HTPC - no more?

BlueLineSwinger

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Not so much I think. Given the discontinuation of Windows Media Center, low-power dedicated solutions like Kodi/LibreElec and the like, more centralized systems like Plex, low-power boxes like Roku, FireTV, and RPis, etc., there's not much need for a full-fledged HTPC.

I think maybe the only people doing full-on HTPCs also use the box to game on a big-ass TV.
 

applegrcoug

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Perhaps I can shed a little light on it...

I used windows media center for the whole recording of cable TV programs and then xbox 360s as extenders. It really was the only solution to use with a cable card. In fact, I was using it a year ago. However, it was effectively dead and I could barely get it to work any longer. About two years ago I started down the road with Emby. I knew Emby cold do what I wanted, but the whole recording shows with the cable card was kinda a pain with my old ceton cable card tv card. Then I got a HD home run prime off ebay for like $90. It works seamlessly with the Emby PVR module. Super simple.

Then, I have most (still plugging through) of my DVDs ripped and put onto Emby. For an extender, most smart TVs have an Emby app (except vizio), there is a phone app, and then Roku. It is pretty easy. Also, when you do your rips, Emby can host them back with all the audio surround info. Media Center could never do that. So, I have a bit of an HTPC, but I use (and have always used) extenders.
 

sharknice

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Not so much I think. Given the discontinuation of Windows Media Center, low-power dedicated solutions like Kodi/LibreElec and the like, more centralized systems like Plex, low-power boxes like Roku, FireTV, and RPis, etc., there's not much need for a full-fledged HTPC.

I think maybe the only people doing full-on HTPCs also use the box to game on a big-ass TV.
Yeah IMO not worth it unless you're going to game on it.
Also you typically don't even need dedicated solutions connected directly to the TV anymore. I stopped using an HTPC in 2017 when I got an LG OLED that had really good built in apps.
Newer TVs have all the apps to be able use any streaming service, and web browsers capable of any streaming sites without apps.
And if you care about video and audio quality the streaming services typically work better and have higher quality available directly through the TV's apps. Even for videos stored on your PC they can often be streamed from your PC to the TV with something like LG SmartShare and the TV will play the video with the correct framerate and look a lot better than playing it directly through your PC.
So even if you have an awesome PC connected to the TV it can still be better to use the TV's apps for everything but gaming in which case it's not really a HTPC and just a gaming PC.
 

pendragon1

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im hooked up to my 55" and avr full time and bounce back and forth between the tv apps for some uhd/hdr content. that count?
 

staknhalo

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Media Servers surplanted HTPCs in the home a while ago IMO

Client retail STBs have come a long way

If you still want to MADVR or whatever, HTPC away then
 

GotNoRice

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I'm still very happy to have my HTPC, mainly because of it's flexibility and reliability. It's less convenient than other options, but it's what I go to when something else doesn't work right and/or when I want a guaranteed perfect movie viewing experience.

In my house I've mostly standardized on using Firesticks with every TV. It makes it easier for my family members when there is an identical UI and remote control for every TV. Some of those TVs are newer and have built-in apps, some of the TVs are older and either don't have smart apps or have older obsolete apps. Not all are the same brand, and even among those that are the same brand, basically every TV remote control is different. Standardizing on the firesticks fixed all of that. A lot of our viewing is done via streaming apps such as Hulu, Amazon Prime, etc, and the firesticks are great for that.

But I also have a library of content on my file server, which can be accessed by any TV on my network using the VLC app on the firestick. This is convenient but has some strange drawbacks. For some reason which still escapes me, the VLC app on a firestick will downmix all multi-channel audio down to Stereo. That's not an issue for the bedroom TVs, etc, but for our main bigscreen TV it sucks. A 7.1 movie gets downmixed to stereo and then I have to use Pro-Logic II or Neo:6 to try and re-create some semblance of surround-sound. VLC on the Firestick also has issues decoding higher-bitrate 4K HEVC movies (even the top-end Firestick 4K Max). Low-bitrate 4K movies from streaming sources are usually okay but higher-bitrate 4K movies are too much for the firesticks.

So the HTPC gets used when I want actual 7.1 surround sound and the ability to watch a high-bitrate 4K movie. Another bonus with the HTPC is the ability to software-decode newer audio codecs. My AV receiver has a great amp section, but it's a bit older, and does not support beyond traditional Dolby Digital Ex and DTS-ES. The receiver has 7.1 analog inputs however, and I have 7.1 analog outputs on the older X-Fi soundcard that I use in the HTPC. It doesn't matter what audio codecs the receiver supports at that point because an HTPC can pretty much software-decode anything. An HTPC with a decent CPU also has a good chance of being able to software-decode newer video codecs as they are released over time, even before dedicated decoding hardware is commonly available (at a reasonable price). The flexibility of an HTPC allows for these very handy money-saving workarounds.
 

applegrcoug

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I'm still very happy to have my HTPC, mainly because of it's flexibility and reliability. It's less convenient than other options, but it's what I go to when something else doesn't work right and/or when I want a guaranteed perfect movie viewing experience.

In my house I've mostly standardized on using Firesticks with every TV. It makes it easier for my family members when there is an identical UI and remote control for every TV. Some of those TVs are newer and have built-in apps, some of the TVs are older and either don't have smart apps or have older obsolete apps. Not all are the same brand, and even among those that are the same brand, basically every TV remote control is different. Standardizing on the firesticks fixed all of that. A lot of our viewing is done via streaming apps such as Hulu, Amazon Prime, etc, and the firesticks are great for that.

But I also have a library of content on my file server, which can be accessed by any TV on my network using the VLC app on the firestick. This is convenient but has some strange drawbacks. For some reason which still escapes me, the VLC app on a firestick will downmix all multi-channel audio down to Stereo. That's not an issue for the bedroom TVs, etc, but for our main bigscreen TV it sucks. A 7.1 movie gets downmixed to stereo and then I have to use Pro-Logic II or Neo:6 to try and re-create some semblance of surround-sound. VLC on the Firestick also has issues decoding higher-bitrate 4K HEVC movies (even the top-end Firestick 4K Max). Low-bitrate 4K movies from streaming sources are usually okay but higher-bitrate 4K movies are too much for the firesticks.

So the HTPC gets used when I want actual 7.1 surround sound and the ability to watch a high-bitrate 4K movie. Another bonus with the HTPC is the ability to software-decode newer audio codecs. My AV receiver has a great amp section, but it's a bit older, and does not support beyond traditional Dolby Digital Ex and DTS-ES. The receiver has 7.1 analog inputs however, and I have 7.1 analog outputs on the older X-Fi soundcard that I use in the HTPC. It doesn't matter what audio codecs the receiver supports at that point because an HTPC can pretty much software-decode anything. An HTPC with a decent CPU also has a good chance of being able to software-decode newer video codecs as they are released over time, even before dedicated decoding hardware is commonly available (at a reasonable price). The flexibility of an HTPC allows for these very handy money-saving workarounds.
Since you are standardized, you may want to try jellyfin for your movie hosting. Then the jellyfin firestick app.
 

xx0xx

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I recently set up one because I got very tired of poorly-made apps on various set-top boxes like Fire and Apple TV. Volume differences, poor app design, not being able to find certain solutions/apps, not being able to "queue up" a set of videos to play back to back easily in an app like Youtube, etc.

Those set-top experiences just are too restrictive for me, I need a full desktop and browser. Having the control a full desktop gives was worth it, I definitely will not be going back to anything else. Plus it is powerful enough to game on so it will constantly see a lot of use.
 

Ripskin

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I have one still. Just "upgraded" it. My smart TV is older and while it can talk to my NAS it cant run the Synology app which is fairly decent when I am at my parents house or something. Someday when I get a new TV it will be nice to have. However while I can run transcoding so file type is not a major concern I can jump around or search for things so much faster on a PC then in the app. Likewise its super simple to have a browser saving some streaming tabs already to go or fire up some simple basic games. I just find it much more versatile for a user adept and navigating and multitasking on a PC then the apps. I love the apps and am glad they are there as its much easier to deal with hotels and other stuff when connecting my devices in. But at home I prefer the dedicated PC.

Though I will say I have drastically changed mine up. My first one had capture abilities which I did not use that much when I got a good deal on fios tv. Then when I ditched that for lack of use I had replaced the HTPC with a beefier one for HD Blu Ray playback and some better web play but done on a budget. That couldnt cut it any more but thanks to supply chain and covid there was not a decent deal on raw parts. Evaluating my usage I don't need a big machine so I went with a pretty good NUC and got a great deal. Ended up with much more than I would have had buying parts separately and since I ripped all my discs to my NAS years ago I don't need the disc drive. Freed up a shelf and now a much lower power using virtually silent much beefier device that is ready to go in about 4 seconds. I have not done much gaming on it but it has a reasonable Ryzen onboard setup and 16GB of ram to share. Very pleased with it.
 

staknhalo

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htpc's are dead to me. I use the nvidia shield now. great device!

yes, i've owed every gen - greatest update support too - the ones from 2015 still get updated with latest os releases (barring any hw features they don't support) 7 years later
 

djoye

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Small devices have certainly caught up. I bought a Shield (2019 model I assume, small cylindrical version) and it has been capable of streaming 4K Blu-ray rips over my wired network, Dolby Vision/HDR, Atmos, etc., it's nice and it's small enough to tuck away with the wires so it doesn't take up shelf space. At $150 for the Shield, it's a no-brainer versus building a small PC to stream content locally.
 

wra18th

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I still run a HTPC with a Ceton and a cable card. I don't need extenders because I'm the only one here. and normally watch TV where the HTPC is. I can record 3 while watching one. It's still Win 7. It's also my Blue Ray player.
 

grifter_66

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I have my "Gaming HTPC" or what I like to call a "G-HTPC" in my living room which we all know, at this point, is really just a beefy gaming system turned sideway to fit in a media cabinet. :ROFLMAO:

I have roughly 40TB of storage for movies and TV shows and plex server running incase we want to watch anything in our rooms.
I don't have cable so we are either using one of the streaming services or watching it via the PC if we want proper 4K and 7.1 Atmos or DTS:X.
 

staknhalo

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I used to have a Windows Media Center Server/Plex Server w/ HDHR Prime feed Xbox 360 Extenders throughout the house, and a spare parts gaming PC in the living room - glad I don't have that power bill anymore lol (used to have individual WMC PC clients at every TV I had parts for/could afford before that 🤯)

I still do all the same stuff, but now my HDHR Prime is for the Plex Server on the Synology NAS, and also the tuner just feeds directly to the various Android TV/SHIELD clients for Live TV via the Live Channels app. Said NAS/Plex Server also feeds my UHD rips/encodes to the Android TV clients. And then my gaming PC (just 1 now) game streams to any of the same clients around the house and I can use either m&kb or I prefer 360 controllers for wifi direct/better latency than bluetooth

I say if you wanna get you PC kicks off - make a nice beefy gaming/media server/server server. But there are much more better and efficient network/client/'infrastructure' setups now than having PCs at every/even one TV IMO

Now, if you want like I said MadVR or want the absolute very lowest latency for FPS competitive on the couch, or just get away from me you filthy casual I already have the parts, then PC it up 👍
 

flegg

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HTPCs are still solid if you have a new OLED TV that can double as a gaming monitor/entertainment center and/or need some beef processing for VR.
 

LukeTbk

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People tend to have :
A home theater PC (HTPC) or media center computer is a convergent device that combines some or all the capabilities of a personal computer with a software application that focuses on video, photo, audio playback, and sometimes video recording functionality.

In mind when they think HTPC, obviously a PC that use a television and surround sound system to play game can beat what offer a smartTV OS/small Shield to play game locally, but that a different subject I feel like.
 

Verge

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obviously a PC that use a television
Like you said, that's just a PC.

HTPC's arose from a need to fill a void, that void has been gone for years. I don't know anybody that has one anymore.
 

bluestang

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Haven't thought about a HTPC since I got a NVIDIA Shield TV back in 2017 (and then another one in 2019) and an HDHomeRun. Love them!

NVIDIA is still updating them with FW/Android updates. I also bought a Synology NAS for more storage recently and moved all my media files to that.

Use KODI for my Movies and TV Shows that I have on my NAS. I use Live Channels app to watch live TV from HDHomeRun and also as the DVR using an 512GB external SSD as adopted storage. Denon receiver and 5.2 setup as well.

Even play Steam games from my PC on my TV using Steam Link app on the Shield TV...at least the games that support controllers.
 
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thedream829

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I have one. I use it as a media server, gaming on the couch, and general use like web browsing. It has a 5600X, 16GB RAM, GTX1650. 4 x 16TB HDDs.
 

Lunar

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I repurposed an old desktop to drive our home theater projector for family movie nights. Athlon x4 760k, 8GB RAM, GTX 750Ti, 120 GB Kingston SSD, ASUS Bluray Reader, Linux Mint 21. It works great. We can stream from all of the available streaming services, and it even allows us to play our blurays due to MakeMKV's VLC integration. Yes, I still buy movies on physical media.
 

LukeTbk

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and it even allows us to play our blurays due to MakeMKV's VLC integration.
Does that work well (In the sense is it much faster than the very slow experience of say a PS4 or Xbox bluray playing ?).

That a nice use case if you need a Bluray player, may has well be an old desktop.
 

Lunar

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Does that work well (In the sense is it much faster than the very slow experience of say a PS4 or Xbox bluray playing ?).

That a nice use case if you need a Bluray player, may has well be an old desktop.
The initial decrypt process that MakeMKV does when you open a BR in VLC takes about 20 seconds, but you can check the no menus box which means the movie starts directly. No splash screens (FBI warning, trailers, etc.) And then of course scrubbing through the movie is faster because you can use the regular VLC scrub bar as opposed to just fast forwarding or chapter skipping. Ultimately I'd say it's roughly a wash. The time lost to the decrypt operation is made up for in being able to skip trailers and menus. We've been very happy with it though, and it saved an old PC from going to waste. Also, I've definitely used it to play some games through Proton. Playing the Tell Tale Batman series of games is perfect on a projector because those games are basically interactive movies anyway. Rez Infinite is also awesome at 100 inches. I don't recommend shooters and the like though because the motion sickness is real.

EDIT: Also, I use this keyboard which works great for the Projector PC use case. I also bought a Flirc IR USB adapter, but unfortunately it's really only useful in Plex HTPC or KODI, so I tend to just use the keyboard at this point. The Flirc works just fine, and is a really cool product, but the dream of being able to use a remote in lieu of a KB&M ended up not being a reality.
 

whateverer

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The initial decrypt process that MakeMKV does when you open a BR in VLC takes about 20 seconds, but you can check the no menus box which means the movie starts directly. No splash screens (FBI warning, trailers, etc.) And then of course scrubbing through the movie is faster because you can use the regular VLC scrub bar as opposed to just fast forwarding or chapter skipping. Ultimately I'd say it's roughly a wash. The time lost to the decrypt operation is made up for in being able to skip trailers and menus. We've been very happy with it though, and it saved an old PC from going to waste. Also, I've definitely used it to play some games through Proton. Playing the Tell Tale Batman series of games is perfect on a projector because those games are basically interactive movies anyway. Rez Infinite is also awesome at 100 inches. I don't recommend shooters and the like though because the motion sickness is real.

EDIT: Also, I use this keyboard which works great for the Projector PC use case. I also bought a Flirc IR USB adapter, but unfortunately it's really only useful in Plex HTPC or KODI, so I tend to just use the keyboard at this point. The Flirc works just fine, and is a really cool product, but the dream of being able to use a remote in lieu of a KB&M ended up not being a reality.


I usually just decrypt it on a separate system, then you can read it over the network

VLC does read the e3xtracted file just fine (nice if you don't want two wait 4 hours for hand brake to finish my two guesstimate optimal encodes. - can usuauly figure quality level, but not resolution visible by my eyes))


once I have my h.265, then its ready fr the Universal Media Center..
 

VoodooRufus

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I relate to the comments above. I've wanted to build an HD Plex chassis HTPC for a while, for streaming or light gaming. But since my Oppo can stream files from my NAS, and the AppleTV doing the rest of the work, there really is no need unless I wanted to game.
 

whateverer

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I relate to the comments above. I've wanted to build an HD Plex chassis HTPC for a while, for streaming or light gaming. But since my Oppo can stream files from my NAS, and the AppleTV doing the rest of the work, there really is no need unless I wanted to game.


Oh, agreed - if I didn't play steam games on my b7, it would just be running UMS on my media server.

but putting it on the htpc means I can restart it if it crashes on me - have a quick shortcut on my desktop
 

Wade88

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I had a HTPC for a long time with CableCARDs and a hdhomerun, then in 2015 I got a shield tv and put a 500G sata ssd in it and it has supplanted the htpc so now we have standardized on shields, mostly 2015s with 500G sata ssds and 2019 pros for ones with hdr things. In 2013 I purchased a 5 disk slots synology and i replaced it with my old x99 workstation in a haf 932 with 13 hdds a pcie ssd and 4 sata ssds with 64G of ram. It runs plex way faster than the ds1513+ ever did. I might do the same thing or similar in an old chieftec fulltower at the lake over the winter.
The most recent version of shield tv os fixed the resampling everything to 48khz and I gleefully tested 44.1 and 96khz without any niggles on all of our shields. This has yielded increased music throughout the places.
 
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Lunar

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I usually just decrypt it on a separate system, then you can read it over the network

VLC does read the e3xtracted file just fine (nice if you don't want two wait 4 hours for hand brake to finish my two guesstimate optimal encodes. - can usuauly figure quality level, but not resolution visible by my eyes))


once I have my h.265, then its ready fr the Universal Media Center..
I do that as well, but I have several blu-rays that I've yet to rip and encode for use with Plex, so to watch those having the convenience of being able to just pop in the disk and watch it directly is nice. No need to wait for the extraction or an encode when we decide to watch a movie I haven't gotten to putting into Plex yet. As an example, my wife and I have been rewatching the Harry Potter films lately, and none of those are on my NAS. So, we've just been watching them on the projector PC directly from the disk. That's where MakeMKV's VLC integration plugin comes in handy. For us at least.
 

mlcarson

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The HTPC might make a comeback. Devices like the Nvidia shield are starting to put ads on their home page which aggravates people. PC's in a 4x4 form factor are becoming more common. I can pick up an Asrock Ryzen 3 4300U x4 box with 8GB RAM and a 256GB SSD drive, and have a box with more power than the Nvidia Shield and can run Linux on it. So at the high end, there might be some reasons to look back at the HTPC. On the lower end, I don't know how an HTPC can ever compete with a Firestick 4K Max @ $40.
 

staknhalo

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A nuclear reactor is more powerful than the Shield, but just as useless as an HTPC in terms of app support

HTPC died when Hulu desktop was killed, those were the days
 

Lunar

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NVIDIA shield can pretty much decode any thing you throw at it, it doesn't need some 8 core AMD CPU with a GPU as well to stream raw 4K content....
That's a bit hyperbolic don't you think? I'm sure a 4 core Ryzen 3 mobile CPU with integrated Radeon graphics in a mini PC could handle that as well at around the same power draw, and at least with a PC you have complete control of the software stack. The CPU isn't really what matters as much as the decoder. I'm certain AMD's latest decode hardware is as good or better than the aging decoders in the Shield devices. That being said, I have a Shield in the living room as well, but the addition of ads that scare my child (The Black Mask specifically) on its home screen have us looking into other options. Which sucks, because I've had this Shield since 2015, and it has been fantastic until the addition of ads. For us, we'll probably be switching to an AppleTV in the living room, but I will always have a PC driving my home theater projector.
 

Meeho

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If you still want to MADVR or whatever, HTPC away then
This. madVR is essential to me for media consumption. All the other options mentioned in this topic are like game streaming services vs high end gaming PC. Maybe practical, but the quality is just passable at best.
 

aliaskary77

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This. madVR is essential to me for media consumption. All the other options mentioned in this topic are like game streaming services vs high end gaming PC. Maybe practical, but the quality is just passable at best.
I did dabble in madVR but have not kept up with it in a few years. I just use plain latest stable Kodi for viewing, and Plex server for external streaming.
Still worth looking into the latest madVR setup? doom9 had not been visited in a very long time.
 

Meeho

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Still worth looking into the latest madVR setup? doom9 had not been visited in a very long time.
Depending on the features you need, the latest version isn't required. The development slowed down in the last couple of years since the creator went into commercial HW solutions, but there is still no comparable alternative.
 

aliaskary77

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How do you use it? I remember I had set up mpc-hc as the external player for kodi. Not done that in a long time or save my config files.
 

bluestang

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So madVR on an HTPC beats a ShieldTV using KODI to stream to my TV from my NAS which holds my BR/UHD disc remux rips? No re-encoding done or transcoding done by me. Just raw media from NAS to ShieldTV to Denon to TV.
 
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