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View Full Version : Trying to decide on HTPC set up, any advice?




srharris22
Nov 29, 2011, 06:56 PM
Planning to cut cable very soon, ie a week or less. Currently own iMac, iPad 1, ATV2, and iPhone 4 (not the 's'). Also I own a PS3 as well. We have 3 TVs, the main floor, we barely watch so planning on just putting a mediocre HDTV antenna on that one. The upstairs TV will also not get a lot of use, so again another HDTV antenna and maybe an ATV2 at some point.
Our downstairs TV is our main one. I had considered selling the iPad and get the iPad 2 so that we could do airplay mirroring for the apps such as 'watch ESPN', ABC, etc. PS3 would provide Hulu + and Netflix as needed.
However I am now reading about getting the Mac Mini and connecting it as our HTPC, getting an HDTV antenna and using eyeTV to connect it for DVR capabilities. This would also allow us to use any/all websites (flash based) as well as set up boxee on the mac mini.
The difference in cost of our 2 options are 150 vs 800 total. Any advice from those that have done this would be helpful.
**Also, what download speeds do you find sufficient? We have 10mbps but would consider going up to 15mbps if it really mattered, not sure that 30 is realistic. There is also the possibility of DSL and 6mbps which would be a cost saver**



tbayrgs
Nov 29, 2011, 08:19 PM
Planning to cut cable very soon, ie a week or less. Currently own iMac, iPad 1, ATV2, and iPhone 4 (not the 's'). Also I own a PS3 as well. We have 3 TVs, the main floor, we barely watch so planning on just putting a mediocre HDTV antenna on that one. The upstairs TV will also not get a lot of use, so again another HDTV antenna and maybe an ATV2 at some point.
Our downstairs TV is our main one. I had considered selling the iPad and get the iPad 2 so that we could do airplay mirroring for the apps such as 'watch ESPN', ABC, etc. PS3 would provide Hulu + and Netflix as needed.
However I am now reading about getting the Mac Mini and connecting it as our HTPC, getting an HDTV antenna and using eyeTV to connect it for DVR capabilities. This would also allow us to use any/all websites (flash based) as well as set up boxee on the mac mini.
The difference in cost of our 2 options are 150 vs 800 total. Any advice from those that have done this would be helpful.
**Also, what download speeds do you find sufficient? We have 10mbps but would consider going up to 15mbps if it really mattered, not sure that 30 is realistic. There is also the possibility of DSL and 6mbps which would be a cost saver**

The Mini would give you the greatest amount of content and using something like Boxee, XBMC, or PLEX (my personal choice) will allow you to access nearly all of your content through a single media center program and from what i've read, EyeTV works great but as you're aware, it's certainly not the cheapest.

Your first option would certainly save money but first, and someone correct me if I'm wrong, I believe you can only stream content on the ESPN app if you are an existing subscriber to a handful of cable TV providers and have ESPN as part of your TV package so if you're cutting the cord, this app won't work for you. Also, if you haven't tried it yet, mirroring is certainly an option but not really very desirable for watching video as the iPad's 4:3 screen ratio doesn't translate well to HDTVs--alway have black bars on the sides and personally, i found it unenjoyable after brief periods.

Regardless of the direction you go, the greatest obstacle will be access to sports content not on broadcast TV. There are sports packages available but they can be costly and if you're interested in any local team coverage you'll be out of luck due to blackout restrictions. ESPN3 provides limited coverage and I believe access to it can be blocked by your ISP. And regarding bandwidth--I'd get as much as is affordable to you as you rarely get the full speed you subscribe to and any HD content requires decent DL speeds--I'd personally stay away from anything less than 10 mb/s.

Cave Man
Nov 29, 2011, 09:11 PM
I vote hackintosh if you're handy with assembling parts. Less money and more features. We have 7 MB/s dsl and its adequate for iTunes.

pjfan
Nov 29, 2011, 09:49 PM
I turned off cable three weeks ago. I kept talking myself out of it - and now I can't believe I didn't do this years ago.

I think I could've made ATV2 work pretty well for my needs, but I can't accept 720 output to a large screen... But I've been pleased with my little project that isn't even 50% done. Below is what I've done:

- iMac (home office, separate room than two TVs)
- mac mini - connected to TVs via HDMI (one 25' hdmi pull out of HDMI Switch, the other a 8' pull)
- EyeTV SW - currently on iMac
- HD Antenna connected to HD Homerun Dual Tuner
- iPad 2

Currently, the iMac does all the lifting... not what I expected, but it has worked out thus far. When the recordings are converted, within EyeTV, to 1080p, I simply transfer them to the External drive connected to the mini over wifi. We watch them at our leisure --- this isn't an automated step, which I hope to eventually get to or convert everything over to the mini (what I originally thought I would do)...

Two things that I've been very pleased with:
1) EyeTV SW is phenomenal... I played with it a lot, but after going 100%, I'm now floored at how much I really like it.
2) How often we use the iPad for viewing instead of the TV..honestly, it has replaced our second TV.

What hasn't surprised me - the disappointment in TV Sports... but hey, I'm a new Dad, I watched too much ESPN anyhow.

There are a lot of things that I still need to do to improve my viewing experience... we are happy as is, so I just haven't got to any of them yet.

My network is 18 mbps down, 1.5 mbps up. I can't comment on what you might need - but I suspect you'll want all you can get.

redscare24
Nov 30, 2011, 11:41 PM
Check out the below:

http://assassinhtpc.com/eliminate_cable.pdf

Its a complete guide (and I mean complete) to eliminating cable.

Well worth the read!

-Ben

blueroom
Nov 30, 2011, 11:48 PM
I use an AMD A6 based HTPC and Windows 7 with a pair of dual OTA ATSC tuners. XBOX 360s work as extenders. This setup is pretty much OTA dedicated, for rentals, Netflix, music, photos and my movie collection I use a ATV2.

zhenya
Dec 1, 2011, 06:07 AM
While the full HTPC will give you by far the most flexibility, I caution you from years of experience that it may not be a very satisfying solution in the long run, especially for the entire family. HTPC's require constant maintenance and administration, and that's just no fun when your wife just wants to watch something. Nor did I ever find a front end that was really all that great to use. The ATV is the first device that we actually use quite regularly, although for your situation I suspect it will be a bit too limiting.

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Also, if you haven't tried it yet, mirroring is certainly an option but not really very desirable for watching video as the iPad's 4:3 screen ratio doesn't translate well to HDTVs--alway have black bars on the sides and personally, i found it unenjoyable after brief periods.

I watch lots of video via AirPlay and have not noticed this?

tbayrgs
Dec 1, 2011, 02:05 PM
While the full HTPC will give you by far the most flexibility, I caution you from years of experience that it may not be a very satisfying solution in the long run, especially for the entire family. HTPC's require constant maintenance and administration, and that's just no fun when your wife just wants to watch something. Nor did I ever find a front end that was really all that great to use. The ATV is the first device that we actually use quite regularly, although for your situation I suspect it will be a bit too limiting.

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I watch lots of video via AirPlay and have not noticed this?

Have you watched using AirPlay or AirPlay mirroring--there's a difference. AirPlay sends the video to the Apple TV for playback (if that app has been coded to allow it) and it will be formatted to properly fit the screen. Mirroring send exactly what is seen on the iPad screen and is formatted as such (native 4:3 of the iPad screen). There are some apps that will revert to AirPlay for video when using the mirroring function.

macfaninpdx
Dec 1, 2011, 03:43 PM
There's one thing I can't seem to find a clear answer for on elgato's website. How do you get the eyeTV content to a normal TV? Or to multiple TVs? Do you have to automatically convert everything to iTunes, and then watch it through an AppleTV connected to each TV?

Cave Man
Dec 1, 2011, 03:48 PM
If your TV is connected to a computer then you can stream the EyeTV recordings to that computer and thus the TV. If you are using the Apple TV then EyeTV has to transcode the file to an Apple TV-compatible format, drop it into iTunes and then the Apple TV can see it. This can be done with a single click in the EyeTV software or if you have a program scheduled you can have that done automatically. I record a number of TV shows each week and these are set to automatically transcode to iTunes so it shows up on all our devices, including iPhones and iPads.

srharris22
Dec 4, 2011, 10:44 AM
Thanks for the info and advice. Tbaygrs, you are correct about espn3/watchESPN app, you must have cable tv plan to get that. I am going with a cheaper set up initially. All of our TVs will get an HDTV antenna, provides about 20-24 channels. I will also have an antenna for our iMac + eyeTV one to make our DVR. Since we have the apple tv there and the ps3 I think we can handle most of everything. You just loose the ability to pause or rewind live since our iMac will not be connected directly to the tv. This set up will cost about $210 which we will saved that much after only 2 months.
I won't lie, this also leaves us open to any possible changes that apple might make to the appletv or in actually offering an 'iTV'.
The mac mini will be our choice to expand if no other choices are available in a few months.