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Author Topic: Media Center PC  (Read 1738 times)
alfred
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« on: November 29, 2009, 09:00:50 PM »

So I have decided that I want to get or build or rebuild a computer to be my media center. I am also in the market for a tv to do this with but that seem like an easier thing to pick out and they are currently very cheap.

What I want to be able to do is hook it up to the TV and Speakers and hard drive and have it be my entire system. I don't want to hook up to cable or dish just internet and off-air broadcast.

I want to be able to search through all of my ripped media cd, dvd, vcd, mp3, Photos etc. and listen or watch or what ever even browse. Also want to use my netflix and other streaming. I would also like to be able to record the off-air stuff

I know that I could use an extender like ps3 or xbox or tivo or such but it just seems like it is stupid to spend money on these and have their limitations.

What I am trying to figure out is how much of a system do I need to buy or create to do this. I would like decent quality sound and video but it doesn't have to be the absolute best. I don't do video gaming (I am afraid to even check it out as I think that I would get addicted). I don’t have blueray but might consider getting it for the system. I do a lot of downloaded Netflix on a 20 inch monitor off of my current laptop.

I have asked around and I have gotten widely varying ideas. Everything from $2,000+ mega systems to $300 cheapos and every idea in between.
Some things are clear.
An adequate video card, but what that means is not clear.
An adequate sound card, again not clear.
Quiet fan or cool system.
Good tv tuner card.
Big hard drive.
I Have Small Budget…so economy and upgradeability are important.

Any and all advice is welcome.
Be as specific as you want to be.
Links to articles welcome.

Personal experience most appreciated.  Smiley

Alfred
 
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Shawn
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« Reply #1 on: November 30, 2009, 04:54:36 PM »

Lets see.... Building a media computer is probably like building one form gaming. Hard drive is only important depending how much space you want. Memory is the most important to me but it depends if your computer will recognize it all and use it (Windows XP and older will not recognize more than 3 gigs I believe Windows Vista and Windows 7 will see all and use all).

Next big thing is the video card. Buy the best you can and it will solve a lot of problems. With the "SLI" using two video cards at one time will also improve the graphics greatly. You can search Newegg or Tiger Direct for the video cards, I like Newwegg. Make sure you read the customer reviews on the video cards.

I built a computer awhile ago with a TV tuner in it thinking I would watch TV, surf the internet, and listen to music. That didnt last long. The TV Tuner was a pain in the butt and conflicted with other things in the computer. You can have a much better computer if you leave the TV out. I think Beemaster hooked his computer into a large screen TV as the monitor.

When I am in the mood to day dream and trying to think of the best gaming computer to build I usually go to "ibuypower.com" and build a computer to see what something I would like would cost and what parts I would actually need to order. Yes I am a gammer and speed on the computer means everything. I put a Raptor hard drive in my current computer, speeds are 10,000 instead of 7,200.

http://www.ibuypower.com/lobby.aspx

I believe Dell offers "media" computers. Try looking at theirs and get some ideas and then go order your parts cheaper from a computer store outlet, like newegg.   

http://www.dell.com/home/desktops#subcats=&navla=133615~0~4774329&navidc=DT: How fast does it need to be?&navValc=Multimedia - ideal for video playback and multitasking&a=133615~0~4774329   

Sound, Most motherboards are coming with 7.1 or better sourround sound. For better sound buy a Soundblaster card at the price you can afford. You will notice the difference in sound.   

Below is somthing I did quickly from newegg. I would suggest two video cads and two hard drives raided together. You still will need a case, power supply and other inputs.

 GIGABYTE GA-EP45-UD3P LGA 775 Intel P45 ATX Intel Motherboard - Retail
Model #:GA-EP45-UD3P
Item #:N82E16813128358
Return Policy:Standard Return Policy
In Stock
Mail in Rebate Card13-128-358

  $134.99  -$5.00 Instant $129.99
.  .
Update14-130-339   EVGA 512-P3-N871-AR GeForce 9800 GTX+ 512MB 256-bit GDDR3 PCI Express 2.0 x16 HDCP Ready SLI Support Video Card - Retail
Model #:512-P3-N871-AR
Item #:N82E16814130339
Return Policy:VGA Replacement Only Return Policy
In Stock
  $134.99    $134.99
.  .
Update19-115-037   Intel Core 2 Duo E8400 Wolfdale 3.0GHz LGA 775 65W Dual-Core Processor Model BX80570E8400 - Retail
Model #:BX80570E8400
Item #:N82E16819115037
Return Policy:CPU Replacement Only Return Policy
In Stock
  $167.99    $167.99
.  .
Update20-134-863   Kingston 4GB 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 800 (PC2 6400) Desktop Memory Model KVR800D2N6/4G - Retail
Model #:KVR800D2N6/4G
Item #:N82E16820134863
Return Policy:Memory Standard Return Policy
In Stock
  $146.99    $146.99
.  .
Update22-136-073   Western Digital Caviar Blue WD5000AAKS 500GB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive -Bare Drive
Model #:WD5000AAKS
Item #:N82E16822136073
Return Policy:Standard Return Policy
In Stock
  $55.99    $55.99
.  .
Update29-102-006   Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi XtremeGamer 7.1 Channels PCI Interface Sound Card - Retail
Model #:70SB073A00000
Item #:N82E16829102006
Return Policy:Standard Return Policy
In Stock
 
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buzzbee
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« Reply #2 on: November 30, 2009, 05:26:17 PM »

My son has an HP media center edition with a good tv tuner card and decent video card. His runs a webcam much better than mine.We have not had any problems with the tuner at all. It operates the Dish network satellite box fine and has HDMI outputs along with front and rear component video in/out ports.He can prerecord for later viewing just as you would with a DVR or TIVO.
 I believe Beemaster stores a lot of downloaded movies on his  USB terrabyte drive(external) and it works quite well for him. I know he listens to a lot of audio books too.
   Memory will always be the key for great performance though!
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bigbearomaha
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« Reply #3 on: November 30, 2009, 07:57:53 PM »

 I have built Linux based media servers for folks using MythTV.

I tell folks when it comes to multimedia playback, those files and apps consume enormous amounts of processor power and ram.

The 'standard' one  I build lately is  a quad core 2 gb proc  (usually AMD)  3 to 4 GB ram, two hard drives, one for the OS and apps and the second for file storage only.  when you get to ripping DVD's and AVI's those can accumulate quickly.  Buy the biggest one you can afford for the files, for the OS and apps  HD, 40 GB is more than enough.

Happuage is probably the most well known in the Linux realm for TV Tuner cards.  There are others, but since  I don't personally build servers on Win,  I haven't explored them too much anymore.

The MythTV client can be installed on any other Linux desktop machine you have as well on the server itself, but  I prefer to tell people to get a separate box for playback.  This machine can be hooked up to a computer connected over a local network. the client machine should be decent on proc and ram, but not so much as the server.

easily 1.5 to 2 gb of ram and a dual core 1.5 to 2 gb proc.  A cd/dvd drive to play dvd's  9you can even buy multi-bay drives to stick like 5 discs in at once.)

That's what  i have to contribute to the discussion anyway


btw, there is no Linux client for netflix 'play it now' feature'

Big Bear



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alfred
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« Reply #4 on: December 03, 2009, 05:41:33 PM »

Thanks for all of the input on this. I am still processing....

Shawn thanks for the Ibuypower and newegg info, wow is it easy to get carried away putting together something! the Price shoots up fast if you don't watch it.

Buzzbee do you know what computer it is that your son has? Media Center is part of the Vista OS, but what is the model of the computer that would be interesting to know.

BigBear you just openned a whole other can of worms. I looked at the wiki on myth tv and did a little reading. Not sure that I want to go as far as to switch to linux and re tool and learn stuff. But i will look into it further.

There are just so many options here and Ideas. I know one thing is for sure and that is by the time I get done doing this I will know a lot more about computers and media.

Still open to more advice or Ideas so keep it coming.

thanks,
Alfred
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