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HTPCThat's Home Theatre Personal Computer (I think)


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#1 spacecrumbs

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Posted 20 March 2017 - 10:37 AM

So at some point I want to build one of these for my living room. Techy communities are hard to digest and I've been wondering about a couple things that I imagine some of you could probably tell me.

 

1. Can I just replace my laptop usage with a HTPC? Old laptop currently functions as a HTPC and productivity PC sitting on my beat up IKEA coffee table with a wireless mouse on the arm of the sofa (might get a trackball to avoid sofa wear when I break this one). So a wireless keyboard I can use on the coffee table would be fine. I don't like sitting at my desk in a computer chair. I just wonder about writing letters and doing non-entertainment things on a screen 10 foot away. Would that work out? I use Windows 10 atm but I dislike it and will probably try fucking about with Linux. Would also like to maybe play games on it, but wouldn't be into spending lots on that.

 

2. Should I go for a TV or a computer monitor? I'd like to hook up the new Nintendo to it as well as the HTPC, and run a TV signal into it somehow and ideally a sound system at some point.

 

3. Bonus question.

 

Thanks!



#2 gusdotcom

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Posted 20 March 2017 - 11:40 AM

1. Yes you can use a HTPC as a regular computer. It is literally just a computer hooked up to a TV with a media player installed. So if you are fine with sitting in your couch now, you will be fine using a HTPC as a replacement for the laptop. Just remember that you won't be able to move it easily so if you are using the laptop on other places, it will not be a straight replacement.

 

When it comes to gaming, you get what you pay for. You could get one of those HDMI sticks and use that as an HTPC but then you won't run anything more advanced than Solitair. AMD are releasing some new APUs (their name for a CPU with an integrated GPU) later this year and based on the performance of their latest hardware, it will probably be quite interesting. You can do some simple gaming on Intel's integrated graphics but the better graphics is locked away in the more expensive CPUs.

 

There are lots of options out there depending on if you want to build your own or buy something off the shelf. Intel have their NUC's which are tiny and nice but won't be very usable for games. Gigabyte have their own take with the BRIX where some models include a mobile GPU which makes them more appropriate for gaming. If size is not an issue.

 

Next step up would be SFF (Smal Form Factor) computers and all major brands have their own versions ranging from super cheap and weak to proper gaming rigs that will cost you all your money plus both your kidneys. You are generally paying more for the same performance in a smaller form factor.

 

Then there's the mITX and mATX size class where, again, all major manufactures have their own machines but these you can also build yourself if you want. Performance will very with cost. Or you could just pick up a new laptop and use that as a HTPC which is something some people do.

 

If you are going all in Linux and can live with gaming being limited to older emulated games from the begining of time up until Wii/PS2 era, then a Raspberry Pi 3 with RetroPi and Kodi will be by far the cheapest option. You can get a complete kit for about €60.

 

You have a huge number of options and it basically all boils down to what level of gaming performance you want and how much money you are willing to spend.

 

2, I would definitely go with a TV because they tend to be better value for the size you want. A 24-27" computer monitor is no fun at 10 feet. You'll get a cheap ~40" TV for the same money as a 27" monitor and the ~50" models are not that much more. TVs also tend to have more HDMI ports than cheap monitors who are often limited to just one which makes hooking up multiple devices a pain. Cheap HDMI switches tends to be horrible. When I looked around for a decent switch, the advice was to just buy a home theater receiver/amplifier.

 

The sound system should not be run through the TV if it can be avoided. It's better to take the sound directly from the source to the sound system or if you get something a little bit fancier, run the HDMI cables through it. Almost no TVs do a proper pass-through of the audio signal because licensing issues. Instead they decode it and put out a regular stereo signal, often through both 3.5 mm tele and an SPDIF. But it's still only stereo and often a mangled stereo.

 

:blink:



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#3 spacecrumbs

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Posted 20 March 2017 - 12:49 PM

Oh ok, thanks! Will have to refer back to most of this later. I know what retropi is at least!

 

My laptop is too big and heavy to bother moving it much, and I have a tablet for that. I'm mostly concerned about reading text and the size of icons and menus at 10 feet tbh. Obviously I'll need something bigger than my 17inch laptop screen to be able to read it. But would it just be a case of getting a screen big enough that stuff is big enough? If it's not too much trouble would you reccommend a certain size screen and up? Also been reading about TVs and lag with games? Is that something I should worry about? Size of the computer itself isn't a big concern. Anything up to the size of an original xbox would be ok.

 

I guess I gotta decide if I want to bother with Windows. If not then I can go cheaper.



#4 gusdotcom

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Posted 20 March 2017 - 01:56 PM

Oh ok, thanks! Will have to refer back to most of this later. I know what retropi is at least!

 

My laptop is too big and heavy to bother moving it much, and I have a tablet for that. I'm mostly concerned about reading text and the size of icons and menus at 10 feet tbh. Obviously I'll need something bigger than my 17inch laptop screen to be able to read it. But would it just be a case of getting a screen big enough that stuff is big enough? If it's not too much trouble would you reccommend a certain size screen and up? Also been reading about TVs and lag with games? Is that something I should worry about? Size of the computer itself isn't a big concern. Anything up to the size of an original xbox would be ok.

 

I guess I gotta decide if I want to bother with Windows. If not then I can go cheaper.

Yes it's just a matter of having a large enough screen to match the distance and larger is better. Worst case, you can always scale up the browser or the entire OS. Not ideal but it works. I would start looking at something in the 50" range but you might be able to get away with smaller as well. If you have an electronics store around, go there and have a look. Just measure the distance from head to screen in your living room and then place yourself the same distance from different size screens at the electronics store. Or experiment with your 17" laptop and some trigonometry to simulate different viewing distances. But that only works if your laptop is 1920x1080, aka Full HD. Speaking of resolution, just go with 1080p unless you can get a 4K UHD TV for the same price as the HD one. The tech is not mature yet and you will not want to play games at 4K UHD anyway because it will make even the high end graphics card cry.

 

Lag varies quite a lot between TVs but it's not generally a problem for mortals. If you are playing twitch shooters at a high level, you will probably notice the difference but then you're not playing from a couch.

 

Original Xbox size means some kind of SFF or one of the smaller mITX cases. It all comes down to budget and performance levels. But as I said, I would wait until after summer because interesting things should be happening by then. AMD's Raven Ridge is expected to be an APU with PS4 levels of performance. If the leaked specs are true, it will be a quite competent APU and if the price is right, it'll be perfect for a HTPC.

 

:blink:



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