Advice Required: Building a new Freeview PC-PVR

Discussion in 'Newcomers Forum' started by groovybaby, December 3, 2017.

  1. groovybaby

    groovybaby Portal Member

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    Hi, I'm new to this forum,
    and I wish to build a new terrestrial Freeview PVR using a new PC.
    So I would welcome some advice on the ideal mix of components required.

    Currently:
    I have two similar proprietary PVR's each with two-tuners,
    so I'm able to record two Freeview TV programs (and/or radio programs) simultaneously per machine, they will also play audio files.

    So my new PC-PVR will need to be able to record at least 4 Freeview programs simultaneously, possibly more.
    So are there any established set-ups that are known to be reliable?

    Tuner Cards:
    So far, I've found these two Quad TV Tuner Cards.
    a: TBS 6205 DVB-T2 DVB-C Quad TV Tuner PCIe Card. @ about £169
    b: HAUPPAUGE WinTV-quad HD PCIe TV Receiver (Item model number: 3875199) @ about £100

    ...but I'm not sure if either have a good reputation, for performance, reliability & longevity etc,.
    or if one is better than the other, or if there are others worth considering.

    Operating System:
    So is Windows the best OS?
    If so, which version? I'm familiar with Windows 7 64bit Pro, as I'm using it on my regular PC.
    Or are there better OS other than Windows?

    PC Case:
    My current PVR's are in quite low cases, only about 3 inch (75mm) high.
    Can something this low (or similar) be achieved with a PC-PVR ?
    If not, what would the typical case type and size be?
    And it would need to be quiet!

    MotherBoard:
    From past experience of building PC's, I've learnt that you don't know what features you've not-got until you need something specific, and that's when you find out that you mobo doesn't have it!
    Also, some motherboards seems to have inherent problems that only seem to become obvious after you bought them.

    So what features should the ideal PVR-PC motherboard have?
    And are there any particular models that you can recommend, or advise against?

    I'm sure there are many other things to consider, like:
    How does the EPG turn a PC-PVR on&off; Remote Control Operation, etc.

    I guess I need to start with the TV Tuner Cards.
    All advice appreciated.


     
    Last edited: December 3, 2017
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  3. joecrow
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    Hi and Welcome
    I'm no great expert but have built a several HTPCs over the years and am happy to share some of my experiences.
    I have been using a TBS 6285 Quad DVB-T2 PCIe card (foreunner of the 6205) for several years, initially with Windows Media Center and now with MP1, it has been solid as a rock is still supported with latest drivers and Win 10 and had no problems when German TV upgraded from DVB-T to DVB-T2 Full HD. One feature I like is the TV out connector which gives you the opportunity to connect the TV direct (as long as the card is powered) to the antenna. The reception is much better than a Teratec dual tuner it replaced. I have no experience with Haupauge tuners but that price is attactive.
    Media Portal supports multiple tuner cards so you are not restricted to the max number of tuners on a single card, i.e if you need 6 tuners you could use a quad and a dual card.
    If you are thinking of using MP1 or MP2 then it has to be Windows, 7,8,10 (32 or 64 bit) all work. I'm using Win !0 x64, which has had problems with a recent update but basically works well.
    It is possible to get low cases for ITX/MiniATX mobos but that can well limit what CPU and GPU are available. That said I have no experience of onboard graphics which someone years ago advised me to avoid. Generally speaking I go for the most expensive seperate graphics card I can afford. Cooling is also a big consideration, the quiet CPU coolers typically come with big heatsinks and fans so along with a full size graphics card that usually forces you into using a 6+ inch high case.

    I have had very good experiences with both Gigabyte and AS Rock mobos, currently I'm using Gigabyte. These days you should be looking for USB 2 and 3, Gigabyte Lan, SATA III for most if not all device interfaces. Also make sure you check the manufactures supported CPU and memory lists before purchasing anything if you plan to source these items seperately.
    With MP if you select a program from the EPG to record it will schedule Windows to make the recording, the recording will go ahead regardless of whether MP is running or not and depending on how you set it up the PC can be put to sleep and will wake to make the recording in "Away mode" which disables video and audio output, then return to sleep on completion.
    You're right here is loads more:p
     
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  4. JimCatMP
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    And MP can record multiple programs on same tuner IF they are on same transponder [as this is specific to location AND exactly what you record you are best to only assume 1 per tuner however].

    Same - for my main box, updates are OFF - the machine is used as MePo box only with no Internet route.


    I used to use [it's now my main 'dev' box - which I'm using now] i3 based machine 250x250x40 mm approx - so very small & low profile [with low profile mini-ITX mother board and special low noise Intel CPU fan and 2.5 in SDD's and added USB IR receiver] - this did however use seperate TV Server [again very small unit, but only had/have dual channel USB tuner]. Current main system is down graded [G430] CPU, hand made case [in oak] and I've used built in graphics for years, no issues [1920x1280 display within whole mix of content].

    Used both, and ASUS - never had issue with MePo other then restart from sleep on IR command [I've never managed to get on working in fact :)

    [/QUOTE]
    Despite my problems with 'wakeup', as Joe states, MePo is VERY capable in terms of EPG Recording.

    Hope that helps.

    TTFN - JCMP
     
  5. Owlsroost
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    One thing to think about if you are moving from dedicated Freeview PVR boxes is that MP does not have the equivalent of 'Accurate Recording' i.e. automatically tracking and adjusting the recording times if a programme is moved after a scheduled recording is set up. That said, this doesn't happen very often, and there is always iPlayer etc. as a backup.

    As JimCatMP suggests, you can easily run an MP 'PVR' on a fairly low-power modern PC - my HTPC is an HP 260 G1 (Celeron 2957U) 'net-top' machine with two cheap USB DVB-T2 (HD) tuner sticks attached. About the size of a paper-back novel and almost silent. I find the picture quality of the modern Intel GPUs to be excellent, on both MPEG2 video (SD Freeview) and H.264 (HD Freeview).
     
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  6. CyberSimian
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    @joecrow and @JimCatMP have given good advice. Various cases can be used, with various motherboards, various CPUs, and various tuner cards. Most of them can be made to work with MediaPortal. But I think that the "gating factor" is the requirement for a quiet system.

    Bear in mind that when a manufacturer describes a cooling fan as "low noise", he means that it sounds like Concorde taking off. And when he describes a fan as "silent", he means that it sounds like a hoover (other vacuum cleaners are available). Now it is possible to assemble an HTPC that has no moving parts, and which is therefore completely silent, but such systems are not cheap. For example, the following system can be purchased with a TBS 6205 quad-tuner card pre-installed:

    https://quietpc.co.uk/sys-a470s

    Quiet PC stock other passively-cooled cases, some with a horizontal format (but I don't know whether they can accommodate an internal tuner card). So, you need to decide how much noise you are prepared to accept. That will determine the case, which in turn determines the motherboard size, CPU power, and size of tuner card.

    -- from CyberSimian in the UK
     
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  7. CyberSimian
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    The original poster also needs to be aware that MP does not have "series recording" either.

    What MP does offer is numerous variations of repeated recording, based on the programme title. It is a reasonable substitute for true series recording, except when broadcasters vary the programme title slightly from week to week (e.g. "The Chase Celebrity Special" one week, and "The Chase: Celebrity Special" the next week). :(

    -- from CyberSimian in the UK
     
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  8. groovybaby

    groovybaby Portal Member

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    Thanks everyone so far for you really helpful advice.

    ...it's interesting, but too expensive, but I'll check out their other options.

    My main/general use PC: (Noise)

    For years, I had a Medion MD8080 PC:
    It was a great PC and came with lots of features, but there was no case fan;
    there was a power supply fan: and the CPU-fan was obviously small, so it was at max-speed all of the time, and as this sat on my desk 18" from me, was annoyingly loud.
    I'm sure it's responsible for my now impaired hearing.

    My current PC:
    So eventually I built a new PC, and its PC-Case is a:
    Antec Sonata III Super Quiet Black Mini-Tower Case, 500w-apfc-PSU.
    This is much quieter, and it currently has one 6" case-fan; a power-supply-fan; and a CPU-fan which is controlled by the mobo, so this would be OK if this was used as a PC-PVR, especially as it would be further away from me, under the TV. But this case is too big.

    PC Case Size:
    So if a 6" fan is OK noise-wise, and if a desk-type-case was used, then the case would need to be 6" high, or 3-to-4" high, if say 2 x 3" fans were used instead.
    But would the mobo be able to control these two fans, the same as one 6" fan?

    And the 'TBS 6205 TV Card' should fit into a 3" high case, as their website says its size is: L:115 x H:68.7mm

    I could make a case, years ago I used to make HiFi cases.
    Did you make a metal case with a wooden cover, or just directly into a wooden case?

    Do you find that a wooden-case increases its temperature, because obviously, just a metal-case helps to act as its own heatsink, and so cools quicker internally.

    CPU:
    My current proprietary PVR's, are very low CPU and memory spec, so it can take awhile to boot up, and for some menus to load etc.

    Q: So what is the ideal CPU & memory spec?
    I assume that the spec of the CPU needs to be kept as low as practical, otherwise this would increase the heat generated, and therefore the amount of cooling required?

    Q: BTW: Does a PC-PVR need to be connected to the internet? : never/sometime/all the time ?

    Many thanks.
     
    Last edited: December 4, 2017
  9. CyberSimian
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    It is very difficult to predict how noisy a system will be, because there are so many variables. But to achieve a specific air flow:

    (1) A larger fan spins more slowly than a smaller fan.
    (2) A fan spinning slowly generates less noise than a fan spinning quickly.

    So for fans: bigger is better.

    Probably, but it depends on the motherboard and on the particular fans installed.

    The TBS 6205 is a half-height card. I have the older TBS 6284, which is a full-height card.

    I would be reluctant to use an exclusively wooden case. Part of the function of the case is to act as a barrier for all of the radio-frequency leakage originating from the computer components inside the case. A wooden case would not provide this function.

    If you use sleep as the standby mode for MP, the Windows desktop can appear within 3 to 5 seconds of pressing the power button on the remote control. Hibernation takes longer for the desktop to appear, around 45 seconds on my system.

    As @Owlsroost said, you can run MP on quite a modest system. My HTPC dates from 2009, and is a quad-core Intel Q6600 running Windows Vista with 3GB of RAM (a powerful processor for 2009, but a modest amount of RAM). It runs MP without problem. However, if you want to do transcoding of recordings (from one format to another), you might need more than a modest system.

    If you use the broadcast EPG (this is what I use), you never need to connect the HTPC to the internet (except when you install MP). If you want to use an alternative EPG (e.g. the paid-for Schedules Direct EPG), or want to use catchup services (e.g. BBC iPlayer), or want to use streaming services (e.g. Netflix), then obviously you do need to connect the HTPC to the internet.

    -- from CyberSimian in the UK
     
  10. JimCatMP
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    Mine is wood [15mm solid oak sides/front/back, laminate floor board for base and laminate top with 3mm oak inlay skin], with internal aluminium L extrusion to mount rear connectors and to separate power block from PC side internally. External fan vents out underneath. Noise - audio & electrical [in or out] not a problem for me. Size, 45 cm x 25 cm x 10 cm approx {using wood means panels are 5mm thick absolute min, not 1 mm or less you get from steel or aluminium}.

    Using less dense timber & none-laminated construction and depending on other factors, internal shielding recommended [used aluminium foil bonded to timber in previous build].

    Would NOT recommend wood for large case [which sounds like you'll need] - you can get away with a lot less in terms of joints and 'wow' on a smaller case:). However, also consider if you could PCI cable riser - then perhaps you may NOT be stuck with card height as a fixed constraint?

    Cheers - J.
     
  11. CyberSimian
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    One factor that may be important to you: if you are thinking of using Windows 7, be aware that Microsoft and other manufacturers are refusing to provide drivers and updates for Windows 7 running on Intel Kaby Lake and more recent processors (Kaby Lake is the Intel 7th generation). In contrast, Microsoft et al. are continuing to provide drivers and updates for Windows 7 running on older processors, up to (and including) Sky Lake processors (Intel 6th generation). These updates will be available until 2020.

    You may be quite happy with Windows 10, but if you take a dim view of Microsoft's arrogant removal of your ability to prevent updates causing chaos on your system (e.g. the recent 1709 Windows update), you will need to obtain a 6th generation (or older) processor plus compatible motherboard if you wish to use Windows 7.

    -- from CyberSimian in the UK
     
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