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Why HTPC?

slayer202

Lifer
Nov 27, 2005
13,627
91
91
I've debated for a while whether or not to build an HTPC, never sure if it would be worth it or not.

I think a good starter thread for the new forum would be why you wanted an HTPC, what you use it for specifically, why you decided to build something instead of buying something else.

Go!
 

Ryun

Member
Nov 28, 2008
42
0
66
I turned the parts from my old rig into a formidable HTPC. It wasn't anything super high-end, so I didn't think I'd get much money for them.

Fundamentally, my reasoning was this: why not use it as an HTPC? I couldn't come up with anything worth while.
 

Lonyo

Lifer
Aug 10, 2002
21,937
2
81
I built mine from scratch partly because I wanted a toy to play with, but also because in the UK there is a lot of internet access to TV shows.
I can get the main channels for the most part streamed (Flash) as well as catchup, plus sports channels streamed (Flash) as well, all legally.

Then there' the fact I watch quite a lot of flash streams of games, and the ability to just use any internet service I want, and install any required programs (some streams require a specific video player) just means it's simpler to use a computer rather than any kind of media playing dumb box (e.g. ARM based).

Add in the fact I wanted to store my media (at the time, building a NAS now), it made sense to make a PC. Plus it meant I could watch stuff and leave my main computer off (which uses 4x the power) rather than using that to stream to my TV.

Plus I usually end up browsing the web now and then on my TV, plus I use it as a torrent box for various downloads, and am happy with leaving it on overnight due to low noise and low power. While it's an HTPC, I get it to do lots more as well as that.
 

cytoSiN

Platinum Member
Jul 11, 2002
2,262
7
81
I love to tinker, and I spend a lot of time building gaming rigs for others, so I wanted to mess around with a different form factor. I was also using a laptop to play games and watch videos and on the big screen via HDMI, but it was becoming a pain in the butt to plug/play the laptop every time I wanted to do that, so I ordered an HTPC case, threw in some spare parts, and never looked back. It's evolved over time into a pretty decent rig, but I kept the HTPC format because it's useful to have a media server in the family room.
 

piasabird

Lifer
Feb 6, 2002
17,183
59
91
There are differnet kinds of HTPC's (Home Theater PC). I built a second computer just so I can use one to watch videos on the Internet from sites like www.hulu.com and others. My wife, who is Korean and I like to watch Historical Korean Dramas and other newer Korean Dramas with English Sub-titles. I think I have watched over 20 different Korean series which were all broadcast as one hour weekly programs on Korean TV.

Examples:

Chuno (Slave Traders)
The Great Queen Seon Deok (Silla Kingdom)
Jumong (Early history Bronze age - Awakening of steel weapons) Puyo Kingdom
Kingdom of the Wind (Kegoryo)(Comes after Jumong 1 or 2 or so generations)
Return of Iljimae (Korean Robinhood) There is another version
The Skynkywon Scandal (Spell - Woman Disguised as Man)(Schollars College)
The Painter of the Wind (Artist - Woman Disguised as Man)(Painters recorded Everything)
Tree with Deep Roots (King Sejong Develops Korean Phonetic Alphabet) (Fast Moving)
The Duo (Kind of like Corsican Brothers Rich vs Poor Switched at Birth)
Tamra the Island (1600's Clam Divers of Cheju Island)
Dr Jin (Time Warp Brain Surgeon goes back 150 years)
God of War (Warrior Monk)(Mongol Invasion)(Combat Polo Tournament?)
Dong-Yi (Low society Corpse Handlers Dauther becomes Kings Wife/consort)
Yi-San (Son of king locked in Rice Chest)(His son becomes king)
JeJoongWan (Fiirst Western Hospital) (Butcher Becomes Head Doctor)
Jewel in the Palace (Young Girl becomes a Cook for the king and later a Physician)

Some of the Historical Programs feature Lead charcters that are women. Some people criticize this. Korean Culture is a very Male dominated culture. However, they have made many historical figures in their films that seem to glorify women. However, you should know that koreans were good at keeping historical records. They try in the historical films to be as historically correct as possible.

The reason is just because I think American TV is horrible. It costs too much, you cant buy just the channels you want and every channel you do want is in a different package. We cut the cable because of costs. I think the worst thing anyone can do is to get a cable TV PACKAGE with a Landline IP phone. Not only were the costs stupid-ville, but the always on standard local phone is super-expensive and the dumb phone company just keeps piling on charges and fees for useless junk. Then to install the IP Phone, they messed up all my phone wiring.

Aaaaaaahhhhhhh!

So I have a DSL line just for the Internet with no Phone other than Cell Phones. Cell phones are a racket all their own. Maybe I should just go with a pay as you go cell phone.

My suggestion if you need a phone at the house is to get a business phone so people can call you. This type of phone is cheap because you pay by the minute. But if you have a cell phone and use it to make calls the phone is pretty cheap.
 
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pandemonium

Golden Member
Mar 17, 2011
1,750
50
91
I'm definitely with the crowd that says why not HTPC.

I haven't paid for TV services for about 7 years. You can find everything online, and probably without commercials. I hate, hate, hate commercials!


Pros:
  • Nearly full control over the content you're playing (in regards to the quality of the media)
  • With an HTPC you can emulate every console of past, and even some of present (though most of the latest generation console emulators aren't very stable or optimized)
  • Able to enjoy most games with at least medium settings
  • Plethora of input devices and types to choose from, wireless or not
  • Sky's the limit on control over pause, play, overlay, aspect ratio, post-processing effects, etc...
  • Cheaper over the course of a few years than simply paying for a decoder box and service from a provider
  • Easily manageable with media center or the like
  • Can double as a bitcoin miner or folding machine (if you're into that)
  • Easily turn your entertainment center into a quick DJ rig with a light show display on your TV playing exactly the music you want (again, if you're into that - but who isn't now-a-days? :p)
Cons:
  • More initial cost to setup than a service provider's decoder box
  • Requires you to learn some things and have a little patience (ohnoes!)
  • Some setups can be glitchy and most will have some tearing issues (I say most because I've yet to use an HTPC that didn't suffer from this in at least one instance while playing certain media on just about every player, regardless of codecs, settings, and hardware capabilities)
From where I'm sitting, the pros outweigh the cons by at least 3 fold. :p
 
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ecosmartpc

Member
Aug 15, 2012
67
0
0
www.ecosmartpc.com
For me it started simply: I had a bunch of MP3s on my desktop that I wanted to be able to play on my living room receiver. I started with a TVersity server on the desktop and Winamp on the laptop.

The next thing was the kids always getting the DVDs full of fingerprints. That lead to ripping DVDs. I quickly got tried of hooking and unhooking the laptop from the receiver/TV so that became a dedicated HTPC (AMD 5050e/780G in an Antec NSK1380).

With all this work, I got worried about not having backups and I was running out of room on the desktop so I found an old Dell GX280 and turned it into a Windows Home Server. Then I found out about HD audio bitstreaming so I got a ATI HD5670 video card, Bluray ROM and started enjoying bluray rips.

Then I wanted HTPC in the bedroom when we got a flat panel up there so I build another one. I couldn't find the right case so I spent a year searching. I finally got frustrated and ordered a case of nice little aluminum mini-ITX cases from China and sold the rest of the box.

Then people asked, "can you get more?" and "can you get these other ones" and then I was importing 5 different kinds of HTPC/mini-ITX cases from China, had my own website and have been reselling mini-ITX cases and barebones for HTPC, audio PCs, office PCs, etc. ever since (http://www.ecosmartpc.com)

Meanwhile, I've built and rebuilt my living room HTPC a few times going from AMD to Intel, then Intel with an AMD card, replacing HDDs with SSDs, replacing ATX PSUs with picoPSUs (which led to a whole 'nother line of business -- making and selling picoPSU mounting plates so they can be used in ATX/SFX cases). I also got tired of having one box for cable TV and another for everything else so I got an HDHomeRun Prime and got all that setup, which included turning my phone wiring into network jacks (thankfully the phone lines were Cat5e).

I started a blog too (not very good at keeping up with it) and find myself staying up way too late learning about what's new and sharing what I've learned with others. I spent way more time talking about HTPCs than actually using them.

That's why :).
 
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kalrith

Diamond Member
Aug 22, 2005
6,630
7
81
My reason was to save money.

I paid about $500 for an HTPC and TV antenna about 3 years ago. My son had just been born, and he was costing us a fortune every month, so we had to cut costs. We were paying $80/month for satellite and $60/month for cell phones. We canceled both.

We use the HTPC for online videos (i.e. ESPN3), OTA, web surfing, VOIP, and file server. By getting Magic Jack and not using cell phones at home, we were able to switch to prepaid cell phones that cost an average of $15/month. Magic Jack costs $15/year. So, we have saved approximately $4000 in the past 3 years including a reduction for the initial HTPC cost.

Edit: But now, I can't imagine going back to using a company's DVR. If I ever did get cable or satellite, I'd have to have some way to route it through my HTPC. I like the flexibility and control that I have over the HTPC. I also can't ever see paying for TV again (except maybe Netflix or Prime). I find that I waste a lot less time watching garbage without so many channels. I record the few shows that I really want to watch. The few additional shows or sporting events that are on cable aren't even close to being worth the extra expense for me.
 
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lakedude

Platinum Member
Mar 14, 2009
2,063
57
91
Using i3 laptop with wireless keyboard to stream Netflix and to surf in the living room.

Much cheaper than Dish/Cable/U-verse in the long run.

Amplified outdoor antenna will pull down local channels no problem.
 

Sonikku

Lifer
Jun 23, 2005
15,129
2,876
126
I've love to use my PC as a media player with power dvd. When I had it hooked up to my projector and outputted the desktop to my projectors native res I noticed that it did a noticeably better job in upscaling DVD's compared to when they were upscaled by my stand alone dvd player's faroudja chip. Sadly, I quickly found only like half the DVDs I tried to play on it actually work. The other half, my disc drive does not even acknowledge them being in the machine.
 

boomhower

Diamond Member
Sep 13, 2007
7,220
18
81
I built mine becuase I was tired of paying $40 a month for two DVRs. It worked out great and avid me money. If your not going to use it with a cable card there are cheaper alternatives. A $100 media box can stream from many sources online and from your NAS or networked computer. Even BR players have access to Hulu+, Netflix and YouTube these days. Personally, I wouldn't do one without a tuner.
 

Auxon

Member
Jul 24, 2002
25
1
66
Pro: Rip all your CDs/DVDs to disk and have it as media server. Makes it easy to play movies whenever you want, wherever you want all over your house or to copy onto portable devices.
 

BurnItDwn

Lifer
Oct 10, 1999
25,091
856
126
My First HTPC was made from leftover parts from a prior CPU/mobo upgrade.
I bought a new case for it (Antec Overture 2 I believe), and I bought a hauppage PVR150 in order to use it as a DVR. I used it to play media (rips of all my dvds and cds), as well as for regular TV recording and watching. I ran Myth on it, and used it for several years.

Eventually I went with ATT Uverse and have their DVR which can record 4 shows at once... and I haven't needed a HTPC for DVR uses.

But after I finished finishing my home theater and got my projector and screen set up, I planned to upgrade my PC and then move my old one to the theater room after a few minor tweaks to quiet it down a bit.

Last year I put together a new PC, and my old Phenom 2 box is now my HTPC.
I use it quite a bit actually
I ocassionally game on it. (Pretty much any games that don't support eyefinity, I play downstairs on the 106 inch.)
I use it for online media (though my blu-ray player does have a netflix app, I prefer the PC.)
 
Sep 12, 2004
16,852
58
86
For one, I like an HTPC because it is an elegant, unified solution that reduces device clutter. Instead of having a separate DVR, BD player, gaming console, and streaming device an HTPC can be all of those in a single box and it is arguably better at those tasks than any of those other individual devices. Also, as somewhat of a control freak, the ability to tweak and have far more granular control over the inner workings is satisfying as well. Additionally, using an HTPC as a DVR saves me money in the long run and the ability to control my own cable destiny. If I want to add another TV I don't need to sign a 2 year contract for new equipment, nor do I need a visit from the cable guy. I simply get another extender and it is done.
 

zon2020

Member
Aug 17, 2012
52
0
0
I built mine for two reasons. First, to to provide a source device for streaming content on my HDTV (especially sports) without the constraints of any of the set top boxes like Apple tv or Roku. Second, to provide a means of recording for archival storage HD programming using a Hauppauge Collosus (think of it as a high tech HD VHS recorder).

I'd say the two most common purposes are as a replacement for cable company DVRs and as movie storage servers and playback devices, but I still like and use my Directv whole home DVRs for tv watching and short term recording, and I don't rip my disks.

BTW, I also turned an old PentiumD machine into an htpc for a second home theater setup that I use primarily for streaming content.
 
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notposting

Diamond Member
Jul 22, 2005
3,481
8
81
Originally for the DVR aspect but since then things have progressed. Where it stands now, several years in is:

HTPC in living room, connected to 32" TV over HDMI (no sound system, in a townhome, quiet complex).

We get Limited Basic cable through Comcast (ie ABC, NBC, CBS, PBS, ION, CW, WGN, couple locals), all through clear-QAM and in HD :D That is piped through the HDHomerun in the basement...which can also do OTA if needed. That gives me 2 tuners right there.

I have somewhere around 700+ DVD's ripped to our Windows Home Server, several thousand songs, hundreds of CD rips, they all play on the HTPC, or get transcoded on the fly to play on our Linksys Media Center Extender in the bedroom.

I have Netflix and Hulu access from within Windows 7 Media Center, along with using My Movies for the data and organization of the movie collection...customized the menu strips, added logos for the various tv channels, tweaked coded support (Shark007) so everything plays within 7MC, have Dropbox syncing an album of our son, so the screensaver or music playing screen is shuffling through several hundred adorable photos :D

I have an old MS XP Media Center Remote and the accompanying keyboard, I rarely need to haul the keyboard out, maybe once a month *shrug*. Otherwise it boots into 7MC with auto login if it needs to (after Windows Update usually). I like the remote because has TV power on as well, which is incredibly handy (only one remote). I even acquired a pair of backups off ebay over the last year :).

It's in an old NZXT Duet case, stealthed drive bays, doesn't really look like a PC there at all...have had any number of people come in, use it, never know there is a) a pc right there, and b) it's windows. But they know there is something cool going on! My wife, her sister, even their mom (!!) can figure it out so it's pretty nice in that respect.

The best part is that the HTPC is the least important part of my setup--had the motherboard go bad a couple of years ago. Slipped our laptop on top for the weekend (of course the HTPC went out when we had company over), plugged the remote sensor into it, and between the network tuner and networked dvd/music storage, no one was the wiser!
 

zon2020

Member
Aug 17, 2012
52
0
0
I built mine becuase I was tired of paying $40 a month for two DVRs. It worked out great and avid me money. If your not going to use it with a cable card there are cheaper alternatives. A $100 media box can stream from many sources online and from your NAS or networked computer. Even BR players have access to Hulu+, Netflix and YouTube these days. Personally, I wouldn't do one without a tuner.
That's fine I suppose if you're willing to be limited to whatever apps your media box or BD player includes, which is a small part of what's available. Personally I'm not. If all you want to do is stream Netflix, then you don't need an htpc. But htpcs do LOTS of great things that don't involve a tuner.

I have two htpcs, no tuners. And I have several media boxes which are all somewhere in the basement collecting dust.
 

Slammy1

Platinum Member
Apr 8, 2003
2,112
0
0
All components are integrated, all calibrations are applicable. Some tasks work best when combined on the same instrument (say a DVR and DVD Burner). Screen captures. Upconversion of 480i DVDs. Sure, a lot of this could be done with any PC but integration of BD, for example, requires a specific arrangement (near the television) and certain characteristics are emphasized.

EDIT: THe ability to upgrade components and software/firmware easier.
 

Zaap

Diamond Member
Jun 12, 2008
7,150
413
126
For me it was a no-brainer. When we moved into this house, I noticed there was a hall closet right behind where the TV was obviously going to go in the den, and also close enough to the master bedroom so I could stash PCs in it and run the cables right through the walls to both locations. The setup just screamed "HTPC!", so of course first thing I did was claim that closet. (RF controllers of course).

We've had two HTPCs ever since. Always when I upgrade other computers, the HTPCs get the hand me down parts as upgrades. So the CPU/mobo/vid card from my old sig system upgraded the den HTPC, and that one upgraded the bedroom HTPC, and that cycle continues on.

Everyone else has already pointed out the advantages. A PC hooked up to a TV to me is just a no-brainer. No other single box is as versatile. All the content I could ever watch is to be found online somewhere- we used to use ours with DirectTV (BeyondTV as a DVR) but we've since dumped all service and haven't missed it at all. Currently we just have an HDHomerun with antenna on the roof for ATSC broadcast and everything else online.

If you're a person that likes to tinker, it's a must-have. Buying whatever standalone box, it's just likely to be that's what you get, and that's all it'll ever be. No matter how cool the interface, eventually it'll get old to you. A PC is a blank slate. New interfaces are a mere download away. Bored with Windows Media Center? Then download Boxee or XBMC or whatever. When friends come over, fire up a video playlist instead of just music. (Because of course you also have it feeding a kickass sound system). Hook it up to your networked storage and have a scrollable library of a few thousand movies. Play some games. Whatever floats your boat.

Because mine are in a closet of their own out of sight/earshot, they're full on no-compromise PCs that rip through everything. About the only improvement I can see for people that have their HTPCs out in sight is them getting much smaller, running cooler, and yet even more powerful.
 

WhoBeDaPlaya

Diamond Member
Sep 15, 2000
7,367
389
126
jwtioh.bluesonic.net
No brainer for me. I already built a box to house 15x 2TB drives, so why not up the CPU power and put it close to a TV to function as a file/media server, HTPC and transcoding/encoding box?
 
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