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Yet Another HTPC-advice Thread!

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TheSeeker

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Hello everyone!

finally, after quite some time, have come to a position to realise my desire of having an HTPC as well as the time to enjoy using & fiddling with it! although there's still 1-2 months' or so time before i have one fully set up, but thought to rather start reading, inviting suggestions, get components one-by-one from wherever i find them. still going through some old HTPC and related threads here and some webpages.

i'll give a rundown of what all i have, what would i require, functionalities needed.

functionalities needed:

- full hd movie playback with 5.1 support; BRD playback too
- a lot of 'youtubing'!
- light gaming (old games or/and indie games)
- music playback
- p2p downloads, although not regularly
- media server capabalities, and a lot of installing of wares for that purpose and then some others.

i have:

presently a panasonic 50VT20D to which this HTPC would output video-playback, and a pair of floorstanders (connected to an amp and presently playing music via a squeezebox classic) for music-playback. and am using a Himedia HD900B for movie-playback currently. plan to get an HTiB or something later.

i require:

an AV rack! (good idea to keep the cabinet horizontally on the rack?!)

am also very open to buying used items from members on the forum if they are still relevant for use today. i trust members of esp. this forum to keep their equipment in good order.

so please pour in some suggestions.

TIA!

P.S. - am on the verge of getting an SSD from a member of another tech-forum. for rest of the components, need your suggestions.
 

regeHA

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Just playback or do you plan for any upscaling and 4K?

If its a no to both then simply get the Raspberry Pi 3 and be done with it. Will cost around 3K to 3.5K for the entire thing.

External HDD or NAS as required. You don't need the SSD for the Pi.

If you plan to do upscaling and want the very best PQ, then you'll need a top of the line GPU for the likes of madVR and for that please state the budget.
 

TheSeeker

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Just playback or do you plan for any upscaling and 4K?

If its a no to both then simply get the Raspberry Pi 3 and be done with it. Will cost around 3K to 3.5K for the entire thing.

External HDD or NAS as required. You don't need the SSD for the Pi.

If you plan to do upscaling and want the very best PQ, then you'll need a top of the line GPU for the likes of madVR and for that please state the budget.

would want upscaling, yes (idea being to watch movies/videos/documentaries downloaded from youtube videos like that, and DVDs occasionally; not much use i can think of upscaling otherwise. i may be wrong) and want a very good PQ and SQ. no 4k yet.

am not inclined towards taking the RP route.

havent decided on a figure for the budget yet. but would want to keep the costs under 20-25k if possible.
 
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venkatcr

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- full hd movie playback with 5.1 support; BRD playback too

Why 5.1? Why not 7.2? Most HTPCs with a good GPU can give you, what ever is there in the disk.

- p2p downloads, although not regularly
- media server capabalities, and a lot of installing of wares for that purpose and then some others.

I would strongly suggest against any kind of Internet activity other than the bare minimum. Continuous use of the Internet tends to degrade the performance. You tube is all right, but do not use this for torrents and certainly not for surfing. Beyond a certain level the cookies that are installed and all the unneeded software tend to slow down your main tasks.

Use the minimal possible to set up a DLNA/UPnP/ and use that regularly. Don't try multiple software to keep experimenting. Use a different machine that you can format once in 6 months for that.

I set up an HTPC 4 or 5 years ago. Except for changing the GPU, I have not installed any software other than VLC and PowerDVD. I allow the drivers for these to be updated. Period. Nothing else. And my HTPC works like a dream.

I have even more stricter rules for my Audio PC!! But that is another story.

And, oh BTW, look at a minimum of 8GB RAM.

Cheers
 

TheSeeker

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thanks Venkat saar!

Why 5.1? Why not 7.2? Most HTPCs with a good GPU can give you, what ever is there in the disk.

wont it be an overkill if unused? i mean i wouldn't dimiss a GPU or soundcard because "its offering me 7.2 whereas i want 5.1" esp. if its pocket-friendly, but should i spend some more to get a 7.2 one as a 'future-proof' investment? i dont know.

I would strongly suggest against any kind of Internet activity other than the bare minimum. Continuous use of the Internet tends to degrade the performance. You tube is all right, but do not use this for torrents and certainly not for surfing. Beyond a certain level the cookies that are installed and all the unneeded software tend to slow down your main tasks.

Use the minimal possible to set up a DLNA/UPnP/ and use that regularly. Don't try multiple software to keep experimenting. Use a different machine that you can format once in 6 months for that.

I set up an HTPC 4 or 5 years ago. Except for changing the GPU, I have not installed any software other than VLC and PowerDVD. I allow the drivers for these to be updated. Period. Nothing else. And my HTPC works like a dream.

I have even more stricter rules for my Audio PC!! But that is another story.

i understand that. i use a particular set of softwares on my main PC and laptop, and would use some from the same set (whichever are useful for HTPC-op), plus more which would be required by this HTPC. torrenting, yes, most probably i won't be doing on this, as this is done by my laptop presently, and will also revive my pogo pro and goflex home for this purpose. surfing would be limited to occasional searching for subtitles, movie-covers, etc. formatting once in some months is not much of an issue with me for i keep doing it with my other devices (although nothing as good as it being not reqd. only).

BTW am most interested to use/experiment with XBMC, plex and such things (core to an HTPC) than others.

And, oh BTW, look at a minimum of 8GB RAM.

Cheers

no problem, but i have been reading people recommending atleast 4/6GB. could you please tell why 8GB will be better?
 

venkatcr

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wont it be an overkill if unused? i mean i wouldn't dimiss a GPU or soundcard because "its offering me 7.2 whereas i want 5.1" esp. if its pocket-friendly, but should i spend some more to get a 7.2 one as a 'future-proof' investment? i dont know.

There is no additional investment. If you get a GPU that can send HD audio in raw format, then you already have a 7.1 (TrueHD and MasterHD). As far as HTPC goes this is only a nomenclature. It all depends upon the GPU you get. It does not make sense to get a GPU that cannot send digital audio with all the necessary codecs.

BTW am most interested to use/experiment with XBMC, plex and such things (core to an HTPC) than others.

could you please tell why 8GB will be better?

The minute you talk about media such a Blu-ray and software such as XBMX and Plex, you are talking about hogging the memory. The more memory you have, the better it is. And DDR3 is expensive. You will face lots of issues - stuttering, audio jitter, slow boot, etc. All that can be handled by having a 64 bit processor that can handle 8GB and more. You will at least set aside one possible trouble maker away.

On my laptop from which I am sending this message he is the performance status:

Total 8106
Cached 3121
Available 4396
Free 1366

And I am not even playing a video.

I hope you get the picture.

Cheers
 

z@m

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Why 5.1? Why not 7.2? Most HTPCs with a good GPU can give you, what ever is there in the disk.



I would strongly suggest against any kind of Internet activity other than the bare minimum. Continuous use of the Internet tends to degrade the performance. You tube is all right, but do not use this for torrents and certainly not for surfing. Beyond a certain level the cookies that are installed and all the unneeded software tend to slow down your main tasks.

Use the minimal possible to set up a DLNA/UPnP/ and use that regularly. Don't try multiple software to keep experimenting. Use a different machine that you can format once in 6 months for that.

I set up an HTPC 4 or 5 years ago. Except for changing the GPU, I have not installed any software other than VLC and PowerDVD. I allow the drivers for these to be updated. Period. Nothing else. And my HTPC works like a dream.

I have even more stricter rules for my Audio PC!! But that is another story.

And, oh BTW, look at a minimum of 8GB RAM.

Cheers

One suggestion... the problem you cite can be eliminated with private browsing/incognito mode. Also, a weekly run of CCleaner also maintains tip-top performance.
 

venkatcr

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One suggestion... the problem you cite can be eliminated with private browsing/incognito mode. Also, a weekly run of CCleaner also maintains tip-top performance.

Sorry my friend, that does not work. Incognito just hides your browsing history, but it does not stop external IPs from messing with your system. And CCleaner has limited capabilities. It leaves a lot of irrelevant entries in your Registry as well as a lot of dead files in your C drive. Nothing like reformatting your C drives once in six months and reinstalling JUST the software you need. My laptop today takes upto 90 seconds to boot. It used to boot in 30 seconds or less before. When I clean some stuff, the boot time and application load time improves.

Cheers
 

sam9s

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Yes another sam9s HTPC advice post ..... :D ....

I am into HTPC and server builds for like ages, and have tried all sorts of applications, OS, both windows linux mac... x86, ARM .... you name it, and in all practicality, in all scenarios, for a dedicated HTPC, nothing comes close to Kodi AKA XBMC. This is the software front I am talking about. For the hardware, running Kodi is NOT resource hog, even for BD ISOs and 3D as well ....except if you go in to 4K and/or go for any sort of video transcoding/resampling, which is not needed unless you want to stream your video media on the move over 3G or something.

Lets discuess the hardware for a budget of 25K, below is what I would suggest

GA-H81M-S2PH 3500
Intel 3 GHz LGA 1150 G-3220 Dual Core 4300
Zotac GT630 4000
wd green 1TB 4000
Corsair*DDR3*4*GB(1*x*4GB) 1650
PSU Corsair VS450 2500
SSD 32 GB for OS sandisk 2500
===================TOTAL--> 22450


This will play every format thrown, including BD ISO and 3D as well (not 3D BD ISO support as of now with kodi.. sorry, but there are ways to use external player to do the job with kodi running as front end). Also with this GPU you will have full DTSMA and TrueHD bit streaming.

Coming to media server, what kinda of media server are you planning to run, need to be more specific, what is your objective. We can have one windows machine that will run your Kodi and can act as a 24x7 running media server as well. But, in that case we would have windows running as the underlying OS. The advantage is you can have your torrent running at the background and other applications as well. BUT trust me this approch sooner or later might slow down the system.

Recommended approach, at least for dedicated HTPC is to have it running as an OS, very much like OpenELEC (kodi based on linux). Will be much faster in the long run and also gives a more media player like feel than a PC. (I am using openELEC for ages now.

Disadvantages of openELEC is that you can not have any media server OS/app running at the background. Torrents you can still run as we have a transmission plugin for Kodi that should serve your purpose, but point is you would be limited to run third party apps from within Kodi.

What else do you need ................ Youtube ?? can be run from within Kodi, Music as well can be run from within kodi. Gaming you can not do ... unless you opt for Windows based Kodi, in that case you just quit Kodi and come back to desktop and start what ever game you like. (but that is not how I perceive an HTPC)

What else are your requirements ....... list on and we shall see how to build a solution:)
 
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sam9s

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Sorry my friend, that does not work. Incognito just hides your browsing history, but it does not stop external IPs from messing with your system. And CCleaner has limited capabilities. It leaves a lot of irrelevant entries in your Registry as well as a lot of dead files in your C drive. Nothing like reformatting your C drives once in six months and reinstalling JUST the software you need. My laptop today takes upto 90 seconds to boot. It used to boot in 30 seconds or less before. When I clean some stuff, the boot time and application load time improves.

Cheers

venkat, you cannot expect to reformat your C drive every 6 months and then keep reinstalling teh OS and JUST the software you need ...... that is not a viable solution. Imaging is what I would suggest. Install everything, including your applications and drivers and then create an Image (google nortan ghost). When your system is all bogged and goes ultra slow with all the garbage and you feel the need to reformat, just deploy the image you have created and that would bring back the OS with all the drivers and all the necessary application you installed in the beginning ......

For more technical people, my advice, use VM for your day to day activities and keep snapshot of the original image. When things go haywire with your OS just revert to the original snapshot.
 
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venkatcr

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Sam, I agree, what I do is not very smart. Next time after I format and reinstall, let me take an image and see if that works.

But the couple of times I have formatted and reinstalled, I have not faced any issues. My laptop has just OS and MS Office. All other software in any case are downloaded and installed. I just have a list of minimal software I need.

My HTPC has OS, VLC, PowerDVD and nothing else. I had installed some EDIO script for the Onkyo, but that will not be needed anymore as I have moved away from the Onkyo.

Thanks
 
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regeHA

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Yes another sam9s HTPC advice post ..... :D ....

I am into HTPC and server builds for like ages, and have tried all sorts of applications, OS, both windows linux mac... x86, ARM .... you name it, and in all practicality, in all scenarios, for a dedicated HTPC, nothing comes close to Kodi AKA XBMC. This is the software front I am talking about. For the hardware, running Kodi is NOT resource hog, even for BD ISOs and 3D as well ....except if you go in to 4K and/or go for any sort of video transcoding/resampling, which is not needed unless you want to stream your video media on the move over 3G or something.

Lets discuess the hardware for a budget of 25K, below is what I would suggest

GA-H81M-S2PH Motherboard 3500
Intel 3 GHz LGA 1150 G-3220 Dual Core 4300
Zotac GT630 4000
wd green 1TB 4000
Corsair*DDR3*4*GB(1*x*4GB) 1650
PSU Corsair VS450 2500
SSD 32 GB for OS sandisk 2500
===================TOTAL--> 22450


This will play every format thrown, including BD ISO and 3D as well (not 3D BD ISO support as of now with kodi.. sorry, but there are ways to use external player to do the job with kodi running as front end). Also with this GPU you will have full DTSMA and TrueHD bit streaming.

Coming to media server, what kinda of media server are you planning to run, need to be more specific, what is your objective. We can have one windows machine that will run your Kodi and can act as a 24x7 running media server as well. But, in that case we would have windows running as the underlying OS. The advantage is you can have your torrent running at the background and other applications as well. BUT trust me this approch sooner or later might slow down the system.

Recommended approach, at least for dedicated HTPC is to have it running as an OS, very much like OpenELEC (kodi based on linux). Will be much faster in the long run and also gives a more media player like feel than a PC. (I am using openELEC for ages now.

Disadvantages of openELEC is that you can not have any media server OS/app running at the background. Torrents you can still run as we have a transmission plugin for Kodi that should serve your purpose, but point is you would be limited to run third party apps from within Kodi.

What else do you need ................ Youtube ?? can be run from within Kodi, Music as well can be run from within kodi. Gaming you can not do ... unless you opt for Windows based Kodi, in that case you just quit Kodi and come back to desktop and start what ever game you like. (but that is not how I perceive an HTPC)

What else are your requirements ....... list on and we shall see how to build a solution:)

Sam,

I know the OP has said no to the Pi, but wondering why so much h/w when the Pi running OpenELEC will do the same thing. Especially if no upscaling is involved.

Unless of course your reply is specific to the OP, who does not wan to run a Pi.

My 2 cents would be to get the latest Pi 3 and go with OpenELEC. Performance will not lack/lag and will do justice for anything 1080P.

My own requirement is upscaling to 4K as I have both a 4K monitor and TV, so I like everything upscaled to 3840 x 2160.

But that's not a requirement for most folks...
 
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regeHA

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would want upscaling, yes (idea being to watch movies/videos/documentaries downloaded from youtube videos like that, and DVDs occasionally; not much use i can think of upscaling otherwise. i may be wrong) and want a very good PQ and SQ. no 4k yet.

am not inclined towards taking the RP route.

havent decided on a figure for the budget yet. but would want to keep the costs under 20-25k if possible.

Here are a couple of guides you can go through. Will give you a fair idea of what it entails and to what extent you can go with upscaling. This is using madVR.

https://wiki.mikejung.biz/MadVR

https://imouto.my/tutorials/madvr/

Another option is to use NVIDIA DSR, and you can read up on it on the link below.

https://wiki.mikejung.biz/PotPlayer_DSR

Player of choice is Daum PotPlayer, MPC is a 2nd option, but it does not offer as many options to tweak things.

A lot will depend on the extent to which you want to upscale. Extreme will obviously need an NVIDIA GTX 9XX card, obviously more than your planned budget. You can go lower in the GTX series and not push madVR to the extreme.

A good place to start is with your existing h/w, what you can repurpose and what's your outlay/budget in terms of what you need. GPU will need to be factored in as well. How much you want to spend on the GPU will depend on how much you want to upscale.

Another option is to go with NVIDIA GT series (non-gaming GPUs) and use a fraction of the functionality of madVR. You can always upgrade at a later date when budget permits.

Personally, after using a HTPC with madVR I cannot go back to watching regular content. It makes that much of a difference.

Yet another option is to go with a Blu-ray player that will upscale quite nicely. Even the modestly priced Blu-ray players do an excellent job in this department. The top of the line Oppo BDPs with Darbee take things to an entirely different level.

Start with reading the guides, will give you a fair idea of what upscaling achieves and what you can expect in terms of PQ.

Then you can plan accordingly.
 

sam9s

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Sam,

I know the OP has said no to the Pi, but wondering why so much h/w when the Pi running OpenELEC will do the same thing. Especially if no upscaling is involved.

Unless of course your reply is specific to the OP, who does not wan to run a Pi..

Few reasons .. (specific to Rasp pi 2 since I have not experimented on Rpi 3)

1. Raspberry Pi as of now does not support DTSMA, TrueHD passthrough. (and I presume same goes with rpi 3 as well)

2. OpenELEC on Rasp pi is good as long as you stick to default skin and stick to only DTS/DD decoding. Once you start configuring Kodi with some cool good heavy duty skins and install plugins and other cosmetic changes the entire experience is not as smooth as I would like to

3. BD ISO playback not as smooth as I would like to. bitrate of 10 to 15mbps works smooth, but anything on the higher side is at times choppy. Not always mind you but sometimes.

4. No H.265 support. which is the in thing with 4K decoding.....
 
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sam9s

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Few things I would like to add...

1. Since I brought H.265 decoding in my previous post I remembered that I forgot to mention to OP that he should opt for minimum GeForce GTX 745 with feature set E for full H.265 decoding support.

2. I respect regeHA, but personally I did not see a difference in using madvr or other sorts of filters to have improved the PQ enough so as to invest in an expensive GPU for the same. But as someone said........... each to its own .... :)
 
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regeHA

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2. I respect regeHA, but personally I did not see a difference in using madvr or other sorts of filters to have improved the PQ enough so as to invest in an expensive GPU for the same. But as someone said........... each to its own .... :)

2 things to keep in mind.

1. You need 4K screen, either TV or monitor. Otherwise the s/w will upscale to 4K, but the TV or monitor will again downscale to 1080P or whatever is the native resolution of the screen. Of course there will be a difference even with 1080P screen. 1080P content upscaled to 4K and then downscaled to 1080P will result in smoother and better PQ than native 1080P content. But the difference will not be huge to even warrant the need for an expensive HTPC. However, upscale 1080P content on a 4K screen and it will look much better than on a 1080P screen. Any TV showroom demoing both FHD and 4K TVs side by side and playing the same content will show this difference, of course a large extent will depend on how good the quality of the upscaler is in the 4K TV.
2. A better way to see the difference is to use lower quality content. Use content that is 700 x 400 i.e. 480P or nearer to it and then upscale it to 4K and then let the monitor or TV downscale to its native resolution of 1080P. The difference will be easily discernible. Same goes for 720P content. Again, not much benefit of upscaling 1080P content to 4K and then downscale to 1080P. Best to test with lower resolution content, nearer to 360P or 480P and then see it. It will make for better PQ with upscaling.

Finally, not everybody's cup of tea. Most people actually rejected HFR content from Peter Jackson. Sometimes people prefer 24 frames instead of HFR. So always comes down to personal choice.
 

sam9s

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2 things to keep in mind.

1. You need 4K screen, either TV or monitor. Otherwise the s/w will upscale to 4K, but the TV or monitor will again downscale to 1080P or whatever is the native resolution of the screen. Of course there will be a difference even with 1080P screen. 1080P content upscaled to 4K and then downscaled to 1080P will result in smoother and better PQ than native 1080P content. But the difference will not be huge to even warrant the need for an expensive HTPC. However, upscale 1080P content on a 4K screen and it will look much better than on a 1080P screen. Any TV showroom demoing both FHD and 4K TVs side by side and playing the same content will show this difference, of course a large extent will depend on how good the quality of the upscaler is in the 4K TV.
2. A better way to see the difference is to use lower quality content. Use content that is 700 x 400 i.e. 480P or nearer to it and then upscale it to 4K and then let the monitor or TV downscale to its native resolution of 1080P. The difference will be easily discernible. Same goes for 720P content. Again, not much benefit of upscaling 1080P content to 4K and then downscale to 1080P. Best to test with lower resolution content, nearer to 360P or 480P and then see it. It will make for better PQ with upscaling.

Finally, not everybody's cup of tea. Most people actually rejected HFR content from Peter Jackson. Sometimes people prefer 24 frames instead of HFR. So always comes down to personal choice.

I did not scale it to 4K, since I do not have a 4K display (as of now), plus my belief is when you upscale, you do it to the native resolution, upscaling to higher and then letting the display algo scale it down to native is not a good practice (strictly IMHO :)). Anyway upscaling from 480p to 1080p is what I tried and this was on my projector. May be..... just may be if this was tried on my LED full HD, I might have noticed better difference, I dont know. Another thing.... the file I upscaled was already a very high bitrate file .........bitrate matters a lot........ a higher bitrate 480p might look much better than a low bitrate 1080p. Anyway maybe my eyes are not sharp enough to see the difference ....:lol::D
 
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venkatcr

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Sam and RegeHa, though I understand where you are both coming from, you seem to skipping the upscaling being done by AVRs. Though I do agree that upscaling can be done anywhere, is it not that much easier to send a signal as is to the AVR and let the AVR handle the upscaling? Of course this does depend on the capability of the AVR, but today nearly all 50K AVRs do 4K upscaling.

With us pushing for power at all stages, we may actually end up with under utilized power and some amount of redundancy.

Of course we have to see where to have the power and build a balanced system. If the OP is going for (or has) a decent AVR, he may need nothing at the HTPC (source) level other than a decent player that can pass HD audio.

Cheers
 

venkatcr

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Ok. I went and checked the first post. The OP currently has nothing and is planning for an HTiB. So a powerful HTPC does make sense.

Cheers
 

regeHA

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Sam and RegeHa, though I understand where you are both coming from, you seem to skipping the upscaling being done by AVRs. Though I do agree that upscaling can be done anywhere, is it not that much easier to send a signal as is to the AVR and let the AVR handle the upscaling? Of course this does depend on the capability of the AVR, but today nearly all 50K AVRs do 4K upscaling.

With us pushing for power at all stages, we may actually end up with under utilized power and some amount of redundancy.

Of course we have to see where to have the power and build a balanced system. If the OP is going for (or has) a decent AVR, he may need nothing at the HTPC (source) level other than a decent player that can pass HD audio.

Cheers

Honestly extreme overclocking. PS3 and XBOX are good, but nothing compares to an overclocked PC.

Over 1800 pages of feedback and updates in a forum - madVR - high quality video renderer (GPU assisted) - Doom9's Forum.

Even the JRiver folks swear by it. https://wiki.jriver.com/index.php/MadVR_Expert_Guide.

Here is a simple breakdown of madVR options, madVR Options Explained - Doom9's Forum.

AVR upscaling is auto, there really are no options you can pick and choose from.

With madVR you crop images exactly to the point you desire, I've set it up to crop all black bars. No matter what format, 16:9 or 2.35:1 or even DVDs, I get upscaled images without the black bars.

I can also sharpen images to my desire... or the opposite i.e. soften them. That kind of control is not there in an AVR.

You can remove aliasing, ringing, artifacts, etc. all to specific parameters. In other words try and see if you like it, or change and keep changing till you get to where you want it.

Plus a ton of options like chroma upscaling, smooth motion, calibration, dither control, deinterlacing, luma upscaling, etc.

Once you go through them and set things up correctly, no upscaler in an AVR or TV will compare. Of course the trade off is in an expensive GPU, I've a GTX 970 and even that cannot go all the way with madVR. Maybe SLI configuration might... but I've not tried it.

Or yes, you could consider this the Bug Head Emperor of video and just go with a simple video source that leaves the processing to the AVR.

I actually believe even the most budget Blu-ray players do an excellent job of upscaling. My AVRs are a generation old, no Atmos and limited to HDMI 1.4, so cannot really compare to madVR. The Oppo I have though is excellent and does a super job of upscaling, but its limited to 720P and beyond. Its not so great with lower resolution content like 480P. With madVR however I get super smooth images of even lower resolution content like 480P. I'm not sure AVRs will do a great job with such low resolution content, but I may be wrong as my AVR is old.
 
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