I've been browsing the HTPC forums for about 6 months now and last weekend I finally got around to building my first HTPC. I thought I'd do a quick write up which may help others out there looking to do the same.
I thought long and hard about the hardware and on the advice of others in the forum I went for pretty much the cheapest processor and mobo combo I could find which was an AMD X2 5000+ and Asus M2N-XE with 2GB of RAM.
H.264 was a requirement and reliable hardware decoding was a must so I went for an MSI 8500GT Silent which is used by many in the forums. I picked one up second hand for $55 so was pretty cheap. I am very pleased with this card and the hardware acceleration worked first time with CPU usage sitting around 10%. If you want to save yourself a lot of time and trouble go with one of these cards!
For the TV tuner I'm using an HVR-2200. The DVB-T tuners are working very well but I've got a couple of issues with Prime which I'm working through.
After assemlbing the hardware I installed Vista Enterprise, applied the latest drivers for all the hardware, applied SP1 and then all hotfixes. I then installed trials of Cyberlink PowerDVD 8 and ArcSoft because I wanted to compare the two.
I then installed MediaPortal RC3 and had TV working within half an hour. I must say I was very impressed with the professional look of MP but stability appears to be a huge problem. It would crash on a very regular basis especially when changing channels and starting recordings. I perservered for half a day but it became evident that MP was not going to work as a full time HTPC to replace my Tivo.
So I thought I'd give GB-PVR a go. I downloaded version 1.3.7 and had it installed in about half an hour. I had some codec problems to begin with. GB-PVR doesn't seem to work with ArcSoft but works fine with Cyberlink. I can live with that...Cyberlink isn't quite as good as Arcsoft but it is good enough....and a whole lot better than what my Tivo can do.
GB-PVR doesn't have some of the fancier features of MP but it is very solid! And the new version supports multiple recordings off the same mux so I was happily recording 5 channels simultaneously last night. And its only crashed a couple of times and that was because I was messing with some plugins. If you're having problems with MP and you haven't looked at GB-PVR I'd strongly recommend doing so.
The EPG is working (using Metalinc) but it doesn't have Prime in it so I'm not sure how to work around that yet.
Last night I tested having the HTPC go to sleep and having it wake up for recordings and to my surprise that seems to be working fine. The PC goes to sleep after 5 minutes of inactivity and wakes up for recordings. I've seen others having problems with this so I was expecting to have some issues as well. All I did was set the power mangement features in Windows, set S3 as the preferred sleep state in the BIOS and set some jumpers on the mobo to power and it appears to work.
So I'm going to be sticking with GB-PVR. Theres a very active community on the GB-PVR forums and best yet it is developed in NZ so we can expect good support for NZ TV standards. I'm so pleased in fact that I'm going to make a donation.
I have the following issues to be resolved:
1. Get the Analogue tuning working so I can tune into prime
2. Get the Prime schedule loaded into the EPG ... how are others doing this?
3. Get timeshifting working on Live TV (at the moment I need to record a show to have time shifiting abilities)