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1988RedT2 Dork
6/14/11 8:04 a.m.

With the acquisition of the HD plasma set, I think I might build a HTPC and not bother with a standalone Blu-Ray player and all that when I can have it all! Muwahahahaha!

Anybody built a system? Care to share the details?

z31maniac SuperDork
6/14/11 8:15 a.m.

We did last year, it's a monster. Quad core 3.2ghz AMD, 4gb ram, one 100gb HD for operating system, etc. 1TB drive for storage, 1gb video card and a 25mb down Internet connection.

We still use the PS3 as a Blu-Ray (already had it) but from what I've read, a Blu-Ray drive is around $100 (last time I looked) and really there is different software needed besides what the drives come with to get the really awesome performance out of it. Which is around $100. So $200 for Blu-Ray in the HTPC or $300 for a PS3.

So even now, I'd still leave the Blu-Ray to the PS3 and be able to game as well.

Just me though.

ppddppdd Reader
6/14/11 8:16 a.m.

Don't do Linux. I built a Linux one and had a terrible time. Never could get hardware video acceleration working and Netflix doesn't work with Linux. I wasted a lot of time with it.

Useful article on Lifehacker.

I eventually bought a mac mini to replace the linux one and have loved it. Windows is maybe better for a pure HTPC that is nothing but a client for streaming services and whatnot, but OS X is easier to live with if you want to serve media to other computers/devices in my experience. If you need Blu-Ray, obviously go with a windows box. I just stream everything (or download over bittorent).

DILYSI Dave SuperDork
6/14/11 8:23 a.m.

I did. Then lightning took it out. :(

Got a Dell somethingorother for $300 from their outlet store. Win Vista Media Center, though I hear that the Win7 MC is better. I liked it. Gonna do it again.

fastEddie SuperDork
6/14/11 9:08 a.m.

See my posts here -


I still like the setup but sometimes with driver & Windows updates it can be a bit of a hassle and I wish for the simplicity of a dumb Blu-Ray player and TiVo. Windows Media Center (Win7) is what I'm using and it isn't great but I don't have the time or desire at the moment to investigate and switch over to something else.

Derick Freese
Derick Freese Dork
6/14/11 9:38 a.m.

This is a case where I'd actually advise against a prebuilt system. Order up one of the daily specials from Tiger Direct (or CompUSA, same place nowadays).

$199.99: http://www.tigerdirect.com/applications/SearchTools/item-details.asp?EdpNo=675207&CatId=1916

$19.99: http://www.tigerdirect.com/applications/SearchTools/item-details.asp?EdpNo=7222549&CatId=7005

$28.99: http://www.tigerdirect.com/applications/SearchTools/item-details.asp?EdpNo=6078347&srkey=PSD22G80026

$54.99: http://www.tigerdirect.com/applications/SearchTools/item-details.asp?EdpNo=3594531&CatId=2771

$59.99: http://www.tigerdirect.com/applications/SearchTools/item-details.asp?EdpNo=4964950&CatId=3635

Total: $363.95

You can skip the sound card, the extra RAM, and even possible the video card. The bluray is something I'd consider a necessity, though. For an OS, use something like tinyXP. I haven't done encoded bluray stuff, so I'm not exactly sure how the whole HDCP thing works. This setup would be a pretty high end setup for any needs, except high end gaming, and will do more than you need for an HTPC.

I would like to say that there are options out there that are less DIY and more polished these days.


No internal HDD nor optical drives, but you can play videos from your server with no problems and it's built to do exactly what I think you're looking to do.

ultraclyde GRM+ Memberand Reader
6/14/11 11:10 a.m.

I built an AMD Phenom 2 quad core with 4GB ram and I'm using a motherboard with a built in HDMI output, running windows 7. All the parts were sourced from tiger Direct. It works great, the video quality is great even without a dedicated video card, but I don't game either. I really debated going Linux as a learning experience, but lack of support for Netflix and iTunes sealed the deal. I did leave a partition for a dual boot setup if I get adventurous.

I actually bought an antique end table at a yardsale and built the PC into it. It's pretty dang cool. We've tuned of our cable TV service completely and I won't miss it at all until tour de france time rolls around. Unless I can find a good streaming source.

for simplicity, I'm running a 1Tb drive so the media PC effectively is my photo/music server. For me it didn't make sense to build a separate server since I didn't have one already. YMMV

donalson SuperDork
6/14/11 11:30 a.m.

I miss the old days... killing cable TV cut internet cost by about $10... we could get a sub basic cable TV for less than $10 (had very few channels but more than you would get with a good outside antenna)

whats the cost these days to kill TV and keep the interwebz?

I read something recently that ATT just put a cap for bandwidth use (200gig/month) and there is talk of other ISPs doing the same down the road...

z31maniac SuperDork
6/14/11 11:35 a.m.

^My 25mb down connection is $60/month from Cox, with a 250GB/month limit before they throttle the connection.

We are in that upper % that use it a ton, and I think our biggest month was in the 180-190GB range.

ultraclyde GRM+ Memberand Reader
6/14/11 11:46 a.m.

My Cox cable bill (HD Cable, DVR, no premium channels, mid-level interwebz) was $140/month. Now with only the same interwebz, it's $45. I think I've got the next lower connx from z31 for speed and bandwidth, but streaming works great and I never hit the cap.

So if I decide to buy a "season pass" for a couple series thru iTunes at $15-$20 each, I'm still WAY ahead.

even including the $8 Netflix and a few RedBox rentals every month.

Strike_Zero HalfDork
6/14/11 12:08 p.m.

I built a few of the cheapish Intel Atom (Dual-Core 1.6GHz and 1.8GHz) boxes with Win7, 4GB of RAM and 1TB HD for 2 to 4 bills (depends on Bluray or DVD and other options). Be careful if you go this route as not all are created equal (crappy Intel GMA 3150 onboard graphics does not equal good HD . . . Nvidia ION and ION2 for 1080p HD)

They run really well and can stream everything from Hulu, Netflix, etc without any issues even on this slow ass 10MB down TWC connection

fastEddie SuperDork
6/14/11 12:23 p.m.

My home server runs on an Intel Atom D525 (dual 1.8GHz) and I love it. I stream from it to the HTPC without issue (on a wired Gigabit network).

Dr. Hess
Dr. Hess SuperDork
6/14/11 12:42 p.m.

I built one out of a thrown away (bad PS) 1.8 or 2.x GHz box, ~60GB hard drive and a graphics card given to me by a friend that would (eventually, with the right cable) output to HDMI. Wireless mouse and KB. I stream avi's off my primary box with a 1/4 TB drive. Works great.

slefain SuperDork
6/14/11 1:47 p.m.

I have a refurb'd Mac Mini as a HTPC. Works great, bluetooth keyboard and mouse. All hooked up to my projector and my stereo. Canceled cable TV, got Netflix. I'll never go back.

turboswede SuperDork
6/14/11 2:33 p.m.

I've built four of them for the house.

all of them on reclaimed hardware and a Grassroots budget.

Basic P4's with 1-2GB of RAM, a basic harddrive, wireless card, TV Tuner card, cheap IR Media Center Remote (HP Branded) and a decent video card (ATI Radeon 9200 or Radeon HD)

all of them are loaded with XP

all of them run MediaPortal (XP Media Center isn't worth the price and Win7 Media Center is great, but the systems need to be more powerful to really use it)

Build the PC per normal. Create a generic HTPC account with a secure password. Load all of the drivers, patches, driver patches, hotfixes, etc. Then load the applications you want to run (VLC, Hulu Desktop, Firefox, etc) then load all of their patches and hotfixes.

Next, setup MediaPortal, configure it to connect to any shares you have for your content on the network and then test it out. Once you have it set the way you want and it works, setup the automatic logon for the HTPC account, remove the admin rights and reboot. Everything should work just fine, if not correct the rights issues and try again.

To have the system turn on/off via remote, you'll need to add the module from here: http://www.simerec.com which is different than the one you use for controlling the Media Center itself. Luckily, it works just fine for me and once configured, doesn't get confused or screwed up (unlike Windows itself, which is another matter)

I have set the systems up to go into Hibernate when I hit the power key, which makes them boot much faster, but I ran into problems with the wireless not connecting quickly enough, so I'd lose connectivity to the network shares and the systems would sometimes freeze. I would recommend using FTP or a wired connection to connect to the shares (I may just create a script that runs in the meantime)

BAMF Reader
6/14/11 8:57 p.m.

+1 on the Mac Mini HTPC route. It's more expensive than rolling your own, naturally. That said, it's pretty well suited to running as an HTPC out of the box. The newest ones have HDMI outputs. The headphone jack also has an optical output in the same jack. Infrared & BT support for remotes, keyboards, mice, etc. is also there. So from a hardware perspective, it's pretty easy for a mildly savvy person to buy a box that has everything needed.

As with hardware, there are some little tricks you can do to make OSX more friendly to HTPC use. A lot of stuff can be integrated into Front Row, which makes navigating media a lot easier by remote.

None of this is to say that a homebuilt, Windows based, HTPC isn't awesome. For me it was nice that I was able to find a couple phone apps that work seamlessly with the computer to control things. Also, after I set things up, I have not had to put in any effort at all to maintain or improve the system. Finally, my girlfriend, a self-described non tech person, can use it with ease.

1988RedT2 Dork
6/15/11 6:44 a.m.

Budget is 600 or less, so I think that's going to rule out Apple hardware. I need to study up a bit more on Linux and it's limitations with regard to the HTPC concept. I really wasn't planning on putting 100. towards an OS if there's a free option.

BAMF Reader
6/15/11 7:52 a.m.

Even if you're not running Apple hardware, using their software on a roll your own is pretty feasible. I'm writing this on a Hackintoshed Dell Mini 9. With a Snow Leopard disc retailing at $29, it's a very cheap OS. Though if your hardware build is exotic, you might have a similar headache level to Linux.

I just looked at the usual places for cheaper prices on Mac Minis (Mac Mall, Microcenter, and Apple's refurb section). The non Apple stores were cheaper, but still not under that $600 mark, particularly not considering that you still likely would need a wireless mouse and keyboard, and some cabling to hook everything up. For refurb, I only saw the server version of the Mac Mini, which is pretty pricey even if refurbished.

Rusted_Busted_Spit Dork
6/15/11 9:15 a.m.

In reply to turboswede:

Thanks for the info. I have enought spare crap in my basement to put quite a free machines together.

szeis4cookie New Reader
6/15/11 10:31 a.m.
1988RedT2 wrote: Budget is 600 or less, so I think that's going to rule out Apple hardware. I need to study up a bit more on Linux and it's limitations with regard to the HTPC concept. I really wasn't planning on putting 100. towards an OS if there's a free option.

Netflix is a dealbreaker for this. However...are you replacing a Windows XP machine or have one spare? Grab the COA code off of it, you're golden.

GameboyRMH GRM+ Memberand SuperDork
6/15/11 10:51 a.m.

Mine is a 2.8Ghz PC running Xubuntu, hooked up to a TV, and with a DualShock3 w/ chat pad for a remote. VLC player plays everything and it serves media to other devices in the house with Samba. Works well but I don't use Netflix or any DRM'ed junk.

turboswede SuperDork
6/15/11 11:32 a.m.

I should add that if you use another Media Center solution other than AppleTV or Microsoft's Media Center with a TV Tuner solution, then you can get your broadcast scheduling data via Schedules Direct. Works great for me.

Aside from the Media Portal that I use, there is XBMC (which was developed for the XBox, but is now available on other operating systems), Boxee (which is based loosely on XBMC) and MythTV (Linux based)

I've used the Logitech iTouch app with the Logitech Touch server on the HTPC's to use my iPhone/iPad as a keyboard/mouse over the WiFi connection. Much easier than finding the replacement batteries for the wireless keyboard/mouse for those times when I need something the IR Remote can't provide. Plus it is free.

VLC also has a remote control app for the iOS devices, plus there are others as well. Of course whatever is on iOS is already on Android (or will be soon)

1988RedT2 UltimaDork
2/23/18 7:11 p.m.

Ha!  Bringing this back from the dead.  Call me Dr. Frank N. Stein!  Currently watching live television, snatched out of the air by a cheapo antenna in my attic.  Signal goes to a Hauppauge tuner card in an Intel Core i3 system running Ubuntu 17.10 and MythTV!  Myth has been steep learning curve, but I've been relentless.

Latest success is using the Core i3 box as a backend/frontend in the bedroom, and an old Raspberry Pi as the remote frontend in the living room.  I may need a faster Pi, but I'm not done fine-tuning it yet.  It's almost watchable on the Pi, and absolutely gorgeous hi-def in the bedroom.  The OTA signal gives better image quality than what the cable company provides.

I'm not happy that it's taken me this long (2011?!  Really??)  to make this happen.  Comcast has had its fat, greedy fingers in my wallet for far too long!

Nick Comstock
Nick Comstock MegaDork
2/23/18 7:38 p.m.

While not a dedicated purpose built HTPC I've had my laptop hooked up to my TV for almost a year. I mainly used it to watch YouTube and Netflix. But I get the feeling I'm missing out on some things. A lot of what I've read in this thread is way over my head. I'm not a techie kind of guy.

So is there some site or program or software out there that I should know about and immediately download? 

I don't know what I don't know.

asoduk HalfDork
2/23/18 8:44 p.m.

I've been at this HTPC business for a while now (technically since about 1998, but nothing really useful until about 2010).

Some things I've learned along the way that are relevant in 2018:

1. Your network is pretty important. A good router and switchgear are essential for decent streaming over the internet and through the house. Hard wired (Cat5/6) TVs are way easier to work with than trying to troubleshoot why wifi is spotty.

2. If you're running a file server or Plex or something like that, its going to take some horsepower on your server. Even more if you plan on having multiple streams going at once. 

3. We still use netflix more than anything else, so is this really worth it?

4. If you don't "Get it" you'd probably be fine with a FireTV/Roku/AppleTV/Android. If you're already deep into the Apple world, just get an Apple TV. 

5. If someone would make an android stick and come up with a decent remote, it would be the ultimate device. Basically an unlocked FireTV.

6. Ripping BluRays is a pain. 

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