Shuttle XPC M1000 - HTPC Done Right?

by Jarred Walton on 10/17/2005 12:00 PM EST
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  • jamawass - Monday, October 17, 2005 - link

    quote:

    Did I say "flawlessly" about the PVR functions? Well, not quite. I tried recording a couple of college football games on Saturday, while watching an HD broadcast through my Comcast box. Everything worked as planned. I selected the games to record and came back later to view them. All the games ended up lasting longer than scheduled, unfortunately, and Windows MCE didn't know any better. The Notre Dame vs. USC game was cut off with ND leading 24-21 and 7:33 remaining.

    In all fairness this is not limited to the Shuttle/ Win XP MCE. I had the same problem with the PVR cable box from TimeWarner Cable. The game lasted about 4 hrs and the tivo only recorded 3 1/2 hrs that was on the schedule so I missed the "fake spike" play too as I couldn't watch the game live. Poor software programming as TitanTV doesn't do that with my winfast pvr card on my pc.
    Reply
  • dr_wily - Monday, October 17, 2005 - link

    "watts measured at outlet"

    how is that accomplished?
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Monday, October 17, 2005 - link

    "Kill A Watt" device plugged into the outlet, with the M1000 plugged into that. The Kill A Watt is what most of us use for power testing. You can get them online for about $40 I think. Reply
  • agent2099 - Monday, October 17, 2005 - link

    I'm suprised Shuttle did not use HDTV Tuners. That would make a device like this actually make sense.


    I was sure they would use something like 2 AVERTVHD MCE A180 Tuners instead of 2 analogue tuners.
    Reply
  • glennpratt - Monday, October 17, 2005 - link

    What they should do is make one for Turion with the nVidia 6150 and use three PCI ports. One dual tuner NVTV and two HD AverMedia M180's Reply
  • BigLan - Monday, October 17, 2005 - link

    MCE reuires that there is at least 1 SDTV tuner before you can adda HDTV tuner (don't ask me why though!.) At least with the newly-announced Fusion USB HDTV tuner you could add to this box. Reply
  • agent2099 - Monday, October 17, 2005 - link

    In that case it should use one SD tuner and one HD Tuner. Reply
  • Kishkumen - Monday, October 17, 2005 - link

    Having another black box sitting on top of a DVD player, sitting on top of your receiver, sitting on top of xyz single function device seems so old fashioned to me. I don't see an appliance such as this really having a place in my future home theater. The way I see it, the backend needs to be little more than a massive storage server placed out of sight like a basement with a terminal interface that contains tuners for all your inputs, over the air, cable, satellite, etc. The heavy lifting would be done by the remote frontends. The computers driving the frontends should not be seen as well and they should be capable of handling HDTV resoluations and all audio duties. I can see this being feasible with Apple's Mac Minis at some point very soon. Velcro the suckers to the back of a flat panel and you've got a very clean looking setup. In such a setup, you would have a Mac Mini driving your largest flat panel for your Home Theater, one in your kitchen, one in your bedroom and so on, each sharing the large repository of resources in your basement. I've achieved this to a certain degree using MythTV. I have a regular Shuttle XPC doing the gruntwork for my home theater, an actual Mac Mini driving a display in my kitchen (although it's underpowered for HDTV), an older Athlon XP in my bedroom and my study computer doubling as a remote frontend as well. Not perfect, but I'll get there. Oh yeah, and Windoze zombies need not apply. Reply
  • glennpratt - Monday, October 17, 2005 - link

    You do realize this plays DVD's so you don't need a DVD player? Ever seen MCE Extenders? Everything you discuss is possible with extenders (and there cheaper then a Mac mini). Put a nice MCE box in the basement, extenders on the displays. HD extenders aren't out yet, but the Xbox 360 is coming in Nov. 22 and includes an HD capable MCE Extender (and it's cheaper then a Mac Mini in both forms).

    This thing does support HDTV, it just doesn't officially support HDTV from cable providers (which noone does). In fact it supports two SD tuners and two HD tuners for a total of 4 tuners.

    It WILL however, change channels and record SD and HDTV from the firewire out on many popular cable and DirecTV boxes with firewire using a free plugin.

    Windoze... what's that?
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Monday, October 17, 2005 - link

    Technically, MCE supports HDTV tuners, but the M1000 as shipped only has two PCI slots and they're filled with SD tuners already. Reply
  • glennpratt - Monday, October 17, 2005 - link

    Mean't to clarify that, I was refering to MCE at the moment.

    Too bad shuttle didn't source a dual tuner card and at least leave a PCI slot open.
    Reply
  • DigitalFreak - Monday, October 17, 2005 - link

    Unfortunately, you can't play a DVD via an extender, according to what I've seen. Obviously you could play it directly from an XBOX360, but what about all the DVD rips people have on their MCE / server machines? Reply
  • glennpratt - Monday, October 17, 2005 - link

    If you make them a format the extenders can play, then they'll play. It'll prolly have to be WMV9 if you wan't decent compression because Divx/Xvid don't work for the extenders as far as I know.

    When longhorn comes out, you should be able to stream, rip and compress DVD's ie stream them to extenders. They wan't to have the 'Trusted' stuff in place first so they don't get sued. Supposedly there's talk of letting the MCE machine convert MPEG4 compatible files on the fly to a stream that can be played on the extenders in the future.
    Reply
  • DigitalFreak - Monday, October 17, 2005 - link

    All I can say is blah. You can build the same thing using m-ATX boards and cases, and customize it however you want. Still waiting for the Nvidia 6150/430 based motherboards to hit the market.... Reply
  • Pandamonium - Monday, October 17, 2005 - link

    Nothing on the DIY market is as pretty and all encompassing as this. The DIY market has only a handful of cases that are low profile, and none that are low profile with a centered DVD drive AND VFD/LCD display. There is also no sound card (to my knowledge) on the market with built in support for 7.1 via RCA out.

    Perhaps a more valid criticism of the M1000 would have been lack of the SPDIF out.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Monday, October 17, 2005 - link

    It has S/PDIF out - both coax and optical. It only has optical S/PDIF in.

    The M1000 is an awesome looking case. I think it looks great, and it works well for what it does. I really hope to see Shuttle (or anyone else) get a fully compatible HDTV machine out in the future. For $2000, that's what I really want to see.
    Reply
  • DigitalFreak - Monday, October 17, 2005 - link

    ...and BTW, why aren't they using DDR2 memory? If memory (no pun intended) serves, using DDR with the 915PM chipset results in single channel only operation. Seeing as how tests with the older 400Mhz bus P-Ms showed that is was memory bandwidth limited, this seems to be a stupid decision on Shuttle's part. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Monday, October 17, 2005 - link

    915PM should be dual channel DDR. It is simply the mobile variant of the 915P and will support DDR or DDR2. DDR2 wouldn't really help that much, and the BIOS at present doesn't have the option to tune the RAM for higher performance. Reply
  • mlittl3 - Monday, October 17, 2005 - link

    One of the big gripes about Apple is that you can only download audio in the AAC format. Everyone hates that you are locked into their format in order to buy music. I read in the article that WMCE only supports it's own format and not xvid, divx or mpeg4. Am I reading this correct? Are you only able to encode video on these devices in a proprietary format from Microsoft? How would it work if you wanted to transfer your content to a non-WMCE PC or non-windows PC?

    I guess that was a lot of questions. :)
    Reply
  • BigLan - Monday, October 17, 2005 - link

    It only supports recording to ms-dvr files (which are based on MPEG2.) MCE can play xvid, mpeg4 or anything else that you can play with WMP 10. You can also play back these files on other Windows boxes.

    There are some tools to convert ms-dvr to regular mpeg2 files, which can then be converted to xvids etc, but I've never used them.
    Reply
  • LoneWolf15 - Monday, October 17, 2005 - link

    But non-Linux enthusiasts need not apply:

    http://www.pchdtv.com/">http://www.pchdtv.com/

    I did find one other card listed, but it appears to have a few limitations of its own and I've never heard of the vendor:

    http://www.ramelectronics.net/html/hdtv-cards.html">http://www.ramelectronics.net/html/hdtv-cards.html

    Reply
  • erwos - Monday, October 17, 2005 - link

    The issue is not that there are no HDTV cards out there. (You totally missed the ATI HDTV Wonder, BTW.)

    The issue is that there are no such cards with Cablecard support. You're limited to terrestial broadcast (ala VHF and UHF) and unencrypted cable (kinda rare) if you don't have Cablecard support.

    _No one_ has a tuner with Cablecard support atm.

    -Erwos
    Reply
  • noxipoo - Monday, October 17, 2005 - link

    I was hoping it was a barebone system that you can add components to yourself. oh well, maybe in the future. Reply
  • gibhunter - Monday, October 17, 2005 - link

    My Cox cable DVR has two HDTV tuners and didn't cost me a dime other than the $10/month fee. I can record two HD shows while watching a third one that's been recorded earlier and for movies that I get from the net, I just throw them on a DVD and play them back in my DivX compatible Philips DVD.

    For $2000, this thing is a ripoff. It still would be a ripoff for $1000 when you can get one from Gateway for $500. Besides, without HiDef support, this box is obsolete already.
    Reply
  • glennpratt - Monday, October 17, 2005 - link

    We'll see, here's the deal. That box does one thing. This is a complete computer. MCE actually supports up to four tuners (two SD, two HD), supports extenders and doesn't tie you in to your cable provider. Heck, you could uninstall MCE and install mythTV or whatever you wanted. You pay to have control.

    Now sure, this box is expensive, but it's the high end. You can get in a decent MCE box for $400 and you get to keep it (incuding everything recorded on it) when you stop paying the cable company.
    Reply
  • erwos - Monday, October 17, 2005 - link

    I'm genuinely surprised they used a P-M. Seems like a Celeron M would be a much better fit for this sort of computer (don't need as many speed settings - just "high" and "low", really). With a decent hardware encoder, CPU load should _not_ be a problem.

    The lack of HDTV was a total letdown, although it's somewhat unfair to complain to Shuttle about lack of Cablecard support. Looks like "build your own" is still the method of choice for building HTPC boxes...

    Does WinMCE have any support for direct Firewire grabs off cable boxes?

    -Erwos
    Reply
  • BigLan - Monday, October 17, 2005 - link

    Actually, cpu horsepower still plays a part in htpc. MCE (and most other PVR software) can recompress recorded shows to .wmv files which are about 20% of the size of the original. This is probably why the autoGK tests were in the review. There's also add-ins to MCE to automatically remove ad breaks, which takes a lot of processing.

    MCE has some support for FW capture, but is limited to certain boxes (one motorola series I think.)

    This box would be very nice with a 500GB drive, a true dual tuner like the Hauppauge PVR-500 and a HDTV PCI card.

    Reply
  • erwos - Monday, October 17, 2005 - link

    I was trying to imply that the Celeron M could handle such duties. It benchmarks extremely well.

    -Erwos
    Reply
  • psychobriggsy - Monday, October 17, 2005 - link

    That is a hefty price ($2000) to pay for a component.

    However it does have the correct form-factor (at last). It'd be nice to see one using a Turion as well.

    The 'standby' power is simply disgusting however. The point of standby is to merely wait for a reactivate signal whilst dropping power consumption down to nothing.

    Some TVs exhibit the same problem however. They keep the tube warm for fast activation - thereby using lots and lots of power! So that feature you never care about can cost you a lot of money - it's best to turn off completely.

    The consumer expectation of standby is 'Uses a tiny amount of power for a little convenience'. It certainly isn't 'Uses £50 of power a year even if you rarely use it'. Sure, £50 is nothing compared to the $2000 cost of this device, but for that price you expect the device to bend over backwards to not have high running costs.
    Reply
  • xsilver - Monday, October 17, 2005 - link

    I think the BIGGEST selling point of this pc is the form factor
    it looks smaller than anything else available
    obviously with that you pay a price

    and with power, if its not doing much all day, why not set it to S3 suspend after 5 mins of inactivity like a laptop does.... if they developed reactivation from S3 suspend to be much faster (about 2-3 sec) then I think it will be all good (is this one of the features touted in vista?)
    Reply
  • glennpratt - Monday, October 17, 2005 - link

    Coming back from S3 on a modern computer is very fast. Plenty fast for most people on XP (I'll have to time my MCE machine which is an old AXP 1700+) and the Media Center remote will wake the computer from S3 (along with the keyboard I presume). It can also wake from S3 to record and Wake On LAN for the MCE Extenders. Reply
  • anandtechrocks - Monday, October 17, 2005 - link

    Thanks for the great read. I've been interested in building my own HTPC and this article was exactly what I needed. I have an old P4 2.26 (Northwood) I want to use, but maybe I'll hold off until this area becomes more mature.

    Thanks Anand.
    Reply
  • anandtechrocks - Monday, October 17, 2005 - link

    Well... actually, thanks Jarred Walton. My bad, it's really early here. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Monday, October 17, 2005 - link

    You should be in bed (as should I!). 5:30 AM PST is far too late... or early, depending on whether you've been to sleep or not. Anyway, thanks. I can't begin to convey how frustrated I am with the lack of HDTV tuners for PCs. This article allowed me to sort of discuss the topic, but I've been wanting to build a nice HDTV capable PC for a while now - that's HDTV with cablecard or something similar, as terretrial HDTV doesn't work for me. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Monday, October 17, 2005 - link

    FWIW, I *love* hooking up a PC to my HDTV. TV-Out from PCs is just aweful in comparison, and suddenly HDTV makes it not just feasible but enjoyable to use a PC to play games, DVDs, movies, etc. from your couch on a large display. That's a topic for another article, though.

    It's bed time now. We'll see what people have to say once more people are awake and have time to digest this piece. Opinions expressed in the article may not reflect the opinions of other AnandTech members. :)
    Reply

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