, I've decided to return my cable box and buy a HTPC to serve up TV, movies and other content... Help me avoid some common pitfalls and make this an enjoyable and money-saving endeavor!
My current setup:
- HD cable box w/ movie channels and DVR
- Xbox 360 with Netflix subscription
- 50" plasma TV, Harman Kardon receiver, 5.1 surround sound
- Hava Titanium HD for placeshifting (I use this a lot when I travel)
My basic plan is to replace the cable box with an HTPC, saving money over the long term while retaining as much functionality and content as possible. Biggest concern is spending a bunch of money up front, only to find myself regretting the decision and sheepishly going back to cable.
What I need/want in from this new setup:
-OTA HDTV recording/playback capability. I have great reception where I live (can eyeball the Empire State Bldg. transmitters from my window), and an antenna that works. Would be great if I could record two shows simultaneously in the background while playing back other recorded content (or streaming video from the internet), just like a cable DVR, but not a dealbreaker if I could only record one show at a time.
-Similarly, I'd like to be able to run my PVR in the background, while enjoying movies or TV shows that I've torrented earlier. I haven't really gotten into rss feeds for torrents, but imagine that this is something that I could pretty easily handle.
-I'd like to connect an eSATA hard drive to the HTPC for recording OTA HDTV as well as collecting torrents and acting as a general media server for music, etc.
-I'd like to have access to all of this content from the road using my Hava Titanium HD (unless there's a cleaner option out there).
-Netflix integration isn't really necessary here, as I already have an Xbox 360 that handles that very well. I thought about just using the Xbox 360, but it can't record OTA HDTV, and that's a problem for me. I've also heard that Netflix prioritizes Xbox streaming over general computer streaming. I love the quality of my Netflix now, and am content to switch to Xbox for that... but if Boxee can do HD streaming on Netflix, I'll watch it there.
-Content: News, sports, movies, TV shows.
For news, I love Morning Joe on MSNBC, and sometimes watch Hardball in the evenings, but could see myself listening to NPR in the morning and watching the Newshour in the evening, so giving up live MSNBC isn't a dealbreaker for me. I know MSNBC has video podcasts now, but those are delayed. So I think my news junkie side will be covered under the new setup.
A bigger concern is sports. I love ESPN shows like "The Sports Reporters" on Sundays, and watch boxing whenever it's on (but I often timeshift that and watch on Saturday or Sunday mornings). The problem is that boxing is mainly on ESPN/HBO/Showtime. I suppose I can torrent the bigger fights and can also access ESPN 360, so I'm covered on some of that.
For movies, I have Netflix, and my cup runneth over.
For TV shows, between bittorrent and OTA HDTV, I feel pretty good.
My proposed setup is this:
HTPC: Acer Revo 3610
USB Tuner: Hauppauge WinTV-HVR-950Q TV Tuner Stick
1 TB eSata Hard Drive (not sure which one yet)
+IR receiver for remote control (although I'm considering using my iPod Touch as a remote control using Logitech's software)
Budget is $500, give or take...
My software plan is to run Windows Media Center for its PVR functionality. Ideal situation is for WMC to run in the background, recording one (or two?) shows at a time while I'm using Boxee to watch TV or movies.
Also, would be great to have the Hava Titanium HD connected to the computer (via VGA to S-Video connection / headphone jack) so I can stream content when I'm not in the living room or away from the house. That is, unless there is another, cleaner solution out there that I'm unaware of......
- is the Acer Revo 3610 powerful enough to handle all this?
- can Windows Media Center run/record in the background while using Boxee in the foreground?
- can the Hava Titanium be used for placeshifting under this scenario? is there a better option?
- what's the best way to control this system? an ipod touch? a windows media center remote control? using a mouse/keyboard from the couch is not an option...
- more generally, if you've tried something similar, what would you advise a newbie to look out for?
So there you have it. I need to cut the cord and make a leap of faith, capture as much content (as possible) as I had with cable, and not regret the decision...