Another HTPC Question - What are my options?

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by kikuchiyo, Mar 21, 2009.

  1. kikuchiyo macrumors member

    Jun 5, 2005
    Atlanta, GA
    So I am moving back to the U.S. in about three months and getting a new apartment there. In preparation I've been researching two big projects - one is furniture (I'm a law student and I need a calming, easy to use work space) and one is an HTPC. I've spent two weeks researching and I can't for the life of me figure out what to do.

    Basically here's what I want from an HTPC.

    1. DVD Playback (I am going to rip my DVDs and put them on a 1TB drive hooked up to an Airport extreme (or the machine itself).
    2. Emulators. I bought a ton of old games in Japan and I want to play them on whatever machine is hooked up to the TV.
    3. PVR - I will probably have cable (though I'm not sure - I may just go the Hulu/Bittorrent route) - but if I do, it will need to hook into my cable box.
    4. Attractive easy to use front end software. It needs too look good and be controllable with a remote (not necessarily the Apple one). Extra points for a front end that will also incorporate emulators.

    And here are some things I would like but aren't 100% necessary:
    1. Region free - I have a ton of Japanese DVDs. While I have a hacked external DVD drive that will work in a pinch, a region free drive would be nice (not possible with the mac mini without eating my warranty).
    2. PC Games. If possible I'd like the option of playing Morrowind, Oblivion, and Fallout 3.
    3. Dual tuner cards - to record something and watching something else at the same time.
    4. Quiet with a small attractive case.
    5. Integration (as much as possible) with iTunes and iPhoto (which will both also be stored on the networked 1TB drive).

    Based on all this, it seems like my best bet for front end software is either Vista or Windows 7 Media Center. The machine itself is probably going to be a Mac Mini (but again, region free DVD is going to be impossible with it). I am open to either building a machine (though I am worried it won't be quiet) or buying a pre-made PC too (I was looking at the HTPC centered HP Pavilions and the Dell Studio Slims - the studio slim seems especially good because I can get a 19" Dell monitor to hook up to my Macbook Pro).

    Another option was buying an Xbox 360 or Playstation 3. However, I won't be able to run emulated games on them (the PS3 runs some emulators via Linux but I am told the performance isn't so hot).

    Right now I'm on standard def, but I may upgrade to HD so I would like that to be a possibility.

    Right now I am looking at getting a Mac Mini, installing Vista or 7 Media Center on it via Boot Camp and buying the Elgato Hybrid (which for sure works under 7 and has hacked drivers for Vista). I may buy the airport extreme but was also thinking about simply using the Mac Mini as an airport style device itself through Internet sharing.

    I have a controller for the machine and a 1TB external drive to use with the machine. Other than that, I'm still in the planning stages. Any help or advice would be very very very appreciated.
  2. Aegelward macrumors 6502a

    Jul 31, 2005
    As much as i'd like to recommend a mac mini, it seems that a proper HTPC would be your best choice.

    • For a start the drives used by apple are notoriously hard to flash.
    • While the classic consoles are covered by emulation under OS X, the post-PSX generation is very poorly supported
    • A good HTPC chassis will support multiple tuners, with a powerful CPU you could even record multiple channels simultaneously
    • I guess the best software to plug is XBMC, But i have heard that windows media center in vista offers application integration

    Chassis wise, you can get a large variety. Personally i think the better looking ones match with Hi-Fi separates gear. Some do look really good (shh, don't tell the fanboys), plus you can have about 4 gigs of internal HDD storage.

    Of course...

    You can still use a Mac mini, only i'm afraid that things will be a lot less integrated and neat looking and a lot less local storage (i've never had much luck with streaming). with a PC chassis you can have all your components internally. with the Mini you'd be depending on USB peripherals a LOT. I mean, ideally for yourself you'd want some kind of external dvd drive, a couple of tuners, etc. And don't forget a lot of USB peripherals require their own power plug.

    - Saying that, i use a mac mini myself... but i don't quite push it so far
  3. kikuchiyo thread starter macrumors member

    Jun 5, 2005
    Atlanta, GA
    Do you have any recommendations for a chassis that is quiet and good looking? I was looking at the Nexus PSILE but I am open to suggestions.

    As for emulators, I really just want up to the PSX, but there isn't a good Mac PSX emulator.

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