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#409008 - 12/22/14 10:57 PM HTPC setup
MatManhasgone Offline
connoisseur

Registered: 05/06/14
Posts: 1030
Loc: Lost in the great wide yonder
My goal was to get a music/HT room that I can easily sit down and just enjoy. After much research and probably spending far more money on needless things, I am getting close. I thought I would document some of what I found, set-up to give others some idea's on what I found works for me.

My viewing habits are rather sporadic, and I don't really watch all that many movies. I found that many of the TV shows have turned into mini movie productions, so the two seem to overlap. Lets face it, Game of Thrones is more movie than TV clip. Some times I watch an older classic depending on my mood at the time.

Music seems to be driven by my mood too. I wanted to be able to on the fly queue up some music that I wanted to hear without the hassle of finding a disc, and loading it into a CD player to get that one song I wanted. Sometimes I will listen to great album from start to end, but I am just as likely to stack the best tracks from 3-4 albums of the same artist. So with this in mind, all my music is copied via .flac onto a large NAS so it can be called up on the fly by any of my receivers throughout the house.

In my listening room however, I wanted to get the best possible within my budget. I picked up a Zbox ID80plus HTPC when they were on clearance for $180. The unit runs silent and acts as the media server for my audio and video needs. I run Windows 7 with FooBar2000 and Kodi (XBMC) as the interface.

To get Windows 7 to play nice, you need to strip out all the extra's that Microsoft likes to force upon you. After installing Windows, I reset the graphics to performance mode by eliminating all the fancy win7 graphic enhancements. Then went into Add/Remove windows components and removed all the unneeded extra's like the built in media player, printer support, ie, indexing, games, tablet components, search, XPS.. the list goes on. Once all that is removed, then win7 runs rather fast on a lower power PC.

For my music server, I used FooBar2000. it does a great job of indexing all my music and most important for me, has a great app for my ipad called monkeymote that makes it very easy to search all my music, queue it up on the fly and easily modify it on the go. FooBar also support the WASAPI that bypass all the windows sound control so I can do direct digital output to my receiver via my toslink at 24/96 (but for the most part I only use standard CD 16/44.1

Kodi is a great app that does all the catalog for my TV shows I record. I also handles all my movie watching. As I can configure it to do all the sound output through the HDMI, then there is no conflict with foobar and you could run both at the same time to different zones.

For me the secret to enjoyment is to have a simple user interface to make it easy to enjoy. I am there to relax and not have to jump up and down to find and start the media I want to enjoy.
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Anthem: AVM60
Axiom: ADA1000, LFR1100, VP180, QS8, EP500, M3, M3comp
AudioSource: Amp One/A

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#409009 - 12/23/14 12:08 AM Re: HTPC setup [Re: MatManhasgone]
bridgman Offline
axiomite

Registered: 08/25/04
Posts: 6141
Loc: Bowmanville, Ontario, Canada
Thanks for posting this, Matt. I have a PC and a DAC that really need to be turned into an actual HTPC (my working definition of an HTPC is one that I actually use on a regular basis for something other than work, so far that hasn't happened) and this helps to make it seem a bit more real.


Edited by bridgman (12/23/14 12:27 AM)
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#409016 - 12/23/14 09:49 AM Re: HTPC setup [Re: MatManhasgone]
Serenity_then Offline
connoisseur

Registered: 03/28/14
Posts: 1572
Loc: PEI, Canada
Can you recommend a mini PC you would use as an HTPC currently?

A while ago I looked at the acers with the intel Atom processors. I liked how small and bare bones they seemed.
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Trevor. Cold turkey. Thanks guys. Cheers.

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#409021 - 12/23/14 01:16 PM Re: HTPC setup [Re: MatManhasgone]
Ken.C Offline
shareholder in the making

Registered: 05/03/03
Posts: 18044
Loc: NoVA
I doubt the Atoms have enough oomph to work well as an HTPC.
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#409028 - 12/23/14 06:27 PM Re: HTPC setup [Re: Ken.C]
fredk Offline
axiomite

Registered: 12/06/07
Posts: 7786
Loc: Canada
Do they have enough oompf for anything other than being a door stop?

We have one at work we're using as a display station, and it is passable, but don't try remoting in to it. I know enough now to make the connection and go for a coffee while I wait for the first screen refresh.

Personally I'd buy a low end i3 and a mid line graphics card or look for a mobo that has an upgraded integrated graphics chipset. I think Zotak actually makes a couple of units like that.

Are the 4K codecs all defined? What sort of processing power is required for them?
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Blujays1: Spending Fred's money one bottle at a time, no two... Oh crap!

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#409033 - 12/23/14 08:18 PM Re: HTPC setup [Re: fredk]
MatManhasgone Offline
connoisseur

Registered: 05/06/14
Posts: 1030
Loc: Lost in the great wide yonder
Originally Posted By: Serenity_Now
Can you recommend a mini PC you would use as an HTPC currently?

A while ago I looked at the acers with the intel Atom processors. I liked how small and bare bones they seemed.


Originally Posted By: Ken.C
I doubt the Atoms have enough oomph to work well as an HTPC.


Originally Posted By: fredk
Do they have enough oompf for anything other than being a door stop?



Well I'll go by what I have and what I have tested. There is a definite difference between the omph of a CPU and that of a graphics card. Don't mix the requirement of the two with each other.

i have two different Zbox machines. an AMD E350 that is pretty old and a slightly newer Intel Atom D2700. Both of these machines come with a pretty respectable graphics card (ATI 6330 & Nvidia GT520M)

I have run these with Windows 7 running full 1080p video out with 7.1 Dolby HD or DTS MA with zero dropout.

I have also had fantastic luck with OpenELEC with their linux on a USB running a turnkey XBMC/Kodi as well doing full blu-ray output with 7.1 audio. ZERO issues.

Now, I did try and run a PVR off one of these boxes and it choked. All to video cards take care of the x.264 decoding in hardware so your output is a piece of cake, but try to Encode and that is a CPU process and these were not up to the task.

Digital sound from a movie is a simple pass through and needs next to zero processing.
Your video is decoded on the video card chipset and I don;t know of any that even the cheepest $30 video cards of today doesn't have it built in. So that is of no worry.

What are you looking for the HTPC to do? if you are just looking for a kick ass player, then any of the small atom/amd mini boxes will more than cover you.

If you are looking to do conversions and encoding, then you need processing power and will need to pay more.

Personally, I have a big computer that takes care of the processing part of the equation. The files are written to my NAS that stores all my media. then there is the little box that makes no noise, uses virtually no power and gives me the user interface that is easy to master. has the WAF, and fits into my lifestyle and decore. (small)
_________________________
Anthem: AVM60
Axiom: ADA1000, LFR1100, VP180, QS8, EP500, M3, M3comp
AudioSource: Amp One/A

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#409036 - 12/23/14 09:14 PM Re: HTPC setup [Re: MatManhasgone]
Serenity_then Offline
connoisseur

Registered: 03/28/14
Posts: 1572
Loc: PEI, Canada
I guess I am looking for the same use you are employing. Just a network transport and decoder.

I use an oppo right now with a NAS and it works pretty well. I just get stuck with the whole disc transcode process. Most of the online software seems pretty shady. Ie. Head office in Romania kind of thing. I never got past handbrake and DVD ripping in XP. The window seven upgrade broke my workflow and I said to hell with it shortly after.
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Trevor. Cold turkey. Thanks guys. Cheers.

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#409037 - 12/23/14 09:22 PM Re: HTPC setup [Re: MatManhasgone]
fredk Offline
axiomite

Registered: 12/06/07
Posts: 7786
Loc: Canada
Originally Posted By: oakvillematt
...Now, I did try and run a PVR off one of these boxes and it choked...

That's the point. If you try to do anything at all on these boxes they choke. I like to have a little headroom on any system I buy because, sooner or later, something will come up, and the system won't be able to handle it.

For instance, our display units started out pretty static, throw up a few slides and run through them. All of a sudden somebody wants video. The Atom based eebox could not handle even simple video decoding. Need to remote in to look at something? Forget it. The Atom has nothing left in the tank. for processing.

Things change over time and the demand for processing power just keeps going up. It has ever since my first computer way back in the early '80s.
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Fred

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Blujays1: Spending Fred's money one bottle at a time, no two... Oh crap!

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#409040 - 12/24/14 02:31 AM Re: HTPC setup [Re: MatManhasgone]
nickbuol Offline
axiomite

Registered: 09/16/04
Posts: 5338
Loc: Marion, IA
I went a bit overkill when I built up my HTPC and media server a year ago. I want to be able to do a "full on" audio/video experience with no compromises. I upgraded my network to gigabit speeds, and bought the following:

Media Server:
Intel i5-4430 3.0GHz Quad-Core
ASRock Z87 Extreme mobo
G.Skill 8GB DDR3-2400 RAM
Kingston HyperX 120GB SSD (for O/S)
(6) Toshiba 3TB, 7200RPM hard drives
Corsair 750W power supply
LG Blu-Ray Reader
Rosewell Redbone Mid Tower case
Windows Home Server 2011

HTPC:
Intel i5-4670K 3.4GHz Quad-Core CPU
ASRock Z87M Extreme4 mobo
G.Skill 8GB DDR3-2400 RAM
Samsung 840 EVO 120GB SSD (O/S boot drive)
Asus Radeon HD7790 1GB video card
SeaSonic 550W power supply
Pioneer Blu-Ray/DVD/CD Writer
Silverstone LC10B HTPC case
Windows 7 Professional

This allows for max level MadVR video processing, and with any luck will actually be able to do a full decode of Atmos audio when they get the codecs figured out in a few months.

I also can stream to my Roku 3 in the living room, my laptop when I am in a hotel, my cell phone when I am at an airport traveling, and can do all of those at the same time without a blip from the media server. Keep in mind that the server is feeding a full movie image to the HTPC, and 3 different levels of transcoded (on the fly) video processing to reduce the image and audio to the appropriate levels for my living room, laptop, and phone (all still receive full HD video, the Roku gets 5.1 surround, and the others get downmixed to stereo audio).

Nice to have the horsepower to do that on the back-end, but it did cost a couple of pretty pennies to do so.

These two computers are the fastest computers in our house and I have a few... 3 laptops and 2 desktops besides the server and HTPC and the next closest is a quad core AMD computer running at 2.4GHz (vs. 3.0GHz and 3.4GHz).
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#409043 - 12/24/14 07:15 AM Re: HTPC setup [Re: Serenity_then]
MatManhasgone Offline
connoisseur

Registered: 05/06/14
Posts: 1030
Loc: Lost in the great wide yonder
Originally Posted By: Serenity_Now
I guess I am looking for the same use you are employing. Just a network transport and decoder.

I just get stuck with the whole disc transcode process. Most of the online software seems pretty shady. Ie. Head office in Romania kind of thing.


I will admit to owning DVDFab that lets me convert my DVD's and Bluray's into a more friendly x.264 format. I look at it from the perspective that I have had my daughter drop an irreplaceable DVD and destroy it with a simple scratch. The studio would not replace the disk so now I back everything up to protect my investment.

For my PVR stuff I use VideoRedo. It has a very good scan for advert function and takes my .ts files and easily converts them into x.264 Generally I do my encodes in batches on my i7 machine where I can load up 10 shows to scan and remove the adverts, Then quick check to make sure the start/end is right and the adverts removed correctly. Then queue it up for encoding. I then take the stack of shows and let it do it's thing over night while I sleep and by the morning the files are on the nas ready to be consumed.
_________________________
Anthem: AVM60
Axiom: ADA1000, LFR1100, VP180, QS8, EP500, M3, M3comp
AudioSource: Amp One/A

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