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HTPC, Network Media Player, new DVD player or modded XBox?


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Currently I have a Pioneer 676 DVD player. This can play DivX and XviD avi files.

Quite a lot of content these days is starting to use features that my player can't cope with (QPel, GMC, packed bitstream, mp4, mkv, etc) or with resolutions higher than SD. Most of the time I can manage to re-encode using XviD with most of the fancier new options turned off. This is obviously time consuming and the video quality will usually suffer. And resizing down to SD just so my player can cope is really annoying.

I'd like something that can play all these files (and hopefully HD content as well - like DivX HD or WMV HD) and preferably from a burnt DVD.

If the device also had an HD tuner with PVR functionality, that would be great.

Does anyone have any recommendations of what I should consider (and price points).

I have built a few (regularly sized) PCs before - so an HTPC is a possibility, but I would like something that boots quickly and is easy to use by the rest of the family.

Is a modded XBox a reasonably way to go (and are they HD?).

Note: I do have a home LAN (with wireless) so streaming from a PC is also a possibility.

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The media players all struggle with media that are encoded with QPEL and GMC.

A modded Xbox will play them ok but won't manage HD especially anything in 1080i. Most will play DVD-R some struggle depending on the DVD-ROM used which is pretty much just pot luck.

Neither of these work as a PVR.

HTPC isn't cheap, isn't all that user friendly but will do the lot. Biggest factor would be the cost. Budget around $1500 to $2000 for something that will see you right for the next couple of years. Price would depend a lot on what sort of DTV recording you want to do (ie multiple tuners etc) and the peripherals you need (remotes, keyboards, case and PSU etc).

Forget wireless for anything HD. The reliability and consistent bandwidth just isn't there atm.

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Thanks for the reply ajm.

An HTPC is a bit out of my price range ATM. But, it does seem the best way to go.

I'll have to try hooking up my existing PC (via DVI) to my plasma, to see what the quality is like playing some HR avi's I have. If it looks good, I might just have to start saving.

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Hi Andrew,

I'm in the same position as you, I want to watch a lot of mkv, h264 stuff that also has 5.1 encoding etc, and my divx player can't play it. So I've decided to go the HTPC route, but I'm going to wait as my wife spent the $$$ faster than I could. Also going to wait for the cooler and quieter chips coming out later this year.

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Thanks for the reply ajm.

An HTPC is a bit out of my price range ATM. But, it does seem the best way to go.

I'll have to try hooking up my existing PC (via DVI) to my plasma, to see what the quality is like playing some HR avi's I have. If it looks good, I might just have to start saving.

Not a bad idea just as a tester. Bear in mind that the results depend heavily on the video card and drivers that you use so don't be put off if setting it up is a pita and the results aren't great if your card is more than 18 mth or 2 yrs old.

Best of luck

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