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Thread: HDTV - The best way to get content to it?

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    A shadowy flight. MSIC's Avatar
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    HDTV - The best way to get content to it?

    Current set-up
    Panasonic 37" TV, 720p which i'm loving (and i'll keep plugging Richer Sounds for!).
    Plugged in is my upscaling DVD player and my Wii. I have a Netgear SD media streamer, but it's a bit clunky now, SD only, plus i have to keep my PC on to stream stuff.
    The router is next to this lot, giving me the option of direct ethernet connection or wireless.
    My PC is about 15 feet away, connected to the router using 85Mbps homeplugs. I dont know exactly what speed i get but it's fast enough for my Be broadband connection.

    My requirements
    What i want is principally to play .mkv files in 720p on the TV. I'm not interested in music playing, but photo viewing would be nice. The really crucial factor i'd love to achieve is user-friendliness. If my wife can operate it without me being there, we're good. I could leave my PC on 24/7, but having just gone Quad Core, i'm seriously considering my electric bills now .
    FYI She finds the Wii "a bit tricky"!
    Oh, and it also needs to be reasonably discrete, and quiet too. Stylish would be good.
    I'm willing to spend time setting it up, but once running it has to be straight forward to use. I have very little interest in recording from the TV or playing DVDs on it, unless it was as user friendly as the DVD player.

    Streaming media players (only)
    1) A new media streamer like the Netgear EVA8000. £140. However i really dont want my PC to have to be on for this to work
    In my mind i have a beautiful, powerful (but eco-friendly) multi-terrabye home server running under the stairs which feeds all my machines, self-backs up, and hardly ever needs my to look at it. Something like this netgear would therefore work fine. However, it is just in my mind, not in my house.

    2) Xbox 360. £129.99, comes with HDMI output. I've been reading about how good it is to stream stuff to it, using a Windows PC, with it upscaling to 1080p. Although natively the codecs are limited, transcode 360 would seem to allieviate that. However the Xbox seems to be a relatively noisey little thing, and again, i dont really want my PC left on if possible.

    3) PS3. £250 for the 40GB model. Pretty much same as above. Gizmodo has a guide to getting media streamed to consoles.

    'Stored' media players (ie i dont need to have the PC running concurrently)
    4) ASUS Eee Box. For £200, i'd hang this on the back of the TV and leave it on 24/7. It could connect to the TV over DVI, however i'm fairly certain i'd have to buy Windows MCE and a remote, unless MythBuntu is good enough. 160GB is probably fine for a while, and i'd upgrade it when current laptop hard drives have fallen in price.
    Hot Hardware Review shows that 720p is easy for the Atom.

    5) Western Dig HD TV for £80 - £90.
    I do have 2 x 3.5" and a 2.5" external hard drives which i could hook up. At the moment, this is looking like a real front runner, although i've read that some file types can't be fast-forwarded (if you need to break then come back to it, could be a real pain). It does have a remote though.
    Reviews: PC Advisor. Wired. Pop Photo. Pocket Lint.

    6) Apple TV. £184 for the 40GB version.
    Obviously i'd stick Boxee on it. (BTW, looking like a Windows release isn't too far off, so that might suit the EEE Box!)
    Pros - i looks cool, seems very user friendly, and needs no external boxes, PC's on etc. Plus it comes with it's own remote.
    Cons - 40GB would need immediate upgrading,

    7) Popcornhour. An interesting suggestion by Funkstar, i've never really seen it before. AV Forums suggests a really good, wide codec support.
    This (PDF) link (A-100 model, Nov 07) review at MPC Club suggests that it's a good work in progress, although not yet the finished article.
    This CNET UK video (A-110, Aug 08) however is starting to get me salivating... That really does look like it might fit the bill.
    Available diskless at Ripcaster.co.uk for £220 (i've never heard of them).
    Amazon sells them for £200

    7.5) The iStarHD - same firmware and chipset as the Popcorn Hour's, in a different box with different outputs. £170 from ebay. Could be good. AV Forums first impression.

    8) TviX HD M-6500A.
    This looks pretty cool, albeit similar to Popcorn Hour's device. Although at £299 from Amazon, it's not the cheapest.
    Am I missing any other options?

    9) Netgear EVA9000. Newly announced, looks like its going to be doing the rounds soon. Like the 8000 but with a hard disk option, and (from the picture) some sort of easy release? Quite cool i think.

    Summary
    The more i look at it, the more that Boxee looks to be an appealing option, although possibly not on Apple hardware (v. stylish, but far too expensive for what you get). Although Popcorn Hour also looks v. tempting....

    PS Although all opinions are welcome, it's an instant minus 50 points to anyone who starts to utter "have you considered building your own?". Have you seen the prices of small, stylish HTPC barebones stuff? And as for waiting for something to boot up....

    Other references:
    Trusted Reviews ran a similar article on 28th Nov (suspiciously close to me doing this .... hmmmm...)
    Last edited by MSIC; 30-11-2008 at 08:11 PM.
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  2. #2
    Does he need a reason? Funkstar's Avatar
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    Re: HDTV - The best way to get content to it?

    Have you seen Popcornhour? (http://www.popcornhour.com/onlinestore/) Similar to the netgear I guess but I believe it is open source, or at the very least a lot more open than the Netgear. You can put a hard drive in it for stand alone operation too.

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  4. #3
    A shadowy flight. MSIC's Avatar
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    Re: HDTV - The best way to get content to it?

    Have added the very kewl popcorn hour device info, plus i remembered about the Xbox 360.
    Plus PS3.
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    Re: HDTV - The best way to get content to it?

    PCH FTW!

    Had mine a year now, definitely don't regret buying it (that said it was about £100 with the exchange rate last year).

    Use mine almost exclusively for 720p MKV and it hasn't failed to play one in... well I can't remember the last time it failed.

  6. #5
    A shadowy flight. MSIC's Avatar
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    Re: HDTV - The best way to get content to it?

    Added Tvix device, and T.R. reference
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  7. #6
    A shadowy flight. MSIC's Avatar
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    Re: HDTV - The best way to get content to it?

    And added some WD TV reviews. This is becoming a little pet project of mine!
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  8. #7
    Does he need a reason? Funkstar's Avatar
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    Re: HDTV - The best way to get content to it?

    After reading about a bit, I wish the Popcorn Hour had a more powerful processor. It seems things like the interface are hamstrung by the really slow processor ("The microprocessor is not a very strong one, probably your new mobile phone has a stronger processor inside." http://www.networkedmediatank.com/sh...d.php?tid=5052). Which is a shame. This really should be a fantastic flexible solution to your media needs. Perhaps v2 will be better in this regard.

    Many in the SlimDevices comunity liken it to the early SliMP3 or SqueezeBox products which were open but relied on MP3 chips, this was sorted with the SB2 that went for a completely software approach which has made it many times more flexible over the years since release (Flac, Ogg, WMA and MP3 decoding etc.).

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    Re: HDTV - The best way to get content to it?

    Crickey Funkstar, that's one well populated forum! I've never heard of it before, but it seems very thorough. It gives you hope in buying a device like PCH, that if it makes that any hiccups would get sorted by one of the regular firmware updates. I know most devices are cabale of having firmware updates, but that looks like it's got some seriously keen and capable fans.
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  10. #9
    Does he need a reason? Funkstar's Avatar
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    Re: HDTV - The best way to get content to it?

    That is definitely a huge reason to go for it, there is a massive comunity surrounding their products now.

    I still hold by the idea that their v2 or even v3 product is going to be a lot more flexible though.

    Going back to the SlimDevices analogy: when the SliMP3 was released I thought "I want that", when the SqueezeBox was released I rthought "cool, I want that", SqueezeBox two was a case of "OMG I with I could justify the cost of that" then not long after the SqueezeBox 3 was released with the same hardware as the SB2 but a much cooler case and I bught two. They have hugely increased in functionality since I got them and are still in use, outliving most of my other gadgets

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    Re: HDTV - The best way to get content to it?

    Its also worth looking at other NMT based devices similar to the popcorn hour. I recently picked up an iStarHD from ebay for £200 with a 500gb drive included, all brand new. It is basically identical to the popcorn hour but with less AV outputs (still retaining HDMI/VGA/Composite) and more audio outputs (I think, has both optical and co-ax). Software wise it looks and functions just like a PCH.

    One of the best investments I have made really for my HDTV - sold my Tivo and replace it with the iStar.

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  13. #11
    A shadowy flight. MSIC's Avatar
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    Re: HDTV - The best way to get content to it?

    Right, well since i emailed TheManWHoCan at scan for a 'today only' request ofthe WD HD TV, and got told about the generally reduced price (of £77) and expected delivery of new stock tomorrow (Thurs 11th Dec), i've put my money where my mouth is and ordered one.

    Fingers crossed for a Friday delivery, if so then i'll get it plugged in and a review on here by the weekend.
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