how do you use htpc

Discussion in 'Home Theater PCs' started by Shephard, Nov 7, 2012.

  1. Shephard

    Shephard Senior member

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    can someone explain what exactly is a home theater pc and how you use it.

    is it like a desktop and you run long cables to your tv? then you play music from the computer and it comes out the TV? Same with a video? So instead of burning DVD movies you can just watch with a straight HDMI cable?

    What benefit is a HTPC over a laptop with HDMI and a external hard drive with lots of movies?

    thanks
     
  2. SMOGZINN

    SMOGZINN Diamond Member

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    It is a Home Theater Personal Computer. It is really any computer that you hook up to a TV for the purpose of streaming, recording, and playing back of Audio and Video.
    What we talk about in here is mostly how to maximize a PC for this purpose. Just as you can maximize a PC for video games or Photoshop but choosing the specific harware and software you use, and then overclocking. A HTPC is often built to be cheap but able to stream multiple HD videos and to bitstream audio. It often has a tuner card for reviving cable or OTA broadcasts and recording and playing them back them like a DVR. People also use it as a media server to store and server up movies.

    You can just use a desktop with long cables. But many of us have a dedicated computer in a case that looks like a stereo component that is right at the TV. You can, and many do, use a laptop for a HTPC, but there are benefits to a desktop.
     
    #2 SMOGZINN, Nov 7, 2012
    Last edited: Nov 7, 2012
  3. Cerpin Taxt

    Cerpin Taxt Lifer

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    The general benefit of an HTPC is the broader range of functionality it brings to your television / home theater / music when compared to a simple cable box or provided DVR. One can view movies / TV shows and archive them to disk for re-viewing later on, without the hassle of optical disks (loading, unloading, storage space). The same with music files. Some DVR applications support commercial flagging so one doesn't even need to fast-forward past them.

    Further, one is able to accomplish PC functions at the TV like browsing the net, playing games, video chat, etc. I've also integrated several networked security cameras so that I can view them at my televisions.

    The networking functionality allows me to store all my media in a central location and stream them to any of several viewing locations in my house.

    In all, it is a more feature-rich entertainment experience.

    Surely, much if not all of the above could be accomplished with a suitably performing laptop, but that simply isn't the route I've taken. For one, if a person hopes to program a recording for a live TV show, the PC will need to be left on and ready to record the program when it airs. What's the point in using a portable computer if you're just going to leave it in one place to record your live TV shows as they come on? It is possible to use a "backend" server to handle recordings and use a laptop as the "frontend" to view the content, but again, that simply isn't the route I took.
     
  4. Shephard

    Shephard Senior member

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    well I don't have cable haven't had it in like 7 years so htpc is no use for me but I want to learn.

    how do you record TV shows to your computer?

    how much are these home theatre computers. from what you describe sounds like you could use a celeron cpu, micro motherboard, and a really cheap graphics card.
     
  5. LoveMachine

    LoveMachine Senior member

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    I cut the cable 2+ years ago and don't miss it at all, and save a gob of money each month even after paying for Netflix and some iTunes shows. I use a good ol' antenna on the side of my house to pick up the major networks, and record them on my HTPC using Windows Media Center and a USB adapter that the antenna feeds into. WMC provides a guide screen just like the cable companies, and you can program recordings easily. My HTPC is just my regular ol' desktop in my den, with a 30ft HDMI cable to a receiver. Kills 2 birds with one stone. I built it with good performance, quiet operation, and low power draw all as optimized as possible. However, an $80 Pentium CPU with the HD level iGPU, 4 GB of RAM and a 100 watt wall wart power supply (picoPSU) is very much adequate for most HTPC users, with capability for 1080p 7.1 movie playback, great music playback and lovely streaming video via netflix/amazon/hulu/whatever. Many networks like Comedy Central offer lots of shows on their website.
     
  6. Childs

    Childs Lifer

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    I use a Celeron G530 with the integrated graphics, and it works just fine. You dont really even need a fancy case or anything. Just a PC and some software, like Windows Media Center, XBMC, SageTV, etc, and a TV tuner if you want to record shows. A big hard drive if you plan on recording. A remote is convenient, but you can also just use a mouse if you dont mind walking over to the PC.

    So really, think of it as the TV is simply a monitor for a PC, which happens to be in a living room. Thats pretty much what makes it a HTPC. Otherwise, its a regular PC.
     
  7. Raduque

    Raduque Lifer

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    For me, a purpose-built HTPC is a PC that's not being used for anything except viewing/recording Live TV, networked video/audio streams(including Netflix) and local media (CDs, DVDs, BRDs) using a 10-ft UI and a remote control. Anything beyond that and it's just a regular PC connected to a TV.

    The point is to streamline media consumption. A keyboard, mouse and the Windows Desktop is counter-productive to that point.
     
  8. dirksquarejaw

    dirksquarejaw Member

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    I have two set up. One in the living room and one in the master bedroom.
    They are all networked together so they have access to all of my TV shows or movies.
    Once you have one you'll never look back.
     
  9. Shephard

    Shephard Senior member

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    well not so useful for someone like me who doesn't have cable.

    But I can see the use for you guys so very cool.
     
  10. spencers

    spencers Senior member

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    1) The HTPC is a permanent computer that you don't have to plug into HDMI every time you want to use it.

    2) A 10ft interface like XBMC or Plex installed on the HTPC allows you to use a remote to easily control the interface while sitting on the couch. And it's much easier and less cumbersome than using a mouse/keyboard.

    3) If the movies are digitally and centrally stored elsewhere, like on network storage (usually for redundancy), you can set up as many HTPCs as you have televisions and all can access those centrally stored movies. ALSO, because that external hard drive could die and poof, everything is gone.

    4) Most of the 10ft interface applications out there have a plugin system that allows you to play Netflix/Hulu/etc, if you don't have cable television.
     
    #10 spencers, Nov 12, 2012
    Last edited: Nov 12, 2012
  11. Childs

    Childs Lifer

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    If you dont have cable but want a way to watch online streaming or for movies you have on another computer, you can get something like the Roku, AppleTV, WD Live, etc. I dont have cable either, but I still use an HTPC for an interface to entertainment that I have at my disposal.
     
  12. poofyhairguy

    poofyhairguy Lifer

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    One thing not mentioned is that one of my HTPCs has tons of emulators and old games loaded on its SSD that I use a 10-foot interface and a 360 or Wii controller with. Wii games in 1080p are much better.
     
  13. mooncancook

    mooncancook Platinum Member

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    Wife uses to watch lots of streaming since we dont have cable, I use it for 90+% of my gaming, and all my consoles are sitting there collecting dusts. I use wireless x360 controller, kb+m, driving wheel, sticks depend on the games.
     
  14. Aikouka

    Aikouka Lifer

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    You could argue that a HTPC is really just a PC that's dedicated to being used with an entertainment center/area (wanted to avoid using "home theater" since it doesn't require a fancy setup). However, you can really use just about anything as a HTPC as long as it suits your needs. I tend to build small and quiet machines for HTPC purposes as they may go into a bedroom or need to not be noisier than the content being played on them.

    Steam's new 10-foot UI is in beta as well, which makes it even more enticing!
     
  15. nusyo

    nusyo Member

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    As said, HTPC must be a dedicated (some times optimized) PC. All the connections (video/audio) are permanent.
    In my opinion, a HTPC done right is a pc that blends in with the rest of Audio/Video equipment.
     
  16. Plugers

    Plugers Senior member

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    Silicon Dust makes a good over the air network tuner.

    If you like to figure stuff out, FTA satellite is good to. A 4' dish can even pull in some c-band stuff, not much though.

    There are PCI(e) ku and c-band cards.