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New to HTPC. Recommendations?

 
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tjk6277
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 16, 2011 7:26 am    Post subject: New to HTPC. Recommendations? Reply with quote

Looking to get a Mini for building a HTPC. I have several questions......

Which Mac Mini? Used or refurbished 2009 or the new 2010 with the HDMI? Which is best for watching 1080p quality HD on a 47" TV? Is a ram upgrade to 4GB recommended?

Is PLEX user friendly? Where do you store movies, etc? Do you use an external drive? Is Firewire connection better than USB?

Can I watch downloaded 1080p.BluRay.x264.mkv files on the home theater setup with full 5.1 audio?

Any advice would be helpful and greatly appreciated.
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Smithcraft
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 16, 2011 4:07 pm    Post subject: Re: New to HTPC. Recommendations? Reply with quote

For an HTmini, you don't need to upgrade the memory to 4 GBs, but 2 GBs should be what you would want.

I've heard some people have had a few problems with the way the 2010 mini handles displays. For that and a few other things mentioned here, my next HTmini will be a 2009 mini(unless the next mini has a i3 CPU). Get the fastest one you can afford since the CPU is not upgradable.

The new Plex is very user friendly. You put the content where ever you want. However, if you are going to have more than a dozen movies, you will want external storage. If you plan on using several HTminis in the future, then some sort of network storage would be good to plan for. You can start with a single drive external, but at some point you will want to invest in a multi-drive enclosure. In general FireWire is better than USB for storage.

As for 1080p, yes you can. I just watched Sintel on my Intel mini. It was the 2048 x 872 version with surround sound. Granted it was animation, which usually has a lower bitrate, but it played very well. Also since Plex has integrated the hardware speed up for nVidia hardware from Apple it can playback full BD quality files. If you get a 2009 mini, I believe you will need to get a miniTOSlink adapter or cable to get the 5.1 to your audio system, and I believe you will be limited to regular AC3 and regular DTS. The HD Dolby and DTS are a bit too much for the audio out on the pre-2010 minis. Perhaps a USB adapter might handle the HD audio formats?

SC
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hwojtek
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 17, 2011 12:42 pm    Post subject: Re: New to HTPC. Recommendations? Reply with quote

tjk6277 wrote:
Which Mac Mini? Used or refurbished 2009 or the new 2010 with the HDMI? Which is best for watching 1080p quality HD on a 47" TV? Is a ram upgrade to 4GB recommended?


I run my HTPC using the 2.33 GHz C2D and 2 GB RAM (my first Mini, which started as a Core Duo 1.66GHz and then for a short time used to be one of the fastest minis on the planet, when I upgraded it). Despite the GMA950 graphics it handles 1080p without any problems, so any more modern Mini
will have no problems.
tjk6277 wrote:
Is PLEX user friendly? Where do you store movies, etc? Do you use an external drive? Is Firewire connection better than USB?


I prefer XBMC to Plex, but since they are virtually the same software, go with the Plex. Make sure you read all the wiki before you get started, and than read it again. There are some assumptions made by plex/xbmc coders which are not very logical on the first view (file scrobblers etc), but you'll get the idea.
I store my files on a network server in the cellar hooked up using gigabit ethernet, the xbmc database is running on the very same server in MySQL, but my setup has been maturing for last 2 years, is really a little bit over the top and I have over 9 TB of media.
Yes, get an external drive, you don't want your Mini to get really hot by constant reading operations. Otherwise just leave the Plex on defaults.
tjk6277 wrote:

Can I watch downloaded 1080p.BluRay.x264.mkv files on the home theater setup with full 5.1 audio?

Only if you connect the Mini with an optical cable to a 5.1 receiver.
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unblowupable5
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 23, 2011 3:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

FWIW, I'm using a 2010 mini and am extremely happy with it. I haven't had any display issues myself- connecting via HDMI directly to TV, audio is optical out to my receiver. All my content is stored on a 1TB external FW800 drive. I play everything back through PLEX, well except for my eyeTV recordings. I use the internal drive as my eyeTV archive.

Whatever system you decide on, do yourself a favor and purchase a Harmony remote (I use a 650) and a copy of remote buddy. I tried holding out on remote buddy thinking it was more complicated that it actually is. Since biting the bullet, I've found it's the one program that really ties everything together.
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hwojtek
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 24, 2011 5:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

unblowupable5 wrote:
PLEX...eyeTV...Harmony remote...remote buddy

That's interesting, how did you cope with the Plex/eyetv conflicting each other regarding the remote? Does remote buddy allow running plex and eyetv using remote? My xbmc stops responding to remote when eyetv is launched.
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unblowupable5
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 24, 2011 11:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yes, both applications work seamlessly using a single remote. Remote Buddy basically intercepts the remote commands and steers it to the correct application- basically whichever application is in front.

Here's a great walk-through:

http://www.geekzone.co.nz/lotech/7433
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hwojtek
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 25, 2011 5:11 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks, will have to dig thru this. I just added an Elgato DTT dvb-t tuner to my setup and now am looking forward to integrating it nicely with my HTPC, xbmc and harmony remote.
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tjk6277
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 30, 2011 9:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

As far as external storage goes, is it important to have firewire or is usb ok for storing and playing 1080p movies, etc? Any storage suggestion?
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Smithcraft
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 30, 2011 7:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

USB requires that the CPU control the transaction resulting in a large CPU overhead for USB usage. Whereas, with Firewire, the devices pretty much just handle the transactions between themselves with the CPU just monitoring the transaction without having to manage every bit.

This would be important for transferring files and maybe even during buffering of live broadcasts, but would be of minimal impact on the CPU when just watching files.

SC
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[Desktop] Intel mini - 2.16Ghz 2GB 60GB HDD - Newer miniStack v2 500GB - 10.5.8

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tjk6277
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 16, 2011 6:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've decided to give XBMC a try. I was able to get some movies from the external to be recognized and also watched them in XBMC. Works great.
Thanks for the suggestion, hwojtek.

I tried yesterday to add and import some TV shows and cannot for the life of me, figure out how.....

I have them on the external, in a folder called TV.
For example, next folder is \TV Shows\The Office\

Then the first episode is TheOffice.S01E01.mkv and so on.......

I looked thru some forums and read the wiki, but can't figure out what I'm doing wrong.

Also, on the Home Page, I have Movies, Settings, Pictures, etc, but I can't make the folder for TV Shows display.

Please help!
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Smithcraft
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 17, 2011 4:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

My guess would be the file name. It should be "The Office s01e01.mkv" (I would use "The Office - s01e01.mkv") or something similar. Periods in file names usually indicate the file type extension and not a continuation of the file name.

As for the problem with the selection of homepage items I can't help. Plex is much easier to set up with the Plex Media Manager.

SC
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[Desktop] Intel mini - 2.16Ghz 2GB 60GB HDD - Newer miniStack v2 500GB - 10.5.8

[Media System] Intel i5 mini - 2.33Ghz 8GB 500GB HDD - 4 x Hitachi 2TB HDD in a qBOX-SF - 10.7.5 (Thanks Phil!)

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hwojtek
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 17, 2011 1:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yeah, happened to me also. I began with streamlining all the filenames of the shows as above. Also, sometimes the XBMC gets confused about a show for no apparent reason - in this case I re-scan manually which gives an option to pick the proper show name from the list.


Took a few tries with "Wallander", though (Swedish novels televised by Swedish TV and BBC at the same time into two separate shows. They had the same show name and same titles for episodes, however. Though there were only two short seasons, each of 3 episodes, gettin XBMC to pick the proper, BBC one instead of the Swedish version was a major pain, not to mention the proper artwork).
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