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Home theatre PC #419336
12th Jul 2010 7:12pm
12th Jul 2010 7:12pm
Joined: Sep 2009
Posts: 417
birkenhead
N
Neil_c Offline OP
Smartchild
Neil_c  Offline OP
Smartchild
N
Joined: Sep 2009
Posts: 417
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.

[Linked Image]

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.

Attached Files DSC00292.JPGDSC00287.JPGDSC00282.JPGDSC00284.JPGDSC00280.JPG
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Re: Home theatre PC [Re: Neil_c] #419338
12th Jul 2010 7:18pm
12th Jul 2010 7:18pm
Joined: Sep 2009
Posts: 417
birkenhead
N
Neil_c Offline OP
Smartchild
Neil_c  Offline OP
Smartchild
N
Joined: Sep 2009
Posts: 417
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.

Attached Files DSC00289.JPGDSC00288.JPG
Re: Home theatre PC [Re: Neil_c] #419357
12th Jul 2010 8:48pm
12th Jul 2010 8:48pm
Joined: May 2008
Posts: 444
Upton
L
little_pob Offline
Smartchild
little_pob  Offline
Smartchild
L
Joined: May 2008
Posts: 444
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...

Re: Home theatre PC [Re: little_pob] #419359
12th Jul 2010 8:58pm
12th Jul 2010 8:58pm
Joined: Sep 2009
Posts: 417
birkenhead
N
Neil_c Offline OP
Smartchild
Neil_c  Offline OP
Smartchild
N
Joined: Sep 2009
Posts: 417
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... "

Last edited by Neil_c; 12th Jul 2010 8:59pm.
Re: Home theatre PC [Re: Neil_c] #419372
12th Jul 2010 10:44pm
12th Jul 2010 10:44pm
Joined: Aug 2004
Posts: 22,315
Moreton/Beirut/Mobile
MattLFC Offline
Wiki Master
MattLFC  Offline
Wiki Master
Joined: Aug 2004
Posts: 22,315
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

Re: Home theatre PC [Re: MattLFC] #419391
13th Jul 2010 5:15am
13th Jul 2010 5:15am
Joined: Aug 2005
Posts: 16,227
New Brighton
_Ste_ Offline
Wiki Master
_Ste_  Offline
Wiki Master
Joined: Aug 2005
Posts: 16,227
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)

Re: Home theatre PC [Re: _Ste_] #419402
13th Jul 2010 7:12am
13th Jul 2010 7:12am
Joined: Sep 2009
Posts: 417
birkenhead
N
Neil_c Offline OP
Smartchild
Neil_c  Offline OP
Smartchild
N
Joined: Sep 2009
Posts: 417
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.


Re: Home theatre PC [Re: Neil_c] #419407
13th Jul 2010 7:52am
13th Jul 2010 7:52am
Joined: Mar 2010
Posts: 851
Wirral
Nigel Offline

Wise One
Nigel  Offline

Wise One
Joined: Mar 2010
Posts: 851
Wirral
Nice setup Neil!


O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever ...

Moderated by  Mark 

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