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Moving Your Family to a Media Center Whole Home Solution – Part 2

In my first follow-up to my post on moving your family to a whole home Media Center solution I wanted to give a better idea on what I have in my setup and how it’s all connected.  We have four rooms in the house where we can use and enjoy Media Center.  The following diagram explains what equipment is where and how everything is connected:

Media Center Network

Office:  The home office is where I centered the Media Center and all the supporting components.  I have dual monitors connected to the Dell XPS 420 so I can use one as normal PC monitor and the second to watch Media Center at the same time (actually doing that as I write this post).   Audio is just stereo via computer speakers.

Master Bedroom:  In the master bedroom we are using a Linksys DMA2100 extender that is directly wired into the network.  It is connected to the TV via a single HDMI.  This is a nice clean setup with the least amount of cables (4): two power plugs, one network cable and the HDMI cable.  The DMA2100 looks great on this TV and fits the master bedroom scenario perfectly.  Audio is stereo via the TV speakers.

Living Room: The main TV is located in the living room.  Because of this I am using an Xbox 360.  It gives the closest experience to actually having the PC connected to the TV.  It also looks great over a VGA connection on this TV.  Audio is full 5.1 surround sound.

Guest Bedroom:  The TV in the guest bedroom is rarely used so it is the only TV that is still standard definition.  The great thing about Media Center is that I can still watch all of my HD content on this SD set and it looks like an amazing DVD. Audio is stereo via the TV speakers.  This is also the only wireless scenario I have.  The guest bedroom is right underneath the office so the wireless signal is fairly strong.  I have had experienced a few disconnects over extended viewing sessions but overall it worked great and streamed HD content just fine.

I’ll keep on digging deeper into other aspects in future posts.  Hopefully this helps answers some questions for those considering Media Center.


11 Responses

  1. Great setup! I'm forever tweaking my setup as I also have an office pc that doubles as my media center and am debating whether to have a stand alone htpc…

  2. @Jess – I go back and forth and using my PC as a stand alone HTPC. I think my biggest hold up is location. If I had a good centralized closet I would be more app to do it. Also I like the office PC so maybe I'll wait until I can get an office only PC to take it's place.

  3. Cool. You simply amaze me on how you can explain things in a simple way. For some reason I thought that you were also using the antenna to get HDTV into your home. But it looks like you are just using a 4 way splitter and are getting everything from cable. Thanks for posting this.

  4. Hi Andre,
    A picture is worth a thousand word. Thank you for sharing and posting it. What software application did you use to create this cool diagram?
    I have a similiar set up like yours except that I used OTA to record free HD content tv program. This is because we don't watch a lot of TV like your family 🙂
    My wife and both of my sons (4 1/2 and 2 and 1/2 years old) have been spoiled by WMC. My older son was able to operate the Linksys DMA 2100 remote control when he was 3 years old.
    Looking forward to read many of your informative posts in the fureture. Keep up the good works!

  5. I decided to go the stand-alone htpc route (I'm lucky enough to have a closet behind my big TV). The advantages are: We can play Netflix Watch Instantly thru MC on the Den TV (only), we can play Hulu desktop content on the den TV (only), and we can run anything on the web (such as Youtube, local TV website stream, etc) in the den. Also, the HTPC upscales DVDs, so they look great on that den TV. With more web-streaming coming down the pike, I feel this TV is ready to handle whatever Hulu-desktop-like thing comes next, unlike the extenders.

    The downside is the video card is connected to the TV via HDMI, and getting the HTPC handshaking to work after the TV has been off is still an enigma. Also, it is a little uncomfortable to do the real computer type stuff in front of the den "monitor" (TV). I pull out a TV tray and hook up a keyboard and mouse to my USB hub under the TV and work.

    The other downside is that I'm kinda not using the best computer in my house much of the time. It's just off in a closet serving the TVs.

  6. @Anonymous – I used Viso, Paint.net and Google Images to create the diagram. First I collected the images, then I gave each a transparent background, and last laid them out on the Visio document.

  7. super!
    this is going to be a popular post

  8. Hi Andres, excellent work. What was your reason for including the HP MediaSmart Home Server? Would the Media Center PC be adequate to handle the activity from the tuners and the extenders?

  9. @Will – The main reason I added the Home Server was for storage. I only had room for two extra hard drives in the Media Center PC. The Media Center PC actually still handles all of the tuner and extender activity. The Home Server's main job is to centralize storage and create backups of the Media Center PC. It's also has the extra benefit of centralizing my MyMovies database and other things.

  10. Andres, thanks for the info. Makes sense. I have no experience with the MS Home Server, but I understand they are becoming popular. I appreciate your help.

  11. Nice setup. I regret selling my HDHomeRun a few years ago. I thought I was done with media center and then Windows 7 changed my mind. Now that SDV is going to be supported and the OEM cable card tuner restriction has been lifted I'll be in the market for a CC tuner soon.

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