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Old 18th September 2016, 17:01   #1
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Default My Home-Theatre PC! Cost = Rs 12,000

It all started couple of years back when I visited one of my friends. He had enormous collection of movies and I wanted to copy few of them to see them on my TV. Most of his files were quite large by size, given that those were full HD and with surround sound in them. I was disappointed since I wanted to burn DVD and watch on my DVD player. I had to be careful since some of the formats were not supported by my DVD player.

With not much luck, I could only copy few romantic movies which were full HD but with stereo (2 channel) audio embedded. He was least bothered about such movies as those were just to please his wife and without them he would have been thrown out of the house with his system.

By that time I was already excited about actually watching the action flicks on his setup. He had attached his PC to his TV and then had some Denon system in between to take care of the audio. So we started off with the legendary title "Saving Private Ryan". I was not sure what to expect so just sat there through the initial 5 mins and then Boooooooom !!!!!!!

I was literally jumping on the seat when the battle scene started. This really sparked the HTPC thing in me. Then I returned to home and eventually to reality. Spending 15-20K on HTPC was something my wife was not happy about. Also we did not have a dedicated Home Theater system but a 10 years old Computer 5.1 Speaker system by "Artis". Its a very humble system and I still have it. I like its punchy yet crisp bass and good mid tone.

Now I wanted to solve the issue of incompatible files with my DVD player and so after researching on net, I got to know about the Android TV which is essentially a small media player developed on the Android stack. It looked like a perfect solution for me since it was pocket friendly and supported almost all the video and audio formats, well almost all! Now this thing does not come with analog audio out so I bought a make-shift 5.1 DAC which was converting the SPDIF digital audio output to Analog to put my audio system to good use.

This make shift arrangement worked for me for couple of years until I bought a dedicated Home Theatre System by Yamaha. This model (YHT 299) supports all formats of audio except the Dolby Atmos and DTS equivalent. But I am least bothered about them anyways. Now this really exposed the Achilles heel of the Android media player. This thing cannot pass through the audio over SPDIF and HDMI. So all the decoding happens inside this media player and then it sends surround signal over SPDIF but only Stereo over HDMI. There is no fix for this thing as the HW does not support this. So I ended with a Home Theatre which is starved of the surround formats which it can decode. Only saving grace was the TATA Sky STB which I have connected to it through SPDIF.

Fast-Forward, I was seriously looking at HTPC solution since it can really solve most of what I want from it. Be it all types of audio format decoding as well pass-through and yet easy to upgrade because of the inherent modular approach. Then I started the research for which I invested a lot of time. Members here also helped me fine tune the system with just the right components. Even though I could not incorporate some of the inputs, I tried my best to address my requirements the best possible way I can. There is no limit to the way you can build your HTPC and there is no ‘one’ right answer to it. Its all about making sure that it solves all your problems with the budget you have.

So lets go over the basic requirements that I had:
1. Should flawlessly render HD and Full HD movies.
2. HD audio bit streaming/Pass through
3. 3D and 4K not required but should have an upgrade path – Through a dedicated GPU
4. Stream media from online and over private WiFi sources
5. Energy efficient as this could run for hours
6. Should look like a HTPC rather than ‘Just-Another-Desktop-Computer’

Frankly, the above requirements are very basic and my budget was also on similar lines. I already have a decent performing desktop in my bedroom and was not looking out for a similar config. Here the requirements are completely different.

I started off with FM2 based processor with FM2+ motherboards. AMD FM2 processors offer good VFM as far as media handling is concerned. Few also support good amount of gaming and thus stack up on pricing depending on the support they provide. As my requirements are pretty basic, this made me stick to basic APU and thus reduced the expenses by a good margin.

Only challenge being, most of the motherboard manufacturers omit the HD audio bit streaming (Pass through) information and so makes it very difficult for one to take a call. So after a lot of research, going through YouTube videos and browsing through motherboard manuals, I finalized on the configuration. One of my friends also built a similar setup and thankfully I got a chance to verify point#2 before I take a call. Trust me this is the best bang for the buck config as far as media streaming/viewing HTPC is concerned.


CPU/APU: AMD Athlon 5150 1.6 GHz
Motherboard: Asus AM1M-E
RAM: 4GB HyperX Fury
Cabinet: Circle Lil Black
SSD: Kingston 120GB
WiFi Dongle: 300 mbps speed

I no way claim it to be the “Best” config but as I said, its one of the most VFM HTPCs you can build. Since most of the media is on 1 TB USB3 hard disk, I did not opt for any internal HDD (Apart from SSD for boot and SW). Also the SSD is put on to make sure minimal booting time. Remember this is an HTPC and should look and work like one. With Windows 10, my HTPC boots up in around 8 seconds.

The Media Player experience:
As I said, HTPC should not only look like one but should behave as one too. Now there are sides of this coin, one being the chassis you put your HW into and the other being the SW part to polish the overall experience.

Chassis: Since the APU is just 25TDP, I had a good chance on skipping the dedicated and expensive SMPS. I opted for the Circle Lil Black cabinet which also came with SMPS built in. This little cabinet is real VFM as it gives you looks and saves you money as well. You can put this cabinet either vertically on its stand or horizontally in your nice Wall Unit in the living room.

Media Player experience: Now that the external look is taken care of, I paid attention to the overall media experience. This thing should not look like just another desktop, so I put on Kodi on this machine and changed the settings on HTPC to boot into Kodi directly. I have not yet touched on the BIOS image/Boot animation but you never know.

As of now I have added all my movies and music into Kodi (Directed Kodi to the sources) and using Skin called “Phenomenal” and it indeed is phenomenal. This is my second most favorite skin after the default skin of Kodi. I have also configured Scrapers and review sites so that the movies will have fanart and ratings available. I am also planning to configure YouTube so that I don’t have to come out of Kodi and open Browser just to watch YouTube videos. May be down the line, I would like to have Torr* application integrated so that this RIG will also take care of downloading movies.

I have made changes in the Kodi to pass-through all the surround sound formats like DTS, DTS HD, DTS HD MA, Dolby Digital, Dolby True HD etc to my AVR rather than decoding them locally. I can see the correct stream info on the AVR which the movie file has, so this motherboard “Asus AM1M-E” supports the HD audio bit streaming/pass-through.

I hope this thread has added some value if you are about to venture into the HTPC area. Will keep on updating the thread as and when required.

My Home-Theatre PC! Cost = Rs 12,000-htpc.png

Media capability:

1. jellyfish-10-mbps-hd-h264 - Worked well
2. jellyfish-10-mbps-hd-hevc - Stutter, not watchable
3. jellyfish-10-mbps-hd-hevc -10bit - Stutter, not watchable
4. jellyfish-45-mbps-hd-h264 - Flawless, worked well
5. jellyfish-55-mbps-hd-h264 - Flawless, worked well
6. jellyfish-120-mbps-4k-uhd-h264 - Stutter, not watchable
7. jellyfish-140-mbps-4k-uhd-hevc-10bit - Stutter, not watchable
8. BD ISO - Worked Well

Apart from these, I downloaded one Dolby True HD and DTS HD MA files (FullHD) form net. I can see the AVR showing up True HD and DTS HD MA for these files. So this Proc + MB can pass through HD audio to AVR.

I assembled this System for 12K with all new components and this thing is a real VFM as far as HTPC (FullHD + HD audio pass through) is concerned. If you want 3D and 4K, use appropriate graphics card (For e.g. Zotac NVidia 710/750) and you are done.
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Old 18th September 2016, 18:16   #2
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Default re: My Home-Theatre PC! Cost = Rs 12,000

Good job. Why didnt you use an atom NUC?
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Old 19th September 2016, 08:48   #3
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Default re: My Home-Theatre PC! Cost = Rs 12,000

Most of the NUCs dont support HD audio pass through. This is one of my primary requirements so did not take any risk.
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Old 19th September 2016, 09:57   #4
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Default re: My Home-Theatre PC! Cost = Rs 12,000

Thanks for the build write up. This is high on my list of things to do. But planning to start after i reach a plateau in collection.

And of course save up some money as well.
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Old 19th September 2016, 14:15   #5
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Default Re: My Home-Theatre PC! Cost = Rs 12,000

Congrats on your HTPC

However I dont know how you managed it in 12k , looking at the components viz their prices on Amazon should easily be another +5k

What about Windows 10 ?

Also any particular reason why you chose Kodi to run over Windows 10 ?
If you are using it only as an HTPC then OpenELEC is the lightest Kodi flavor that runs on its own i.e. no underlying OS install needed.

I felt Windows 10 would just be an additional overhead to run with 4GB ram. Any of the free Linux destro's would have been more efficient if you didnt want to go the OpenELEC way.
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Old 20th September 2016, 09:13   #6
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Default Re: My Home-Theatre PC! Cost = Rs 12,000

Quote:
Originally Posted by Fillmore View Post
Congrats on your HTPC

However I dont know how you managed it in 12k , looking at the components viz their prices on Amazon should easily be another +5k

What about Windows 10 ?

Also any particular reason why you chose Kodi to run over Windows 10 ?
If you are using it only as an HTPC then OpenELEC is the lightest Kodi flavor that runs on its own i.e. no underlying OS install needed.

I felt Windows 10 would just be an additional overhead to run with 4GB ram. Any of the free Linux destro's would have been more efficient if you didnt want to go the OpenELEC way.
1. All components are bought lcoally in Pune. Did not opt for any optical drive, I already had wireless Keyboard+Mouse in a remote size device. So this further helped me keep the price in check.

2. Opted for Windows 10 since I would be running a torre* program on this one. Kodi has a plugin but it has its own set of glitches.

3. Even with Windows 10 and 4GB RAM, the HTPC boots up in 8 seconds. Shutdown in around 4 secs. Since there is no extra software on this rig, it has helped making it a faster PC.

4. Opted for lower Proc since it serves as media PC and has only 25 TDP as energy footprint. Without much load, it idles at around 8-10W. Also, most of the time it is powered on and acts as headless computer and serves as storage server to which my other wireless devices connect and stream content. Not sure if OpenElec can act as Samba server for content delivery.
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