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HTPC without HDMI?

Helpless RockHelpless Rock Registered User regular
edited January 2010 in Help / Advice Forum
My parents want to get rid of their cable and go the cheaper/freer route of a HTPC for Netflix and Hulu. I've got a pretty good understanding on how this all works except for the part that my parents don't have an HDTV or are in any place to purchase one. Everything I've ever seen about HTPC or settop boxes all use HDMI for the connection. They currently have an old Sharp CRT that I believe just has composite and S-Video inputs.

Is there even a reasonable way of getting an HTPC connected to a TV like that while still being future proof enough to upgrade it to HDMI? I figure there is some video card or something out there that can output to S-video or composite, but I can't seem to find it. Would that also mean I'd be better off building it or is there adapters for HDMI->composite/S-video where I could just get the Boxee Box coming out or something similar, since this needs to be pretty straight-forward for my parents that aren't the most technologically sound people.

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Posts

  • MrOlettaMrOletta Registered User regular
    edited January 2010
    My only suggestion would be to look at the resolution of the CRT when you run it through the PC. The likely resolution is 480p, which means they'll be stuck at a 640x480 resolution.

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  • emp123emp123 Registered User regular
    edited January 2010
    You can connect a HTPC via S-video, VGA, DVI, component (with an adaptor) or HDMI (with or without a DVI to HDMI adaptor).

    Basically any way you go you'll also need audio cables to go from the headphone out port on the HTPC to however youre connecting the video.

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  • matt has a problemmatt has a problem Points to 'off' Points to 'on'Registered User regular
    edited January 2010
    You'd need a video card that does s-video out. You'd also need some kind of sound source, an amp and speakers or even just a set of PC speakers. Hulu, eh, I've watched a few things on it run through my TV, but the hassle is usually more than it's worth. There are rumors Hulu will be pushed to a split free/paid content system in the future, since the networks don't think they're getting a big enough piece of the pie.

    My suggestion would be to buy them a Roku box, that will do Netflix without the hassle of them having to operate an HTPC. It's also probably the cheapest option at $80. A regular TV antenna should pull in the network channels just fine too, depending on where you live. I have a $30 indoor antenna and can pick up stations just fine from 30 miles away in Chicago.

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  • emp123emp123 Registered User regular
    edited January 2010
    You dont need separate PC speakers, you can use the speakers built into the television. You can use a headphone splitter thing (I dont know their exact name, but basically they take the left and right audio signals coming out of a headphone port like the one on the back of the HTPC and split it into the red and white cables you need to put them into your tv).

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  • Helpless RockHelpless Rock Registered User regular
    edited January 2010
    I guess I'll have to start looking into setting up an antenna at their house (hell, might even do that at my place too) since that definitely seems to be something needed for then. They have a surround system, but it's pretty old and I'd wager it'd be easier to just wire the sound out the TV the way Emp123 mentions. I've heard and seen those converters too.

    The Roku is a thought, but Hulu is definitely something that they would get use out of so I'd like to keep that a connection to what I'm doing here. If it does end up going pay I'll cross that bridge when it comes.

    As for the resolution, the quality doesn't really matter to them as long as it outputs correctly to the TV without anything being chopped off the corners or whatever. They aren't going for HD here obviously, since their TV isn't HD anyway.

    Would it be a better idea to just get it all future proofed and just buy an HDMI - S-Video converter (is there such a thing?) or just start with a video card with S-video (would such a video card be powerful enough for HTPCing?) and down the line just upgrade the video card? That would definitely lead me to building it myself. In which case, I'd probably get them running Windows Media Center or Boxee and figure out how to get an antenna connected to that TV as well.

    I'm kind thinking out loud here while asking questions.

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  • ImprovoloneImprovolone Registered User regular
    edited January 2010
    Run Boxee!

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  • iMattiMatt Registered User regular
    edited January 2010
    Or XBMC - I personally think it's the best media centre software around. Free, fast, flexible and great support comunity.

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  • mcdermottmcdermott Registered User regular
    edited January 2010
    I guess I'll have to start looking into setting up an antenna at their house (hell, might even do that at my place too) since that definitely seems to be something needed for then. They have a surround system, but it's pretty old and I'd wager it'd be easier to just wire the sound out the TV the way Emp123 mentions. I've heard and seen those converters too.

    The Roku is a thought, but Hulu is definitely something that they would get use out of so I'd like to keep that a connection to what I'm doing here. If it does end up going pay I'll cross that bridge when it comes.

    As for the resolution, the quality doesn't really matter to them as long as it outputs correctly to the TV without anything being chopped off the corners or whatever. They aren't going for HD here obviously, since their TV isn't HD anyway.

    Would it be a better idea to just get it all future proofed and just buy an HDMI - S-Video converter (is there such a thing?) or just start with a video card with S-video (would such a video card be powerful enough for HTPCing?) and down the line just upgrade the video card? That would definitely lead me to building it myself. In which case, I'd probably get them running Windows Media Center or Boxee and figure out how to get an antenna connected to that TV as well.

    I'm kind thinking out loud here while asking questions.

    No, this is not a better idea. An HDMI->S-Video adapter would probably cost nearly as much as a throwaway card with a TV-Out. And there are plenty of cards with TV-Out that will be able to handle HTPC bid'ness.

    What you need to do is go to Newegg.com, do an Advanced Search for desktop video cards, and choose the TV-Out dropdown, then select S-Video (or S-Video/Composite, but preferably just S-Video). That'll give you about 35 results, sift through those for a card that fits your architecture (some of those are AGP, most are PCI), also supports HDMI (or possibly just DVI, which is compatible with HDMI through cheap pass-through adapters), and basically does what you need it to. Prefer fanless, for an HTPC setup. Then come back with what you find, and we'll tell you if it does or does not work.

    I was just going to point you to the card I have in mine (an older Sapphire Radeon 4550), since it has a component/S-Video out along with DVI/HDMI (including audio), but they don't make it anymore...the new version lacks the TV-Out. But there should be multiple cards to choose from that do what you need.

    And worst case, if you need to upgrade the card later, no big deal...most of these are like $50 cards.

    This link may work, may not. Otherwise you'll have to do the search yourself.

    Here is an example of a card you might look at. Should have more than enough power to handle HD playback (any modern card will) and comes with an HDCP compliant DVI out (DVI is pin-compatible with HDMI, which is why adapters are so cheap) and S-Video out. You'll want to do some homework and make sure it doesn't sound like a jet taking off when it's running, of course, but at first glance it has the features you need. $60+shipping. Like I said, look them over, do some homework, and maybe some folks here can help you more.

    EDIT: Actually, looking at the Newegg reviews maybe that one isn't great. But you get the idea.

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  • PeregrineFalconPeregrineFalcon Registered User regular
    edited January 2010
    Actually I've been browsing those set-top media players, and apparently the Patriot Box Office has Hulu support. It's $99 AR at Amazon, including the wireless adapter, and you can just hook that sucker up. Even has an internal 2.5" HDD bay and a built-in torrent client.

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