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HTPC: Build or Buy?

MysstMysst King Monkeyof Hedonism IslandRegistered User regular
edited August 2011 in Help / Advice Forum
So I'm looking to ditch my cable and go to a pure streaming/local media box, but I'm not really sure what direction I should go. I've looked at Boxee and Roku, but I don't particularly care for either of them, so I decided I'll have to either build or buy a system. I am not really keen on paying more than $500, but I do need an HDMI out and the ability to handle 1080 streaming.

I know that I can probably get an effective system built and put Linux on it, but I'm not sure what I need, hardware-wise, to handle the load, which is another reason I am wary about buying, as many of the reviews I read on prebuilts at that price point don't look at 1080 very favorably.

Posts

  • Iceman.USAFIceman.USAF Captain East CoastRegistered User regular
    Have you considered a Mac Mini? I use one (the previous generation Core 2 Duo) and its awesome. You'd probably break the $500 mark unless you can find some refurb or a store that still has clearance in stock.



  • badpoetbadpoet Registered User regular
    edited August 2011
    The Mac Mini suggestion up top is good. The newest one has HDMI out. But I have a few questions.

    First, are you solely using it for streaming or would you want to attempt to play games on it?

    Second, is form factor an issue for you (meaning do you care if it's a regular sized tower or would you want a small form factor PC)?

    Third, do you want it to be Linux or would you mind Windows 7?

    Fourth, do you want a BluRay player?

    If it were me, I would get a gaming console. For example, on my PS3, I stream Hulu and Netflix, watch rented movies on Vudu, and can watch BluRays on it. The PS3 and the bluetooth remote would come in considerably under your $500 limit. In addition, they're generally less noisy than PC's are. Also, I use playon (www.playon.tv) to stream other stuff from a desktop PC to my tablet and PS3 (for example if you wanted to stream Hulu wihtout paying for Hulu Plus). Works pretty well.

    If I wanted a PC, but wanted a smaller form factor, I might get something like this http://configure.us.dell.com/dellstore/config.aspx?oc=dddwfw5&c=us&l=en&s=dhs&cs=19&model_id=inspiron-zino-hd-410

    or

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16883103368&nm_mc=AFC-C8Junction&cm_mmc=AFC-C8Junction-_-Desktop PC-_-Acer America-_-83103368&AID=10440897&PID=3816197&SID=

    Also, like I said the new Mac Mini has HDMI out.

    http://www.amazon.com/Apple-MC815LL-Desktop-NEWEST-VERSION/dp/B004YLCLM6/ref=dp_cp_ob_pc_title_0

    If I didn't care about form factor and wanted a PC to run Linux, I would probably build my own.

    badpoet on
  • Jebus314Jebus314 Registered User regular
    edited August 2011
    I just built a pretty sweet HTPC myself. There's a few things I am just going to put out there right up front. It's not going to be anywhere near as nice as having cable. I'm not sure what you want to focus on, but getting quality tv from the internets is just not really possible right now. Most of it will be 480p (while hd cable is 720p), it will have asanine air times (as in it will be almost impossible to figure out when an episode will air, or even if a particular show will be available online ever), and those that you do find will probably be spread out over a bunch of different websites (making it pretty much impossible to use just a tv remote).

    That being said, if you are more interested in just streaming local media, watching dvds/blurays, catching up on older shows (netflix streaming), or don't mind dealing with some online tv hassles, it's pretty nice. You can definitely build you own HTPC for around $500, that will do 1080p streaming, and play dvd's/blurays. Blurays are going to be a little trickier because you might need to buy software that could make the $500 budget a little tight, but it can probably be done. If you want to go this route I can share what I know about the hardware you'll need, and you should also post in the computer build thread in moes technology tavern in G&T.

    If you are only interested in local streaming (as in mkv files on a server or something) I would look into apple tv. I've heard it's pretty ease to set it up to use XBMC live instead of the apple software, and I think it will then be able to stream files at 1080p. Plus it is super cheap. You can also get it set up with netflix, and maybe HULU (XBMC has had problems with hulu trying to disable their players), but I don't think you'll be able to surf the internet for shows, and obviously you won't be able to use it like a regular computer.

    edit: Also badpoet's suggestion of just getting a ps3 is pretty good too. You get everything you would get from a HTPC, minus the internet surfing (and any shows that aren't on hulu/netflix), but plus gaming. The 360 will also do all of this, minus the bluray player. On top of which the interfaces for both are much easier to navigate with a tv type remote.

    Double edit: I forgot to mention though. If you do go back to cable, you can slap in a tuner card for your HTPC and use it as a DVR. Which is also pretty sweet.

    Jebus314 on
    "The world is a mess, and I just need to rule it" - Dr Horrible
  • SheepSheep Registered User, __BANNED USERS regular
    New Egg also has mini PCs cheaper than even that.

    You can get a used Mac Mini for 200 bucks too.

    QlBGc.jpg
  • MysstMysst King Monkey of Hedonism IslandRegistered User regular
    No games, no bluray, just streaming and local video/audio. I already have a ps3 and a 360. and I am not keen on a mac at all.

  • EshEsh Tending bar. FFXIV. Spending too much money eating out. That's about it. Portland, ORRegistered User regular
    Mysst wrote:
    No games, no bluray, just streaming and local video/audio. I already have a ps3 and a 360. and I am not keen on a mac at all.

    Why so anti-Apple? It'd be perfect for what you need.

    "At first he thought it might be a natural occurrence - maybe a rabbit. But upon closer inspection, it was clear a knife had been used. And rabbits don't carry knives."

    Final Fantasy XIV:Lilja Sunblade
  • Skoal CatSkoal Cat Registered User
  • Count ZeroCount Zero Registered User regular
    Skoal Cat wrote:

    Can it play 1080p ? (im guessing it can). Building your own is what I would recommend, and if you aren't planning on putting xbmc on it you should be.

    http://xbmc.org/

    image.php?type=sigpic&userid=38624&dateline=1248802110
  • SandersSanders Registered User regular
    edited August 2011
    AMD has the Zacate E350 and Intel has the Atom/Ion which offers a integrated chip/board/video solution for ~$130ish. A prebuilt will run you around $350 on newegg or you can build your own for ~$450.

    Both support 1080 playback

    Sanders on
  • Skoal CatSkoal Cat Registered User
    Yea, mine
    Count Zero wrote:
    Skoal Cat wrote:

    Can it play 1080p ? (im guessing it can). Building your own is what I would recommend, and if you aren't planning on putting xbmc on it you should be.

    http://xbmc.org/

    Yea, 1080 can be handled by integrated graphics pretty handidly. I probably would have gone for a little atom based nettop, but this is my only desktop at home and I wanted more power to handle a few things. Also, a good HTPC experience is made with your input device. You need a good and combined wireless keyboard and mouse.

    ceres wrote: »
    Skoal Cat is correct.
  • Jebus314Jebus314 Registered User regular
    edited August 2011
    Skoal Cat wrote:

    This is a pretty decent build. I went with an intel build (i3-2100t) because sandy bridge is the hot new thing, and I couldn't resist. Mine was ~$600 though (I added an SSD along with an HDD, and a bluray/dvdrw combo drive, but I didn't have to buy windows 7).

    Esh wrote:
    Mysst wrote:
    No games, no bluray, just streaming and local video/audio. I already have a ps3 and a 360. and I am not keen on a mac at all.

    Why so anti-Apple? It'd be perfect for what you need.

    Seriously. I'm not sure what you mean by streaming (streaming internet video? streaming video from another computer?), but if you are just doing local streaming the apple tv, with XBMC live instead of the apple software will have everything you want for very cheap. Although if all you want is local streaming you can get that with your ps3 already. If you can get the mac mini for less than 500, it will most likely be a better deal than what you can build a similarly speced pc for. I don't know if this is possible, but you might even be able to get a cheap mac mini, and then just put windows 7/XBMC live/Linux on their anyways.

    Jebus314 on
    "The world is a mess, and I just need to rule it" - Dr Horrible
  • GdiguyGdiguy San Diego, CARegistered User regular
    edited August 2011
    Sheep wrote:
    New Egg also has mini PCs cheaper than even that.

    You can get a used Mac Mini for 200 bucks too.

    Hopefully this doesn't drag this too far off-topic, but do you know of any legitimate place to find used Mac Minis that cheap? The only major retailers I can find online have some really terrible reviews in terms of customer service if you dig past the usual astroturfing, and ebay /etc sales are more like 10-20% off of new prices

    At that price, it's an appealing choice.. at $600, I think the other options tend to be much more appealing in terms of other functionalities

    Gdiguy on
  • Blake TBlake T Registered User regular
    Go find LarLar's topic he did a month ago on this.

    Bassically everyone said buy a apple tv and load up XBMC. This will set you back about 125 dollars.

    BUT it limits to 720p output. Saying that the refresh dates for an apple tv is usually September so it may update this year to 1080p.

  • SheepSheep Registered User, __BANNED USERS regular
    Gdiguy wrote:
    Sheep wrote:
    New Egg also has mini PCs cheaper than even that.

    You can get a used Mac Mini for 200 bucks too.

    Hopefully this doesn't drag this too far off-topic, but do you know of any legitimate place to find used Mac Minis that cheap? The only major retailers I can find online have some really terrible reviews in terms of customer service if you dig past the usual astroturfing, and ebay /etc sales are more like 10-20% off of new prices

    At that price, it's an appealing choice.. at $600, I think the other options tend to be much more appealing in terms of other functionalities

    http://www.macofalltrades.com/Apple_Desktops_s/2.htm


    They regularly sell out of their minis' I've seen them sell G4 ones for around 150$.

    QlBGc.jpg
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