 2009
    Without knowing the specs of your $700 HP build, it's hard to say, but I'm going to make a stab and say that hardware-accelerated encoding is a major benefit to many things: digitizing your DVD collection, encoding family videos, etc. Also the drive is an awesome home file server, and will not suffer performance setbacks during playback.
  • SnarkasmSnarkasm 's-Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands Icrontian
    edited Nov 2009
    primesuspect said:
    DVI is not HDCP compliant.
    It can be.

    "High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection (HDCP) is a form of digital copy protection developed by Intel Corporation to prevent copying of digital audio and video content as it travels across DisplayPort, Digital Visual Interface (DVI), High-Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI), Gigabit Video Interface (GVIF), or Unified Display Interface (UDI) connections.

    ... For DVI interfaces, HDCP is optional."
  • ardichokeardichoke Buttes Master B Lansing, MI Icrontian
    edited Nov 2009
    TBH... I'd take a myka.tv box over this any day. Less expensive, smaller, lower power usage, more outputs. Only thing it lacks is optical drive and tuner card (neither of which I'd need since I really am just looking for a box to stream through).

    But if I wanted to build another computer to hook to my TV, this would be nice.
  • jaredjared College Station, TX
    edited Nov 2009
    What's nice about this is you could easily install 3-4 1tb drives in here for cheap and turn it into a file server as well (as prime mentioned) which is where you would get the most bang for your buck imho.

    Oh and I have the tuner card that is mentioned. works great.
  • drasnordrasnor Hawthorne, CA Icrontian
    edited Nov 2009
    Snarkasm said:
    It can be.

    "High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection (HDCP) is a form of digital copy protection developed by Intel Corporation to prevent copying of digital audio and video content as it travels across DisplayPort, Digital Visual Interface (DVI), High-Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI), Gigabit Video Interface (GVIF), or Unified Display Interface (UDI) connections.

    ... For DVI interfaces, HDCP is optional."
    Seconded. All the DVI hardware I own (EVGA 9600GT, Dell 2405FPW) is HDCP-compliant.

    -drasnor :fold:
  • chrisWhitechrisWhite Littleton, CO
    edited Nov 2009
    Agreed, I specifically bought DVI hardware that was HDCP-compliant.
  • redchiefredchief Santa Barbara Member
    edited Nov 2009
    been there,, done that, almost 3 yrs ago, I added a Hauppage analog/HD card to my 6600 system. I get hd off air & regular cable with the remote control. No Clear Quam on my cable service. picked up a 768p projector from eBay for $200, hooked 5.1 into existing amps and speakers. Wireless KB & moose complete this "temporary system. Nothing like a 10ft display in the living room while lounging in the La Zee Boi, with an "adult" beverage.
    watch TV, Play DVD, check email, plays Xplane, FLite Sim X just fine
    Hard to go look at those little 52" screens at Best Buy. down side is that I had to replace the $150. bulb. so far, once in 3 years.
    Antec Black case, 850W PSU, 6600 quad, 9600, 2GB. XP, Sony 5.1 amp & speakers and a couple crown d-75 amps, 2 750Gb, but most stuff is watched live or from network links via wireless.
    been in daily use for about 3 years.
    Heads up for cat owners, they will unsuccessfully chase the cursor on on the wall
  • JBJB
    edited Nov 2009
    I am also toying around with building the "ultimate HTPC" here soon as I'll likely be relocating for work...and I figure new city = new toys!

    Anyhow, I'm hoping that someone can address one HUGE freaking HTPC issue I have... using the HTPC as a DVR for my Digital Cable...encrypted channels, the whole shabang. Seriously, one unit to do it ALL!

    I realize I'll probably still need the cable box, which I accept as a necessary evil.

    Has anyone built a setup that truly does everything? If so, what did you use and how well does it work?

    Also, is there a software solution to allow your file server contents to be converted into an IP stream and watched elsewhere?
  • Why would you spend over $100 for a TV tuner alone and leave the machine with weak video when the ATI All-in-Wonder Pro HD has a TV tuner and many other features, and radically boosts the GPU firepower? The other choices are reasonable but that one is just stupid. If you're going ATI go with its best stuff. It's future-proof since the HDTV standards aren't going to change for decades.
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