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post #1 of 15 (permalink) Old 01-12-2005, 10:39 AM Thread Starter
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anyone built a home theater PC?

I said I would never do this but HD TiVos arent dropping in price and I have the spare PC laying around so I thought I would give it a shot. The newest OS is WinMCE 2005? What supported vid cards work? How is quality of the output?

any comments?
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post #2 of 15 (permalink) Old 01-12-2005, 01:51 PM
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another possible option??

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post #3 of 15 (permalink) Old 01-12-2005, 01:54 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by miketyler
I said I would never do this but HD TiVos arent dropping in price and I have the spare PC laying around so I thought I would give it a shot. The newest OS is WinMCE 2005? What supported vid cards work? How is quality of the output?

any comments?
dish network is offering free equippment on the hd reciever and a free dvr combo right
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post #4 of 15 (permalink) Old 01-12-2005, 02:07 PM
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I've built quite a few but not with HD recording support. You will have trouble finding anything affordable that will take in HD signal. Standard TV tuner cards won't work.
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post #5 of 15 (permalink) Old 01-12-2005, 05:33 PM
 
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I saw someting once on G4TV about turning your computer into a DVR. Search on there for something on it. Not sure if it's worth a shit though.
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post #6 of 15 (permalink) Old 01-13-2005, 01:04 AM
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you can get over air hd tuner cards for under 100 bucks.... now getting it off satalite welll i don't think they have a sat. tuner pc card yet /sigh
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post #7 of 15 (permalink) Old 01-13-2005, 02:42 AM
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ATI does have an HD version of their All-In-Wonder tuner cards, but I don't think it's under $100, nor have I ever seen any other HD tuner cards under $100.

Now, if you're not needing HDTV recording capabilities, and just want to record standard broadcast quality (digital or otherwise), then basically any TV tuner card on the market will get you done.

For a media PC, I would personally recommend ATI All-In-Wonder 9600 Pro or XT, due to it also having an onboard FM tuner. If an FM tuner isn't needed for your media PC, then any tv tuner will work (though I'd still recommend the ATI AIW line, especially one that comes with their Remote Wonder)

Windows XP MCE isn't a necessity for a media PC, I'm simply running XP Pro on mine. While not a necessity, XP MCE does bring a lot of nice features, however there's development projects going on that essentially turn any XP box into an XP MCE clone, giving you the larger text and menus that MCE has, suitable for TV screens. Media Portal. I haven't checked that out on my media center yet, but it's something I plan to do someday.

The one glaring problem I have with XP MCE is the file format it saves recorded video to. It's not a portable format, meaning you can't, say record a TV show, burn it onto a disc, then give that disc to a friend so they can watch it on their own computer. I believe Jose found out how to change the way MCE saves files, however, so this may be a non-issue now, as long as you configure MCE beforehand, to save in mpeg/mpeg2/avi etc format. The ATI AIW I have can save in all those formats, as well as a proprietary (non-portable) format, similar to what MCE does.

Not being able to change channels without a seperate satellite remote, isn't limited to media pc's, as vcr's have the same problem.

I know that some satellite receivers have a serial port on the back, that you can use to hook up a PC to the receiver, and have the pc change the channels automatically through it. It requires some modification to the serial cable, as well as software that will support that. You could also use an IR blaster, which basically transmits IR data. As long as you teach it how to use the satellite reciever's remote data, you can basically tape it to the IR port on the reciever, and use the software to program it to change channels for you (either through the media PC's remote, or automatically, via a scheduler).

There's also PCI cards that essentially are the satellite reciever, though you'll need a subscription to the service to view the channels, and possibly even an adapter to be able to have the service's subscription card attached.

I haven't tried either of those. I really only have a need to record one show on a recurring basis, so it's easy enough for me to just have my reciever set to the proper channel beforehand.

Building your own media pc is easy though. All standard components work, hdd, dvd/cd (burners or not), sound card, network card, mobo, cpu, memory, etc. What makes a media pc different from a standar pc is in the tv tuner card used. ATI's AIW cards are a video card, and tv tuner (and FM tuner in some) built into one card. Some tv tuner cards are stand alone, requiring you to also have a video card in the system. Some cards have remotes, others don't. And some of the ones that have remotes, the remotes suck.

I've used two types of TV tuners. Pinnacle's stand alone tuner, that came with a remote, that only worked with the tv tuner software. It claimed that it could be programmed to do more (such as open programs), but without the abilty to move the mouse cursor and "click" the mouse buttons... just being able to open programs would be essentially useless if you can't then navigate around them.

The other type is the ATI AIW, and TV Wonder (ATI's stand along TV tuner card), with their Remote Wonder. The Remote Wonder has 6 configurable buttons that can be programmed per application, but it's main asset is the large center pad that you can use to move the mouse around on the screen, and right and left "mouse" buttons, as well as a "click and hold" button for being able to drag & drop items. It essentially negates any need for a keyboard/mouse, other than when you need to type something, though even that can be overcome with software that brings up an onscreen keyboard (if you're really that hard up to eliminate the keyboard/mouse entirely)

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post #8 of 15 (permalink) Old 01-13-2005, 07:02 AM
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Charter has the HD PVRs now for $9.99 a month. It even has a port for an external SATA drive but the data is supposedly encrypted. My Xbox does good with streaming DVDs, music and Divx stuff btw, modchips and 250gig HDs are cool

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post #9 of 15 (permalink) Old 01-13-2005, 08:50 AM
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The problem with AIW cards is that you'll lose one output. Instead of having a monitor and TV connected you can only have one. Don't even think about using S-video, the picture quality is horrible. Get the DVI-component adapter from ATI and use component to your TV.
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post #10 of 15 (permalink) Old 01-13-2005, 04:41 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sami
The problem with AIW cards is that you'll lose one output. Instead of having a monitor and TV connected you can only have one. Don't even think about using S-video, the picture quality is horrible. Get the DVI-component adapter from ATI and use component to your TV.
Dunno where you got the idea that you can only use one output. I have both a monitor and my TV hooked up to my media PC. Normally all I use is the TV, but occasionally (usually in updating drivers) I'll have the monitor on as well, just incase after the reboot the TV settings aren't saved and it goes blank. But they both function simultaneously.

The problem you may be having is in the CPU power. I do know that my old PC couldn't output to both TV and monitor at the same time. It was a dual P2 350 with an ATI Radeon 7500 64 meg. My laptop could show windows on both screens, but couldn't do video on both screens (P4m 1.9) and it was running a GeForce4 MX 440 64 meg. I could have video running on the monitor but on the TV screen it would show just a black box. If I turned off the screen so it was just outputting to the TV, the video would show up on the TV at that point.

With my current setup (Athlon XP 1800+, ATI AIW 7500 64 meg), I've had TV going on both screen simultaneously, as well as DivX/XviD/Mpeg/Quicktime/DVD videos.

And I'm using S-Video, but only because my TV doesn't have component inputs. S-Video is fine (and MUCH better than composite), as long as you keep the resolution 800x600 or lower, and increase the font and icon sizes.
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post #11 of 15 (permalink) Old 01-13-2005, 04:49 PM
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There are no two DVI or VGA outputs, that's what I mean. The picture quality out from a computer video card S-video is unacceptable to me. Then again, I have a big screen and I only play DVD quality material besides a few games from TV broadcast. Anyone who would of seen the picture from S-video would have noticed how bad the quality was, absolutely horrible.

If you're building a HTPC, I would go with a video card with dual DVI or DVI and VGA outputs. Add a TV tuner card and you're still under the cost of an AIW. For a PC that you want to watch TV from the AIW is a great choice but I wouldn't put one to a HTPC.
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post #12 of 15 (permalink) Old 01-13-2005, 06:01 PM
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Unless you're running dual monitors, why would you need dual DVI or DVI & VGA connectors? The idea of an HTPC is to run the output to a TV, so having a card with dual connectors is essentially useless.

If your TV has a DVI input, you'd run DVI instead of Component anyway. Still no reason to need a dual connector card.

A dual connector card and TV tuner combo will run about the same price as an AIW, and in some cases more, depending on which card and which TV tuner you go with. I got my ATI AIW 7500 for $115... and I'm thinking about upgrading it to an AIW 9600XT for about $185, only because I want the FM tuner, though I may just buy a stand alone FM tuner if I can find one cheap enough.

And having a big screen doesn't matter. It's still has to conform to NTSC standards. Whether it's 15 inch, 36 inch, or 60 inch, they all run the same resolution.

Unless it's an HDTV, in which case you'd need an HD tuner card.

Component is the way to go if your TV has component input. Mine doesn't, so I use S-Video, and have no problems with picture/text clarity because I have the resolution down to 800x600, and using large fonts and icons. Most HDTV's have DVI input anyway, so no need to convert from VGA/DVI to component. And if you're using a converter to go from VGA/DVI to component for a standard component enabled TV (or an HDTV that doesn't have a DVI input), there's no need to hook up a monitor, as the signal the card thinks it's sending out is to a monitor, so you don't have to worry about the TV signal being lost for whatever reason. So yet again, no need to have a dual connector card for an HTPC.

BTW, the AIW 9600XT's adapter cable has 2 VGA outputs (if for whatever reason you want to run two monitors on your HTPC, instead of going to a TV), S-Video, and Composite. And you can get a VGA to component adapter if you use a tv with component inputs.

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post #13 of 15 (permalink) Old 01-13-2005, 06:22 PM
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I'm running dual monitors, the other is a 21" CRT computer screen for maintaining the computer (I guess you could run VNC but that's not as convinient) and the other is a little over 100" CRT projector. From the picture I am getting from the S-video it doesn't seem to be the same quality pixel-wise. It's very unviewable while the DVI-to-component conversion yields almost DVD player kind picture quality.

Almost all non-AIW Radeons have dual outputs so if in a future you want to use dual monitors, you have better upgradability. Driver availability for HTPC use might also be better with something like Hauppauge cards. It's something to consider and depends on the personal use. I just personally wouldn't use the S-video connection for anything.
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post #14 of 15 (permalink) Old 01-14-2005, 05:54 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sami
I just personally wouldn't use the S-video connection for anything.
Again, sometimes you don't have a choice.

I'm am curious if you have a Hauppage tuner, how the remote is set up. Does it control the mouse, as the Remote Wonder does?

That's really the main argument I have against other tv tuners, is in how the remote is used. As I've only used Pinnacle and ATI cards, I don't know how other manufacturer's remotes work.

And I started to try out that Media Portal last night. I think it would be great to use from the start... fresh install of a system. Not so hot after the system has been up and running for a while. Too much re-configuring needed. And it also wouldn't recognize my AIW 7500 as a source for the tv tuner, even though it shows the AIW 7500 as one of the fully supported tv tuner cards, on their website

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post #15 of 15 (permalink) Old 01-15-2005, 11:20 AM
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I am actually using the AIW remote from my 9800Pro AIW but I have been thinking of getting a RF remote that I could use anywhere in the house. Have audio rack at my HT room and control all the audio inside the house with one remote. A friend of mine has one and it is much better than the AIW as you also can use the device as a pointer. You point it to a screen and it acts like a mouse, instead of pressing the remote jog for long time to move the mouse cursor to right place.

I replaced the 9800Pro AIW with standard 9800XT, just to get two outputs. A bit of an overkill for HTPC but I will probably put this into my gaming machine and get 6600GT for the HTPC. NVidia has come up with a better solution for HT and the picture is much better on them. Must be a decoder thing.
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