Help me build the bitchin'-est home theater multi-node network for my house. Let your imagination fly!
posted by hincandenza to Technology (6 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
So about a year and a half ago I moved into a nice 4-story townhome from a one bedroom apartment. One of the things I swore I'd do was really go to town on the media watching experience. Well, it's been long enough, so I'd like guidance/advice on building a multi-node PVR/media center (that integrates as well as can be with Comcast/Xfinity in the Seattle area). Price is (relatively) no option here, within reason. Here are the details
My house is 4 stories, but basically on the 2nd (main) floor is my TV, xbox, stereo, and cable box. 3rd floor has the master bedroom/home office where the main computer/internet connection along with a wireless router. 4th floor is the loft of the master bedroom suite where the bed is upstairs and the computer is below.
What I'd like:
Principally, to ditch my slow, clunky, this-interface-was-clearly-written-in-VB6-by-an-escaped-lunatic Comcast cable box, and to have a really nice all-in-one box for the main floor and for my bedroom. These nodes would be capable of watching TV almost identically to how I do so now on the comcast box (including with a remote control to navigate), but with additional features like streaming media from a variety of sources, playing music off the drive or things like Pandora/Spotify, etc.
This means I'll need to buy either a new TV for the bedroom, or buy a swank-ass new TV for downstairs (and what are good options there in terms of 3D/size/OLED?) and move the current one upstairs. The small nodes would ideally be inexpensive SFF PCs from some place newegg, little more than a chassis and good video card and sound card, and with an IR for navigating via remote. I also need to replace my current 5.1 stereo receiver, since it doesn't support HDMI and is a crappy years-old number from Best Buy.
What I'm imagining:
Floor 3, stuck in a closet is the main media center PC as a headless workstation with two tuner cards for Comcast and scads of diskspace. This is the heart and brains of the system, and record shows in HD (but with a good balance between compression and quality), and would stream saved music/media to other nodes in the house. There could even be an option for my mobile devices to securely connect back home to watch media/stream music wherever I am. If I could also offer this to a select few friends using their own logins to watch shows etc, that'd be even cooler, so they don't have to come over to watch Game of Thrones or Dexter… but that's the least important part.
Along with that, inside the house I'd have two nodes, one upstairs in the bedroom, and one on the main floor, to offer a seamless experience of MythTV or whatever the best-in-class is these days. Again, the nodes would be SFF and low power/inexpensive, with HD capable video playback and 5.1 (or better) sound for at least the downstairs node. The upstairs or downstairs node (wherever I put the xbox) should also be able to support audio input from the xbox so I use that on the same TV with the same sound setup.
In addition, the big loss when you use cablecards versus the cable box is OnDemand... except now the xfinity OnDemand is vastly better using their website than the cable box: more choices, faster response time, with only the hit of lower video quality over the OnDemand 1080p HD. So the nodes should be able to also use web-based video such as Xfinity, Netflix, et al., and streaming music as well. A full web browser is a nice-to-have, but hard to navigate with TV unless the remote had a keyboard on it. And reinventing WebTV is not really what I'm after.
Anyway, your tips, techniques, technologies and wish-I-hads are welcome. I'm basically starting from stratch but will be integrating the existing TV, the xbox360, and the comcast/xfinity cable package. My basic presumption is MythTV nodes for the three devices, but what should I look for in hardware (or software if MythTV is old-and-busted)?
How should I design the whole thing?