bit-tech.net

Go Back   bit-tech.net Forums > bit-tech.net > Article Discussion

Reply
 
Thread Tools
Old 27th Oct 2009, 12:30   #1
CardJoe
Freelance Journalist
bit-tech Staff
 
CardJoe's Avatar
 
Join Date: Apr 2007
Posts: 11,339
CardJoe is the Cheesecake. Relix smiles down upon them.CardJoe is the Cheesecake. Relix smiles down upon them.CardJoe is the Cheesecake. Relix smiles down upon them.CardJoe is the Cheesecake. Relix smiles down upon them.CardJoe is the Cheesecake. Relix smiles down upon them.CardJoe is the Cheesecake. Relix smiles down upon them.CardJoe is the Cheesecake. Relix smiles down upon them.CardJoe is the Cheesecake. Relix smiles down upon them.CardJoe is the Cheesecake. Relix smiles down upon them.CardJoe is the Cheesecake. Relix smiles down upon them.CardJoe is the Cheesecake. Relix smiles down upon them.
Reader Advised HTPC Buyers Blog, Oct 09 #1

http://www.bit-tech.net/blog/2009/10...uide-oct-09-1/

Yep, you read that right, I want your help in designing a Home Theatre PC reference guide to go on the site and in the mag.

I get constantly asked for one, but we simply don't test enough HTPC hardware to be as widely knowledgeable as I'd like in order to recommend a setup with 100 percent confidence.

The difficulty is that HTPCs vary by country; in the UK we don't have analogue HDTV (cable) access like the US, not to mention other issues, like varied internet TV services and user need - does it need terrabytes of storage or is gaming compatibility a priority, for example?

With that in mind we want your advice; what have you seen that works? What would you recommend to others that fits the spec below?

__________________
----------------

I was Bit-tech's Games Editor. Now I'm freelance. Find me at:

www.joemartinwords.com

@joethreepwood on Twitter
CardJoe is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 27th Oct 2009, 13:25   #2
badders
Neuken in de Keuken
 
badders's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2007
Location: Essex, UK
Posts: 2,562
badders should be considered for presidentbadders should be considered for presidentbadders should be considered for presidentbadders should be considered for presidentbadders should be considered for presidentbadders should be considered for presidentbadders should be considered for presidentbadders should be considered for presidentbadders should be considered for presidentbadders should be considered for presidentbadders should be considered for president
PSU has to be a Be Quiet 350W Pure Power PSU - Very quiet, and at under 30, I'm very impressed.
Bought 2 of these recently for builds and can't recommend them highly enough.
__________________
Quote:
Originally Posted by Silver51 View Post
John Hanlon standing on an oil pipeline during a blizzard, punching an angry polar bear in the balls. I heard he really did that once.
badders is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 27th Oct 2009, 13:36   #3
davefelcher
Supermodder
 
Join Date: Aug 2009
Posts: 261
davefelcher can run Crysisdavefelcher can run Crysisdavefelcher can run Crysisdavefelcher can run Crysisdavefelcher can run Crysisdavefelcher can run Crysisdavefelcher can run Crysisdavefelcher can run Crysisdavefelcher can run Crysis
Surely recording and watching TV is a big reason to build a media center PC rather than just using one of those media hard disks that plugs into a TV. For that reason a 64GB SSD sounds useless.
Thoroughly recommend an Antec Fusion case.
Scythe Mini Ninja heatsink fits in nicely and doesn't require a fan.
davefelcher is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 27th Oct 2009, 13:37   #4
BLC
Something witty goes here
 
BLC's Avatar
 
Join Date: Apr 2002
Location: Cardiff
Posts: 2,366
BLC is a Super Spamming SaiyanBLC is a Super Spamming SaiyanBLC is a Super Spamming SaiyanBLC is a Super Spamming SaiyanBLC is a Super Spamming SaiyanBLC is a Super Spamming SaiyanBLC is a Super Spamming SaiyanBLC is a Super Spamming SaiyanBLC is a Super Spamming SaiyanBLC is a Super Spamming SaiyanBLC is a Super Spamming Saiyan
I can probably only comment on software, as I've never actually built a full HTPC rig (although I am now ).

If your setup involves some kind of remote storage device, why not make this a low-power Linux file server and stick the TV decoder in there? That way you can run a MythTV server on the fileserver and a client on the HTPC. My reasoning for this is as follows: XBMC is quite possibly the best media centre playback software that I have ever used - it's intuitive, simple to navigate, clearly laid out and displays even low-quality videos brilliantly. I've been using it on my modified xbox for years and only recently am I planning to replace it (this is because the xbox can't handle any hi-def codecs - the software supports it, but the piddly 733MHz hardware is nowhere near fast enough). There are versions of XBMC available for Linux, Windows and even a Live CD version, if you only want to test it.

The only HTPC functions XBMC does not support are TV tuners and PVR functions. The developers are considering adding a MythTV client to the software - so you can have the MythTV server stream the TV content to the XBMC client. Hence the suggestion for a separate MythTV server box.

I've also been trying out Windows Media Centre recently. It handles everything very capably, and is quite easy to use, but it was let down by codec problems and EPG data issues. It doesn't natively support some of the more exotic video codecs I use, or even some pretty standard encoding formats - XBMC has handled everything I've ever thrown at it (aside from the aforementioned HD codecs on the xbox hardware). I had to get third party tools/plugins to add support for these codecs, and the postprocessing/filtering looks nowhere near as good as XBMC does. It also did have some issues getting the EPG data for some of the freeview TV channels. Where I live, there are two transmitters in range - Mendip (Bristol) and Wenvoe (just outside of Cardiff). Wenvoe is geographically closer, but Mendip has the stronger signal. Therefore some channels are picked up on the Wenvoe transmitter and some on Mendip (for example, I get BBC West instead of Wales, but can also pick up S4C). However Windows Media Centre asked me to select EPG data from one transmitter only - Wenvoe *or* Mendip. I chose Mendip as I know it has the stronger signal, but it meant that some channels constantly showed "NO DATA AVAILABLE" in the guide.

EDIT: I should mention that my purpose-built freeview PVR has no problems with EPG data - it takes it's data from the TV signal, rather than using files downloaded over the Internet (like Media Centre does - for me, at least)

Overall I found Media Centre surprisingly capable, but the codec problems and EPG data issues really lets it down. I can't recommend XBMC enough, but it has no support for TV & PVR functions...unless you wait for the MythTV client to be developed and set up a separate machine to host a MythTV server.

Of course you can use MythTV on one box, as a complete standalone HTPC solution. However I have no experience in setting it up or using it, so I can't really comment on it. Plus, the official builds are, as far as I know, Linux-only - you either have to compile it for Windows from source code or get a third-party build.
__________________
Asus Z87-K | Core i5 4670K | MSI GTX760 "TwinFrozr OC Edition" | 8GB Corsair Venegance 1600MHz
-------------------------------------------
Look ma, I do YouTube!

Last edited by BLC; 27th Oct 2009 at 13:41. Reason: Spelling, punctuation and grammar.
BLC is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 27th Oct 2009, 13:47   #5
davefelcher
Supermodder
 
Join Date: Aug 2009
Posts: 261
davefelcher can run Crysisdavefelcher can run Crysisdavefelcher can run Crysisdavefelcher can run Crysisdavefelcher can run Crysisdavefelcher can run Crysisdavefelcher can run Crysisdavefelcher can run Crysisdavefelcher can run Crysis
To make all Windows codec issues go away: http://shark007.net/
Which version of Windows were you using? I think you can tell 7 to use broadcast EPG info on a per channel basis.
davefelcher is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 27th Oct 2009, 13:57   #6
BLC
Something witty goes here
 
BLC's Avatar
 
Join Date: Apr 2002
Location: Cardiff
Posts: 2,366
BLC is a Super Spamming SaiyanBLC is a Super Spamming SaiyanBLC is a Super Spamming SaiyanBLC is a Super Spamming SaiyanBLC is a Super Spamming SaiyanBLC is a Super Spamming SaiyanBLC is a Super Spamming SaiyanBLC is a Super Spamming SaiyanBLC is a Super Spamming SaiyanBLC is a Super Spamming SaiyanBLC is a Super Spamming Saiyan
Quote:
Originally Posted by davefelcher View Post
To make all Windows codec issues go away: http://shark007.net/
Which version of Windows were you using? I think you can tell 7 to use broadcast EPG info on a per channel basis.
I usually use the Combined Community Codec Pack for everything else, but Shark007 was one of the third party tools I found to fix Media Centre . I have Vista x64 installed at the moment, so was using the built-in version of Media Centre. There may well be an option to get this version to use broadcast EPG data, but the thought didn't occur to me at the time - I simply made the assumption that it downloaded EPG data over the web and that was the end of it.

Either way, the "out of the box" experience isn't very good for a new/first-time user. I realise that the majority of the Bit-Tech audience can be classed as neither, but I don't think it would look too good in a buyer's guide. When you compare it to a Freeview PVR, they just...work. Plug it in, connect the cables and you're away - no messy config needed. In my opinion, an HTPC should mirror this experience as much as possible.

I realise that an HTPC is somewhat more complex than a bog-standard Freeview PVR, but that doesn't mean it needs to be somewhat more complex to set up and use. In fact, I personally think that the hardware is the easy part to sort out! You could have the best and most silent hardware in the world, but if the software is a pig to use, you're not going to enjoy the experience.
__________________
Asus Z87-K | Core i5 4670K | MSI GTX760 "TwinFrozr OC Edition" | 8GB Corsair Venegance 1600MHz
-------------------------------------------
Look ma, I do YouTube!
BLC is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 27th Oct 2009, 14:00   #7
yakyb
i hate the person above me
 
yakyb's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2006
Posts: 2,056
yakyb can run Crysisyakyb can run Crysisyakyb can run Crysisyakyb can run Crysisyakyb can run Crysisyakyb can run Crysisyakyb can run Crysisyakyb can run Crysisyakyb can run Crysisyakyb can run Crysisyakyb can run Crysis
i wuold agree that shark 007 saves alot of hassle

also as far as software goes i would look into Media browser as a plugin to WMC and META browser as a metadata grabber (this is the best beleive me i have searched far and wide)

also one peice of software no media centre should be without is tunerfreeMCE as it allows Iplayer / Itv / 4OD through WMC
__________________
Mumblings of a prospective indie Game Developer Blog
My Games Website
yakyb is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 27th Oct 2009, 14:09   #8
BLC
Something witty goes here
 
BLC's Avatar
 
Join Date: Apr 2002
Location: Cardiff
Posts: 2,366
BLC is a Super Spamming SaiyanBLC is a Super Spamming SaiyanBLC is a Super Spamming SaiyanBLC is a Super Spamming SaiyanBLC is a Super Spamming SaiyanBLC is a Super Spamming SaiyanBLC is a Super Spamming SaiyanBLC is a Super Spamming SaiyanBLC is a Super Spamming SaiyanBLC is a Super Spamming SaiyanBLC is a Super Spamming Saiyan
Quote:
Originally Posted by yakyb View Post
i wuold agree that shark 007 saves alot of hassle

also as far as software goes i would look into Media browser as a plugin to WMC and META browser as a metadata grabber (this is the best beleive me i have searched far and wide)

also one peice of software no media centre should be without is tunerfreeMCE as it allows Iplayer / Itv / 4OD through WMC
I'll have a look at those later... Just looked at some screenshots of Media Browser, and it looks rather pretty...
__________________
Asus Z87-K | Core i5 4670K | MSI GTX760 "TwinFrozr OC Edition" | 8GB Corsair Venegance 1600MHz
-------------------------------------------
Look ma, I do YouTube!
BLC is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 27th Oct 2009, 14:09   #9
davefelcher
Supermodder
 
Join Date: Aug 2009
Posts: 261
davefelcher can run Crysisdavefelcher can run Crysisdavefelcher can run Crysisdavefelcher can run Crysisdavefelcher can run Crysisdavefelcher can run Crysisdavefelcher can run Crysisdavefelcher can run Crysisdavefelcher can run Crysis
Get Windows 7. Media Center is much better than the Vista version.
There seem to be more channel and guide related options too.
It's odd that you value the out of the box experience so highly yet use Linux ;-)
Personally I find 7MC much easier to setup and use than my parents' Freeview recorder set top box.
Including a clean Windows install I was watching TV within an hour.
davefelcher is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 27th Oct 2009, 14:13   #10
amdavies
Minimodder
 
Join Date: Mar 2009
Posts: 20
amdavies has yet to learn the way of the Dremel
With all of the dedicated media players available now, it just doesn't seem as though having one huge box sitting under the TV doing everything is the best solution. Reducing noise with SSDs, quiet PSUs and other expensive solutions is unnecessary when you can have a near-silent media player front-end and a regular back-end hidden away in another room.

Tying in a dedicated front-end to a MythTV system isn't diffcult, there's even a UPnP server built in to allow those media players that are capable to tie in directly. There is an added step of having to access the MythTV back-end through a regular computer to set-up recordings and so-forth but you gain a more flexible approach to everything.

I have a PS3 front-end with an Athlon X2 5200 back-end running MythTV and Mediatomb (transcoder) as I wanted the simplest solution to allow my parents to watch recorded TV.
amdavies is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 27th Oct 2009, 14:23   #11
BLC
Something witty goes here
 
BLC's Avatar
 
Join Date: Apr 2002
Location: Cardiff
Posts: 2,366
BLC is a Super Spamming SaiyanBLC is a Super Spamming SaiyanBLC is a Super Spamming SaiyanBLC is a Super Spamming SaiyanBLC is a Super Spamming SaiyanBLC is a Super Spamming SaiyanBLC is a Super Spamming SaiyanBLC is a Super Spamming SaiyanBLC is a Super Spamming SaiyanBLC is a Super Spamming SaiyanBLC is a Super Spamming Saiyan
Quote:
Originally Posted by davefelcher View Post
It's odd that you value the out of the box experience so highly yet use Linux ;-)
The difference is that I don't mind faffing around with manually editing/typing config files, installing, uninstalling, re-installing, text-only commands, tweaking, optimising etc. I'll quite happily forgo the out of box experience to get the best out of something, but it wouldn't make very interesting or appealing reading for someone who's never set up an HTPC before!

Soon as I get my grubby hands on Win7, I'll try out vanilla MCE again - sounds like it's much better. I still think that XBMC is the best software for media playback - no shadow of a doubt - but if only they would include native support for TV!
__________________
Asus Z87-K | Core i5 4670K | MSI GTX760 "TwinFrozr OC Edition" | 8GB Corsair Venegance 1600MHz
-------------------------------------------
Look ma, I do YouTube!
BLC is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 27th Oct 2009, 14:27   #12
sandys
Mod Master
 
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: Bristol, UK
Posts: 2,191
sandys should be considered for presidentsandys should be considered for presidentsandys should be considered for presidentsandys should be considered for presidentsandys should be considered for presidentsandys should be considered for presidentsandys should be considered for presidentsandys should be considered for presidentsandys should be considered for presidentsandys should be considered for presidentsandys should be considered for president
I'll be looking forward to this article

the HTPC lives in my front room therefore it has to look good and fit in with other devices and be quiet, it was these reason alone that meant my Sky Plus box and 360 had to leave the front room, don't like whiny hardware.-

A HTPC should not look like a PC IMO, it needs to blend in nicely with other AV equipment, for this reason I set mine up in one of these

http://www.silverstonetek.com/produc...pno=lc19&area=

this also comes with its own 120W fanless PSU which is plenty of juice, but this all depends on what you want your HTPC for, HT implies Home Theatre, some people want to game on it too, I don't I just want web, media playback and PVR duties.

Problem with my case is you are restricted to what components you can use, I was happy to pay extra for using a mixture of notebook and desktop hardware as the notebook drives are often quieter and less power.

Storage you need a lot and SSD is prohibitively expensive in this case, basically the MediaPC has become the central repository for media and a place to back up the family laptops, rather than use something else, as well as recording Freeview, programs for me, the missus and sprog etc take room, as an example a 1 hour recording from a good bandwidth freeview channel with consume 2Gb, I can be recording on some days 6 things in parallel each taking from 600Mb-2Gb say, sometimes more if its a film, after a month or so if you've been busy there will be things sat there taking up room, SSD probably not ideal.

Due to case choice tuners are handled via USB so you need a board with a lot of USB ports on the rear, as you'll need to add IR and probably bluetooth. MY tuners are USB and I am using the flaky software that comes with them for recording as you can record anything off one mux on the transport stream via one tuner, other software typically limits you to one tuner, one channel, be interested to hear of other tuners that have this ability as the company has gone bust and there are no drivers for Win7/Vista so I'm on XP

I have used GB-PVR and mediaportal they seem promising amongst others but the moment I use them my cards becomes one tuner one channel which is a limitation for us particularly when you have tuners network stream live TV to other machines in the house.

I have a riser card in the case to run a PCI or PCIe tuner card but I have not yet settled on a twin tuner DVB S2 card to fit.

Due to case choice my CPU cooler had to be small, very low profile, this means it can't deal with a lot of heat, particularly when I 7v its fan and run at 800rpm, so my X2 1.9Ghz (3600+ is it?) is under volted to 0.85v using CrystalCPUID to ramp it up to 1.05v under full load. I also underclock and undervolt RAM, you really don't need a lot of power for my functions, don't even need dual core, I could probably do all my stuff off of a crappy Atom.

ATI UVD from my HD3200 mobo handles Bluray and MPeG decoding at less than 30% CPU usage, I've not experienced issues playing back other HD files with my setup.

My optical playback seems to be quiet (apart from initial seek) as I use a notebook drive I guess, it certainly doesn't annoy me, not even thought about it, not watched a DVD in a while these days though, solely Bluray which I think runs slower? in past iterations I have used either a custom firmware or software to control drivespeed.

Last edited by sandys; 27th Oct 2009 at 14:45.
sandys is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 27th Oct 2009, 14:28   #13
sandys
Mod Master
 
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: Bristol, UK
Posts: 2,191
sandys should be considered for presidentsandys should be considered for presidentsandys should be considered for presidentsandys should be considered for presidentsandys should be considered for presidentsandys should be considered for presidentsandys should be considered for presidentsandys should be considered for presidentsandys should be considered for presidentsandys should be considered for presidentsandys should be considered for president
Quote:
Originally Posted by amdavies View Post
I have a PS3 front-end with an Athlon X2 5200 back-end running MythTV and Mediatomb (transcoder) as I wanted the simplest solution to allow my parents to watch recorded TV.
I was doing this for a while but my lauch 60Gb has started to get noisy so I just use it for games now, it worked really well though.
sandys is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 27th Oct 2009, 14:42   #14
davefelcher
Supermodder
 
Join Date: Aug 2009
Posts: 261
davefelcher can run Crysisdavefelcher can run Crysisdavefelcher can run Crysisdavefelcher can run Crysisdavefelcher can run Crysisdavefelcher can run Crysisdavefelcher can run Crysisdavefelcher can run Crysisdavefelcher can run Crysis
Almost forgot.
Best accessory you can get:
http://www.logitech.com/index.cfm/ke.../3848&cl=gb,en
davefelcher is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 27th Oct 2009, 14:47   #15
CampGareth
Minimodder
 
Join Date: May 2009
Posts: 40
CampGareth has yet to learn the way of the Dremel
Very low power

I'm somewhat surprised that the beagleboard hasn't come up yet, sure it's linux only and sure it's ARM however it's very low power at 2.5W and it'll play 720p videos with no problems. It's also silent and is basically perfect for the low power media PC job:

http://beagleboard.org/hardware
CampGareth is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 27th Oct 2009, 14:49   #16
sandys
Mod Master
 
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: Bristol, UK
Posts: 2,191
sandys should be considered for presidentsandys should be considered for presidentsandys should be considered for presidentsandys should be considered for presidentsandys should be considered for presidentsandys should be considered for presidentsandys should be considered for presidentsandys should be considered for presidentsandys should be considered for presidentsandys should be considered for presidentsandys should be considered for president
Quote:
Originally Posted by davefelcher View Post
Almost forgot.
Best accessory you can get:
http://www.logitech.com/index.cfm/ke.../3848&cl=gb,en
I use one of these, bit bigger, but also very useful

http://www.scan.co.uk/Products/Keyso...lt-in-touchpad
sandys is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 27th Oct 2009, 14:52   #17
sandys
Mod Master
 
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: Bristol, UK
Posts: 2,191
sandys should be considered for presidentsandys should be considered for presidentsandys should be considered for presidentsandys should be considered for presidentsandys should be considered for presidentsandys should be considered for presidentsandys should be considered for presidentsandys should be considered for presidentsandys should be considered for presidentsandys should be considered for presidentsandys should be considered for president
Quote:
Originally Posted by CampGareth View Post
I'm somewhat surprised that the beagleboard hasn't come up yet, sure it's linux only and sure it's ARM however it's very low power at 2.5W and it'll play 720p videos with no problems. It's also silent and is basically perfect for the low power media PC job:

http://beagleboard.org/hardware
No mention of HDCP might be a blocker for bluray
sandys is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 27th Oct 2009, 15:40   #18
Mister_Tad
Serious about coffee
Moderator
 
Mister_Tad's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2002
Location: Nottingham
Posts: 8,822
Mister_Tad is a Super Spamming SaiyanMister_Tad is a Super Spamming SaiyanMister_Tad is a Super Spamming SaiyanMister_Tad is a Super Spamming SaiyanMister_Tad is a Super Spamming SaiyanMister_Tad is a Super Spamming SaiyanMister_Tad is a Super Spamming SaiyanMister_Tad is a Super Spamming SaiyanMister_Tad is a Super Spamming SaiyanMister_Tad is a Super Spamming SaiyanMister_Tad is a Super Spamming Saiyan
Antec fusion (or NSK2480 to save some pennies) + Scythe mini ninja are a match made in heaven for a cool and quiet HTPC.

A single quiet 120mm can be used as an exhaust fan and sufficiently cool the whole lot provided a low-ish power CPU is used.
Mister_Tad is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 27th Oct 2009, 16:18   #19
Chris P
Minimodder
 
Chris P's Avatar
 
Join Date: Apr 2009
Location: Preston, UK
Posts: 24
Chris P has yet to learn the way of the Dremel
I'm still waiting for more information on this case:

http://www.halcyonworks.com/

Both models look stunning (they are more or less the same, just different dimensions)!

Also have had very good experience with BlackGold TV cards up in the north west (I do have a strong signal anyway where I am). With the 6in1 model (which seems to be unavailable now) you can set up WMC (only in windows 7 I believe) to use both Freeview and Freesat simultaneously if set up correctly - I have a link to a tutorial somewhere but I can't find it atm.
I have only used the 4in1 model which is excellent, the website states it also supports HD streams, don't know if it supports FreeviewHD (I did ask BlackGold but they never replied) when it goes live in my area in December - guess I'll find out!

The biggest advantage for me when it comes to the BlackGold cards with HTPCs is that they come with low-profile brackets, so they'll fit in smaller cases! I certainly don't want a massive PC sat under my TV!!

Last edited by Chris P; 27th Oct 2009 at 16:34. Reason: Added Info
Chris P is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 28th Oct 2009, 00:39   #20
CampGareth
Minimodder
 
Join Date: May 2009
Posts: 40
CampGareth has yet to learn the way of the Dremel
Quote:
Originally Posted by sandys View Post
No mention of HDCP might be a blocker for bluray
it's a 600Mhz ARM processor, that should have been the first tip off that it isn't suitable for bluray. Anyway, since when do we rely on DVDs and such? rip a copy and shove it on a fileserver! solves most problems!
CampGareth is offline   Reply With Quote
Reply

Thread Tools

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT +1. The time now is 10:57.
Powered by: vBulletin Version 3
Copyright ©2000 - 2014, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.