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 Post subject: HTPC for two rooms
PostPosted: Wed Jan 21, 2009 10:52 pm 
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Joined: Wed Jan 21, 2009 10:38 pm
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Location: Lake Tahoe
Looking to use this build for serving up audio and video to two rooms on a $750 budget.
Tried to balance performance - cost - heat - noise -

MOBO: GIGABYTE GA-MA78GM-S2HP AMD 780G HDMI mATX Motherboard - $80
CPU: AMD Athlon X2 4850e 2.5GHz Socket AM2 45W Dual-Core Processor - $54
MEM: CORSAIR DOMINATOR 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 1066 - $74
HDD: SAMSUNG Spinpoint F1 1TB 3.5" 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s Hard Drive - $95
HDD: Seagate Momentus 7200.3 250GB 2.5" SATA 3.0Gb/s Notebook Hard Drive - $80
BD: LG Black Blu-ray/HD DVD-ROM & 16X DVD±R DVD Burner SATA Model GGC-H20L - $120
Case: Antec Fusion Remote Black - $170
PSU: SILVERSTONE ST400 400W Power Supply - $45
Cost: $760 with shipping

Can this spec keep up with two HD displays or do you think it will need a second GPU to keep up?

Would the extra $60 for a 790GX/SB7500/3300 mobo be worth it?

I was planning on using the laptop drive for the OS, audio files and download cache. Will that help keep my heat/noise down or is it a waste of money?

Thanks in advance for any opinions . . .


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 22, 2009 1:16 am 
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I assume you're going to set this up as a clone display, same picture on both screens? I can't say I've ever seen a situation where a video card could do one display but wouldn't keep up with two displays. And it would seem that if it's the same picture on both, it wouldn't need to do any extra work or even use any additional video memory as it shouldn't need to store the same picture twice.

The issue I do see here is that the 780G only support one digital (DVI or HDMI) and one analog (VGA). So if you're using just the onboard video, you only get one digital display with HDCP. If you plan on playing blu-ray or other content-protected media, it won't play on the analog signal. Not sure if it would still play on the digital one or if it would detect the analog and just not play anything. Unless you use something to remove the content protection such as AnyDVD HD.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Jan 22, 2009 1:22 am 
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Location: Finland
Do those two rooms show different video? How are you going to have the controls set up so that both rooms can control the system and their own video separately?

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Jan 22, 2009 9:19 am 
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Location: Grand Rapids, MI
What you want would more than likely be an HTPC + media extender combo or two separate PCs. That would give you more flexibility from the control and display standpoint.

This isn't as easy of a thing as it may sound, because not only do you want separate video to two different displays (easy with extended desktop), but separate audio as well, which is not easy at all with a PC.

In the end, if you have an old PC your not using, get a copy of WHS (or another XP/Vista license) install it and a large hard drive into the old machine and stuff it in a closet or out of the way. Run the display off that machine to one setup and build another HTPC to network to it for the other setup.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Jan 22, 2009 10:19 am 
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Joined: Wed Jan 21, 2009 10:38 pm
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Location: Lake Tahoe
doh! I was so focused on the video requirements that I completely forgot about separate audio streams for each display. In the short term we could live with a cloned display but eventually they'll need to be independent.

I didn't get as far as researching the front-end limitations but a media extender for <$200 sounds like the cheapest and least painful route to getting the second display up and running.

Thanks for the quick feedback!

juan


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Jan 22, 2009 2:33 pm 
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Location: USA
jhhoffma wrote:
but separate audio as well, which is not easy at all with a PC.

I agree this is nearly impossible in XP, but it shouldn't be too hard in Vista, and it is trivial in Linux. Really, the whole thing would be easiest to do in Linux, but you'd need two sets of video and sound devices. Of course, Linux brings its own challenges -- like less/lack of support for hardware acceleration and lots of problems dealing with DRM. A good Linux configuration would probably be a high end quad-core coupled with a pair of HD4350 (since these have built in audio devices). You could run each room as a completely separate session with its own instances of all programs and their output associated with a separate HD4350.


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 Post subject: Re: HTPC for two rooms
PostPosted: Thu Jan 22, 2009 2:35 pm 
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Location: USA
juandiablo wrote:
I was planning on using the laptop drive for the OS, audio files and download cache. Will that help keep my heat/noise down or is it a waste of money?

Waste of money. If your primary storage was an array of multiple drives, maybe, but the difference between a single efficient 3.5" and a 2.5" drive isn't worth $80.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Jan 22, 2009 2:45 pm 
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juandiablo wrote:
doh! I was so focused on the video requirements that I completely forgot about separate audio streams for each display. In the short term we could live with a cloned display but eventually they'll need to be independent.

I didn't get as far as researching the front-end limitations but a media extender for <$200 sounds like the cheapest and least painful route to getting the second display up and running.

Thanks for the quick feedback!

juan


Vista Home Premium + Xbox360 sounds like the easiest way to get what you want. The Xbox sounds like the best extender out there - the others don't provide the "true" experience. The downside is that you have to deal with the Xbox fan, and the cheapest is like $300 (?)

I noticed your price limits... you could get the Antec NSK2480 that comes with an Earthwatts380 PS - not as "nice" as the Fusion, but cheaper! No remote, either, so maybe it's a wash pricewise...

buy.com has it for $109 shipped,

-Dan


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Jan 22, 2009 5:20 pm 
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Location: Lake Tahoe
jessekopelman wrote:
jhhoffma wrote:
but separate audio as well, which is not easy at all with a PC.

I agree this is nearly impossible in XP, but it shouldn't be too hard in Vista . . .

Jesse - I'll probably be using Vista unless I get a real hair up my ass to combine my first build project with my first Linux install (not likely). My main concern is making sure I won't be limited by this hardware down the road. It sounds like worst case I'll need an extra video or audio card to make any combination of displays workable. On that note, would a amplified audio card be worth looking at if I can get rid of my external audio amp?

plympton wrote:
I noticed your price limits... you could get the Antec NSK2480 that comes with an Earthwatts380 PS - not as "nice" as the Fusion, but cheaper! No remote, either, so maybe it's a wash pricewise...

Dan - that case does look like a viable alternative. The main features I was looking for in a case include: IR receiver, front usb ports, 120mm fans, expansion potential and a black exterior. The Antec Fusion seemed like the best value out there for those requirements.

juan


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Jan 23, 2009 1:47 am 
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Location: USA
juandiablo wrote:
jessekopelman wrote:
jhhoffma wrote:
but separate audio as well, which is not easy at all with a PC.

I agree this is nearly impossible in XP, but it shouldn't be too hard in Vista . . .

Jesse - I'll probably be using Vista unless I get a real hair up my ass to combine my first build project with my first Linux install (not likely). My main concern is making sure I won't be limited by this hardware down the road. It sounds like worst case I'll need an extra video or audio card to make any combination of displays workable.

I retract my "not too hard in Vista" statement. Now getting two separate audio outputs is doable, as is getting two separate video outputs, but how do you get two separate simultaneous user inputs? That is the problem with Vista, it is still a single user OS. To do what you want to do (2 separate home theaters run from the same PC) you really need a multi-user OS. I think you need to do a major rethink on this project. Going with a media-extender for one of the rooms is probably the most bang for the buck. The question is whether it provides enough functionality. You may find that a basic server coupled with a media extender for each room is even more cost effective.

One other thing I'll say on this subject is that I think that Blu-Ray via HTPC is not currently a better solution than a standalone Blu-Ray player and I'm not sure it will ever be. The DRM issues limit the functionality of software players and add just too much complication for DIY. Maybe a couple of years time will fix this, but meanwhile standalone feature sets will increase and price decrease. My feeling is that HTPC is for Internet content, either downloaded or streamed, and standalone players are for physical media.

juandiablo wrote:
On that note, would a amplified audio card be worth looking at if I can get rid of my external audio amp?

The only thing like this I'm aware of is the AMD Maui platform and the related MSI Motherboard. There is a fairly involved thread on this product on these forums. Read it and see if you can live with its limitations. The short answer is that, if 5.1 output is sufficient and the HTPC would be the only source; then yes. I am not a fan of this because, thanks to DRM, the HTPC is a long way away from being a viable replacement for cable/satellite STB and standalone Blu-Ray players and, also thanks to DRM, it can't even act as a switching receiver for such boxes!


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Jan 23, 2009 10:43 am 
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Location: San Jose, California
What front end do you want to use? If you are using Windows Media Center then the xbox 360 is a great option. But I think VMC sucks because it is not a real client / extender product. The xbox will only be able to play certain video.

Check out SageTV for your frontend. They have hardware extenders that play any media you throw at them, and they are a true client / server setup that supports capture devices like the HD-PVR so you can get unDRMed HD video.

Doing once PC for two audio video systems is not doable with Vista because there is only one user session.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Jan 23, 2009 11:10 am 
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If your happy with same video/audio in both rooms its as simple as adding a hdmi splitter and a long cable. -Done. No need to have a dual output GPU even.

Separate video and audio to multiple rooms is unbelievably more complicated, as others have noted, and not worth the hassle imo. (and thats w/o any DRM /Bluray )


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Jan 23, 2009 3:42 pm 
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Joined: Wed Jan 21, 2009 10:38 pm
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Location: Lake Tahoe
Here's a little insight into how we'll be using this box:

House-wide Audio - MP3s, Pandora, etc.
Primary Video - 70% downloaded, 20% ripped disks, 10% physical disks
Secondary Video - 90% downloaded, 5% ripped disks, 5% physical disks

For the downloaded/streamed content we'll be using bittorrent, Hulu, Netflix, etc. and the physical disks would be a combination of Blu-Ray & DVDs

I'm expecting a handful of issues with Blu-Ray disks and certain media formats on a Media Extender box, but I could live with a +90% success rate. Is that a realistic expectation?

I have zero experience with Blu-Ray but have spent enough time screwing around with video formats to be comfortable tweaking the front end until it suits our needs. One major motivation for this project is getting rid of the stand-alone components cluttering up my living room. Is it really going to be that painful getting Blu-Ray to work properly?


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Jan 24, 2009 4:35 am 
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juandiablo wrote:
House-wide Audio - MP3s, Pandora, etc.

As long as you are content with the same thing playing everywhere, this should be easy enough. If not though, you are back to not being able to use Vista without going the extender route (an extender for each room that needs autonomous control).

juandiablo wrote:
Is it really going to be that painful getting Blu-Ray to work properly?

I guess it depends on your expectations. My feeling is that you will get more/better functionality from standalone players until software can handle DRM in a user friendly way (good luck!). If you don't really care about multichannel audio, 24P framerate, and some other more esoteric things, I'm sure you will be fine with Blu-Ray via HTPC. I'm not really sure what the point of Blu-Ray is, if not for such things, though.

You might actually have a better experience going with 100% disk ripping. Ripping to a raw format (just DRM stripped) shouldn't take very long on any modern dual-core and you could either delete or re-encode for archiving as appropriate. I'm assuming Blu-Ray ripping software is developing nicely, but I haven't done the research :?


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