Who's got an HTPC? Who's using XP Media Center? How is it, and how does it compare to XP Pro? Is it basically the same, but with all the media stuff added?
Fry's has a good deal on the HP z540 ($999) right now. Digital audio outs, dvd burner, dvi video out, and all the other goodies in a nice audio component styled case that would just go sooo well with my Rotel stuff.
It's tempting, but I just wondering what the OS is like and what others experiences have been with it.
I don't have one, but I want one bad.
What is the CPU speed on that one at Frys?
If you have some basic electronics knowledge, I would save the money and build your own PC. I built one 1.5 years ago and am very happy with it (other than the technology being obselete for gaming already!)
I'm waiting on this case to arrive so I can build another HTPC.
It will be used mostly to house two HDTV tuner cards for timeshifting "over the air" HDTV broadcasts and as a storage server for HDTV/DVD files.
My other HTPC is in a very heavy rack mounted case that looks like a rack mounted computer. This one is used for viewing OTA and Cable HDTV including HDTV and DVD file playback over my local area network. Both HTPC are connected to D-VHS tape recorders for archiving HD movies.
I use Windows XP Home Edition on both. And for multimedia software I use JRiver Media Center 10 in the rack mounted HTPC and will use iMON MultiMedian on the new HTPC.
The Tom's Hardware website has a pretty good and thorough review of the Media Center XP edition. I recommend reading that if you are interested.
What exactly is the purpose of a HTPC? Is it meant to replace any particular piece of equipment? What is it's retail market equal (i.e. Tivo, VCR, DVD player, etc.)?
I've seen some that look cool, but I don't get what they're primarily designed to do that isn't already being done by seperate pieces of equipment.
MCE is cool if you're going to use it as a PC that can Tivo, DVD, DVR, TV etc. If you are going to use it as your only source for a true HT piece of equipment, be careful to research all cards to insure compatibility with MCE 2005. Not all TV tuner cards can be used to capture video from outside sources, etc. MCE allows you to do most of the functions from within its program, but stronger performing programs must be used to get the most control out of the best hardware. PowerDVD, etc.
I just got a Dell refurb model that I will be using mostly as a PC, but may use the DVR with my projector in the HT room since that is where my desk will be located. I don't think that I will like it as much as my Tivo though from what I've seen so far.
The purpose of a HTPC is to converge as many separate pieces of CE equipment as possible into a single case.
Only your imagination and/or your ability to assemble the components limit you. For example, Iím typing this response with a RF keyboard on a 50Ē DLP monitor/TV.
The functions that my HTPC serves are analog, digital, and cable TV tuner with DVR to hard drives and over firewire to a D-VHS tape recorder. I actually have two HDTV tuner cards installed so that I can record two programs at the same time. For DVD playback I can use a software decoder that will scale the video to 1920x1080p over RGB and DVI outputs or 1080i over component output. One of the HDTV tuner cards that uses a hardware MPEG2 decoder can also scale DVD to 1080i and output either DVI, RGB, or Component.
The HTPC with any number of hard drives can be used as a media server to store and play your Redbook CDs and DVDs. In addition to ripping a DVD/CD collection to the server you can transcode into many audio Codec formats like MP3, WMA. With a DVD burner you can edit and record your own DVDs that will play on any DVD player.
On the audio front some people use good quality soundcards as a preamp feeding directly into power amps. Even after developing bass management for one soundcard company Iíve reverted to sending all digital audio over S/PDIF to a high quality external pre/pro.
The HTPC Iím building next week will be controlled by a programmable remote control system (iMON system) for about 98% of the functions. This new HTPC will not be used for email or Internet hopping. It will be connected to the Internet to download electronic program guide data for the TV tuner cards and software updates.
There are other uses for HTPC like Internet radio and download iTunes, etc.
Lets not forget the option of using a HTPC to play games in HD (which will likely be worse resolution than on your monitor anyways) on your HDTV.