I’ve been caught up with a few mini-projects the last week or so, as well as a new show. As I mentioned before, I am researching and picking the specs for my new HTPC build. For pricing reasons, I’m now considering reusing an old Athlon X2 CPU, mobo, and ram to drastically cut down on cost of the new build. The release of the new ATI 5450 and 5550 GPUs has greatly swayed toward doing so. I mean come on. Full 7.1 HD audio bitstream support; passively cooled; all for $70? That’s a damn good deal! One that I’m not so sure I will be able to pass on. So as of right now, the specs are looking like:
- Athlon X2 CPU
- An old MSI mini-ATX mobo
- ATI 5450 GPU
- 4GB DDR2-800 RAM
It’s not the biggest of work horses, but the GPU should handle most of the video decoding work and the bitstream the audio to my receiver for decoding. The only area I worry about that old dual core processor not being able to keep up is with online flash content. However, I don’t watch too much of that as it is. Netflix streaming is handled via the TV itself and Hulu just isn’t a major priority these days. As Hulu moves toward a pay model, it loses even more of my interest as well. This is more the fault of the content producers than of Hulu’s though. They just aren’t making enough shows worth paying to watch. Though I did come across Real’s (yes, as in the realplayer) new on demand TV streaming service, SuperPass. Someone had mentioned it in passing to me a couple of weeks ago and I see that they are offering the typical 2-week free trial. So I’m thinking about giving it a shot to see how it is. If anyone else has already tried it, let me know what you think of it. How is their selection and the quality of the streams?
I also mentioned, previously, that I was getting to work on my home theater’s lacking audio setup. And as promised, I have finally come through on that. I picked up my Onkyo TX-SR607 Receiver and a set of Onkyo’s SKS-HT870 7.1 surround sound speakers. I had been looking at a set from Klipsch as well as Onkyo’s lower SKS-HT570 5.1 set, but ended up going with their SKS-HT870 for a few reasons. To start, the price was great at just over $300. I also liked that the front L/R channels came with stands already. Then there is the size; they are pretty big and the sub is huge! I love it! I also really liked the fact that they were 6-ohm speakers as well.
The new audio gear is working well and they all play nicely to bring out an amazing sound! Movies seem so much more enjoyable now that they sound like they actually have a pair. The 7.1 is a new aspect for me and really changes the whole home theater experience. For example, my couch is in front of a garden window (so the window is to your back as you watch TV) and during the Snatch blu-ray there is a scene where they are in the car talking and it’s raining outside. Well at first it didn’t click, so I thought it was raining outside and had to get up to check. Needless to say, I’m loving it!
Like I said, a new show has caught my eye and been taking up some of my time. The new Starz show, “Spartacus – Blood and Sand” has recently come to my attention. I am still unsure on how I’m going to like this show though. It is a great Rome/Gladiator type show which I like, but so far it is a little lackluster. For starters there is a huge amount of CG. Blatantly obvious CG at that, which I’m not a huge fan of. However, it is done in that “famed” Sam Raimi comic book style. And that, I usually like. To put it simply: horrible acting, bad dialogue, gratuitous nudity, gratuitous blood and violence…..I’m rather torn, you decide if it’s for you or not. Definitely check out at least one episode though.
And of course, it is that time of year again. Where all of us “scholarly inquisitors” are herded back into the classrooms in stride for that highly coveted degree certification. So my security courses may begin taking up a growing amount of time. Either way, there is always time to sit back with a glass of whiskey and enjoy our home theaters!