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51 posts

Master Geek
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Topic # 57650 20-Feb-2010 17:35
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Hello to all.  I am keen to get a HTPC/media centre.  I have a good quality amplifier and Hi-Fi speakers, and a samsung plasma TV.  [Actually would a HTPC work at all with a plasma display?].

I am looking for something basic that meets the following criteria:

1. Low cost (approx $600 - less if possible - I can spend more if necessary).
2. Plays DVD
3. Plays a wide range of video file formats (ie not chained to just .avi).
4. Decent audio (I plan to use it as a CD player also - I have a decent Hi-Fi and enjoy my music - a standard laptop on board audio would not cut it for me - audio on par with a typical consumer DVD player will be fine).
5. Decent video (doesn't have to be high end)
6. Quiet
7. Allows connection of an external drive.
8. Has a decent interface (suggestions as to software are welcome).
9. Allows me to browse the internet / play you tube vids etc.
10. Wifi capable.
11. Capacity to record freeview etc (we have a freeview reciever built into the TV).

I do not need surround sound, I am not fussed about things like Blue Ray.

I suspect that most standard out of the box solutinos would handle most of the above.  Any recommendations?


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51 posts

Master Geek
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  Reply # 300548 20-Feb-2010 17:41
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20588 posts

Uber Geek
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  Reply # 300587 20-Feb-2010 20:40
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use the digital out to your amp and the quality of the card is largly immaterial.

You may find that you have issues with the windows mixer, but all the proper audio playing apps have plugins to do direct digital output. You may still be stuck changing sample rates manually between movies which are 48kHz and music which is 44.1kHz. What are these "CD's" you speak of? EAC and some time spent ripping and you can get rid of the useless polycarbonate discs to someone else stuck in the 90's



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Uber Geek
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Biddle Corp
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  Reply # 300604 20-Feb-2010 21:32
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The GMA950 GFX chipset doesn't on these doesn't support H.264 hardware acceleration so the eeebox machines are a waste of time if you want Freeview|HD.

As for interface, file formats etc this all depends on the OS and software you're going to use.

Windows7 Media Centre does everything you want straight out of the box but there are other options like GB-PVR.

158 posts

Master Geek

  Reply # 301709 24-Feb-2010 03:09
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I thought the latest ones had a NVIDIA? MCP7A ION? chipset that was supposed to support it

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Uber Geek
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Biddle Corp
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  Reply # 301716 24-Feb-2010 06:39
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Some newer Ion machines will ho H.264 hardware acceleration but the link was to an older eeebox.

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Uber Geek
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  Reply # 301740 24-Feb-2010 09:02
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I wont go into the hardware, but can recommend a nettop with nvidia ion chipset.

For the software, you really cant go past XBMC, it does everything you want and more. Have a look here, this is just one of countless skins.
Xbmc - Aeon

xbmc - about

edit: didnt see on first read that you wanted to record freeveiw, at present xbmc dosnt natively support livetv, it is being worked on and there is a pvr branch that you can test.

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Wannabe Geek

  Reply # 301762 24-Feb-2010 11:24
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Firstly, a HTPC can be one of the most rewarding and frustrating IT projects you can undertake :-) be warned.

There is a lot to consider, and once you get started you start to uncover "requirements" that you never even thought of - this can lead to multiple PVR's dotted around the house, home server integration, mobile streaming and even in-car extensions. The word addiction does not do it justice -and you just thought you wanted an easier way to listen to a CD and record Fridays "Top Gear".

Still keen? OK.

First software. Windows 7 ultimate is fairly out of the box and easy to configure for freeview. Items that can be frustratingly difficult with other HTPC software are easy with Win7 (setting up a remote for example). If however you want to set up a PVR to work with Sky (or you don’t want to shell out the big bucks for Win 7 Ultimate) I would seriously consider GBPVR. It's a great product, easy to setup and easy to make look good (skins etc.) Setting up the EPG (program guide) for anything but freeview in Win7 is not easy, but GBPVR makes it a breeze. On the other hand, configuring a remote can be a pain (I had to use LM Remote, a middleware software solution, at a cost of about 30 euro's).

Hardware wise I would tend to stick to the big names for the peripherals - Hauppauge for the TV card, creative for the 5.1 (unless your board supports optical out and you have optical in on your amp). And do not underestimate storage - unless you intend to use a NAS or Windows Home Server - which has excellent integration with Win7 - I would be looking at a minimum of 500Gb - you will thank me later.

I have not played around much with high def (I use a MySky on the big TV) other than to say that I understand both Win7 and GBPVR support it. I would however consider the setup of your Hi-Def connections carefully as HDMI (and DVI?) will prevent the recording of protected content. 

51 posts

Master Geek
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  Reply # 301795 24-Feb-2010 13:45
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Webnomix - thanks that is a very useful post. And thanks to all. I actuall bought a WD TV Live. I made big comromises, but get a lot of what I am after for much cheaper than a nettop etc ($240 from PB Tech).

I will review the WD TV Live in the next few days (initial impressions are that it works well, interface a bit sluggish though).

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