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Television Media

Home Theatre PC Guide 303

Greg Ridder writes "For those of you who are interested in possibly putting together a Home Theatre or Media PC, I stumbled upon an excellent guide. It discusses basic hardware requirements, four software choices (BeyondTV, SageTV, MCE2005 and MythTV), controlling your cable or satellite set-top box and much more. Based on the research that I've done in the past, this is the most comprehensive guide that I've seen to date."
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Home Theatre PC Guide

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 07, 2005 @02:54PM (#12168102)
    You're late to go out for the evening and just as you're about to run out the door you remember that Melrose Place is going to be on that night and you just can't miss it.

    Did anybody else read this waiting for the punchline???
  • Full mirror (Score:4, Informative)

    by winkydink ( 650484 ) * <> on Thursday April 07, 2005 @02:56PM (#12168132) Homepage Journal
    Here. []
    • Not quite what I'd call 'full'.. It doesn't appear to mirror anything beyond page 9 of the article.
    • Bah! (Score:4, Informative)

      by Golias ( 176380 ) on Thursday April 07, 2005 @03:26PM (#12168550)
      I recently built a new computer-based home theater system, and in researching my options I found that a hacked X-Box or a Mac mini both present superior solutions to anything officially in the "HTPC" market. (IMHO, YMMV, yeah yeah yeah.)

      I chose to go with the Mac mini solution, and will be submitting a review of the pros and cons of going the route I went (warts and all) in the near future over at
      • I like the added functionality of my hacked x-box... but I'd like to hear how you got a TV tuner/encoder into yours =P

        They do make pretty good playback clients, but not sure i'd consider a hacked xbox a full soup to nuts HTPC solution. *shrug*

        • To be fair, you can put an external USB tuner/encoder on your Xbox and use it to do everything. However, it's very slow, and I'd rather use it for display-only, and use another PC to do my storage and encoding. I don't like USB peripherals, so I'd be putting a PCI capture card in the server box, besides a RAID controller etc.

          Personally, I don't even have TV service, although I am thinking about broadcast HDTV and some sort of PVR. How much are those HDTV tuner cards now?

      • Re:Bah! (Score:5, Informative)

        by MojoStan ( 776183 ) on Thursday April 07, 2005 @07:04PM (#12170830)
        I chose to go with the Mac mini solution, and will be submitting a review of the pros and cons of going the route I went (warts and all) in the near future over at

        For those that haven't seen it, Anand Lal Shimpi tried the Mac Mini as an HTPC and wrote an article about it: The Mac mini as a Media Computer []. (16 Feb 2005)

        My summary of the article: The Mini is very nice for importing HD video via FireWire and HD video editing with iMovie HD. However, HD playback is unacceptable with current OS X software and DVD image quality (using Apple's DVD decoder) is not up to par. The Mini has potential as an SD DVR, but DVR software with "media-centric interface" is currently lacking for OS X.

        • Re:Bah! (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Golias ( 176380 )
          However, HD playback is unacceptable with current OS X software and DVD image quality (using Apple's DVD decoder) is not up to par.

          Unfortunately, Shimpi overlooked the EyeTV 500, with which I've been enjoying perfect HDTV playback and recording.

          The secret is that the file is not compressed or encoded in any way. The pure, unadulterated MPEG stream is simply passed along.

          Also, I must disagree with the analysis of the Apple DVD player. Anamorphic DVD's look fan-fucking-tastic on my 119" projection scree
    • Not quite full. The first eight pages only. I guess I need to wait for things to quite down on the real site to finish reading.

  • by sinfree ( 859988 )
    ... popcorn recommendations?
    • Get a Whirley Pop []. They rock.
    • i'll bet they could cook popcorn on their server right now...
    • Re:What about... (Score:2, Informative)

      by onkelonkel ( 560274 )
      Get a heavy bottom pot. Add 2 tbsp oil (aids in heat transfer). Pour in enough kernels to cover bottom of pot. Crank heat to medium high. Now the important part...KEEP LID OFF AND STIR. Keep stirring the kernels and they will all more or less reach popping temperature at the same time. Once the first kernel pops put the lid on and shake. When the popping slows down take pot off the heat, add fat and salt to taste and enjoy. Do it this way and damn near every kernel will pop and none of the popcorn will be b
  • Am I the only one? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by kebes ( 861706 ) on Thursday April 07, 2005 @02:57PM (#12168150) Journal
    On the subject of MythTV (or equivalent). I like putting together computers and tweaking linux as much as the next guy, but I was thinking the other day that I might be willing to buy a fully functional MythTV box.

    I really want a MythTV, but I don't have the time right now to really play with it and search for the best hardware. I was thinking that I'd be willing to buy a computer, with linux and MythTV all installed and configured properly (to work with my local cable box even?). Having someone else take care of all the hardware and software installation details would be great.

    In the end, I may just build it myself, but there are lots of people I know that don't have the time, patience, and/or knowledge to build one from scratch, but are smart enough to take advantage of such a system (and maintain it). Does anyone know of a company offering such a service? Does anyone think that this has merit as a business idea?
    • For someone who tweaks Linux on an occasional basis, building a MythTV box is a weekend project at worst, unless you pick up some funky piece of hardware with poor driver support. Unless you're going high-def, that's really the only major concern (imo) when selecting hardware.

    • by Dan667 ( 564390 )
      I'd build one for you for a cost plus arrangement. Email me and let me know what you would be interested in. littlejohn86 (at) gmail no spam dot com
    • by Bios_Hakr ( 68586 ) <> on Thursday April 07, 2005 @03:24PM (#12168530)
      A friend and I priced it out once.

      It is VERY difficult to make a PC for less than $500. We were, of course, using Shuttles or Shuttle clones (Aopen XC Cubes, actually). Anything bigger does not fit in an entertainment center.

      Case/mobo = $200
      CPU = $100
      RAM = $50
      CD/DVD = $50
      120gb hard drive = $100

      Add another $150 for a PVR card and you've broken most budgets. Consumers won't pay $800 for a VCR.

      We did offer to turn old PCs into VCRs for some friends. Basicly, they were upgrading and we took the old shit and dropped in a PVR and Linux. These went OK, but still took a LOT of tweaking.

      On top of all that, MythTV is a bear ro set up. We are on an unlisted cable network unwilling to provide listings in XML format. It was impossible to make MythTV just record evert Thursday at 9pm. That's basic functionality in my book. Sorely lacking.

      I've been assured that Myth works flawless on listed networks.

      In any event, you're looking at $800~$1000 per MythTV box. No way to make a good model around that.
      • by karnal ( 22275 ) on Thursday April 07, 2005 @03:34PM (#12168650)
        Holy heck.

        I just priced one the other day. it was about 500$ for all components included.

        50$ mobo
        50$ case+PS (don't need a high capacity PS for this one)
        50$ CPU (don't need a real fast one, see below)
        50$ RAM (512MB, generic Mushkin or similar)
        60$ DVD-Burner (can go cheaper here; figured may as well have the latest burner tho)
        30$ Cheapo video card with reasonable SVID out
        60$ Cheapo HDD (have storage space on the net.)
        100$ PVR-150 (Comp-USA price, lower elsewhere)

        This will get you a basic PVR for under 500$. The only thing I would do is beef up the HDD and you're up to 500 then (if you don't have a central server; I do already!).

        I'm actually thinking about throwing a PVR-150 in the server to do the timed recordings there; then I can use a generic tuner that I already have in my MythTV box. Additionally, I already have a 30GB HDD and a Geforce4 to throw in the box, so that cuts my costs down even a little more.

        You could even scrape older parts (P3 or Athlon ~1ghz) together if you're using a PVR-150, since it does all the encoding by itself. Decoding is fairly easy; encoding is kind of rough (even MPEG2 - My 2800+ sits at about 50-60% encoding one stream realtime of MPEG2 640x480 + Mpeg Layer3 audio)
        • Sadly, you cannot use "any old mobo/cpu/hdd" for a PVR. If you do, be prepared to enjoy the sweet whine of a power supply fan + CPU fan, plus the whine and seek click of a HDD, plus the jet-engine like wind up of the optical drive.

          Noise Matters! Especially in the lounge. And double-especially if you will be leaving it on 24x7 or watching DVDs or playing some gentle music.

          Here's my recommendation (from experience folks - I have done this and been very happy with the results):

          Option 1
          A quiet PC built aro

      • It does work out well, however, if you have some extra components hanging around. The only hardware I bought for my setup was a PVR-250 which set me back around $200 Canadian (and no, it wasn't for Melrose Place).

        I stuck it in an old Celeron 500, and there is your backend. There is an awesome setup script [] to get Myth running on your xbox.

        So after only $200 and a couple of hours of tinkering, I had a fully functional Myth setup

      • by swv3752 ( 187722 ) <swv3752@[ ] ['hot' in gap]> on Thursday April 07, 2005 @03:50PM (#12168872) Homepage Journal
        Well an Asus Pundit would work very well. it includes TV out. A microATX system can be used as well. There are many microATX boxes that are about the size of a Stereo Receiver.

        Here [] is one specced out with a Pundit for $463. A Different [] one with MicroATX and an Athlon64 for $508. The Pundit is actually $10 more expensive but the other system has higher end features. Add $10 for a Serial IR receiver/Transmitter if you need that. Some TV capture cards have remotes that work in Linux and some don't. Cheaper than your estimates- about the same as a Tivo+DVDrecorder. If you build yourself.

        If someone really wants me to build them a MythTV box, email me and we can work something out.

      • They may not sell any units. But all of the HTPCs that I have seen that run the Windows media center OS are in the $1,500 to $2,500 range.
  • s l o w (Score:2, Funny)

    by jargoone ( 166102 ) *
    Looks like could use another 2 CPUs...
  • Buy of the shelf (Score:2, Interesting)

    I would rather go to walmart/ best buy and buy off the shelf home theater system. If there aren't any as described in the article, I will wait for Sony to make one. Its too much of hassle to build your own. Especially when you are dealing with different components from different manufacturers. Look at Windows Media Center OS. Any high schooler can put together a super entertainment center. Utility? Not much. Hassle? a lot.
    • It's true that off the shelf is the ultimate experience. But sometimes people don't have the money or want different features than what is offered. (e.g. Having MAME built in is a nice feature found in MythTV but not TIVO.) In those cases, a home grown solution can offer the penultimate solution to your problem. :-)
      • How about an RSS aggregator that watches hundreds of feeds and shows me the posts I'd like based on a voting system?

        Or even better make the RSS display a screensaver feature. Why? Because I've been looking for a RSS screensaver for about a year now. I'd like to have my own on screen news crawl (huge feature) or even a slick screensaver that did something fancy with showing the feed contents.

        like, don't use this stuff in a commercial product...
    • by Anita Coney ( 648748 ) on Thursday April 07, 2005 @03:14PM (#12168401) Homepage
      There is nothing hard about building your own PC. Like a brilliant person once wrote, it only takes two tools to build a computer. The ability to RTFM and a phillips screwdriver.

      I've got four home built PVRs in my house. I like the freedom of not being tied to a corporation. E.g., not being screwed by Tivo's recent pop-up ads.

      I like the ability to have the PVR do what I want, and not what some corporation wants. E.g., Microsoft's Media Center's inability to record shows to DVD.

      But most of all I like the price. A PVR built by Sony would cost a couple thousand more than what you could build one yourself for. The ones I have at my house are merely built from left-over parts from my own system. But even if you built one completely from scratch, you could probably do it for less than $800.
    • I put together a HTPC that took under $500 and about 20 hours of my time to put together. It's a DVR, game emulator, DVD player (quality better than any hardware DVD player for under $400), movie server (all my movies on-demand), and more. My wife is comfortable using it already and it's got the potential to do a lot more. I'm using Meedio, which is VERY customizable, but simple enough to get working in a very short amount of time. The problem with the off-the-shelf stuff is that you'll hit a point that
  • Other HTPC resources (Score:5, Informative)

    by navarredr ( 873345 ) on Thursday April 07, 2005 @03:03PM (#12168232)
    Build Your Own PVR [] and DVBn [] are also good resources if you are looking to build an HTPC
  • ATI All in Wonder (Score:3, Informative)

    by 0kComputer ( 872064 ) on Thursday April 07, 2005 @03:04PM (#12168243)
    This seems awfully complicated to hook your PC into your computer. I have an ATI All in wonder video card that took about 5 mins to install, cost maybe 100 dollars more and has most of the functionality that this guy's setup has.
    • I have an ATI All in wonder video card that took about 5 mins to install, cost maybe 100 dollars more and has most of the functionality that this guy's setup has.

      The whole point of the article is to review all the options, positives, and drawbacks of building different HTPC versions. If a truck magazine put out a review of different models of trucks for construction usage with options, would you send a comment about why doesn't everybody just buy a Chevy F250 with a crew cab?

    • Re:ATI All in Wonder (Score:4, Informative)

      by jreberry ( 776663 ) on Thursday April 07, 2005 @07:06PM (#12170847)
      No. All in Wonder cards are horrible for HTPC setups. First, it does not do hardware encoding. Second, its image quality is trash compared to a PVR-250 (or similar) card. Third, they aren't as compatible with PVR software. Check out the forums at any of the big PVR software sites and you will find thread after thread of people with AIW cards complaining about problems. Ask any web savvy person what search engine they use. 9 out of 10 will say Google, and there is a good reason why. Ask any HTPC savvy person what capture card they use. 9 out of 10 will say a PVR-250 (some 150 or 350), and there is a good reason why. Try using an AIW with a HTPC and I bet you'll upgrade to a 250 within the first 6 months. --Jon
  • by Fox_1 ( 128616 ) on Thursday April 07, 2005 @03:04PM (#12168251)
    Thanks for reading today. I know it was quite a commitment to make it through these 21 pages, but I hope it was of some value to you.

    It's either actually doing this myself on a budget - and it was painful - I never seem to buy stable powersupplies, or supported hardware, and blood is surprisingly conductive.

    or making it through the reading of the article

  • by jmcwork ( 564008 ) on Thursday April 07, 2005 @03:07PM (#12168290)
    I went to the site and up came an 'read this ad/you will be redirected' page appeared. I have no real problem with this so I waited for the next page to load, and: the ad again. Well, the article finally appeared and I read the first page, clicked 'next page' and: same ad (Vonage, I think). That was enough for me. (This never happened with archie, gopher, and ftp!)
  • HDTV solution (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Tiger4 ( 840741 ) on Thursday April 07, 2005 @03:07PM (#12168297)
    The article is well written and conversational for the layman. Great. But he doesn't really go into the one great unknown area oput there - HDTV.

    What are the best HDTV capture cards, for Over the Air or for backside-of-the-cable/satelite-box? The article only touches on this, but it will be of greater concern for the home enthusiast/hacker in the next two years.

    And by the way, what packages support this? MythTV, Freevo, etc.
    • Re:HDTV solution (Score:5, Informative)

      by badasscat ( 563442 ) <> on Thursday April 07, 2005 @03:43PM (#12168774)
      What are the best HDTV capture cards, for Over the Air or for backside-of-the-cable/satelite-box? The article only touches on this, but it will be of greater concern for the home enthusiast/hacker in the next two years.

      "Best" depends on what you're using to watch TV. For MCE, the FusionHD or ATI HDTV Wonder work equally well (if you want QAM tuning of non-encrypted cable signals, you want a FusionHD). For "backside of the cable box" you may as well just do firewire capture - providing a box that supports this is an FCC requirement now; your cable provider has to give you one if you ask.

      Keep in mind you have to also have an analog tuner for MCE, even if you don't use it. (Most people will want one, though, unless they want to be stuck with only 12 or 13 channels, some of which don't even broadcast all the time.)

      If you're not using MCE, then the MyHD line of cards is probably best - they do hardware MPEG2 decoding (note I said decoding - unlike analog capture cards, all an HDTV card needs to do when capturing is stream the digital TV signal to the hard drive). They can be finnicky to set up, though, and you don't want to buy one if you have MCE because hardware decoding is not supported in MCE.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 07, 2005 @03:11PM (#12168351)
    There is a guide much like this already, and that has been around for some time and is still updated regularly that is Linux oriented (The Linux HTPC Howto). The information regarding how DD/DTS work and what soundcard to pick and how to get HDTV working quickly was very useful to me.

    ahref= x-htpc/ [] ux-htpc/>
  • I haven't even thought of building HTPC simply because I don't watch TV, but I was wondering if average Joe Sixpack is willing to embrace this complexity, I mean MCE is as simple as it can be, but in many cases still a bit too complicated don't you think?
    Otoh average people tend to use stuff like MSN Messenger etc, I think it's a decent way of making a living: I just put together a SFF such as shuttle, MCE or linux on it and the price can be premium compared to what you get for your casual PC, the question
  • Missing the Point (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jamacdon ( 445487 ) on Thursday April 07, 2005 @03:13PM (#12168388)
    I think some people don't see the bigger picture behind a PC based home theater. It is not like just plugging a tuner card into your PC and using the software that comes with the card to watch it.

    With PC Theatre software, the program manages your recordings, schedule of records and ties into other medias such as videos, mp3 and CD collections and even digital cameras.

    Also, when you have a PC based home theatre you usually have the output running through a highend sound system and large screen TV or project, not your 17" monitor and $12 speakers.

    Beleive me, once you start using a properly configured PC based TV system, your methods of watching TV completely change.

  • I am curious to know why there don't seem to be many video capture cards that can handle higher quality video signals. Composite and s-video capture is easy to do with cards like the PVR-250 and so on, but I've connected my home cinema up with connections like RGB scart and component video. Is the circuitry prohibitively expensive?

    I can see why the media cartels would want to limit the capture of high quality streams (if you can record the hi-def version for free, why buy the DVD?), but surely somebody's
    • It's not really easy or cost effective to capture component video in (I think the last time I saw it quoted was $30k). Too much processing required and too much data / sec.

      Component video out to your TV from an HTPC is easy (well, besides tweaking it to fit just right).

      The best ways of getting high def content into the box are :
      1. An off the air HD tuner card (HD3000 from or the Air2PC card)
      2. A slim chance of firewire output from a high def digital cable box.
      3. Rip your own DVDs. This mak
    • I am curious to know why there don't seem to be many video capture cards that can handle higher quality video signals. Composite and s-video capture is easy to do with cards like the PVR-250 and so on, but I've connected my home cinema up with connections like RGB scart and component video

      I'd say it is down to availabilty of devices to hook up to. In some countries, RGB is extremely rare. In others (those with SCART hookups), it's very common as an input. However, the only common outputs of RGB here are D

  • by mapmaker ( 140036 ) on Thursday April 07, 2005 @03:17PM (#12168438)

    For those of you who are interested in possibly putting together a Home Theatre or Media PC but don't know how to use a search engine, I stumbled upon an excellent guide.


    • "For those of you who are interested in possibly putting together a Home Theatre or Media PC but don't know how to use a search engine, I stumbled upon an excellent guide."

      I think it's a good guide that distills alot of the questions a newbie might have to sort through the myriad of possibilities and avenues out there.

      I plan on pointing many a newbie in my DIY PVR forum [] to this guide when they come in posting "I don't even know where to begin?!!?" posts...

      Besides, wiseguy... how do you think this guide w
      • Yeah, I was being a bit grumpy when I wrote that. And yeah, it's not a bad resource. Maybe I even deserve a little Flamebait modding. But really, the site mentioned is nothing special. Go to, for instance, and you could spend the next month filling your head with HTPC knowledge that isn't included in this guide, not to mention equal amounts of info on all your other home theater components.

        I just think there should be a higher standard than "Look at this neato website I found!" for Slashd

  • MythTV vs BeyondTV (Score:5, Informative)

    by Yo Grark ( 465041 ) on Thursday April 07, 2005 @03:17PM (#12168440)
    Here is my personal final thoughts on MythTV vs BeyondTV.

    MythTV != Novice.
    I could never get a season pass to work, never did record "quite right", never got the thing to run smooth, never got the parsing of the xml guides fully automated, Hardware problems with ATI AIW cards. Fix was available, but messy.

    BeyondTV = Simply Works.
    It worked out of the box, I could access it anywhere in the world via web and record at home, had "season pass", no messing with xml converters, scripts etc. It just works on my hardware (ATI9700 AIW)smooth and simple. I can stream out the shows all over my network and have never regretted purchasing it.

    So? In the end I paid the $50.00 to get a TIVO like service on my PC via Snapstream's BeyondTV. It's not as flexible or customizable as MythTV, but for it's specific purpose it wins hands down.

    Don't get me wrong, while the 4 weeks spent aggrivated with MythTV was worth it just for the fun, I'm just not enough of a Nerd to keep at it and I paid to have something that was reasonable priced, and worked.

    Yo Grark
    • 4 weeks? XML Files? How long ago did you do this. I set up my mythtv box and the majority of the time was spent installing gentoo. I've never edited an XML file, I get all my guide data automatically, and everything works as it should. I would even go so far as to say that the setup was easier than freevo.
    • There is also a middle ground... it is called Media Portal []. As far as I can tell, it has the look and feel of MS Media Center Edition yet it is open source and free. Lots of customizable modules as well...
  • by raam ( 206445 ) on Thursday April 07, 2005 @03:23PM (#12168509) Homepage
    I also did a comparison, and since I am too goddam busy reviewing copy machines at the moment, I will just weigh in:

    Best computer for the job: an intel with a cool-running CPU and fan. Dell 400SC's, if you can find them, are whisper quiet and perfect for the job.

    Best card for the job: ATI or Nvidia, yada, yada. The TV card is what you care about. Hauppauge is the rage, and they just came out with a dual-tuner card (ostensibly only for MCE, but if you believe that I've got a Mac to sell you)

    Best remote for the job: Snapstream's Firefly. Yeah, $50 is pricy, but, let's admit it: we're trying to make somethings as good as Tivo and this remote is the only one that does it. Remember that awesome Tivo IR blaster? Firefly is RF, baby, and you can edit XML to set up functions.

    Best software for the job: BeyondTV. I tried Sage, Myth, even GB-PVR (don't get me's good and free, but man is that shit finicky - release the SOURCE!!!). Anyway, BeyondTV is incredible, bullet-proof, supports two tuners out of the box, integrates with Firefly, and I got it for $50. Almost Tivo.

    Best keyboard for the job: Definitely, definitely, the BTC 9019URF. It has a built-in joystick, handles, etc., and killer range.

    There you have it!
    • One interesting HTPC software for windows that's up and comming is Meedio []. It's the commercial version 2.x of what was the free myHTPC version 1.

      It's an excellent framework, with a huge community, tons of plugin/mods/skins, and they've got a PVR/tuner plugin/module in beta last I looked.

      To give you an idea: BeyondTV is a very good PVR application, but doesn't do much of the HTPC stuff (that's why they came out with a partner product call beyond media, but i digress)...

      SageTV is a good PVR application w
    • Myth is fantastic if you have the Linux knowledge to set it up or the patience.

      A GyroMouse is a superb addition. I've seen a Gyro Mouse and Keyboard combo for like $40 online.
      That is the way to go.
  • Another great and free project is Media Portal. Fully skinable, all the features of Media Center Edition, and has plugin support: []
  • by Aphrika ( 756248 ) on Thursday April 07, 2005 @03:26PM (#12168560)
    While I must admit that I'm new to the whole built-it-yourself PVR box scene, I started off by buying myself a stand alone TV card, just to see what kind of quality I'd get, and also because I couldn't find a standalone box that was open enough.

    I chose the Nebula DigiTV [] card, and I have to say, I cannot recommend it enough. 110UKP gets you a PCI card, remote and a bundle of good software that covers pretty much everything - including letting your PC become a TV server on a network. The best bit about the card though... It's got a built in Freeview decoder.

    Yup, the quality of the recordings is absolutely amazing - read cable quality - and the PVR software easy to use and if you don't have any special requirements it could be the only software you need.

    All in all, incredibly chuffed - especially after some lacklustre forays into more mainstream TV cards a few years ago. Now all I have to do is build another PC to put it all in.
  • by fred fleenblat ( 463628 ) on Thursday April 07, 2005 @03:27PM (#12168567) Homepage
    Not to be a downer, but replay and tivo services are actually not that expensive. I have the grandfathered-in $9.95/mo service from replay and that is my lowest monthly expense. Honestly, I spend more on cola.

    What I want is a $300 PC that will replace my mortgage, property taxes, and/or car insurance.
  • I managed to get to page it's cached at least to that page in coral... tml []
  • by bogie ( 31020 ) on Thursday April 07, 2005 @03:39PM (#12168728) Journal
    500MHz is not what you would want to build a a HTPC with. Its possbile, people do it, but since your going to be spending good money on a hardware TV Tuner then please at least buy something like a AMD 1600 >. I use a 1GHz which gets the job done but then I also like to do emulation etc. I need a faster cpu. 500MHz unless your dirt poor and have no money isn't the best cpu to start with.

    And second I'll point this part out. "This will depend on whether or not you're an "audiophile". If you don't have a surround sound speaker package setup, than almost anything will do."

    At a minimum buy something like the cheap chaintech Via Envy which will give you very good audio quality and more importantly SPDIF out. Are you really going to go through all of the trouble of buying hardware and setting it up only to use some shitty realtek card that causes hiss when you playback music or TV shows? That applies even if right now your not doing surround sound.

    I'm not being snobby here either. These are basic things any decent HTPC guide will tell you.
    • You probably want a bit more oomph for future proofing, but it's not all that neccessary depending how you set up. If the capure cards are doing the encoding and decoding onboard, all the PC will be doing is shuffling data around.

      SPDIF is essential if you ask me. Computers are terrible audio sources, there is far to much RF noise in them. Get a digital audio out and keep the analogue audio stage out of the PC. A surround amp can be picked up for next to nothing nowadays.

    • The real bugbear is MPEG2 hardware decoding. While you can use a backend server and vlc for MPEG2 encoding (and even that is unnecessary with the Hauppague PVR 250 and 350 cards), decoding has to be done in the theatre "room" (unless you're happy running long cables or PC noise).

      A Via M10000 will just about do SD software MPEG2 decoding, but forget about HD. The CLE266 supported by Unichrome and Via's own drivers (and integrated into their Xine fork: VeXP) works well, but follows the model of MPEG2 in, fra
  • I'm sill trying to figure why this is excellent.

    I have a hush with an el cheapo DVB-S card in it and it gives me a PVR that uses 10% CPU (50% when recording 4 channels and watching a fifth);

    OK lets break this down:

    - hush = no fans! heat pipe cooled VIA EPIA M 10000 CPU with 512 Mb RAM and puny 40 Gb HD, and with unichrome driver you get accelerated MPEG2
    - VDR software for recording (does not require MySQL which is why I chose it instead of MythTV)
    - vdrxine plugin
    - vdradmin web administrat
  • by spagetti_code ( 773137 ) on Thursday April 07, 2005 @10:06PM (#12172162)
    No noise, silence, quietness...

    Honestly - you guys are all talking about putting big drives in a tower, or having P4's vs encoders, blah blah blah. When you finally get your system up and running you are going to have a loud hum, a whine, lots of clicks and occasional buzzes when watching tv or movies or listening to music.

    Noise makes a difference. Design for noise first. As many people have pointed out, any old PC can be a myth box. Any old grunty PC can be a MCE box. Thats easy. To have one that you want to share your living room with? Thats another matter.

    Here's a test - put your P4 home PC in your living room and then watch a DVD. Notice the noise? I sure did.

    Best choice I made was designing around noise first, heat second (because of reducing noise) and then CPU power/memory/HDD size third. Trust me, you wont regret it.

    So what can you do...

    • Use as lower powered PC as you can get away with. I suggest a Via EDEN fanless [] CPU.
    • Use an external power supply - no fan. The EPIA mobos require very little power.
    • Use a quiet disk [] and optical drive
    • Use a case [] designed to deal with heat and look good in your stereo rack.

All science is either physics or stamp collecting. -- Ernest Rutherford