The New Home Theater PC - Part 2

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admin

Audioholics Robot
Staff member
In our last article The New Home Theater PC – Part 1, we explored the past failures of HTPC to attract consumers en masse, and also discussed the various deficiencies that lead to the decline of the HTPC as a viable consumer product in the CE marketplace. More importantly, however, we touched upon what consumers want and what the NEW Home Theater PC looks like in this day and age of downloadable content. In this final installment, we'll walk through several scenarios and configurations and talk about using the laptop as the New Home Theater PC to enable streaming content and fulfill the promises of the original HTPC – but without the hassle or configuration problems typically associated with the genre.


Discuss "The New Home Theater PC - Part 2" here. Read the article.
 
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audioholic212

Audioholic
I already have MCE with extender and my secondrun.tv is finicky at best. Getting a laptop and hooking it up to the tv is still not ideal YET in your scenario. MCE with HULU doesn't work for me as it is right now.
 
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Phillyfan1138

Audiophyte
How could this article fail to mention linux?

I am running linux on a dedicated htpc and it plays smoother and more consistently than any windows solution I have tried. While I do not use linux for my main computer due to incompatibility issues with some of my software, linux for htpc solutions is mature and up to date, and far more stable. Further, linux is far more customizable and less of a resource hog. For those less technically inclined, some front end software (mythtv and xbmc) offer cds with complete linux functionality that even people with no knowledge of linux can easily use.

As for macs...I do not know why anyone would use that for an htpc. Poor video quality, lack of software, and less support from forum users make is a horrible choice. That said, it is good for 2 channel music since it is easily capable of bit perfect playback out of the box last I heard.
 
Clint DeBoer

Clint DeBoer

Banned
How could this article fail to mention linux?
If you look at the gist of the article, Linux isn't included because the mainstream computer user doesn't use it. You can argue this point, but as a factor of percentages you'll find that it makes no sense to discuss Linux in an article designed to show the lay person how to use their laptop to stream media to their television.

As for the Mac, the video quality is superb (not sure the last time you ran a Mac, but mine even runs Windows faster than my dedicated Windows box). Their only negative is that they don't have chipsets that provide audio via their mini DisplayPort. So you're stuck with a separate audio cable. I suspect, but don't know for certain, that this will be remedied in the pending MacBook update.
 
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Xargos

Junior Audioholic
If you look at the gist of the article, Linux isn't included because the mainstream computer user doesn't use it. You can argue this point, but as a factor of percentages you'll find that it makes no sense to discuss Linux in an article designed to show the lay person how to use their laptop to stream media to their television.
The thing is that media center type Linux distributions really are easy enough for the lay person these days. Boot a CD, select install, and follow some simple instructions. Mythbuntu is a prime example of this kind of ease of use.
 
jinjuku

jinjuku

Moderator
The thing is that media center type Linux distributions really are easy enough for the lay person these days. Boot a CD, select install, and follow some simple instructions. Mythbuntu is a prime example of this kind of ease of use.
So I can have any hardware config I want and Mythbuntu will just 'work'? Does it stream Netflix? Cable Card support?
 
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Xargos

Junior Audioholic
So I can have any hardware config I want and Mythbuntu will just 'work'? Does it stream Netflix? Cable Card support?
I haven't seen any issues with different hardware configurations. For the most part it doesn't make much difference. In my case I simply popped in the disc, booted, and installed. All I have is an Intel Pentium E5200 on a G41 based motherboard with HDMI output.

Netflix support isn't there yet, but not everyone uses it and that alone does not make an HTPC. It isn't in the standard media center style environment on OS X, either.

As far as Cable Card support, last I knew there was no availability on any computer other than store bought ones yet. Once it is, which sounds like it will be Q1 2010, things may change. It depends mainly on whether or not the manufacturers play fair.

Support for ATSC and ClearQAM are there and seem to work just as well as they do in Windows.
 
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fredk

Audioholic General
This isn't an HTPC, its a streaming appliance. If its going to be a single purpose appliance, you can strip most of the OS out and leave in the few things needed to decode and stream.

To me, that also puts it in a different price category, more like $300, to be of value.
 
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Phillyfan1138

Audiophyte
To me, that also puts it in a different price category, more like $300, to be of value.
I bought my htpc for 30 bucks used of ebay, came with new ram, hdd. It works perfectly. added a 750 gb drive for 60 bucks, a graphics card for 30, and linux. Plays everything from dvds to blu ray rips. Admittedly I do my ripping on my main computer and send the movies to my htpc over the network, but still, the price was really low and the functionality awesome.

As for the Mac, the video quality is superb (not sure the last time you ran a Mac, but mine even runs Windows faster than my dedicated Windows box).
I have run even recent macs and I dont like them for htpc....they seem to be slower than other pcs and last I checked lack advanced tools such as forcing frame rates, which is a must for pcs imo. I could be wrong on the last point, and the "slower" is subjective, but that is my view on the matter.
 
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perato

Audioholic Intern
There are commercial products available, such as those from Neuros Technology, that run Linux for much less than $579.

With a little work you can assemble your HTPC, include capture devices, and install MythTv and keep the cost below $579. MythTV Cast podcast does a pretty good job of describing this process.

As noted before, the Audioholics article's HTPC is little more than a streaming device. There are many more features available in MythTV.
 
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filmbug

Audiophyte
What about upscaling of DVD?

Hi Clint,
Thanks for shedding some light on the HTPC.

I have always wanted to backup my DVDs on a media server. Short of spending loads of money getting the Kaliedascape, this sounds like a workable alternative.
I do have some queries, however. I watch my movies on a 110 inch screen (either blu ray or up scaled DVD) using the Denon 3930. Therefore i am particularly concerned with the output resolution.

Do you know of a graphics card that can upscale a normal DVD? Or do I require some form of hardware/software processing to do this?

I would appreciate it if you could help enlighten me about this.

Thank you very much.
 

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