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blankseplocked Home 'Theater' Advice
 
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Laidback Luke
Pac Man Enterprises
Posted - 2008.12.25 03:57:00 - [1]
 

Hi guys,

Seeing as most of you are pretty smart cookies, I've got a question for you lot on home theater setups.
Maybe I've got the actual term wrong, but let me explain what I'm looking for, and hopefully you can give me some advice on what I might be looking for.
I have a pretty large 1080p TV, a separate 7.1 channel receiver, a little HDMI switch and one of those upscaling DVD players. What I want to add to this setup is something that can play movies and audio off of the network (samba shares), uses HDMI for video/audio signals and is preferably controllable by remote. A web interface or something like that Apple Remote stuff you can use to control iTunes would be perfect. Also having a webbrowser on the thing would be a plus.
Now the obvious thing you might say would be to hook up a PC to the whole system, but I don't want a PC in plain sight there seeing as the girlfriend would kill me if I put a tower next to the TV Very Happy
The only thing I can come up with so far is one of those little mac minis, seeing as you can do DVI to HDMI, but that would still leave out audio to run over a separate channel. Yes, that is a PC as well, but a very small one and silent as well. Plus I like OSX :)
Another option I was thinking about is a PS3, but I don't know enough about that system to buy it and then find out that it won't do what I want it to. I'm not too interested in games, although there's probably some games on it that I would like, but the benefit there would be having a BluRay player I guess, and having a remote (controller) for it.
A second hand mac mini or a PS3 is pushing the budget though, so any other solutions are welcome.

Thanks for your input guys!

Lance Fighter
Amarr
Posted - 2008.12.25 04:41:00 - [2]
 

apple tv perhaps?
as an added bonus, its controllable by ipod touch or iphone over wifi Laughing

Laidback Luke
Pac Man Enterprises
Posted - 2008.12.25 04:46:00 - [3]
 

Originally by: Lance Fighter
apple tv perhaps?
as an added bonus, its controllable by ipod touch or iphone over wifi Laughing

I heard that those things are underpowered, as in decoding high quality video files, and unable to stream stuff from random network shares, limited to an iTunes account and stuff specifically added to iTunes. Is what I heard incorrect? If so, that might be a good idea.

Thanks for the suggestion Very Happy

Evelgrivion
Gunpoint Diplomacy
Posted - 2008.12.25 06:00:00 - [4]
 

I think the Xbox 360 can actually do what you're asking for - you just want to make sure its a lower power "Jasper" model.

Xen Gin
Silurian Operations
Posted - 2008.12.25 12:37:00 - [5]
 

Maybe build a Shuttle PC, and install Windows XP Media Centre. I don't think there are any commercial products out the there to fulfil all your requirements.


There are however a few network media centres out there, and they can provide you with audio/video streaming, web browsing, remote control.

Neither apple tv, Xbox360 or PS3 will really do all that (Plus Xbox and PS3 give out about the same amount on sound as a PC)

Possibly something like a network media player would do the trick!?

Kappas.
Galaxy Punks
Posted - 2008.12.25 13:05:00 - [6]
 

Edited by: Kappas. on 25/12/2008 13:05:39
Just get a small media center pc case and some cheap equipment.

Alternatively Xbox if you don't want blu-ray, ps3 if you want blu ray

Edit: I don't think the PS3 has optical out but the xbox does, so you could hook the sound up to your surround soundSmile

Sleepkevert
Amarr
Rionnag Alba
Triumvirate.
Posted - 2008.12.25 13:32:00 - [7]
 

Edited by: Sleepkevert on 25/12/2008 13:34:04
Edited by: Sleepkevert on 25/12/2008 13:33:49
You might want to look into popcornhour etc. Pretty small stand alone media devices that don't cost much and play pretty much everything. I ordered the A-110 myself yesterday, I'll post some experiences here once I get it.

No internet browser, but it plays a lot of internet video though.

Irulan S'Dijana
Amarr
Drexler Burnum Inc.
Rising Phoenix Alliance
Posted - 2008.12.25 13:52:00 - [8]
 

Edited by: Irulan S''Dijana on 25/12/2008 13:53:05
Actually, slightly related hijack.

I'll be moving out in a month or so, and I'll eventually be wanting to setup a cheap PC to connect to the TV from which I can play media.

What's the minimum cheapo setup I'd need? I'd assume a cheap mobo, old single core CPU and graphics card. I'll be hot swapping in HDDs with the media, so not to worried about that. What does concern me is what kind of graphics card I would require.

edit: also, planning to hack a wii controller in like this. Any tips from anybody who's done it?

Sleepkevert
Amarr
Rionnag Alba
Triumvirate.
Posted - 2008.12.26 13:04:00 - [9]
 

Originally by: Irulan S'Dijana

What's the minimum cheapo setup I'd need? I'd assume a cheap mobo, old single core CPU and graphics card. I'll be hot swapping in HDDs with the media, so not to worried about that. What does concern me is what kind of graphics card I would require?

Video decoding is still mostly done by the CPU, the only exception to this that I'm aware of is x264 and VC-1 which can be done by the newer video cards with some effort, Your probably better off buying a decent CPU and a semi-cheap video card then going all out on the video card. If your not looking to decode HD movies it can stay pretty cheap, not that heavy.

Zachariah Barnette
Caldari
Fusion Enterprises Ltd
Morsus Mihi
Posted - 2008.12.26 13:45:00 - [10]
 

Originally by: Laidback Luke
What I want to add to this setup is something that can play movies and audio off of the network (samba shares), uses HDMI for video/audio signals and is preferably controllable by remote. A web interface or something like that Apple Remote stuff you can use to control iTunes would be perfect. Also having a webbrowser on the thing would be a plus.


Use a shuttle since it is a lot smaller and compact, hook it up to your T.V. There is an application that I use called Ampache. Very handy if you have this.

If you really feel like your a DIY type of guy, you can install the shuttle into a wall creating a cubby. Use the Monitor as the door panel on the cubby. Your HDMI cable connections can be wall mounted with gold plated connectors. You will need to create a ventallation peice, which you can by 2 250mm quiet fans and use the same style vent faces as your home has for its heating and AC.


KingsGambit
Caldari Provisions
Posted - 2008.12.26 14:13:00 - [11]
 

The old Xbox, modded and running XBMC can play files over a network, but struggles with 720p and doesn't do HDMI. The 360 can play content from a Media Centre PC elsewhere on the network, has HDMI and plays 1080p fine, is remote controllable but can't handle many video or audio formats.

The most suited options for you would be to build an HTPC, a home theatre PC specifically designed to play HD video and integrate with your home theatre. Running XP media centre for example, you can buy remotes to control it, get optical out for your digital sound DVI/HDMI for your video and install whatever codecs you need to play your files. YOu will obviously be able to access files via most methods...Samba, NFS, FTP, stored on local HDD, DVD, etc. The mac mini is also an option though it might be worth checking how they cope with HD content before investing. Another advantage of an HTPC is that with a little extra hardware, you can have your own PVR in the same box.

The PS3 can play HD videos too, and I have a friend that does this. He recently invested in a 1TB USB HDD and left me with it for ages trying to work out how to format it as FAT32. The PS3 cannot read NTFS and AFAIK can't stream over a network. It can however play files from a FAT32 USB HDD (the only restriction being the filesystem....files must be individually smaller than 4gb, so you need to split them.). There are utilities you can download easily enough (that are freeware) that swiftly split and/or convert files suitable for the PS3. It means copying onto the HDD any files you want to watch, but with high capcities you can store plenty on external HDDs these days.

The last option is to see if there's any specialist home entertainment unit available that meets your needs. I can't think of any brands off hand, but there are units available that converge these technologies, making DVD playing/recording with upscale to HDMI, divx/xvid support, PVR features and network connectivity in various combinations. Have a look around, maybe there's something out there that already meets your needs. My old XBox still serves me well for playing everything over a network in 5.1 sound in my living room, but then I haven't made the jump to HD yet so... Cool Good luck!

FireFoxx80
Caldari
Caldari Provisions
Posted - 2008.12.26 16:23:00 - [12]
 

Edited by: FireFoxx80 on 26/12/2008 16:22:56
I've owned/considered several media players in the past only to be disappointed, including a KISS DP-500 and a TVIX5100SH. The problem is that video formats change faster than the hardware, and often the vendors struggle to keep up - I've reset the DP-500 one too many times for it to be worth the 300 I originally paid for it.

Since then, both myself and my brother have self-built MediaCentre HTPCs with very good results. You can upgrade them to play the latest codecs, you can swap out components cheaply (at least cheaper then replacing the whole unit), and ultimately you get what you want - not what some company says you should have. You can build a HTPC for <500.

Anyway, to give you a rough overview of what myself and my brother have:
- Antec Fusion/Micro Fusion HTPC Case
- Motherboard with on-board HDMI+Audio
- Low-end Intel Processor (E4xxx or E5xxx series)
- 2GB RAM
- DVD-ROM / Blu-Ray/HD-DVD Combo Drive
- Scythe Ninja/Scythe Mini-Ninja HeatSink
- Western Digital 500GB GreenPower HDD
- Vista Home Premium (Includes Media Centre)
- Noctura Case Fans (very quiet)
As I say, the above will cost <500 (and probably cheaper if you shop around).

We're both fairly happy with this setup, the only difference is that my brother went for the smaller Micro-Fusion as he mounts his AV gear on a shelf, not in an AV cabinet. The setup is surprisingly quiet, mine is actually quieter than my V+ Cable box (which I can hear the HDD spin-up and seek). You can configure Vista/MediaCentre to support MKV, DivX, and pretty much anything that FFDShow will play (including multiple audio tracks and subtitles).

All in all a wothwhile purchase. I'd never go back to a vendor-specific sealed unit, unless it was for a second-room where things weren't as important.

Jim McGregor
Posted - 2008.12.26 16:25:00 - [13]
 

Originally by: FireFoxx80
Edited by: FireFoxx80 on 26/12/2008 16:22:56
I've owned/considered several media players in the past only to be disappointed, including a KISS DP-500 and a TVIX5100SH. The problem is that video formats change faster than the hardware, and often the vendors struggle to keep up - I've reset the DP-500 one too many times for it to be worth the 300 I originally paid for it.



I am extremely happy with my Tvix 6500A. It has played every file I have thrown at it although I mostly play 720p or 1080p movies in mkv format. It has plenty of cpu so you can transfer files at max speed via ftp while playing a movie and so on. I think its the best media player ever so far.


FireFoxx80
Caldari
Caldari Provisions
Posted - 2008.12.26 20:04:00 - [14]
 

Originally by: Jim McGregor
Originally by: FireFoxx80
Edited by: FireFoxx80 on 26/12/2008 16:22:56
I've owned/considered several media players in the past only to be disappointed, including a KISS DP-500 and a TVIX5100SH. The problem is that video formats change faster than the hardware, and often the vendors struggle to keep up - I've reset the DP-500 one too many times for it to be worth the 300 I originally paid for it.



I am extremely happy with my Tvix 6500A. It has played every file I have thrown at it although I mostly play 720p or 1080p movies in mkv format. It has plenty of cpu so you can transfer files at max speed via ftp while playing a movie and so on. I think its the best media player ever so far.




TBH, I never purchased the 5100SH, at the time it didn't have MKV support and the word was that it was unlikely to support them. It sounds as if they've fixed things with the 6500A though.

Laidback Luke
Pac Man Enterprises
Posted - 2008.12.27 00:48:00 - [15]
 

Lots of good replies here.
I'll have to investigate the 360 option, as I have one of those sitting here collecting dust which I was trying to sell (not a lot of interested buyers around here it seems). I played around some time ago with some software that would emulate (?) a media center share or some such and transcode files on the fly when requested by the 360. My opinion at the time was that it sucked hard. Things might've changed.
As for a mac mini, the current ones start out with a 1.83GHz machine with a gig of ram, I figure that should be enough to decode some HD stuff? Benefit with these little machines from what I've seen is that they ARE little, and pretty silent to boot.

Building a HTPC sounds like an arduous task and something that would be quite large. I don't think the GF would like that very much.

I don't get why there are no simple devices on the market that allow you to play arbitrarily encoded videos/audio and are geared towards home entertainment. Maybe the other devices mentioned in the thread are just that; I'll have to investigate some more.

Thanks for the replies so far, it's an interesting read.

FireFoxx80
Caldari
Caldari Provisions
Posted - 2008.12.27 10:49:00 - [16]
 

MacMini is capable. A lot of these computers have graphics chips which are able to decode video away from the CPU.

For an idea of what HTPCs look like (the wife factor), see this.


 

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