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#419336 - 12th Jul 2010 8:12pm Home theatre PC
Neil_c Offline
Smartchild

Registered: 27th Sep 2009
Posts: 417
Loc: birkenhead
I thought that i'd put together a topic on my recent home theatre experiences.

How did it begin?

I used to just have a 28" wide screen CRT telly and a fairly expensive DVD player. As time moved on, I needed to go digital and ended up buying a new LCD TV.

BluRay

My girlf bought me an LG BluRay player for Xmas, but there were a number of problems with the design:

1) It connected to the internet but could only access youtube or perform firmware updates
2) It didn't play all MKVs very well
3) The USB connector would only support FAT32, so largest filesize = 4GB (DVD discs are either 4.7 or 8.4GB).

High Def Video

There are a number of ways you might play hi-def video. These will basically include:

1) AVI or MPEG file (usually common for heavily compressed/reduced quality movies. Usually < 2GB)
2) BluRay discs (50GB)
3) MKV (another media file format - Commonly between 4 - 15GB)

DVD/BluRay

I wanted a DVD writer but wasn't sure about BluRay. I'd priced up the re-writeable discs and they were expensive for what they were. I made a choice that I'd buy a DVD writer / BluRay reader.

Choosing the parts

I didn't see anything pre-assembled that I liked so decided to buy the components and build it myself.

The case

I didn't realise that cases were so diverse. Previously I knew that cases were beige and sharp on the edges. Little did I know they could be one of the most expensive parts of a computer! I settled on the Antec Microfusion Remote with LCD display.



This case was reviewed as being well-priced and quiet. This is one of the most important things to consider if the PC is on whilst you watch films

The motherboard

I had picked the ASUS P5Q-EM. This MB had great reviews and seemed ideal for a home theatre PC. It's of Micro ATX form factor so it would fit well in the Antec Case. Most of the stuff is onboard including graphics and sound.

http://reviews.cnet.com/motherboards/asus-p5q-em-motherboard/4505-3049_7-33232825.html

Memory

I opted for 4GB of fast 1066MHZ RAM. This would be plenty for a home theatre PC.

TWIN2X4096-8500C5C XMS2 DDR2

Processor

Nothing elaborate here, just a medium priced Intel dual core.

Intel PentDC E6500 2.93GH 45nm

Hard Disk

Just a simple Seagate SATA drive with 3GB/sec burt rates. Certainly fast enough with plenty of storage space.

Operating System

I went with Windows 7 (64 bit). I quite like the Media Centre that comes with it.

Connecting it up

I'd noticed that the HDMI cables were priced up to 70 in Currys. What a rip off. Spending this much on a cable would be like throwing money in the Mersey. As the signals are digital and the cable is short, you couldn't tell the difference between an expensive cable and one that cost a fiver. So look on ebay.

The PC Audio connects into the SPDIF (Optical) on the amp.

Matroska MKV

To play MKVs you need to get Matroska software, especially if you want to use Windows Media Player or Media Centre. I used the K-lite codec pack: http://www.codecguide.com/klcp_64bit.htm

Players like VLC can play natively.

Recording the TV

Girlfriend likes to record crap off the TV so I bought a TV card. Kworld Dual DVB-T (PCI Express). I had to get one with a half height bracket to fit in the Micro ATX case. Comes with a remote and integrates really well with Media Centre.

Internet

Never bothered getting a wireless card as I just use the network port on the back to connect to the wireless router.

Been using the system now for 4 months with wireless keyb and mouse. Certainly more pleased with it than standalone Bluray/Dvd player.


Attachments: Viewing Permissions May Apply. Click Me
DSC00292.JPG

Description: Case LCD to display current film. Can also display other useless junk like local news and weather reports.

DSC00287.JPG

Description: Antec remote that comes with case (don't use) and Windows Media Centre remote that came with TV card.

DSC00282.JPG

Description: Inside the case.

DSC00284.JPG

Description: Rear connections to TV and AMP

DSC00280.JPG

Description: PC, AMP and Centre speaker (shielded).



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#419338 - 12th Jul 2010 8:18pm Re: Home theatre PC [Re: Neil_c]
Neil_c Offline
Smartchild

Registered: 27th Sep 2009
Posts: 417
Loc: birkenhead
I use 5 speakers without a sub. The Wharfedales I use are about the height of a child so a sub wouldn't be necessary. Bi-wired them in with 4 cables. The surrond sound are just medium priced models from Richers. Onkyo Amp from Richers, wasn't expensive.


Attachments: Viewing Permissions May Apply. Click Me
DSC00289.JPG

Description: Modus One-Three

DSC00288.JPG

Description: Gale surrond speaker, rated 100w



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#419357 - 12th Jul 2010 9:48pm Re: Home theatre PC [Re: Neil_c]
little_pob Offline
Smartchild

Registered: 30th May 2008
Posts: 442
Loc: Upton
Nice setup. Must say I agree on the HDMI cable front, if under 3m you don't need certified cables and most people are OK with cheap cables up to 10m. Same goes for short runs of optical cables.

I wish someone had told me before I dropped 50 on a 3m QED HDMI cable and 25 on an 1.5m IXOS optical lead a few years back. Performance is just as good on a 3 ebay lead. Such is life I suppose cry wink

I've been tempted to bring my HTPC out of retirement recently...

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#419359 - 12th Jul 2010 9:58pm Re: Home theatre PC [Re: little_pob]
Neil_c Offline
Smartchild

Registered: 27th Sep 2009
Posts: 417
Loc: birkenhead
I read this that convinced me:

"Since this question gets asked like 15 times a day, and I usually end up responding to them, I'll make a general post... Sure would be nice to be stickied, but since that won't happen, at least highlight it and keep the URL so you yourself will have an easy time "replying" to the onslaught of questions....
.
I originally wrote this as a reply to a post, but thought it made more sense standing on it's own... So here goes....
.
"Question: Is there any difference between a cheap (i.e. $10 HDMI cable) and an expensive (i.e. $150 HDMI cable)???".
.
I have an EE degree. I work as a broadcast engineer. I live and breath digital and analog signals every day. So yes, you could say I'm qualified to give the answer to this question...

That answer is, "No, an expensive HDMI cable will make NO difference in the quality of your picture OR sound"


With digital, (i.e. the signal sent over an HDMI cable), the information is encoded differently... At it's lowest level, it's nothing but a string of bits... In other words, each signal is either ON or OFF... It doesn't care if a particular timeslice is 4.323 volts or 4.927 volts... It's just ON... "


Edited by Neil_c (12th Jul 2010 9:59pm)

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#419372 - 12th Jul 2010 11:44pm Re: Home theatre PC [Re: Neil_c]
MattLFC Offline
Wiki Master

Registered: 14th Aug 2004
Posts: 22315
Loc: Moreton/Beirut/Mobile
HTPC haha in my day it was just media centre. I guess it was hooked up through a load of Technics and Eltax kit, so it would be called a HTPC nowadays, but personally I always saw that part of the install as seperate as it runs on anything I have in the living room. Ive had a media centre since about 2002ish, running both Logitech Medialife and Windows MCE. Personally, I preferred the Medialife interface, but MCE ran smoother.

As it is though, ive just relegated my media centre from the living room, as I found I was using it once in a blue moon - but then as a developer for TopUp TV, and having a DVD recorder, there was little reason for it to be used anyway.

MC/HTPC's are all well and good for us techies, but I would never recommend one for the average home user - get a Panasonic Blu-ray recorder for non-techies - it may work out more expensive, but a. you don't have Windows to contend with and B. everything just works, flawlessly lol. Ive always viewed media centre's as similar to USB - a jack of all trades, and master of none.

As for HDMI, well you do have to allow for bandwidth requirements and HDMI version numbers... but the general rule is a digital signal is a digital signal, its a load of 1's and 0's and can't really be interfered with, unlike the old analog interconnects which were actually raw signals. So provided it meets the HDMI specification (v1.3 is a must tbh, v1.4 for those who wish to future-proof) then a 3.00 cable from Tesco will provide the same signal and quality as a 30 cable from Dixons, and it also does not matter if it is made out of copper or gold etc like Dixons and the like will try to fool you. Long gone are the days when 30 worth of Gale cable or a 25 AV-Forums handmade SCART cable made all the difference between a good and and a great signal - though as much as I like them, Richer Sounds will still try and sell you their 30+ HDMI cables as though they are something really special.

smile

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#419391 - 13th Jul 2010 6:15am Re: Home theatre PC [Re: MattLFC]
_Ste_ Offline


Wiki Master

Registered: 7th Aug 2005
Posts: 15985
Loc: New Brighton
Or you could opt for the laptop me and wheels have which makes ZERO sound Absolutly ZILCH, it`s portable, does everything this does, doesn`t eat your electric and easy to dust and keep clean.

smile

Nice audio setup, what Tv do you have it running on?
Is it 3D capable? (that will be standard soon)
_________________________


http://www.youtube.com/user/stetopop

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#419402 - 13th Jul 2010 8:12am Re: Home theatre PC [Re: _Ste_]
Neil_c Offline
Smartchild

Registered: 27th Sep 2009
Posts: 417
Loc: birkenhead
The TV is just a TOSH regza LCD.

There were a few reasons that sold the HTPC idea to me:

1) No worry about it not playing particular files because I can just download new software and codec

2) It's a PC so it will run pretty much anything

3) It has a hard disk to store media files

4) I can browse the internet and not just youtube

5) I don't need to wait for firmware updates to come out to add functionality.

On the downside:

1) Bit more expensive than BluRay player
2) My girlfriend doesn't like me taking over the TV as a monitor.

Laptop is good idea and would be a comparable cost to a HTPC; I just personally prefered a case unit. Expansion potential is usually a bit better on desktops.

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#419407 - 13th Jul 2010 8:52am Re: Home theatre PC [Re: Neil_c]
Nigel Offline

Wise One

Registered: 26th Mar 2010
Posts: 850
Loc: Wirral
Nice setup Neil!
_________________________
O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever ...

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