HTPCs (Computers)

HP Digital Entertainment Center z556

hp media center z556
PC mag took HP’s Z556 home theater PC for spin, and they really liked the results.

Their “bottom line”:
The HP Digital Entertainment Center z556 is cheaper than its predecessor, the z555 and includes Windows Media Center Update Rollout 2, which improves the Media Center experience. The system remains the standard for home-theater-friendly Media Center PCs.


This unit has one HD and 2 SD tv tuners. That’s the only problem I really see – no PVR functions for HD with only one tuner. If that’s not a major issue for you, this $1500 unit may be for you.

HP Digital Entertainment Center z556 – Full review

How-To: Build a Practical HTPC

htpc how to build tutorial The Engadget guys have a quick tutorial for building an HTPC for under a grand.

Though I would have chosen a few different parts (such as HD tuners and gaming graphics card(s)), this is a great read. (My choices would have also boosted the price way over $1k.)

We wanted to build a machine that had:

* Good desktop performance
* Long life through upgradability
* Cost close to $1,000

Tutorial: Build a practical HTPC

DViCO FusionHDTV5 USB Gold Hands-On Review

DViCO Fusion HDTV5 USB Gold

Got an HTPC? Have a PC but no OTA HD tuner? This gem is your answer. It plugs in via USB and and tunes your local HD stations for viewing through your PC.

The review wrap-up:

“The bottom line is this: if you have an HDTV set and a XP or Media Center PC attached to it, you owe it to yourself to get the FusionHDTV5 USB Gold. The signal strength was impressive, the setup was mostly painless and the device is compact and easily transportable. And for only $149, it is one of the least expensive external HDTV options currently available.”

eHomeUpgrade Review – Via engadget

Picking A Case and Power Supply for Your DIY HTPC

htpc caseExtremeTech has a thorough tutorial for picking the base components of your DIY home theater computer, the case and power supply.

They cover the variables you need to take into consideration for cases:
Form factor
Noise control
Materials and construction

And power supplies:
Total electrical output
Cooling approach
Noise output
Power connections:
Electrical efficiency

The tutorial walks you through all the details and takes a look at a couple of case choices.

They wrap it up with a look at barebones package alternatives.

This is a great place to start if you want to build your own HTPC.

A Case and Power Supply for Your DIY Media PC

Microsoft and CableLabs Announce Agreement to Enable High Definition Digital Cable Programming on Windows Media Center PCs

windows xp media center edition
Future Versions of Media Center PCs to Receive Digital Cable Programming without the need for a Cable Set-Top Box

Microsoft Corp. and Cable Television Laboratories Inc. (CableLabs®) announced they have reached an agreement that will allow Microsoft and PC manufacturers to bring to market digital-cable-ready Windows® Media Center-based PCs in the holiday 2006 time frame.

These Media Center PCs, capable of supporting a CableCARD5 module, will allow consumers to enjoy one-way cable programming, including premium high-definition cable content, on their personal computer and throughout the home on compliant network-connected devices, such as Xbox 3605, while protecting cable operators’ investments in high-value content in a digital environment. Microsoft is working closely with CableLabs to document final approval of Windows Media® Digital Rights Management (DRM) as a content protection technology for OpenCable5 products that receive one-way cable content under the terms of this agreement.

Read “Microsoft and CableLabs Announce Agreement to Enable High Definition Digital Cable Programming on Windows Media Center PCs”

Sony Vaio XL1 Digital Living System

I found a news article about this Sony Home Theater PC today. This thing looks bloody smashing, as my buds across the pond might say.

This two-piece gem mainly consists of computer and 200 disc CD & DVD changer.

The PC has a Intel Pentium D 820 (2.8GHz) processor, 200 gig Hard Drive, 512 meg memory (upgradeable to 2gig), and GeForce 6200 with 64mb graphics card.

It has HDMI, DVI-D, component, and s-video output.

It handles CD burning (no DVD burning) and PVR functions. Unfortunately, only 1 SD tuner for this box. What!?! I can’t believe they left out HD tuning.

It can keep “track” of DVD cast lists, movie info and CD track information. All via your internet connection.

This looks like a good, all-around HTPC, but it lacks some HD and other technology.

If it had dual HD-tuners (watch one, record the other), a DVD burner, and a top of the line graphics card, it would be a great package. However, that would bump the price much higher as well.

If you don’t want to have PVR functions for HD broadcasts, don’t need to burn DVDs and don’t play the latest PC games, this could be the Home Theater Computer for ya.

News Source

Media Center Platinum HDTV Edition

Media Center Platinum HDTV Edition
This media center PC looks like a great choice if you’re in the market for an HTPC, but don’t want to build one yourself.

Base price of $2500 includes:

– Digital Video Recorder (better than TiVo*), including over-the-air HDTV
– Record up to FOUR programs at once (2 SD** & 2 OTA HD)
– Up-Converting DVD player (plays back DVDs at your TV’s resolution)
– Music jukebox
– Internet radio
– 7.1 channel Intel High Definition audio (analog and digital out) including Dolby Digital Live (converts 2 ch source to 5.1 channel in real time and output via S/PDIF)
– Photos slidehows
– High Definition gaming (try doing that with your Xbox or PS2)
– DVD and CD burning (burn your favourite TV shows to DVD)
– Multiple room capable
– Remote record (schedule TV recordings over the Internet from anywhere in the world)
– Stream your content to another PC or handheld anywhere in the world (using Orb Networks)
– Xbox 360 ready (!)
– Microsoft Media Center Keyboard
* In many people’s opinion…
** Requires two set-top boxes

The unit comes in a clean, black case. Options include larger HHDs, up to dual 500 gigs – 1 TB and dual HD tuners for a reasonable $100.

Definitely worth checking out.

Media Center Platinum HDTV Edition from s1Digital

Shuttle XPC M1000 Review

shuttle xpcm1000Anandtech reviews this slick-looking htpc from Shuttle. It looks great, and would fit right in with your other AV components in the stylish black case. Unfortunately, it handles HDTV poorly, and in some cases, not at all.

Bummer! I was hoping this thing could up my bling.

Full Review
Thanks Engadget for the HeadsUp

Instant HDTV PCI Card

A new hdtv card for win xp is announced today, and it comes complete with PVR functions.

In addition to delivering high-quality HDTV , ADS Tech’s new Instant HDTV PCI Card is equipped with an analog cable TV Tuner as well, allowing the viewer to switch between HD, standard TV broadcasts and cable TV signals on their PC. Consumers can also archive TV shows to a CD or DVD for playback on their home DVD Player. Instant HDTV can even support video capture, viewing and recording from external video sources such as camcorders and VCRs.

Also comes with:
SnapStream’s Beyond TV Express
electronic program guide
NeroVision Express for dvd-authoring
(NeroVision Express supports True 16:9 Widescreen, Dolby Digital Audio, as well as dual-layer authoring )

remote control
IR sensor
a/v cables

Est street price is $129. Wow, that’s a lot of stuff for 130 bucks. I wonder how well this baby will perform. Time will tell…

Press Release

AOpen Blu-Ray Drives to Ship Soon

blu rayBlu-Ray to come out of the gate first? Maybe they’ll get a leg up on HD-DVD after all.

AOpen, a Taiwanese PC and peripheral maker, plans to begin shipping Blu-ray drives for PCs in November. Just prepare to dig deep into your pockets: while AOpen has not yet revealed pricing, you can bet that it will cost a lot-bleeding-edge technology always does.

So, in November you can be the proud owner of a new Blu-Ray drive! Then what? You’ll have to wait for something to stick in it.

So what will you put in your new Blu-ray drive should you purchase one next month? Judging by the current availability of blank Blu-ray media and Blu-ray movies, not a whole lot. A handful of manufacturers have shown off prototype Blu-ray drives in the last several months, but nothing appears to have made it to market yet.