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860 posts

Ultimate Geek


#90696 27-Sep-2011 23:08
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I'm considering "downsizing" my current HTPC set up.  What I'm after is either an off the shelf media PC, something like an Eee Box PC, or some recommendations to build my own (probably a mini ITX based PC).

About the only considerations required are:
  1. It must be small
  2. It must be quiet
  3. It must look pretty (I need Wife sign off)
  4. It must handle playing and recording Freeview HD (and this is the likely gotcha)
I'll load most of my media onto a file server or NAS, which'll get hidden away in the garage, and we don't record much TV so internal disk size isn't a huge concern.

What off the shelf alternatives are there?  Would an EeeBox PC handle Freeview HD?

If I were to "build my own" would the current generation of Intel/AMD processors with on-board graphics handle Freeview? E.g: would this http://www.ascent.co.nz/productspecification.aspx?ItemID=396095 or http://www.ascent.co.nz/productspecification.aspx?ItemID=394911 handle Freeview?

And since I'm going tiny...how well do those USB DVB-T sticks work?  As easy as a discrete card such as a 2200 I have currently?

Ta in advance


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  #526643 28-Sep-2011 10:18
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The Zacate systems should be fine, provided whatever tuner software you use supports the ATI CPU for hardware decoding.

USB tuners will consume some additional resources, also consider a HDHomeRun, - dual tuners, network accessible, so can be hidden out of sight in many situations.

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  #526660 28-Sep-2011 10:39
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if you have a server, i'd suggest buying a mac mini or similar small box that will be a client and setup a tv backend (eg mediaportal, fortherecord, gbpvr/nextpvr) on your server.

mini itx arent that small, well not when you compare them to mac minis etc.

 
 
 
 


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  #526707 28-Sep-2011 12:23
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What is your budget and what is your primary use here

1) stream content to your screen
or 2) receive and store/reply  Freeview HD

If streaming is your primary driver, then you cannot go past a Jailbroken AppleTV2 with XBMC, they are small, quiet and cheap ($180)

To deal with you Freeview stuff, grab a ZInwell, Homecast or DishtV box for around $4-500
http://www.jbhifi.co.nz/tv-lcd-led-plasma/media-players/pvr-personal-video-recorder/

If you want an off the shelf all in one solution I think the newer panasonic PVRs will play content from uPNP servers ( around $600)

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  #526732 28-Sep-2011 13:19
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As above, if you have a server anyway you could get that to handle the recording, maybe have the hvr 2200 in that, or use the homerun network freeview tuner, or usb tuners in the server.

If it's a NAS only then you could still have a usb tuner in your front small unit (but this does start getting possibly ugly looking) and have the recordings stored straight back to the NAS rather than on the front unit itself.

Lots of options around how you want to run your setup. Smile

And as above also, the Panasonic all in one does bluray, freeview and can stream if you have a central storage of content.



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  #526739 28-Sep-2011 13:28
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I want both uses and I wouldn't say one takes precedent over another - we use both equally.  I currently have a Windows MediaCenter and I'm happy with it, I just want to physically downsize (and probably subsequently reprovision) it

I could do the Apple MacMini but afraid my house is currently Apple free and would prefer to keep it that way (its an iTunes thing, it goes way back, its not worth the argument).

Budget wise, I'm happy to spend what is required.  Call it $1000 if needed, I'm in no rush for this I can wait till Ive got the cash to get what I need/like.

One reason I perhaps wouldn't go with an off the shelf freeview recorder is that I want to ensure the kit stays current.  That could be software and/or hardware.  In my experience support for products dries up after a couple of years and the manufacturers solution becomes "upgrade to product x".

The comment about a mini ITX not being "that small" is fair - but putting a quick list together I think it'll be small enough for my needs.  And the HD HomeRun is certainly a good idea in place of USB tuners.  But if I can get a half height case I'll reuse the HVR-2200 (if I can find the half height backing plate for it).  If not I'll sell it.

Maybe we throw in another requirement: Must use Windows MediaCenter as the Wife "gets it and likes it".

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  #526742 28-Sep-2011 13:34
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nzkc:
Maybe we throw in another requirement: Must use Windows MediaCenter as the Wife "gets it and likes it".


That's fair!

Are you into Bluray?
Most of the little units I've seen don't do a bluray drive.
And if they do they don't do video and HD audio over the hdmi out, which you need for HD audio.
Things may have changed, but I'd personally check if Windows Media Centre can do HD audio from Bluray, and does my new little box have a Bluray drive in it?

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  #526743 28-Sep-2011 13:36
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nzkc: I want both uses and I wouldn't say one takes precedent over another - we use both equally.  I currently have a Windows MediaCenter and I'm happy with it, I just want to physically downsize (and probably subsequently reprovision) it

I could do the Apple MacMini but afraid my house is currently Apple free and would prefer to keep it that way (its an iTunes thing, it goes way back, its not worth the argument).

i was the same, itunes sucks on windows, its completely terrible.  on a mac its a lot better, in fact its actually good.  but lets move on.

nzkc: The comment about a mini ITX not being "that small" is fair - but putting a quick list together I think it'll be small enough for my needs.  And the HD HomeRun is certainly a good idea in place of USB tuners.  But if I can get a half height case I'll reuse the HVR-2200 (if I can find the half height backing plate for it).  If not I'll sell it.

Maybe we throw in another requirement: Must use Windows MediaCenter as the Wife "gets it and likes it".

windows media center is good, easy to use, pretty attractive interface, playback is ok, hard to change subtitles in a video if it has subtitles though.  i was using windows media center, but i had a computer in my lounge and one in the bedroom, i found i was recording a show on both machines so i could watch them from wherever i wanted.  you can do a shared library, but i wanted one machine to record all my shows and not waste space.

but if you only want the one HTPC, then i would got for a hdhomerun and dell mini pc (since you dont want a mac mini).  that way if you get a second htpc and still want to use windows media center you can share the tuner at least 

 
 
 
 


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  #526757 28-Sep-2011 13:56
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reven:  i was using windows media center, but i had a computer in my lounge and one in the bedroom, i found i was recording a show on both machines so i could watch them from wherever i wanted.  you can do a shared library, but i wanted one machine to record all my shows and not waste space.


I got around this another way which is also an option here. xbox 360. Basically you get the exact same interface as from the media center itself. You can do everything you can do from the media center. One of the things I like is that I can start watching something on the main TV then stop it go to the bedroom and continue from where I was up to.
All in all a very slick solution although not the cheapest option but for us we also use the xbox as a gaming machine to. Maybe this is a option for the OP?







Media centre PC - Case Silverstone LC16M with 2 X 80mm AcoustiFan DustPROOF, MOBO Gigabyte MA785GT-UD3H, CPU AMD X2 240 under volted, RAM 4 Gig DDR3 1033, HDD 120Gig System/512Gig data, Tuners 2 X Hauppauge HVR-3000, 1 X HVR-2200, Video Palit GT 220, Sound Realtek 886A HD (onboard), Optical LiteOn DH-401S Blue-ray using TotalMedia Theatre Power Corsair VX Series, 450W ATX PSU OS Windows 7 x64

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  #526768 28-Sep-2011 14:16
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How quiet are the new model xbox 360s?

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  #526769 28-Sep-2011 14:16
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I have two Media Centre based HTPC's and they are fantastic for my needs, which sounds similar to your requirements.

The second unit I have is a small ASrock off the shelf one similar to the one at this link;

http://www.ebay.com.au/itm/ASRock-VISION-3D-i3-350-GT425M-NVIDIA-750GB-4G-Blu-Ray-/220843622579?pt=AU_comp_dekstop&hash=item336b4e40b3

It is above your budget, however, it meets your criteria and used with either a USB tuner or a network tuner like the Homerun that I use it is very nice unit and definetly pass the wife test and is dead easy to use. If you pair it with a Harmony remote control even better.

I would prefer to buy the following Tranquil HTPC one at this link, although it would be quite expensive (well over $2k) by the time you import it and pay freight, gst etc. Though it would be virtually silent.

http://www.tranquilpcshop.co.uk/platinum-ixls-media-centre/

There is not a lot of choice in the 'off the shelf' area at present, if your budget can stretch it, check out these units, there are quite a few reviews around on the various ASRock versions, so worth a look.

Rob

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  #526777 28-Sep-2011 14:40
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that asrock vision looks pretty good. good specs, bluray drive, good sized hdd, built in ir (wonder what type of ir though, some of the builtin ones are rubbish). anyone know if u can get them in nz?

oh also do they have power bricks or use a kettle cord? 

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  #526797 28-Sep-2011 15:16
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Reven, The IR is the RC6 standard that Media Centre uses, otherwise as you suggest, it would be worthless.

I imported mine from an ebay seller as i could not find a local seller. When I was in Singapore a couple of weeks ago they were available at most pc shops, shame they are not more commonly available.

Rob

edit; mine uses a power brick

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  #526802 28-Sep-2011 15:26
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bigbob: Reven, The IR is the RC6 standard that Media Centre uses, otherwise as you suggest, it would be worthless.

I imported mine from an ebay seller as i could not find a local seller. When I was in Singapore a couple of weeks ago they were available at most pc shops, shame they are not more commonly available.

Rob

edit; mine uses a power brick


bugger, would be cool if there wasnt a power brick.  you want a small device to neatly hide away, but power bricks are a PITA when you're trying to do that... 



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  #526839 28-Sep-2011 16:33
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bigbob: I have two Media Centre based HTPC's and they are fantastic for my needs, which sounds similar to your requirements.

The second unit I have is a small ASrock off the shelf one similar to the one at this link;

http://www.ebay.com.au/itm/ASRock-VISION-3D-i3-350-GT425M-NVIDIA-750GB-4G-Blu-Ray-/220843622579?pt=AU_comp_dekstop&hash=item336b4e40b3

<snip />
I would prefer to buy the following Tranquil HTPC one at this link, although it would be quite expensive (well over $2k) by the time you import it and pay freight, gst etc. Though it would be virtually silent.

http://www.tranquilpcshop.co.uk/platinum-ixls-media-centre/

Rob


Those are both nice looking pieces of kit.  $2K might be above budget...but the ASRock one would be great.  If anyone knows where I might be able to get one in NZ point me in the right direction!  Otherwise I might end up having to import one from abroad :-(

I have a Logitech Harmony One remote and IR receiver so have that covered too <-- Someone suggested something around this..

Appreciate all the suggestions, there's some great ones coming through!  Thats not to say I have completely settled on anything - far from it, if youve got more suggestions I'm still keen to hear them.

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  #526865 28-Sep-2011 17:16
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nzkc: I want both uses and I wouldn't say one takes precedent over another - we use both equally.  I currently have a Windows MediaCenter and I'm happy with it, I just want to physically downsize (and probably subsequently reprovision) it

I could do the Apple MacMini but afraid my house is currently Apple free and would prefer to keep it that way (its an iTunes thing, it goes way back, its not worth the argument).

<snip>

Maybe we throw in another requirement: Must use Windows MediaCenter as the Wife "gets it and likes it".


Im no expert, but  Ive got a MacMini running BootCamp with Windows XP and Mediaportal as my TV Client. Quiet, small and economical.

I know you can bootcamp with Windows 7 ... so would that mean you can get MediaCenter on a MacMini?  I dont have any "MAC OS' either ... but the MacMini with Windows on it is just brilliant.

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