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HTPC

The existing page was so out of date that I simply removed it. You can find it HERE if you're interested. Hot Home Theater/HTPC items five years ago are not very interesting today. Even though some of the PC cases back then are still very popular today, absolutely none of the electronic components are still around. So this page is in for a total rewrite. But what to write about?

Drop me an email (webmaster at this site works as an address for example) and tell me something about your current HTPC needs and expectations, and I'll probably be able to give you some useful pointers.

 Personally, I'm fairly certain that the back box media center type devices that are slowly starting to pop up will be sufficient for everyone but the very dedicated. They're basically what everyone is trying to do with a HTPC, without the hassle. Of course, none of them have everything yet, but a couple are coming very close.

 What you want in a HTPC/Media Device:

  • Whisper quiet, as in even your dog can't hear it.
  • Digital outputs, HDMI/DVI for video/audio and Optical/Coaxial for at least 5.1 audio
  • Networked, both wire and wire-less
  • Ability to stream media from local PC/Server, preferrably over both NFS and UPnP
  • Support for every media type out there, especially HD-stuff like WMV-HD and DIVX-HD
  • Ability to upscale all media to your screen (720p minimum, 1080p preferred)
  • Easy to use and not too many bugs
  • Frequent firmware updates to add new features and fix bugs
  • CableCARD-support for the US folks out there

Nice to have, but not really that needed:
  • DVD player. You generally have one already anyway
  • Optional hard disk, either inside or external USB. Noisy, but convenient
  • USB/iPod/Bluetooth for hooking up cameras, sticks, etc ad-hoc

 

There are no current devices that can do all of the above. Well, there are, but they're typically hideously expensive and only purchased by media moguls. For the rest of us you still have to build your own HTPC to get there. But, as I said, the new breed of off-the-shelf players can do most of it. Take the new Helios X3000 from NeoDigit.

 

It doesn't do DVD-Audio or SACD, no PAL TS-files (yet), no H.264, no DVD iso's, no NFS-support (but there are 3rd party Linux UPnP-servers available cheap) and the max bit-rate for DiVX/XViD is a bit on the small side. However, we're probably just a hardware-generation away from having it all. And the device runs Linux of course. They have a more expensive one called X5000 for sale in the US btw.

There are quite a few different approaches to the idea of showing PC/Internet content on your TV. The SlingCatcher from Sling could be good. Low on details yet, but it appears to be a device that will show whatever is on your pc screen on your TV. Presumably with a lot of remote controlling of some kind. Apparently doesn't do High Definition, but depending on the user experience it could be what you want.

 

 

 Of course, the AppleTV box from Apple. Getting the press, but doesn't appear to rock anyones world. Too tied into Apple's ecosystem for my taste, and you have to first find a computer to buy your content from iTunes on and then you can sit down on your couch and watch it. Bit useless considering the device has a 40GB hard drive.

NetGear is about to launch the EVA8000, a HD-capable digital media player that can stream more or less anything from your SMB or UPnP enabled server. Claims to be able to do 1080p.


Other candidates include the TViX HD M-5000A, promising box but apparently still contains a lot of bugs according to the reviews I've seen. The same fate holds for the MediaGate MG-350HD, as this review describes.

Pretty soon all this will be available in your average surround receiver anyway, just look at the feature set of the new networked receivers like the Yamaha RX-V2700. They can stream audio straight from the internet, or your local PC. Sure, only audio this time around, but that won't take long. Right now, there does not appear to be any "perfect" solutions in a reasonable price range. Except a proper HTPC that is.


3 Comments to “HTPC”


  1. I’m trying to make a HTPC with the following equipments & cards:
    Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-73PVM-S2H (NVidia Chipset);
    CPU: Intel Core 2 Duo 2.2 GHz;
    RAM: Kingston 2 GB DDR2 800;
    VGA: 512 MB Asus 8500GT PCI Express Card;
    TV Tuner: Hauppage WinTV PVR 150 Media Center Edition with MC Remote;
    Audio: Creative Audigy 2 ZS, 7.1 Channel Sound Card;
    Storage: Seagate 250 GB + 80 GB SATA with 3GBps Data Transfer rates;
    Optical Drive: Sony 20x Dual Layer DVD Writer + Samsung 52x CD Writer;
    Power Supply: iBall 600 Watts Power Supply;
    Speakers: Sony DDW1600, 5.2 Channel Component Speaker System

    Currently I’m using an iBall Cabinet but I’m looking for a nice HTPC Cabinet to put all these things into. Could you suggest one available in the Indian market?

    1
  2. Hi and thanks for asking. I’m not very familiar with the indian market or what’s available there, but here are some general recommendations. First off, your components appear fairly standard and well suited for the task so almost any case should do. A microATX motherboard like yours is a good choice as it lets you get away with a small case. Note however that some cases If you are looking for something nice, be prepared to pay a premium however. My best suggestion is to hide the box away somewhere, but if you have to have it prominently placed then how about something like the Antec Fusion or the Thermaltake Mozart series? The silver coloured Antec should go fairly well with your DDW1600 receiver and it even has a LED display on the front in case you want to experiment with that. Quick Tip: Go to Amazon.com and search for Antec Fusion. That will show you both the Fusion and a number of other similar cases. Some of those should also be available locally, as they are common brands. Hope this helps!

    2
  3. I had later completed the HTPC with the following configuration:
    Cabinet: Thermaltake DH 102 HTPC cabinet (despite have 4 large cooling fans its absolutely silent)
    MB: Gigabyte GA 73PVM-S2H
    CPU: Intel Quad Core 9500
    VGA: nVidia Quadro FX 3700 with 512 MB DDR III
    RAM: 4 GB Dual Channel DDR II
    Audio: Asus Xonar DX2
    TV Tuner: Hauppage Win TV PVR 150 Media Center Edition
    Storage: Seagate: 250 GB + 250 GB SATA II
    Optical Drive: Sony 16x DVD R/W
    Power Supply: Thermaltake 600W
    Speakers: Sony DGDW 1600
    Enjoying now.

    3


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