david.l.jones at gmail
Jan 23, 2006, 8:50 AM
Post #14 of 50
I think one key aspect to point out is the cost of the tuner cards used. If
you want to use a digital cable box over firewire, you only need to spend
$15 for a firewire card and you can get by with a fairly "cheap" set of
components for the rest of the box (probably even a scavenged box). However,
if you skimp (like me) and grab the $20 Hauppauge cards, you will pay for it
with what you need on the rest of the components. I have a Celeron 2 GHz
doing both FE and BE with the 2 bttv tuners, and it stutters when recording
2 and watching 1.
Taking lessons learned, I would much rather spend $100 more per tuner to get
an MPEG 2 capture card rather than cough up an extra $100-200 for a more
expensive CPU and motherboard.
(nonsensical tangent warning)
What this means for the "average cost" debate is that it really isn't as
simple as a couple of cheap tuners and and old PC... at least if you don't
want to end up saying "gee, I could have spent less money and bought a
Tivo." It's actually somewaht counter-intuitive to spend more on a nice
tuner card rather than make the "processors are getting cheaper" argument
and buy the fastest PC you can with the cheapest tuner. The reality,
however, is that the cost is first and foremost determined by what you will
use as a tuner. I spent maybe $200 plus old parts to build my box. However,
I would never reccomend somebody go the route that I did. Myth gets a whole
lot tougher to sell when you come to the realization that you just won't
build something good without a $130 tuner card.
All that being said, I think that $500-600 is a fair threshold for what I
would consider a "minimal" Myth box that *works well* and looks good. I'm
figuring a PVR-x50 (although an HDx000 card is not a whole lot more), a
bare-bones CPU/mobo combo, a couple of hundred gigs of storage, and 512 MB-1
GB of RAM. Running down the last Fry's ad, that comes to about $550. (I'm
not sweating specifics here... just the weekly specials aside from
tuner/video cards. Of course, a nice Silverstone case would add to that, as
would more storage, etc. etc. etc.)
So that's $500 more than a Tivo. Why even go the MythTV route? Well, picking
components carefully buys you a lot of advantages. First of all, there are
not a lot of HDTV PVRs on the market. There are none, for that matter, which
would let you archive your shows to DVD (and I am thinking native HD
resolution .nuv/.avi files on DVD, not the HD-DVD/BluRay battle which, as
far as I can tell, will end sometime around 2012 or the Apocalypse). Chosing
an MPEG2 card immediately buys you the ability to burn DVDs of SD
programming, too. What else is in that $550? For one thing, 400 GB of hard
drive space... that's a lot of hours of storage. You also get other
abilities... you can build an MP3 jukebox, an AVI jukebox, a web browser
hooked to your TV, your own S/FTP, rsync, cvs, svn, ... server to access
from anywhere on the internet, and if you don't mind a little script
hacking, a DVD jukebox/copier which integrates into the fronted (ahem, only
for titles which you are expressly given permission).
You get the idea. When I first bought a Tivo, my friends thought that was
pretty cool. Now they all have Tivos. But with Myth, I show them that I can
pop in a DVD and load it to the library, then go and watch the AVI archives
of old seasons of TV shows, then put my music library on shuffle, then read
Slashdot on my TV, and they are once again pretty impressed. The downside?
Well, if time were money, I would be bankrupt. :) And nobody could afford
On 1/23/06, Tony Brummett <brummett [at] gmail> wrote:
> On 1/22/06, Brian Wood <beww [at] beww> wrote:
> > With some recent discussion here about CPUs and costs I wonder what
> > the "average" cost of a MythTV machine might be.
> I doubt you'd be able to boil it down to any single "average" number,
> because there's so much variation about what a MythTV machine does.
> For example, my first MythTV box cost me less than $200. I used a
> 900MHz PC I scavanged from work and an old bttv capture card I got on
> extended loan from a friend, and just had to buy a large hard drive to
> store things on, and an el-cheapo Nvidia video card with TV-out.
> My current setup was only a little more expensive. I have 2 frontend
> machines: the same one above, and another I put together from parts I
> had laying around (cost: about $30 for another Nvidia card). The
> backend I bought all new parts for (1.5GHz AMD, a PVR-250, 2 80G hard
> drives, cheap case). It was, maybe, $500 three or four years ago.
> Pretty much any machine you can throw together today is going to be
> fast enough for standard-def TV.
> I'm currently putting together an all new frontend that can playback
> HD, plus a tuner and more hard drives for the backend. It'll probably
> all be $900 to $1000 because I'm going to be splurging on a nice case
> that'll fit with the other stereo components, and make everything
> super quiet. I'm probably overspending on a few things, but I'm
> hoping it's fast enough that I won't have to do this again any time
> -- Tony
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