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Please rate this thread and leave feedback here or via PM with any improvements, feature requests, corrections, etc. I want to make this a valuable starting point for those approaching HTPCs for the first time, or the first time in a long time. Thanks, -EvilGenius

FAQ

Q: What is an HTPC?
A: An acronym for "Home Theatre Personal Computer", the term HTPC is applied very broadly these days. Most often it's a computer hooked up to a television or projector that has a sole or primary function of playing some form of media files.

Q: What's the best way to get my HTPC question answered on these forums?
A: 1) Think of the two or three key words that describe your problem/question/idea, search for them in the forum, and spend 5 whole minutes looking at (and reading) the results.
2) Take those same few key words, put them in Google, and look at the first 2 pages of results--click on at least 1 link. Should take you 30-60 seconds.
3) Provide not just the problem/question/idea, but also the context. When relevant, describe all involved hardware (including, if possible, exact model number as well as version of drivers and firmware) and software (exact version number). If you're asking for more general advice, be sure to make clear not just what you're asking, but why you're asking.

Q: What are the advantages of an HTPC over other solutions?
A: While commercial products are available which each perform some of the functions an HTPC is capable of, a properly outfitted HTPC can combine all of the following: the PVR (personal video recording) functionality of Tivo, including scheduled recording and the ability to pause & rewind "live" TV; the playback of DVDs, HD-DVDs, and Blu-Ray discs, even from copies archived to your hard drive; an un-rivaled selection of games that will always expand; playing streaming media from sites like Pandora, YouTube, and Hulu on your own home theatre set-up; easily store & playback lossless multi-channel rips of your entire personal audio collection, regardless of format; and finally, allow you to quickly check your e-mail or favorite forums from the comfort of your couch.

Q: What are the DISadvantages of an HTPC over other solutions?
A: Compared to products which only perform one or maybe two of the many functions of an HTPC, the HTPC is likely to be more costly. Also, most will likely find it challenging to configure, and there's less certainty that it will "just work". Finally, there are some aspects where functionality of the HTPC will be limited compared to a stand-alone commercial competitor.

Q: What are the best parts to buy?
A: This is an example of a question that's impossible to answer without more information. How do you intend to use the HTPC? What types of media will you be playing? Which inputs and outputs are most important to you? A general list of recommendations, divided by budget, is now available in the post below. If you feel the systems described below will not fulfill your particular needs, I recommend you check out this guide.

Q: How does the HTPC stack up as a competitor to Tivo?
A: The biggest variable in answering this question is your input source. Various protection schemes make it challenging or impossible to view the bulk of HD channels provided by cable or satellite companies. While some of these protection schemes can be circumvented, you may then find it requires special hardware and software for the seemingly simple task of changing the channel. This, of course, can reduce the reliability of scheduled recordings.

On the other hand, an HTPC can have advantages to Tivo as well. Stored recordings are easier to manage, storage space can be added locally or remotely, your recordings can be accessed locally or remotely on a variety of devices, and you can even convert them into a variety of formats for playback on various portable devices such as iPods, PSPs, or DVD players.

Q: What channels will I be able to watch with my cable provider?
Check out http://www.silicondust.com/hdhomerun/channels! (Contributed by DuckieHo)

Q: Which OTA high def channels will I be able to pick up?
Check out http://www.antennaweb.org/! (Contributed by craigap)

Q: How does the HTPC stack up as a competitor to a stand alone Blu-Ray or HD-DVD player?
A: While the minimum cost for a HTPC is higher than either a Blu-Ray or HD-DVD player, only your HTPC is likely to be able to play both types of discs. Another big win comes in the ability of the HTPC to upconvert "standard definition" DVDs, and to play discs that have been archived to a local or networked hard disk.

Don't think that the only drawback of the HTPC is hardware cost, though. Software cost will also be substantial if you need support for multi-channel audio, and there may be some limitations on exactly what format of multi-channel audio can be passed and by what means it will be passed. Finally, there seems to be widespread difficulty with audio synching for playback from HD-DVDs at present time. While it's likely this can/will be resolved soon by a variety of software patches, at present time it seems necessary to perform a moderately lengthy transcode of any HD-DVD content if you need the audio and video in sync, while older "set-top" boxes can play any old HD-DVD disc that you feed them.

Q: How does a HTPC compare to a Wii, PS3 or X-Box 360?
A: While it may be more expensive than most of those, it also has (if you choose) a bigger selection of games than all 3 systems combined. However, depending on other concerns, such as noise and form-factor you may be prevented from playing the absolute latest titles. You may also have to deal with draconian DRM. Additionally, while you have more options for control systems, you may find some games only work well with a keyboard, others with a gamepad, and still others with a full size joystick.

Q: Is streaming media kind of a big deal?
A: Depending on your exact goals, you might find that support for streaming media is by itself a justification for building an HTPC. In addition to the "unique" content of YouTube, streaming media includes Hulu, ABC.com, NetFlix, Pandora, and dozens (hundreds?) of other specialized sites. With content from most major television networks (legally) available on-demand, with limited commercials and at your fingertips, you may never watch TV the same way again.

Q: Why are AMD CPUs frequently recommended for entry level HTPCs?
A: While both Intel and AMD make quality dual core chips, the integrated video processors on latest gen AMD motherboards are capable of handling 1080p video and full screen flash playback stutter free with even the most basic CPU. Add in the Hybrid CrossFire capability of 780G/785G/790GX chipsets and the balance tips still further in AMDs favor. Of course, if you don't plan to use integrated graphics other chipset and platform features will be more important in your case.

Q: What GPU do I need for HTPC use?
A: Generally if you ask that question you'll get the following recommendations:
ATI Radeon HD 4350 - entry level card, good for offloading with appropriate software, capable of 1080p playback (incl. PIP offloading to the GPU) and 7.1 audio over HDMI with integrated sound
ATI Radeon HD 3450 - roughly the same capability (except no Blu-ray PIP offloading to the GPU) of the 4350 but also able to run in Hybrid Crossfire with 780G/785G/790GX chipsets & game at about the level of an HD 4550 or slightly better
ATI Radeon HD 4550 - same as the HD 4350, but with more gaming capability & also fully capable of upscaling standard def DVDs (with appropriate software); also true of any higher Radeon HD card, with increasingly better gaming as you go: 4550 < 4650 < 4670 < 4830 < 4770 = 4850 < 5750 < 4870 = 5770 < 4890 < etc.
nVidia GeForce 9xxx - all capable of 1080p playback and with an S/PDIF internal cable to your motherboard, 7.1 audio over HDMI; good for SD upscaling in comercial software like ArcSoft TMT3 Platinum (w/ SimHD) or CyberLink 9
nVidia GeForce 2xx - same as the 9xxx cards but some are without the need for the S/PDIF internal cable in order to do 7.1 audio over HDMI
Anything older than Radeon HD3xxx/GeForce 9xxx - don't spend money for it, you can get something newer that will work as well or better; if you already have one & absolutely need to know, ask--but be sure to clarify how you intend to use it

Q: Is this system (insert specs) powerful enough for HTPC use?
A: Depends on several factors, but most variably is what you mean by HTPC use. Your intended use, and the software on which you intend to do that work, can make a big difference in the answer to that question. Most dual cores will be capable of everything up to & including full screen "high def" Hulu playback, especially if coupled with a modern GPU & appropriate software. Older single core chips will likely run into some amount of bottlenecking with HD content, but (esp. with overclocking) chips such as the AMD 939 single-cores & later Pentium 4s will do some subsection of HD playback.

Q: How can I get video signal from my HTPC to my TV?
A: This depends greatly on the output & input options available. I'll try to address some common options and provide links to solutions.
O = output (from computer), I = input (into television)
O: VGA -> I: Composite (Yellow RCA plug)
O: VGA -> I: S-Video
O: VGA -> I: Component (YPbPr - red, green & blue plugs)
O: VGA -> I: SCART (European, mostly)
O: DVI -> I: VGA
O: DVI -> I: HDMI
O: S-video -> I: Composite (Yellow RCA plug) (or 6' cable set, with audio cables/adapter)

Evil's HTPC Self-Examination Take once before buying!

It's important to recognize that your goals for you HTPC may change over time. While I heartily endorse taking this survey before you purchase any components for the first time, you may want to re-evaluate things before buying upgrades or building a new machine. Also, one thing these questions don't emphasize is budget. Issues of budget are highly specific to individuals and times, but should be kept in mind as you make your decisions.

5- This functionality will be my guiding principal in all decisions
4- This functionality is highly important and I would prefer not to sacrifice it
3- This functionality should be present given reasonable compatibility with my other goals
2- If this functionality is present it will probably be used
1- If this functionality is present it may be used
0- This functionality is insignificant

Video features:
*Playing DVD:
*Playing Blu-Ray:
*Playing HD-DVD:
*Playing archived video files at up to 1080p:
Audio features:
*High-quality output for external amplifier:
*Multi-channel positional output for 5.1/7.1 audio:
PVR (Tivo-esque) features:
*Scheduled recording & playback of HD signals:
*Time-shifting of "live" TV:
*Simultaneous recording & time-shifting:
*Viewing and recording a combined total of more than 2 HD channels simultaneously:
Storage features:
*Store compressed audio files:
*Store uncompressed audio files:
*Store compressed video:
*Store high-def video:
*Read from SD/MMD/Compact Flash etc:
"Computing" features:
*Browse web & send/read e-mail:
*Archive CDs/DVDs:
*Archive Blu-Ray discs:
*Archive HD-DVD discs:
*Burn DVD (+R, -R, DL):
Gaming features:
*Play "classic" video games:
*Play "modern" video games:
*Play "latest" video games:
Network features:
*Playing streaming internet video (Hulu, YouTube):
*Play streaming internet/local audio (Pandora):
*Play streaming local compressed video:
*Play streaming local high-def video:
*Serve streaming audio:
*Serve streaming video:
Aesthetic features:
*Small physical footprint:
*Attractive/professional appearance:
*Outward appearance indistinguishable from home audio/video components:
*Low noise levels:
*Low power consumption:
 

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COMPONENT RECOMMENDATIONS

A great debt is owed to "renethx" at AVS Forum for h(er|is) original guide, which contains a much wider variety of configurations. I have attempted to pare down the original to a few simple suggestions that take into account the focus of builders here at OCN. For this reason, features like overclocking potential & "best bang for the buck" are emphasized in most of these components.

Component "Philosophy"
Note that when choosing parts for an HTPC build special consideration is given to aspects which are often disregarded in designing gaming or productivity systems. To keep the HTPC quiet, and to reduce operating cost, it's usally a good idea to emphasize energy efficiency and low power consumption components. This includes selecting slower hard drives, 80 Plus certified power supplies, low TDP processors, and using as many other components as possible which will offer small trade-offs in performance for large savings in heat, noise, and energy costs.

Of course, one efficient way to minimize power consumption and costs is to combine your HTPC with the functionality of one or more other classes of computer. For instance, a home media server or gaming rig. Doing so can reduce the costs compared to building two seperate systems, and prove more energy efficient--depending on your usage patterns. However, you will need to take care in your component selections to make sure enough computing power is present to fulfill both roles.

Last Updated: 2010.12.01
Sample Build: Low Budget, Small Form Factor
$100 Gigabyte GA-880GMA-UD2H AM3 AMD 880G Micro ATX Motherboard
$60 AMD Athlon II X2 245 Regor 2.9GHz Socket AM3 65W Dual-Core Processor
$46 G.Skill F3-10666CL9D-4GBECO 4GB (2 x 2GB) DDR3 1333 Memory
$65 Western Digital WD10EARS 1TB 64MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s Hard Drive
$60 Moneual Lab Y601B Micro Case with 300W TFX Power Supply
Total: $331

While this is a "barebones" configuration, it will be sufficient for all of the primary functions of an HTPC. While I still can endorse most of the 785G based motherboards, the I've moved my recommendation to a new 880G based board. This board keeps retains the positive features of its forerunner, trading a PCI slot for a PCI-E x16 slot (at x4 speed) while adding both USB 3.0 and SATA 6.0 Gbps functionality. An entry level dual-core and 2x1GB DDR3 RAM kit are all that are needed for most HTPC tasks--with RAM prices back at more sane levels, it may be worth it to pick up a 2x2GB kit to give you more flexiblity, though. AMD, regrettably IMO, seems to have largely abandoned the Hybrid Crossfire option, but the onboard GPU should also be enough for most HTPC needs. If it's not, consider an entry level 5000-series discrete GPU to gain decent video performance and bitstreaming audio.

Sample Build: Mid Budget, Full ATX Form Factor
$99 Gigabyte GA-870A-UD3 AM3 AMD 870 SATA 6Gbps USB 3.0 ATX Motherboard
$100 AMD Athlon II X4 640 3.0GHz AM3 95W Quad-Core Processor
$50 G.Skill F3-12800CL9D-4GBRL 4GB (2 x 2GB) DDR3 1600 Memory
$65 Western Digital WD10EARS 1TB 64MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s Hard Drive
$150 Silverstone GD01B-R Black Steel/Aluminum ATX Computer Case
$65 OCZ ModXStream Pro OCZ500MXSP 500W 80 PLUS Certified Modular Power Supply
$120 Sapphire 100284L Radeon HD 5750 1GB GDDR5 Video Card
Total: $649

The blessing of choosing a build in this price range is that there are a wide variety of options to customize it to your needs. Users wanting more computational power might opt for the additional cache of a 95W Phenom II or go all out with a hexa-core burner. Depending on your video processing needs you could also downscale your video card to the HD 5670 levels. Those wanting to increase their gaming capabilities have the option to add a second HD 5750 (and/or upgrade to a higher end card or cards) in CrossFireX (for which a mobo upgrade is recommended), or choose from any number of full-size video cards, and may cut costs by selecting a less expensive case.

Sample Build: Mid Budget, Full ATX Form Factor (Non-Gaming)
$150 Asus P7H57D-V EVO LGA 1156 Intel H57 ATX Motherboard
$120 Intel Core i3-530 2.93GHz LGA 1156 73W Dual-Core Processor
$80 G.Skill ECO Series F3-12800CL8D-4GBECO 4GB (2 x 2GB) DDR3 1600 Memory
$65 Western Digital WD10EARS 1TB 64MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s Hard Drive
$150 Silverstone GD01B-R Black Steel/Aluminum ATX Computer Case
$60 OCZ ModXStream Pro OCZ500MXSP 500W 80 PLUS Certified Modular Power Supply
$0 Onboard graphics
Total: $625

Apart from being "future proof" with support for SATA 6.0 Gbps, USB 3.0 and both SLI & CrossFireX compatibility, there's also a strong upgrade path through Core i5 & i7 processors. However, you do sacrifice a powerful, DirectX 11 video card, and two processor cores to keep costs competitive, making this a system much less capable of playing modern games.

Sample Build: High Budget, Full ATX Form Factor
$175 MSI P55A Fuzion LGA 1156 Intel P55 ATX Intel Motherboard
$200 Intel Core i5-750 Lynnfield 2.66GHz LGA 1156 95W Quad-Core
$60 G.Skill F3-12800CL9D-4GBRL 4GB (2 x 2GB) DDR3 1600 Memory
$90 Western Digital WD20EARS 2TB 64MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s Hard Drive
$170 Silverstone Black LC20B-M ATX Media Center / HTPC Case
$130 Silverstone ST75F-P 750W 80 PLUS SILVER Certified Modular Power Supply
$190 Gigabyte GV-N460OC-1GI GeForce GTX 460 (Fermi) 1GB GDDR5 Video Card
Total: $1015

This motherboard and CPU combo will allow you a great deal of overclocking headroom, or cool and quiet operation at stock speeds. Also, the intelligent power management built in to this new tech will automatically increase your speed on single-threaded applications, without much increase in power consumption. To top it all off, you're no longer forced to choose your GPU camp outright, but can now fluctuate at will between Crossfire and SLI solutions. You can actually combine any TWO video cards with the latest technology.

Sample Build: Extraordinary Budget, Full ATX Form Factor
$330 Asus P6T6 WS Revolution with NF200 3xPCIe true x16 LGA 1366 Intel X58 ATX Intel Motherboard
$295 Intel Core i7 950 LGA 1366 130W Quad-Core Processor
$150 Corsair Dominator TR3X6G1600C8D 6GB (3 x 2GB) DDR3 1600 Memory
$180 Mushkin Enhanced Callisto Deluxe MKNSSDCL90GB-DX 2.5" 90GB SATA II MLC Solid State Disk
$90 Western Digital WD20EARS 2TB 64MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s Hard Drive
$660 Silverstone Black Aluminum CW03B-MT ATX Computer Case
$290CORSAIR Professional Series AX1200 1200W 80 PLUS GOLD Certified Modular Active PFC Power Supply
$470 EVGA 015-P3-1480-AR GeForce GTX 480 1.5GB GDDR5 Video Card
Total: $2465 (single vid card), $2935 (dual-GPU SLI)

If this computer can't do what you want it to do, I recommend revising your expectations, or contacting these guys. But, seriously, this PC steps well outside of the realm of the HTPC and becomes a gaming and computing powerhouse, especially if you take a multi-GPU approach and purchase more than one of the suggested, already ridiculously overpowered, gaming video cards.

Additional Components: All Builds
Tuners:
  • $110 SiliconDust HDHomeRun Ethernet Interface Network-based Dual Digital HDTV Tuner
  • $125 Hauppauge WinTV-HVR-2250 Media Center Kit 1213 PCI-Express x1 Dual TV Tuner
  • $85 AVerMedia AVerTV Combo G2 PCI-Express x1 Tuner Card (White Box)
  • $65 AVerMedia AVerTVHD Duet PCI-Express x1 Tuner Card (White Box)
If you wish to record and/or timeshift TV you'll need a tuner or tuner card. The products recommended above are intended for areas where ClearQAM or ATSC (digital OTA) broadcasts are being watched & recorded. While some products capable of using CableCard are currently available, there are products on the horizon which require less "hacking" to function, making the current choices impossible to recommend.

Optical Drives:
  • $100 LG WH10LS30 SATA 10X Blu-ray, 10X BD-R, 2X BD-RE & 16X DVD±RW Burner Optical Drive
  • $80 LG CH10LS20K SATA 10X Blu-ray & 16X DVD±RW Burner Optical Drive
  • $65 LITE-ON iHOS104-08 SATA 4X Blu-ray Reader Optical Drive
  • $20 Samsung SH-S223L SATA 22X DVD±RW with LightScribe Optical Drive
Since LG has discontinued its all-media drives capable of Blu-ray & HD-DVD playback, my recommendations have had to change significantly. At the very least an inexpensive DVD±RW drive is suggested. The next step up in price and features is a jump to a Blu-ray player with no burning functionality. For a slight increase you can restore DVD±RW burning, or for an ever decreasing chunk of change you can "future proof" your system with a BD-R burner. As BD-R media has fallen significantly in cost lately, and burners have trended more and more towards competitive pricing, they're no longer an option to discount off-handedly.

Sound Cards:
  • $125 Asus Xonar HDAV1.3 Slim 24-bit 192KHz PCI
  • $90 Asus Xonar D1 7.1 Channels 24-bit 192KHz PCI
  • $50 Asus Xonar DS 7.1 Channels 24-bit 192KHz PCI
  • $0 Onboard Motherboard Audio
A great place to keep costs down is by choosing to give your motherboard's onboard or integrated audio a chance before purchasing a sound card. Two great options which fit into almost all cases, and work with the bulk of motherboards, are products from the Xonar audio line by Asus. While the DS or D1 will be enough for most people, if you require bitstreaming (which means you know what bitstreaming is), the HDAV Slim is now available.

CONTROLLING YOUR HTPC

There are several options available to the HTPC enthusiast that span a range of prices, technical complexity, and ease of use. (Special thanks to DuckieHo and downlinx for their educational posts on this topic.)
  • Dedicated IR "Media Center Remote" (approx. $8 [eBay] - $50+) - A dedicated Media Center remote will allow you to directly control most media playback applications (WMC, Hulu desktop, Boxee, XBMC, etc.) and with advanced configuration and software ( http://www.eventghost.org/ ) can even be used for more advanced functions (instrcutions on VLC setup here, courtesy of downlinx) . Your PC will need an IR receiver, which is included in most remote "kits" and may also be included with your tuner card (if it includes a remote) or if you use a purpose-built HTPC case (such as the Antec Micro Fusion recommended above).
    • $25 Windows Media Center Remote with USB Receiver
    • $70 Antec VERIS Premier MultimediaStation internal IR receiver w/ VFD and remote
  • Programmable Multi-Function Remote (approx. $25 [used] - $250+) - Some remotes, such as the Logitech Harmony series, can combine control of an HTPC with the ability to control your other home theatre components, namely your TV, speakers/receiver, and cable box, etc. While programming the remote to function exactly as desired can be time consuming, this gives you a high degree of control from a single device. You will need an IR receiver (and/or a RF receiver/converter for the higher end models that reside out-of-sight) which is usually not included with such remotes.
    • $50 Logitech Harmony 300
    • $80 Logitech Haromny 600
    • $120 Logitech Harmony 700
    • $285 Logitech Harmony 900
  • Gamepads with software mapped commands ($15 - $55) - For those who want their HTPC experience to mimic that of an Xbox or PlayStation, you can! Pick your favorite gamepad and head over to http://www.xpadder.com/ for software & support.
    • $15 Philips 2.4GHz Wireless Controller
    • $31 Logitech Cordless RumblePad 2
    • $55 Xbox 360 Wireless Controller for Windows
  • Mini Wireless Keyboard/Mice/Remote Devices ($30 - $120) - Available in entry level generic form as well as in "high end" form from name brands like Logitech, and at several points in between, these devices combine a small palm-sized keyboard with a built in pointing device and are intended to give you full control of your HTPC. They often have built-in shortcut keys for the common media tasks (Play/Pause, Stop, FF/SkipFwd, RW/SkipBack, etc.).
    • ~$30 "iPazzport" Mini Wireless Keyboard/Trackpad
    • ~$45 Lenovo Multimedia Remote with Keyboard
    • ~$50 "Rii" Mini Wireless Keyboard/Trackpad
    • ~$115 Logitech diNovo Mini
  • Standard Wireless Keyboards/Mice ($20 - $150+) - Perfect for those who value the full PC experience over concealing the fact that your media set-up is being run by a PC. It's like having a standard keyboard and mouse controlling a PC because... well, that is in fact what you're doing.
    Of course, you can also run USB extension cords or use your front ports for direct-connected set-ups as well.
  • Smart Phones and i-Pods/Pads/Phones (too expensive for sole-purpose deployment) - If you have an appropriate receiver (Bluetooth, most likely) and an iPod touch/iPad or an advanced smart phone, there may be a downloadable software application you can use to control your HTPC.
KEEPING YOUR HTPC QUIET

For many HTPC applications you'll want a system that is quieter than a typical PC. There are several ways to accomplish this goal. The least expensive is to take advantage of built-in features provided by most newer motherboards that will automatically control fan speeds based on temperatures reported by integrated sensors. Alternatively, you can try using a free program called SpeedFan if your motherboard doesn't support automatic speed control, or you're not comfortable going into the BIOS to configure it. If neither solution is getting results, you may need a hardware fan controller (available in a variety of configurations) or fans with built-in thermal control. Replacing your stock CPU heatsink with an aftermarket model designed to be cool and quiet is also a fairly cost effective approach.

The next step up in effectiveness/cost is using a case silencing material, such as flashing tape (read more) or actual specifically designed sound dampening foam. Since these materials will also insulate heat in areas without good airflow, you should make sure there aren't dead spots in your case's interior.

For the most complete noise reduction, you may want to consider water-cooling. However, for almost all applications this would be overkill, and can be avoided by careful selection of components that compliment the way you intend to use your system.
 

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GLOSSARY OF HTPC ABBREVIATIONS, ACRONYMS AND TERMS

analog hole: term associated with certain protection schemes, such as HDCP, whereby a signal is converted from digital to analog (and often converted back) to allow for playback on "unauthorized" device(s); as a real or perceived loss of signal quality may occur during this process, it is not necessarily considered circumvention and is in fact largely a designed effect

ATSC: Advanced Television Systems Committee, the digital format for OTA broadcasts that is replacing NTSC

Boxee: "social" media playback interface

ClearQAM: (Quadrature Amplitude Modulation) HD digital signals provided by cable companies without DRM

codec: software for encoding or decoding digital media

DP: Display Port, a (mostly defeated) type of video/audio connection championed by Dell, compatible with DVI and HDMI formats

DPL: Dolby Pro Logic, multi-channel audio encoding/decoding used in many films & converted by home theatre audio receivers, or software/PC component alternatives

DRM: Digital Rights Management, various techniques employed by content providers in a (futile) attempt to deter piracty, largely capable only of making legal uses of legitimately purchased content require unnecessary complexity

DVI: Digital Visual Interface, type of connection capable of carrying video signals in a variety of resolutions, well exceeding 1080p; some proprietary formats, use the DVI to also carry audio, most notably ATI

FLAC: Free Losless Audio Codec, an open source codec for compressing audio signals without any loss of quality

HD: High Definition, now largely refers to 1080p, though previously in widespread use (by unscrupulous TV manufacturers) to refer to 720p and 1080i capable televisions

HDCP: High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection, prevents playback of high-definition content on "unapproved" devices

HDMI: High-Definition Multimedia Interface, type of connection capable of carrying both audio and video signals in HD

HTPC: home theatre personal computer

MCE: Media Center Edition, an informal abbreviation for Windows XP Media Center Edition

MPC: Media Player Classic, an open source, free software program for playback of various media files

NTSC: National Television System Committee, analog OTA signals in the U.S., currently being phased out and replaced by ATSC

OTA: over the air, usually used to describe ATSC signals received from local stations via an antenna

PDVD (or PDVD9): PowerDVD, currently in version 9 this is commercial software from the CyberLink company for the playback of various media, most notably Blu-Ray and HD-DVD

"rip": to archive, usually from an optical disc to a hard drive; often has connotations of breaking or circumventing copy protection measures (which themselves break or circumvent the well recognized doctrine of fair use)--here it is best to avoid this term when "archive" will suffice

TMT (or TMT3): Total Media Theatre, currently in version 3 this is commercial software from the ArcSoft company for the playback of various media, most notably Blu-Ray and HD-DVD

VLC: originally VideoLAN Client, an open source, free software program for playback of various media files

VMC: Vista Media Center, the media client integrated into Windows Vista Home Premium and Ultimate editions

WMC: Windows Media Center, the general name for media client integrated first into Windows XP MCE

XBMC: X-Box Media Center (originally designed for the X-Box, since ported to PC)

FURTHER READING

Info/Software> Official HTPC Software Thread
Info/Software> TheHTPC.net Plug-in list
Info/Display> Guide to Calibrating Your Display
Info/Forum> Home Theater Computer forums @ AVS (Highly technical, not nec. nooby friendly)
Info/Forum> The Green Button Forums (Windows Media Center support)
Info/Forum> Home Cinema PCs @ AVForums
Info/Forum> Australia Media Center Community
 

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Does HDCP actually stop avergae HTPC users from viewing anything? My old gpu had hdcp on it and it never checked or anything. Does it do anything??
 

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Quote:

Originally Posted by DarkNite View Post
Does HDCP actually stop avergae HTPC users from viewing anything? My old gpu had hdcp on it and it never checked or anything. Does it do anything??
Yes. While my Blu-Ray drive was in my 8600GTS system I had to send the signal to my monitor over a VGA/DVI adapted cable. The playback software (PDVD7.3) down-res'ed everything to standard definition. So, I wasn't completely stopped from viewing but I did have to create an "analog hole", and suffer a loss of signal quality. (PS, thanks for reminding me that a definition of analog hole might be in order in the glossary.)

Fortunately, nearly all modern video cards and monitors are HDCP compliant, so a simple "upgrade" to something like a Radeon HD3450 or GeForce 9400 would have resolved my issue. (So did moving the optical drive to my HTPC, which uses 790GX/HD3470).
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Quote:

Originally Posted by HITandRUN View Post
Option for remote controls missing. I use the SoundGraph iMON 2.4G and I love it.
Missing from where? On the self-examination? I tried to ask questions that would be useful in determining what was needed for multiple rather than single components.

I suppose "input" could be considered a class of components... What features made you choose that specific remote instead of the others available on the market?

Or were you referring to somewhere else entirely?
 

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Quote:

Originally Posted by DarkNite View Post
Does HDCP actually stop avergae HTPC users from viewing anything? My old gpu had hdcp on it and it never checked or anything. Does it do anything??
I refuse to 'purchase' anything with *CP on it. When it comes to home viewing, if I cannot view what I 'purchased' I didn't actually purchase it did I? To answer your question though, it does stop you from viewing high quality video on your HTPC.

Trusted Computing.
 

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Wow, great, GREAT work EvilGenius. Rep for you!
 

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Great thread.


I wish you had a list of service providers and the type of signal each provider broadcast. This would make it easier to determine the type of service I have or plan on getting to work w/a specific Tuner card/s.

Thank you,

N2G
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Quote:

Originally Posted by N2Gaming View Post
I wish you had a list of service providers and the type of signal each provider broadcast. This would make it easier to determine the type of service I have or plan on getting to work w/a specific Tuner card/s.
That's an excellent suggestion, I'll definitely look into this and see how complete a list I can compile!

EDIT: Gathering some links here for a write-up.
http://tv.about.com/od/cableandsatel...ompare.htm?p=1

EDIT 2: Seems like this information is highly specific to particular regions. I'm not sure a comprehensive list is possible.
 

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I'm interested in IPTV. I have been trying to find out if there is a web sight that broadcasts live channels like The History Channel, Discovery Channel, MTV etc etc live for free. That would make it easy for my to just purchase the high speed internet and then tune to my favorite channels over the internet. I'm all ears if any one has any suggestions.

Thank you,

N2G
 

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Great guild Evil!

I need alittle help. I've given up trying to program my dad's comp to work his cable box. I can get it to work and change channels in command line, but that's just not going to work for my 56 year old father who's not very PC savy. I need to get him setup with his HTPC to work as a PVR. His cable is digital. His currant cable box can record two channels at a time. I would like to config is HTPC to do this for him. I need to get it setup so he can watch one show and record something else and with a GUI that's easy to learn. I'm a little confused as to what tuner card would be right for the job.

thx in advanced for any help and suggestions.
 

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Quote:

Originally Posted by PizzaMan View Post
Great guild Evil!

I need alittle help. I've given up trying to program my dad's comp to work his cable box. I can get it to work and change channels in command line, but that's just not going to work for my 56 year old father who's not very PC savy. I need to get him setup with his HTPC to work as a PVR. His cable is digital. His currant cable box can record two channels at a time. I would like to config is HTPC to do this for him. I need to get it setup so he can watch one show and record something else and with a GUI that's easy to learn. I'm a little confused as to what tuner card would be right for the job.

thx in advanced for any help and suggestions.

Do you have an IR blaster?

To record two encrypted channels at a time with HTPC, you will need two set-top boxes.
 
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Quote:

Originally Posted by EvilGenius007 View Post
That's an excellent suggestion, I'll definitely look into this and see how complete a list I can compile!

EDIT: Gathering some links here for a write-up.
http://tv.about.com/od/cableandsatel...ompare.htm?p=1

EDIT 2: Seems like this information is highly specific to particular regions. I'm not sure a comprehensive list is possible.
I guess the next question would be what is the best way to ask my provider "Comcast atm" what type of signal they broadcast and who would be the best person at that company to answer this question? This way I will know what type of tv tuner cards are compatible w/the signal

Thank you,

N2G
 

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Quote:

Originally Posted by N2Gaming View Post
I guess the next question would be what is the best way to ask my provider "Comcast atm" what type of signal they broadcast and who would be the best person at that company to answer this question? This way I will know what type of tv tuner cards are compatible w/the signal

Thank you,

N2G

Comcast sends both digital (including ClearQAM) and analogue signals. You can get any channel under 100 and its not encrypted.

You can use this lookup to see what digital channels you can get: http://www.silicondust.com/hdhomerun/channels
 

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Quote:

Originally Posted by DuckieHo View Post
Comcast sends both digital (including ClearQAM) and analogue signals. You can get any channel under 100 and its not encrypted.

You can use this lookup to see what digital channels you can get: http://www.silicondust.com/hdhomerun/channels
Thank you DuckieHo, I the lookup thing those channels look like the OTA channels that my tv already received w/the digital antenna
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Thanks DuckieHo, great help! That link is especially useful.

Quote:

Originally Posted by PizzaMan View Post
His cable is digital. His currant cable box can record two channels at a time. I would like to config is HTPC to do this for him. I need to get it setup so he can watch one show and record something else and with a GUI that's easy to learn. I'm a little confused as to what tuner card would be right for the job.
With digital cable I think you'll either need to go the IR blaster route, as DuckieHo alluded to, limit yourself to ClearQAM channels, or get an OCUR compliant mobo & purchase a cable card tuner (or two).
 
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