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Discussion Starter #1
I am seriously considering building a HTPC (Home Theater PC) in the next year or so.
I am just curious if any of you all have built one, or bought an OEM unit and how you like it, what you did, what you would recommend or do differently, etc?????

Initially I am thinking that I would like to have something big enough to store 90% of my movies, and all of my music, photos, etc and integrate this system into my Home Theater set up. (I have about 500 DVD's or so Plus 20 gb of music, as well as pictures, etc.)

The questions I have are:


1) I would prefer a dedicated video card over onboard, but should I get one that supports DVI, or HDMI? The reason I ask this is because I want superior quality, and I have heard that HDMI on video cards arent quite up to snuff yet, where as DVI has been out for some time and its basicly simple technology now.

2) If I go with DVI, then I would obviously need a sound card. What sound card would you recommend that would support Dolby Digital 5.1 at full quality? It goes without saying that it would have to have an optical output.

3) Which remote control is the best for HTPC's?

4) Any other recommendations?


*At the moment I have a great TV, BlueRay, HDTV box, DVR, etc. I am running everything via HDMI, and my tv supports HDMI1.3a
I need to upgrade my AV receiver, but that is beside the point. (I am just waiting for something that has HDMI 1.3a full support and a few other features I need).

The point of building this unit for me is to have a digital storage system for most of my DVD's and all of my other digital media without losing quality.
If I load my DVD's onto a hard drive I will do this uncompressed because I do not want to lose quality for convenience. Then at some point down the road I will sell off my DVD's. (I have already sold all my cd's).
I dont think I will use my HTPC as a TiVo device as of yet. My DVR records HDTV just fine so i will cross that bridge later on after I build a suitable starting HTPC.

So with that said, please school me on parts, tips, and everything else I should know before building an HTPC.

Thank you in advance.:beer
 

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That's a big can of worms you are opening there buddy.

1. Don't prefer a dedicated over onboard, budget for a dedicated video card. It is ridiculous how much performance and quality you lose by having your processor try to act like a GPU. Also, DVI ~ HDMI (DVI is approximately equal to HDMI). Just get a card that has DVI out and use a cable that goes from DVI to HDMI (that's what I do).

2. Lots of sound cards out there that support 5.1 or better and great sound quality. Turtle Beach and Creative are two of the makers that come to mind. I haven't looked into sound cards in quite a while though so things might have changed.

3. Don't know what remote works best. I use a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse since I use it for browsing the internet and everything rather than just using it for HTPC stuff.

4. Rethink the "not using it as a TiVo". The big benefit you get by using the computer as a TiVo is that you can store all the TV shows on your enormous storage on the HTPC and can leave them there to always be ready for play. Plus they can be backed up so if there is a show you want to save and your drive fries you aren't up the creek like you are with a TiVo.

I'd suggest mirrored Terabyte drives, I have mirrored 500GB drives and they are almost full...And I haven't even ripped my dvd's to it yet. If you really want to rip DVD's without compression (seems silly to me and I'll explain why) then you are going to need a crapton (technical term) of drive space if you don't compress and rip the entire disc. Even if you only rip the main movie you are looking at about 5 GB per movie. That's 2250 GB just to backup 90% of the movies you already have. That is also before you start ripping Blu-Ray/HD-DVD discs which take up even more space. You can compress movies without necessarily losing quality and they take up a LOT less space (called lossless compression). Most of the compressed movies lose quality because they have other constraints (compressed to fit on a DVD and still play in a normal DVD Player, or compressed so it can be downloaded across the internet faster, or compressed with a worse codec because the player doesn't have the processing power to decompress it). If you have a fast HTPC, that isn't reading from a networked drive you can compress your music/videos so they take up less space but your processor has to work harder to play them. That isn't saying you need all that amazing of a processor though either. Pretty much any dual core processor that you can find right now would work just fine.

Hell, I didn't even BUILD an HTPC. I've have my main computer with all my files on mirrored drives, then I just took a spare computer I had and put it in the living room hooked up to the tv. Shared my drive on my main computer with media on it and bingo, instant HTPC. Eventually my main computer will go out there to be an actually nice HTPC or I'll build on in a nice enclosure and what not but the old Athlon 3400+, 768MB of ram and Nvidia 5200 video card work just fine for now. Not to mention once MS includes Divx/Xvid playing through the Xbox 360's Media Extender interface I'll be playing most stuff through that anyway.

Alright...I'm out. Good luck and have fun!
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Ok, thank you.

Have a few follow up questions:

1) Does Windows XP Media Center or Vista have a "TiVo: like feature, or would I have to buy/dl software for this? If so what software?

2)What software do you recommend for DVD lossless compression/ripping?


And a couple of replies:
I am NOT going to rip/back up any BlueRay movies. I only buy "great" movies on Blue Ray.
Movies like "Rush Hour 3", "Superbad" I buy on DVD.
Movies like "300", "Cars", etc. I buy on Blue Ray.

When I buy my new AV receiver, I am hoping to get one that will have at least 1 DVI input. This way I can plug the rest of my components into the AV receiver and just send 1 HDMI cable to the TV. If I cant get one with a DVI input, I will use a DVI-HDMI cable, and thankfully I already own one.

What program is used to view the cover art in a topography format?
I have seen a demo on TV that shows a picture of the cover of the DVD, then when you run the mouse over it, it displays the actors, storyline, genre, etc. Then if you double click on it, it immediately plays....
 

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XP Media Center has a TV watching and recording feature but I've never used it so I couldn't tell you that. Look at some comparisons between XP MCE/Vista and MythTV. MythTV is a Linux based media center. I've read a lot of good things but haven't messed around with it myself mainly because XP MCE has done everything I need and was already installed.

As far as the Lossless DVD I was mistaken. Evidently the only way to "losslessly" copy a DVD is to rip it which takes up the full space. You can't compress without losing quality like you can with CD's. My mistake. That being said there are a lot of codecs out there that significantly reduce the files size and don't significantly reduce the quality. Divx/Xvid are really popular. RMVB is another one that seems to work well but isn't very popular. M4v (if I remember correctly) works really well. H.26x (ie H.264) is gaining popularity and works really well. This might help... http://people.csail.mit.edu/tbuehler/video/codecs/index.html

It is basically whatever works for you though. It seems silly to me to maintain full quality if you are only ripping "ok" movies and "great" movies will be played from Blu-Ray discs. If you still plan on ripping them without compression expect to pay about $1500 in hard drives just to do what you've mentioned. Granted you could start off with just 1 mirrored TB and wait to buy another til you ripped enough movies to fill it. Also, if you are going to end up with that many drives in a computer you might want to think about running a file server instead of having them all installed in your HTPC...
 

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Discussion Starter #5
You have a point, and I appreciate your feedback.
I will consider compressing some of the lesser titles but the movies I like the most I would like to keep at full quality (i.e. Snatch, Lock stock, Italian Job, etc.)

My wifes box set of "Look who's talking now" can be compressed for SURE!!!
 
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