New entertainment center -- critique wanted

whooooooooooshOctober 22, 2006

IÂm designing my new entertainment center and looking for feedback and critique.

I want it all feature wise and I donÂt want complexity or it will fail the "wife test."

Currently I have a run-of-the-mill Philips 20 inch or so tube TV, cable box, 3 tivoÂs, a DVD player, and an "obsolete but you still occasionally need it" VCR. The "house" stereo is a completely separate system using a Linux based web interfaced mp3 server. Way too many wires, too many remotes, too difficult to explain to any body else J

I want to move to a 60" or so LCD/DLP/Plasma, integrate the house stereo and make the whole thing easy to use.

IÂve always been pleased with Sony TVÂs in the past and will be looking at their product line. Sharp and Samsung are also supposed to make good LCDÂs.

IÂm thinking of a MythTV (http://www.mythtv.org) based PC as the brains and the content server. Sage, Beyond, and Windows MCE are also a possibility in descending order. This will let me to put multiple Hauppauge WinTV-PVR-500 MCE tuner cards (http://www.hauppauge.com/pages/products/data_pvr500mce.html) in to replace the TivoÂs and their monthly service fees. It will also let me play DVDÂs and CDÂs as well as any random video downloaded from the Net. I can also set up a MythTV front end for each of the other TVÂs so all content will be available in all rooms. The "rear" speakers will be wireless because the room has vaulted ceilings. IÂm very happy with my Hot Link Pro IR extender (http://www.hot-link.com/) and will probably use it in the new system so everything that can be hidden will be.

The computer will connect to the "almost released" Apple iTV (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ITV_(Apple)) via Ethernet and on to the TV via HDMI. The cable box will be upgraded to HD and connect to an HD tuner card so it feeds into the PC. The other tuner cards will be for basic cable, which does not need a cable box, and the lowly VCR.

The TV will be mounted in custom cabinetry with the bottom edge of the screen approximately 20 inches above the floor for a comfortable viewing position while seated. The PC will be mounted sideways in the cabinet above the TV because the cabinet will only be about 20 inches deep. The "rear" speakers will be a pair of wireless speakers mounted on top of the kitchen cabinets behind the entertainment area.

I havenÂt decided on an amplifier or main speakers yet. The amp will also be above the TV and the main speakers will be mounted in the cabinetry on each side of the TV so I have about 12 inches on each side to play with.

For a remote, IÂm thinking of one of the Harmony USB programmables (http://www.logitech.com/index.cfm/products/features/harmony/us/en,CRID=2078) so I can program it from a PC to do exactly what I want.

I really like the Sonos (http://www.sonos.com) zone system for a whole house stereo, but $500 for each zone (not including speakers) starts to sound expensive.

Any comments, questions, opinions or critiques?

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