Help Me Create an Integrated Home Computer (Work+Entertainment) Setup: Which PCs and apps to buy?

coip

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Hi. I am looking to create a very useful home network where everything is connected to each other. I don't really know what this entails or if it's possible, but I've seen a few interesting setups before that makes me think I'm not fully utilizing my devices. For instance, I been to friends' houses where they can play movies wirelessly from their PCs upstairs on their TVs downstairs. I also was in a friend's office once at work and he was doing stuff there on his PC at home. How do they do that?

Here is what I have (or am willing to get). Our household of two has:
2 laptops (Windows 7)
2 Windows Phones
1 Surface RT
1 Xbox One (preordered)
0 new Windows 8 PC (not yet purchased, but I'm open to anything: ultrabook, all-in-one desktop, Surface Pro or other tablet with external monitor, etc.)
0 TV (not yet purchased as I'm wondering if it's necessary or not--i.e., maybe I can use a Desktop PC or tablet with external monitor as the "main screen of the house" and control everything with PC Remote or Remote Desktop apps).

So, how exactly do I do this? I am envisioning something where I'm sitting on the couch with either my phone or Surface RT in hand, controlling a TV or computer. Whether this is on a TV via Xbox SmartGlass via the Xbox One's built-in TV functionality or on a computer monitor via some app like PC Remote or Remote Desktop is up for debate, so I'd appreciate your expertise as I've never done anything like this. Is it better to get a TV, or what if I just got a giant monitor (or all-in-one PC)? What apps do you recommend? I've posted a related thread about this and have gotten some friendly responses, but I'm still not sure I fully grasp this whole thing.
 

Laura Knotek

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Other than watching TV and using remote desktop, what types of things are you interested in? The PC specs will be dependent upon exactly what kinds of software you plan to use, particularly if you're interested in PC gaming.

When you mention watching TV, do you want to stream Amazon Prime, Netflix, Hulu Plus, something else or do you want to use cable TV?
 

coip

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Other than watching TV and using remote desktop, what types of things are you interested in? The PC specs will be dependent upon exactly what kinds of software you plan to use, particularly if you're interested in PC gaming.

When you mention watching TV, do you want to stream Amazon Prime, Netflix, Hulu Plus, something else or do you want to use cable TV?

I'm not interested in PC gaming. I prefer console gaming, so I'll stick with Xbox for that. I'd use Netflix. I am undecided about cable TV. I was thinking of just using a big computer screen as my "tv" to stream shows via the Internet. But, I'm not sure how that'd work with the Xbox One.

I think the big problem is that I don't really understand all this PC Remote / Remote Desktop / home network integration stuff, so it's difficult to say. I want to know what devices and apps I need to make it happen. I was just hoping there would be a bunch of experts on here to tell guide me in the right direction.
 

astondg

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Between Windows 7/8 devices Homegroup works quite well for sharing files (inc. movies and music) as well as a FileHistory (i.e. backup) drive for Windows 8 machines. I'd be using that for the basic file sharing and I think you can turn on DLNA streaming in Windows 7 & 8 as well which your Xbox One should be able to pick up for streaming movies and music (streaming rather than file copying). Nokia has the WP8 PlayTo app to push content from your phone, that works with some DLNA machines although not with my PS3.

I don't know what applications are available for the Xbox One but I'm guessing there'll be something for Netflix/Hulu/etc. either at release or soon after. I believe the Xbox One also 'integrates' to some extent with cable T.V.

For connecting to your computer at home when you're at the office you can use a number of things, the built in option is Remote Desktop but that requires you have a static IP (or domain name) at home so you know where to connect to. You'd also have to open up some ports on your router and the firewall on your machine. There are other options that are web browser based but you'll have to install a server application on the machine you want to access.

I haven't paid much attention to the Xbox One (or PS4) but from the hype it sounds like they're planning to be the always on centre of your home entertainment. In which case I'd be looking to set up the Xbox with a large external HDD and make it the store for all my media. Then using DLNA and Homegroup you could push that content to all your other devices. You'll need to investigate that and see if it's actually possible.
 

coip

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I bought a TV today: HDTV 1080p 12hz LED, but not a 'smart' TV because the guy said that if I'm getting an Xbox One that that'll make my TV "smarter than a smart TV". When I talked to my friend about how he was streaming stuff from his PC upstairs to his TV downstairs, he said it was via his Xbox 360 so I should be set to do that once the Xbox One launces.
 

ejb222

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Well I'm no expert (so anyone please critique if you want) but you could build a PC from scratch as a home server/HTPC. Here is an idea build...I've sort of thought about one of these for myself...This one includes a Blu-ray writer and you just need to install Windows 8 or whatever you want on it. The AMD APU has enough graphics power for 1080p video and then some. Also the SSD will keep it quick while the 2TB HDD is great to store all your files and uses as a server in a sense....
AMD A10-6800K - HTPC - ejb222's Saved Part List - PCPartPicker

You can throw this in a nice case...perhaps something that looks like this that will fit nicely with your home theater equipment...or change the case to fit your style...EDIT: you might want a wireless mouse and keyboard too :)
lascala1024.jpg
 

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