I’ve used this setup for over a year now. I’ve been able to troubleshoot all challenges associated with HDMI handshake issues and other connection problems, and these are documented in the “challenges” category. I’ve had no new problems in the past 6 months, and I’ve now saved nearly 500 dollars by cancelling my cable TV subscription, relying on streaming TV content through multiple online avenues, maintaining a quality viewing experience that is similar if not better than cable TV.
This website will describe the process I took to build a home theater using my office PC, and it will highlight some lessons learned during the project, some challenges I’ve encountered, and areas for improvement. Overall, the goal is to create an efficient, relatively inexpensive home theater that connects all my media to my home theater for easy access from multiple rooms.
I seem to have various multimedia applications and files that are enjoyable or that seem very useful, but they are either too time-consuming to take advantage of or not enjoyed at all because they remain locked away in my computer. Therefore, I set out on a project to replace my 10-year old PC with a new, high-speed machine, wiring it to my entertainment center. I want to use just one computer instead of having an office PC and a Home Theater PC. I think this may be less hassle in the end, and won’t require maintenance of two machines. Additionally, I wanted to go wired to get full functionality of my PC on my HDTV. This setup will hopefully give me the capability to enjoy all types of multimedia from the comfort of my living room while maintaining the functionality of an office PC to work on items that require a desk and/or privacy.
Here are my specific goals once for my home theater project:
- In general and overarching–provide a platform for efficient and productive enjoyment and use of multimedia, leveraging some of the most current technologies available.
- The setup has been very useful so far. Multimedia is far more enjoyable when viewing from the comfort of the living room, and streaming Pandora and Itunes in multiple rooms has been great for entertaining and just relaxing to jazz and a glass of wine at night.
- One recent hiccup in the process is detailed here, with a solution.
- I listen to music and talk radio daily, through the home theater in my living room and kitchen. As mentioned above, listening to Itunes playlists and Pandora on great stereo (and surround sound) speakers vs. small computer speakers has been great. The music has much greater impact when played through the Klipsch surround sound speakers or the Sony speakers in the kitchen.
- I’ve viewed youtube clips, Picasa web albums, and I’ve created Windows Movie Maker files on my HDTV because of the large viewing screen and the comfort of viewing or creating files from the living room with multiple people being able to participate.
- I view Netflix streaming nearly daily. The video quality is perfect, there are no delays or pixellations associated with internet speed (using 15MPS broadband) and the surround sound is evident on programs like 24, even though I’m not sure if Netflix streaming supports 5.1 sound yet.
- Covered these benefits above. I don’t use my IPOD but instead just play music through my Itunes from the office PC.
- Wireless keyboard and mouse (logitech basic) work great and batteries have lasted for 4+ months now.
- Would love to have a remote control all receiver functionality too. I believe Harmony remote will do so, but I haven’t invested in this yet.
- This works great. I just pull a browser or application window over to the other screen (office PC) when in “extend these displays” mode, and one person can enjoy a movie on the HDTV while another works on a project in the office.
Here’s an overview of the rooms I have installed my home theater in:
I have a large crawlspace under the house, big enough to stand in, so I chose to bring the wires under the house. It may be easier for others to go into the attic, but the same general principles I’m using should apply.
You’ll find blog posts to the right that are associated with various topics I found to be important along the way. They include tips where I made mistakes…so you don’t have to make the same ones. Also, I’m not an audio/visual or computer expert, so hopefully some readers can correct me where I’m errant and provide better methods.
So far, I’ve successfully installed the Pioneer VSX-1020 receiver, Klipsch HD 300 5.1 surround sound speakers, a Hewlett Packard HPE 270F (with Windows 7 and Radeon 5770 HD sound/video card), and these work perfectly together thus far. Computer files are displayed very clearly on my 2008 Toshiba REGZA HDTV, the surround sound works nicely, and Pandora sounds great through the receivers and speakers. I played a movie, made with Windows Movie Maker, on my HDTV, and it nearly filled the entire screen and the resolution was great. I recently installed a second pair of speakers in my kitchen, connected to the A/V receiver in the living room, and have enjoyed music and talk radio while cooking meals or eating breakfast. I’ve found the blu-ray functionality from within the PC is not all that great. I’ve tested it, and to be honest, I don’t notice a whole lot of difference compared to DVDs when using my A/V receiver. Lastly, from what I’ve researched, my idea of viewing Skype video calls through the TV via a wireless webcam is on hold because I haven’t found a good option yet for wireless webcams.