My main HTPC died and I need a replacement

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My main HTPC died and I need a replacement

Post#1 » Tue May 31, 2016 7:57 pm

I'll start by saying I've had a HTPC running WMC since Ceton first came out with the 4 tuner PCI cards....I had pre-ordered it and installed it as soon as I got it building a HTPC around it. It took me weeks to get Time Warner to figure out how to get me a working cable card activated back then but since I've been pretty happy with it. I have upgraded the machine over the years and it's current state is/was a 4th gen i5 with BR/DVD and a 512Gb SSD for the OS and TV recording and a 2Tb hard drive for movies/pictures/etc running Windows 8.1 with the WMC add-on. I have a HDHomeRun Prime connected to my router in the basement and cable service through Time Warner still.

So my HTPC died. It's either CPU or motherboard. Memory, HD's, everything else is good. Now I'm in a debate. I just bought, for the super bowl, a Visio M70 4K TV which is beautiful. The HTPC was plugged into it via its HDMI 2.0 / 4k/60Hz plug. I realize my PC wasn't HDMI 2.0 capable but it still looked great and I had no judder or artifacts even during action shots like during the game. I was debating picking up a used MB/CPU that will fit into my mATX case and reinstall or just building a new machine thats HDMI 2.0 capable (Intel Z170 chipset, 6th gen processor) trying to weigh the costs and benefits. My research lead me everywhere including this site. I decided I wanted more out of my HTPC and started looking at alternatives and I'd like you guys opinion.

I have most of my DVD's ripped along with a ton of pictures. I like the WMC interface...its easy. I've never installed Kodi or Plex or anything else because WMC worked good enough for me. It also works well for recording cable channels, record a series just hit record twice on my harmony remote while in the guide and it's done. Stuff like that. I want something with the same amount of ease. I also want to be able to watch my ripped DVD's and play Blue Rays. My girlfriend has Hulu Plus, Netflix, HBO Go, and stuff like that. She didn't have cable when we met so she pays for and she streams most of her stuff. I'm more old school...I want to keep the cable. The new Vizio TV is a "smart" TV so it does have the built in apps for all her stuff....its what is getting us by right now without the HTPC and keeping her from being mad at me. :)

So from what I can see there is no magic box that will do everything I want which is:

- Easily watch, record, and stream DRM / Copy Protected content from the cable channels including pause/FF/skip. i.e. like WMC.
- Watch my existing ripped DVD/BRs
- View my existing photos
- Remote access to setup a recording, view photos, etc. (Currently done through Remote Potato / Remote Media Center)
- Be able to view TV on my XBox One (my only "extender" currently done with the HDHomeRun app)

Her are my options from what I understand...maybe someone can make sure they are right:

1) Build a new HTPC. Install Windows 7 Ultimate (I have a license for it) and reuse my hard drives and keep on truckin' for another 3 or so years (EOL of Windows Pro / Ultimate = 2020)
2) Install WMC to my existing Win 7 office PC and use it as a WMC backend. Install ServerWMC. Buy a n'Vidia Shield for the front end. Buy a BluRay player
3) Sell the HDHomeRun Prime and buy a Tivo Bolt. Buy a BluRay player

Any opinions?

-Allan
vseven
 
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Post#2 » Wed Jun 01, 2016 12:16 am

If you want to rebuild just bear in mind that skylake 6th gen chips can be difficult if not impossible to install win 7 due to no native usb 3 drivers. There are some motherboards and asrock or intel utilities to create a install iso or usb key for this but YMMV, it would not work with my M5 compute stick so I ended up putting win 8.1 x64 pro with media center on it.

Repurposing your office computer sounds like a reasonable option but will you be satisfied with it? Shield as a frontend is ok but isn't as seemless as an extender, also need a brand new (few months old) universal remote for it.

The Tivo bolt is intriguing but until there are larger DVR storage sizes 4-6 GB with at least 6 tuners. All the minis and lifetime subscription costs are enough to make your head spin.
cwinfield
 
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Post#3 » Wed Jun 01, 2016 11:29 am

cwinfield wrote:If you want to rebuild just bear in mind that skylake 6th gen chips can be difficult if not impossible to install win 7 due to no native usb 3 drivers. There are some motherboards and asrock or intel utilities to create a install iso or usb key for this but YMMV, it would not work with my M5 compute stick so I ended up putting win 8.1 x64 pro with media center on it.


I actually working it and I already have a Windows 7 ISO with the USB 3.0 drivers built into the image. It was a pain in the butt to get setup but it does work just fine.

cwinfield wrote:Repurposing your office computer sounds like a reasonable option but will you be satisfied with it? Shield as a frontend is ok but isn't as seemless as an extender, also need a brand new (few months old) universal remote for it.


I'm ok with the new remote if I have to, I have a very very old Logitech Harmony which I'm amazed has lasted this long. People seem very happy with how fast The Shield is and it does have built-in 4K at 60 hertz

cwinfield wrote:The Tivo bolt is intriguing but until there are larger DVR storage sizes 4-6 GB with at least 6 tuners. All the minis and lifetime subscription costs are enough to make your head spin.


I currently have three tuners and that's more than enough for me. My current TV recording Drive is the OS Drive, 500Gb, so I don't think space will be an issue especially if I got the one terabyte Bolt. The fees though.... I'm not sure about that.

Thanks for the input so far.
vseven
 
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Joined: 29 April 2013

Post#4 » Wed Jun 01, 2016 12:34 pm

I'm selling an HTPC case and motherboard combo in the FS/T forums . . . ;) Just throwing it out there. :p

It's LGA1150 so it works nicely with Windows 7.
JTScribe
 
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Post#5 » Wed Jun 01, 2016 1:09 pm

You mentioned DRM/copy protection. If that is truly the case your options are currently WMC or Tivo, and in the future possibly Silicon Dust DVR. You seem happy with what you currently have, why not just replace whatever component died and keep on trucking? With your Harmony and your TV's smart capabilities it seems like your needs are covered.
3rob3
 
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Post#6 » Wed Jun 01, 2016 2:25 pm

3rob3 wrote:You mentioned DRM/copy protection. If that is truly the case your options are currently WMC or Tivo, and in the future possibly Silicon Dust DVR. You seem happy with what you currently have, why not just replace whatever component died and keep on trucking? With your Harmony and your TV's smart capabilities it seems like your needs are covered.


So a NVidia Shield with a WMC backend (my other machine) won't be able to do the DRM/copy protection stuff? Or act as a DVR? It seems with the HDHomeRun app loaded I'll be able to at least watch TV through it but I haven't researched enough to know the rest of it.

The only issue with the current MB/CPU is the lack of HDMI 2.0. If I set my systems resolution for 4k WMC it is laggy although it looks great. Set for 1080 and it's fine but not as clear. But then again I can't find a new mATX motherboard with HDMI 2.0, they are all ATX. I considered the Intel NUC6i7kykI (http://www.intel.com/content/www/us/en/ ... tions.html) as a all in one replacement. I also considered just replacing the MB but the exact same model (Asus Maximus Gene VI) is still running $300 which is way more then what I paid initially. Not only that the newest version is currently cheaper.....I'd hate to pay more for old technology. Would save me from reinstalling though.

I could also just give up and get a STB from Time Warner and hate myself a little bit.

-Allan
vseven
 
Posts: 12
Joined: 29 April 2013

Post#7 » Wed Jun 01, 2016 2:50 pm

vseven wrote:
3rob3 wrote:You mentioned DRM/copy protection. If that is truly the case your options are currently WMC or Tivo, and in the future possibly Silicon Dust DVR. You seem happy with what you currently have, why not just replace whatever component died and keep on trucking? With your Harmony and your TV's smart capabilities it seems like your needs are covered.


So a NVidia Shield with a WMC backend (my other machine) won't be able to do the DRM/copy protection stuff? Or act as a DVR? It seems with the HDHomeRun app loaded I'll be able to at least watch TV through it but I haven't researched enough to know the rest of it.

The only issue with the current MB/CPU is the lack of HDMI 2.0. If I set my systems resolution for 4k WMC it is laggy although it looks great. Set for 1080 and it's fine but not as clear. But then again I can't find a new mATX motherboard with HDMI 2.0, they are all ATX. I considered the Intel NUC6i7kykI (http://www.intel.com/content/www/us/en/ ... tions.html) as a all in one replacement. I also considered just replacing the MB but the exact same model (Asus Maximus Gene VI) is still running $300 which is way more then what I paid initially. Not only that the newest version is currently cheaper.....I'd hate to pay more for old technology. Would save me from reinstalling though.

I could also just give up and get a STB from Time Warner and hate myself a little bit.

-Allan


Shield DVR is available as of May update but I have not tried it. You can watch on the SHIELD, on another Android device, or any platform with HDHomeRun VIEW. https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/12 ... ect_update doesn't look like DRM content is supported as of yet
Last edited by cwinfield on Wed Jun 01, 2016 2:56 pm, edited 1 time in total.
cwinfield
 
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Post#8 » Wed Jun 01, 2016 2:52 pm

SHIELD can be used as a DVR in multiple ways/with multiple solutions (including WMC backend in Kodi or Plex). It just won't work with Copy-Once content for whatever channels you have (if you have a CableCard - could be none are - could be all are - or anywhere in between) unless you use the SD solution (if/when they release the DRM update for the DVR - currently it only works with Copy-Once for live viewing only).
Ed 
 
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Post#9 » Wed Jun 01, 2016 2:53 pm

cwinfield wrote:Shield DVR is available as of May update but I have not tried it. You can watch on the SHIELD, on another Android device, or any platform with HDHomeRun VIEW. https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/12 ... ect_update

Still no DRM support yet though.
3rob3
 
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Post#10 » Wed Jun 01, 2016 3:22 pm

Ed wrote:SHIELD can be used as a DVR in multiple ways/with multiple solutions (including WMC backend in Kodi or Plex). It just won't work with Copy-Once content for whatever channels you have (if you have a CableCard - could be none are - could be all are - or anywhere in between) unless you use the SD solution (if/when they release the DRM update for the DVR - currently it only works with Copy-Once for live viewing only).


Time Warner is notorious for marking everything including local channels as copy once.

3rob3 wrote:
cwinfield wrote:Shield DVR is available as of May update but I have not tried it. You can watch on the SHIELD, on another Android device, or any platform with HDHomeRun VIEW. https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/12 ... ect_update

Still no DRM support yet though.


From the same site this sounds promising: "Protected channel support on Android is nearing release. We will be releasing live TV support first, with recording support to follow next month."

Everything is in reruns right now....I can probably get away with not having a solution for the DVR part for the next couple months. Or maybe I make the office PC a WMC backend temporarily. If I plug my HTPC hard drives into my existing office computer (Win7) could I stream the photos/movies to the n'Vidia Shield? I could get away with not having a DVD/BR if I could rip them down there and play them on the Shield in another room (or actually buy a BluRay player).

I want something that makes sense in the future also...I don't mind spending some money if I get a better overall experience but I hate to invest in another dedicated HTPC or fix this one if it doesn't make sense.

-Allan
vseven
 
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Post#11 » Thu Jun 02, 2016 2:08 pm

After the suggestions here and more research I think I've decided to get a n'Vidia Shield and temporarily convert the existing office Win 7 Ultimate PC I have to a WMC backend server with ServerWMC. I'll install the Kodi app and run it through the sheild. The GF complained about how laggy the Visio apps were (Hulu, Netflix, etc) and how they sometimes just lock up so it sounds like it would be better to have them on the Shield since one of it's advantages is how fast the interface is. Plus it gets me HDMI 2.0 / 4k @ 60Hz and they say 2.0a will be a firmware update. Hopefully progress will be made on the Silicon Dust DVR and I'll be able to get rid of WMC completely.

-Allan
vseven
 
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Joined: 29 April 2013

Post#12 » Sun Jun 05, 2016 7:36 pm

Well I got the Shield, bought the 500Gb version in hopes that SD comes out with there DVR software soon. I also moved my storage drive to my old office machine and get WMC setup and working on it. I installed ServerWMC and Kodi on the sheild but it still can't play DRM marked channels. However the HDHomeRun View app can....just with no real features (no pause, rewind, record, etc). On the plus side Kodi was able to connect to the now HTPC and pull back my movies, pictures, music, etc.

So this solution "kinda" works. I'm a bestbuy elite member so I have 45 days to return it....we'll see how the next couple weeks go.

-Allan
vseven
 
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Post#13 » Thu Sep 08, 2016 2:56 pm

So some comments from the last couple months of owning the Shield Pro. I knew I couldn't record DRM channels like I could with the HTPC. I decided I'll try to live without that until Silicon Dust gets there DVR software working Then the Shield got a upgrade of its firmware to 3.2 which introduced judder and random video/audio sync issues. I factory reset the Shield and it was "better" but not completely fixed. Then the shield started making the TV flash and redisplay the info bar every 15 minutes (displaying the current resolution and input). I decided I had enough.

Asus replaced the motherboard under warranty, I rebuilt the HTPC, I moved all my files back to it, and got it up and running. Used the optical output from the MB directly to my Vizio soundbar. I can now record DRM channels from my HDHomeRun Prime again, I have no judder or lip sync issues, my TV no longer flashes every 15 minutes, and I have passthrough DTS which the soundbar identifies and correctly plays. Everything is stable and looks great, just in 1080p. Now I want to upgrade to a Skylake processor so I can get it running in 4k.

Sold my Shield on eBay for a $70 loss. The shield is nice but it's in no way as good as a HTPC for picture quality or convienience. The "Guide" in the HDHomeRun app isn't very good and even with a universal remote the Shield is hard to control. It also has too many bugs that still need to be worked out and I don't have the time for them to fix them. Maybe a Shield 2 or 3 in a couple years will finally replace my HTPC but the current version definitely can't.

Now to either buy a new graphics card for this machine to get me 4k @ 60Hz or upgrade to a MSI motherboard and a Skylake processor.

-Allan
vseven
 
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