no knowledge on the topic of HTPC need insight.

Discussion in 'Home Theater PCs & Equipment' started by alphaqforever247, Nov 9, 2018.

  1. alphaqforever247

    alphaqforever247 [H]ard|Gawd

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    I really have no idea on the concept of htpc. The question i have is that can and HTPC replace a cable company and capable of doing everything cable tv can? i ask this question cause my cable company goes up every year and its getting annoying. If an HTPC can replace cable tv what would i need to buy and or have set up in order to do this?
     
  2. IdiotInCharge

    IdiotInCharge [H]ardForum Junkie

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    The answer's no.

    The bargain is in what you're willing to give up- and generally speaking, looking at what an Nvidia Shield or Apple TV can do (or a Roku...) to see if that compromise is worth it. Generally, the HTPC is dead.
     
  3. Zarathustra[H]

    Zarathustra[H] Official Forum Curmudgeon

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    I'm still kind of clinging to my HTPC setup, but in general the approach has been in a slow motion death spiral for a long time.

    It still works for me, but there are compromises.

    Some things you should know:

    One of the most complete and most functional HTPC packages was Windows Media Center. It is set to die with Windows 7, so it would probably be silly to choose it today.

    Personally I use a MythTV backend (running on my NAS server, but the backend can also run directly on the HTPC if desired) and a Kodi frontend with a MythTV plugin, and I have two Silicondust HD Homerun Prime's for a total of 6 tuners, using two cable cards. It works pretty well. I can record all of my shows directly onto my NAS, which gives me WAY more storage space, than even the beefiest of Cable Company DVR's or TiVo/Hopper type solutions.

    The downside is that MythTV is an open source solution, which means there is no DRM compatibility. This used to not be a problem unless you wanted HBO. Most channels used the Copy Freely flag on their content so it worked either way. HBO and most (all?) premium channels these days are broadcast with the Copy Once flag and will not play any non-DRM compatible solution, like MythTV. If the rest of the channels are Copy Freely or Copy Once depends on your cable company, the original channel and what contract they have. For me, on Verizon FiOS, HBO is Copy Once, as is all non-OTA Fox channels. So, no Fox News (no great loss) or Fox Sports (Sucked to not be able to watch the World Series)

    So, whenever I want to watch TV, I play it from my Kodi frontend. It can either stream LiveTV or play back recordings from the MythTV backend.

    I also have a media library folder on my NAS. Kodi will play back files stored on it.


    Personally, I still like my setup. Most channels, including all I have any desire to regularly watch work, and I can record a nearly limitless number of shows. (Back when I had the FiOS DVR box I was limited to like 20 episodes in HD, it might have improved since then, I don't know, it's been a while)

    As far as the PC part goes, I'm currently using low end intel builds (Haswell Celerons) with low end Nvidia GPU's (one GT1030 in the livingroom, two GT720's, one in bedroom, one in guest room). They run well, but if I were building today I wouldn't take this approach. Nvidia used to develop something called VDPAU. It was essentially the same as PureVideo for Windows, but under Linux. (Kodi can run under Windows, but most implementations, like LibreELEC run under Linux). Nvidia has since stopped development of VDPAU, meaning no new decode features. My 720's can't decode HEVC at all. My 1030 can, but only 8bit, I believe. Because of this I tend to stick to AVC content.

    Nvidia has replaced VDPAU with NVDEC, but neither Kodi, nor any other Media/HTPC software package I am aware of have implemented it. When I asked in the Kodi forums, they stated they were pretty much done with Nvidia and had no interest in developing it (but said I was welcome to submit code for consideration if I wanted to. I'm not a coder though) Who knows. Maybe some day someone will implement it.

    The thing is, most people have moved on to mini computers like Intel's NUC's or sticks, or android devices, so this is what they develop for these days.

    Because of this, the recommendation these days is thus to use the integrated Intel iGPU using VAAPI which is supported by Kodi, or to use an ARM build on some sort of compact stick type device, Kodi will run on.

    This is what I might do next time around.

    I wouldn't try AMD APU's. I did in the past, and had nothing but problems with them for HTPC use under Linux. Constant crashing playback, etc.

    So, I've been doing this for some time, and I like it, but it is not for everyone. Most people who don't like their cable companies hardware would probably just be better off getting a cable card and a TiVo.

    I hope this was helpful. Let me know if you have any questions, I will try to help.
     
  4. Trimlock

    Trimlock [H]ardForum Junkie

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    It can replace the cable box, even act as a DVR with unlimited storage. You’d need an add-in card compatible with your service and I suggest reading up on the perks and things you won’t be able to do before going down that path. It can be expensive and time draining to get it to work right but you can save on the monthly DVR-rental fee too.
     
  5. IdiotInCharge

    IdiotInCharge [H]ardForum Junkie

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    Gotta ask: if the OP is trying to get away from cable bills, how is a cablecard-based setup going to help beyond limiting equipment rental fees?
     
  6. Zarathustra[H]

    Zarathustra[H] Official Forum Curmudgeon

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    Good point. I misread the OP.

    What OP wants is probably a Roku, and a subscription to like Netflix, Prime and HBO Go.
     
  7. IdiotInCharge

    IdiotInCharge [H]ardForum Junkie

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    No worries, I enjoyed reading your post regardless!
     
  8. Trimlock

    Trimlock [H]ardForum Junkie

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    Thats why I mentioned the cable card, I’m assuming he ment the box rental fee and not actually get-cable-for-free, I know a few people who used to think that you could because you didn’t have a box.
     
  9. Master_shake_

    Master_shake_ Little Bitch

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    get an antenna.

    then you can get some local stuff.
     
  10. Verge

    Verge [H]ardness Supreme

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    What is htpc :)


    You mean a shield?
     
  11. ShepsCrook

    ShepsCrook [H]ardForum Junkie

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    I stopped really using an HTPC when those little digital boxes came out. It just became overly complicated. I now just get linux distros and use plex with my NUC7i5BNH as the Media Center and NAS as my server. Local channels/major networks I use an Antenna (although reception sucks).
     
  12. scb175

    scb175 n00b

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    Not to thread-crap, but Is there a benefit to using your media center over say, a Roku, where you can just use the Plex app from that as well? Just curious as I'm learning all of this as well. Thanks
     
  13. ShepsCrook

    ShepsCrook [H]ardForum Junkie

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    So the reason why I prefer using a NUC over say a Roku is because of the following reasons (Which things might have changed but I haven't looked back into it).

    1. Speed: When browsing large libraries of media, the NUC with an i5 doesn't have delay in loading media pictures, playback of media has no delay when starting.
    2. HDR support (I'm sure all devices at this point support HDR for the most part).
    3. Audio formats: It seemed like most devices did not support DTS-HD, etc and sometimes struggled with configuration etc. I could be wrong as I didn't look all that much into this aspect because speed has always been a primary contributing factor.

    UPDATE:

    1. The Roku still does not support DTS-HD
    2. If you go with something like the Nvidia Shield (which is highly rated), then you get DTS-HD
     
    Last edited: Nov 27, 2018
  14. IdiotInCharge

    IdiotInCharge [H]ardForum Junkie

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    This shouldn't be much of an issue with modern stuff; generally, DTS-HD (and others) are passed to the receiver without issue, if the format is even present. DTS-HD seems pretty rare except on recorded formats i.e. UHD Bluray, right?
     
  15. Zarathustra[H]

    Zarathustra[H] Official Forum Curmudgeon

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    I feel like almost every Blu-ray I get has a DTS-HD track. There is also a lower quality 5.1 Dolby track, but I'd rather use the DTS.
     
  16. IdiotInCharge

    IdiotInCharge [H]ardForum Junkie

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    Same, though Atmos/DTS equivalent preferred. But at least DTS-HD is lossless and can come in 7.1. Always surprises me when the rears light up...
     
  17. mvmiller12

    mvmiller12 Gawd

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    I use an HTPC setup in my house, but I am not a "cord cutter." Here is how I am set up for informational purposes, regardless.

    I have an HD Homerun Prime with a Verizon Cablecard for my FIOS service. This is a LAN connected box that you can get for ~$100 and provides the actual TV channels to all of the TVs in the house (3 tuners is more than enough, we don't actually watch that much broadcast TV). I do not have any Verizon Set Top Boxes. The bedroom TVs use Amazon Fire sticks (~$30 each) with the Netflix and Hulu apps, the HD Homerun App (for TV channels), and the Plex App (for my media library, can also be used for live TV channels but then the HTPC has to needlessly transcode them to the Fire TV sticks; performance is all around better just using the HD Homerun App forl live TV) - the actual living room HTPC is also a Plex server. I have the lifetime subscription. If you trial the software they frequently send out a short-term coupon to get the lifetime subscription for ~$70, and I did that. Cablecard rental is ~$5/month from Verizon.

    The actual HTPC is aan AMD FX-8350 w/16G of RAM, a 120G SSD for the OS, a 2TB HDD for DVR purposes and a Highpoint 644L PCIe eSATA RAID card connected to a 5-bay eSATA drive enclosure (the enclosure has a port replicator so it only needs 1 eSATA connection). The enclosure has 5x 4TB HGST NAS drives in a RAID5 config for 16TB of effective storage for my media library. The RAID card can support up to 3 more such encloisures, and I can put in bigger drives as well; expandability is not a problem. The video card is an AMD R7 260X bought for this purpose years ago. The mainboard, RAM, and processor were upgrade remnants from when I built my Ryzen system. The system is connected to a 4K HDTV and handles 4k video just fine (with a DisplayPort to HDMI 2 adapter). Hardware accelerated h.264 decoding leaves the CPU pretty idle most of the time. It does not do HDR or h.265 video, though (newer video cards can handle that). The FX-8350 CPU also works very well with Plex, and I have had 5 simultaneous Plex streams running while using Kodi on the HTPC itself and everything was smooth for everyone.

    Software on the HTPC is Windows 10 Pro, Kodi (with HD Homerun plugin for Live TV and DVR support), MySQL (for shared media library database), the Netflix and Hulu apps, and Plex Server. The HTPC is also a file server for the local PCs to share files.

    The system is built into a full tower Cooler Master case that sits near the entertainment system. It has a custom liquid cooling loop in it, cooling the CPU and Video card (using 2 2x120 radiators and a Koolance 5.25" bay pump/reservoir with soft tubing). It keeps the system very quiet even under load.

    I can't really rate the cost of the core components because they were left over parts from prior builds. The RAID card and drive enclosure were ~$100 each, and the 4G HDDs were ~$150 each (they can be had bigger and/or cheaper now if you hunt for deals). The Koolance pump/reservoir is ~$100 if you can still find one, radiators are about $70 each, and the blocks were about $50 (GPU) and $80 (CPU). GPU is using a generic GPU core block, CPU is on a Koolance 380A. Fluid is Koolance's regular blue stuff at $15/bottle.

    Sound is courtesy of an Asus Xonar U3 USB sound card (~$40). It outputs Dolby Digital Live 5.1 audio via Toslink optical to my admittedly old-but-still-plenty-good home theater sound system.

    On my storage array, I keep digital copies of my entire DVD and BluRay collection (close to 8 TB of stuff, re-encoded to h.264, of course). Ripping and encoding of disks is done on my personal PC primarily using as needed AnyDVD HD (~$100 for a lifetime license), MeGUI (and QTGMC for interlaced content), Handbrake, eac3to, and BDSup2Sub. Details on my actual encoding process are in another thread around here somewhere...

    This system works great, is easy for my wife and kids to use, and I really have no complaints with it. After tax time, I will likely migrate an RX480 videocard into this system and might upgrade it to a Ryzen R7 as well, but I am not losing any functionality I care about with it as it is right now.
     
    Last edited: Nov 27, 2018
  18. ShepsCrook

    ShepsCrook [H]ardForum Junkie

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    DTS-HD is on pretty much everything I see these days as an option. My acquired media typically is at least DTS, DTS-HD, DTS-MA, TrueHD etc. I'd say on average as I'm going through my collection I've got more AC3 than anything else, but that's also because that's just easier.

    On a side note, I've been spending the last few weeks converting my media collection from 264 to 265 to reduce storage use. I've managed to free up almost 2TB of space, meanwhile I've easily added another 100 movies and a couple more TV shows + seasons with ease.

    SERVER:
    13x 4TB WD Red (RAID6)
    2x 12 core Xeon v3's
    128GB DDR4 ECC

    CONVERT BOX:
    2x 18 core Xeon V4's
    128GB DDR4 ECC
    250GB SSD
    2TB Seagate Hybrid
     
  19. Zarathustra[H]

    Zarathustra[H] Official Forum Curmudgeon

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    Yeah, about 99% of the movies I watch are in some form of DTS.

    TV shows tend to be some form of Dolby.

    I've mostly avoided HEVC this far due to lack of hardware decode support on my frontend.

    I went with Nvifida GPU's because the MythTV Kodi plugin used to randomly crash when rendering on Intel iGPU's and anything AMD, but now that is coming back to bite me in the ass.

    Nvidia used an API called VDPAU as their Linux equivalent to PureVideo on Linux, but they recently discontinued it, replacing it with something called NVDEC. NVDEC seems like an improvement, but for some crazy reason, despite Kodi utilizing ffmpeg, and ffmpeg supporting NVDEC, Kodi has been resistant to adopting NVDEC.

    This means I am stuck on the last available VDPAU revision which supports HEVC up to 4k resolutions, but only with 8bit encoding. Anything above 8bit and I am software decoding.

    I suspect the MythTV plugin for Kodi no longer had had crashing issues on Intel GPU's they used to, and I may upgrade my frontends, but it is kind of annoying, as in the past so could just drop a new low end GPU in my frontends to add video decode capability when needed, (I recently moved my main HTPC from a 720 to a 1030 for this reason, but the guest room and bedroom remain on 720's) but now I guess the expectation is that you upgrade the entire system whenever a new decode feature is needed, which is kind of bullshit.

    I am considering shopping around for ARM based boxes compatible with Kodi on LibreElec, but I don't know if any of those will work as well as my current PC based setups and support HDR HEVC at 4k+ under Linux...

    It's annoying.


    At least storage isn't a problem yet. Last December I upgraded to 12x 10tb 7200rpm Seagate Enterprise drives from my old 12x 4TB 5200rpm WD reds, so I have plenty of space...

    ....for now.
     
  20. Zarathustra[H]

    Zarathustra[H] Official Forum Curmudgeon

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    Wait, are you just reencoding already encoded files? Aren't you concerned about compounding compression artefacts?

    I try to store everything in the exact unaltered stream it came on on the Bluray only moving it to a more practical container using MakeMKV. I never reencode anything. A typical 1080P movie this takes between 18 and 35GB. 4k titles take more, but surprisingly not that much more, they must really compromise on the bitrate on those.
     
  21. ShepsCrook

    ShepsCrook [H]ardForum Junkie

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    I have found that the quality is good enough and there's really not a huge hit if any. The movies that I feel are worth keeping high quality I don't touch. Same with the 4k movies.

    A lot of the basic movies that I don't care about being perfect quality that I acquire are 2-3GB in size for 1080P, 10Bit, AC3 5.1 and 4-5GB for DTS. Sometimes they will go a little higher.
     
  22. mvmiller12

    mvmiller12 Gawd

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    Typically my DVD encodes are done with a 2-pass constant bitrate of 2500 and most BluRays are done at 3500 (using appropriate tunings for film and animation sources, of course). I keep or convert to AC3 5.1 for audio. This keeps most movies in the 2-3G, just like ShepsCrook. If I watch a film and see an excessive amount of banding or other compression artifacts, I will simply go back to the disk and re-encode from the source at a higher bitrate. I've only had a handful of movies where I've really had to do that (a couple of Marvel BluRays immediately come to mind) . That vast majority look perfectly fine to my eyes on my 4K 50" TV with those default settings. And remember a bitrate of 2500 for a DVD using h.264 is actually quite a lot.

    I'm on a budget and have to stretch those 16 TBs :)
     
  23. Zarathustra[H]

    Zarathustra[H] Official Forum Curmudgeon

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    Yeah, disk space is not an issue for me.

    I don't bother with DVD's at all. Blurays I rip using MakeMKV. I keep the main video title, and the highest quality audio source present in that title (Usually some form of 7.1 DTS) and safe them without re-encoding anything. I don't want to risk even the slightest quality degradation

    I have plenty of space left. When I run out, I'll probably just get more rather than recompress my video files with lower bitrates.

    Code:
    # zpool list zfshome
    NAME      SIZE  ALLOC   FREE  EXPANDSZ   FRAG    CAP  DEDUP  HEALTH  ALTROOT
    zfshome   109T  45.9T  63.2T         -     8%    42%  1.00x  ONLINE  -