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liveaboard home theater

9174 Views 42 Replies 24 Participants Last post by  thorrad
I've got a wild hair to get myself a state of the art home theater in my 30' boat. I've reached a number of dilemmas and i'd like to think aloud in hopes that one of you has solved a similar problem.

I want it to do hdmi 1.3, blu ray, 5.1 surround, 1080p. I'm looking for the best performing components at a sensible price, basically the opposite of what Bose puts out.

A standalone blu ray player won't do. I want streaming video and pirated stuff too. So my choices are narrowed down to a home theatre pc or a standalone player.

Among home theatre PCs, i'm considering either a mini itx box or a laptop. Mini itx is the smallest format for desktops that still performs reasonably, they have very low power draw and can run directly off DC, widely used in cars. The laptop would have to play blu ray, which eliminates macbooks. I'm not eager for the butthurt of routing cables for the desktop, but to hide the system beneath a settee and use wireless kb/mouse/wiimote would be pretty badass. I'm not eager for a loud/hot/heavy laptop, but i'd appreciate some rip-roaring gaming performance and portability. A standalone player would likely have to be part of a larger system, but could prove to be the most compact practical for movie watching.

Additional factors to complicate the matter is whether i should run it through the 12v system or 110v, and a good solution for monitor mounting that is durable and versatile.

My itx idea:
built in slow cpu: - ZOTAC IONITX-A-U Atom N330 1.6GHz Dual-Core 441 NVIDIA ION Mini ITX Motherboard/CPU Combo - Motherboard / CPU / VGA Combo
add your own power hog cpu: - ZOTAC GF9300-D-E LGA 775 NVIDIA GeForce 9300 HDMI Wi-Fi Mini ITX Intel Motherboard - Intel Motherboards

My laptop idea: - ASUS N70 Series N70SV-X1 NoteBook Intel Core 2 Duo T9550(2.66GHz) 17.3" 4GB Memory 640GB HDD 7200rpm BD Combo NVIDIA GeForce GT 130M - Laptops / Notebooks

My standalone media player idea: Egreat EG-M34A Network Media Tank NMT 1080p HD H.264 MKV Player w/ HDMI 1.3: Electronics

I've also got an eye out for small speakers and a good display, although i suspect I'll likely use a 1900x1200 24" samsung display and a sweet hdmi 1.3 5.1 samsung home theatre in a box that i have from my dirt dwelling days. Only problem is the subwoofer is the size of a mini fridge, and i'm not sure if i can get away with a full size stereo receiver in a boat for space power and heat reasons.

So there's my mash of thoughts, please feel free to weigh in with your own ideas as how to approach this system.
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Oh and some feature creep on top of that... it would help if i could work a daylight readable pedestal mounted weatherproof touchscreen monitor into the deal :)
The Samsung 3600 Blu-Ray player is networkable and plays back streaming media as well as stuff off a PC etc. Or better still, why not get a PS3 which will do pretty much everything including gaming and won't need rebuilding/upgrading every few months like a PC?

Its a 30' boat, not a 200 sq. ft. vacation condo! I get that you live-aboard, but the question is why? Most people do it to get you really need to keep up with the joneses on your boat?
night - dude - have you SEEN the Joneses sweet set up??? They rock the freakin' marina, baybay! Crunk juice slammers and mast dances 'til 2 am.

I'm still trying to figure out some nice magenta "ground effect" and pimpy hydraulics for the Smacktanic.
Per justification, It's my priorities. I live aboard because it's a cheap way to live without roommates in a great neighborhood and it doesn't hurt that I love sailing. I am also heavily technical in carreer and personal life. If I'm tied up all the time and watching the daily show on a stuttering feed on a netbook, that ain't living, and if I'm getting a TV i'm not going to run up an antenna for some g-d major network reality show b-s. In my life there are music, movies and games and as long as I don't have the funds to spend my time cruising, I feel it's reasonable to have the means to entertain myself and my guests. And if i spend money, it makes sense to go as future-proof as possible with lossless audio, hd picture and modular design. Not to mention i already have a home theater in a box mouldering away in storage until I get this sorted out.

The expendature is actually quite reasonable, a computer would likely serve multiple simultaneous roles in the way that computers do and any equipment for on-demand video are small one-time expenses especially taking into account that I'm not paying for cable tv.

Per keeping up with the joneses, if you knew me you'd know how ridiculous and insulting that suggestion is. I buy objects for their function and revel in forgoing extraneous expenses that are mandated by convention.

Hopefully I have satisfied urges to question my desires and we can get down to discussing equipment.
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Oh and regarding a PS3, that is an astute suggestion. We may as well make it option 4.

You likely suggested it because it does handle blu ray and hdmi 1.3 and wireless kb/mice and even has some basic computer ability.

The thing that interests me the most about it is that one can install linux on it and use it as an actual computer. I have actually gone as far as to install a nintendo wii remote on a sony ps3 with the magic of linux and bluetooth. The one buzzkill is that the graphics drivers have not caught up and it cannot run the most basic games in linux and I'm not very enthused about shelling out the big bucks for lots of games, especially when FPS games that I occasionally play are ALWAYS better on pc.

Other detriments to the PS3 is it's actually the largest of the four options, can get quite hot, and the fan is quite fantastically loud, problems that would all be exacerbated in such a small space. Perhaps I could make some sort of container to keep it out of sight or stow it somewhere unlikely, the wireless controllers allow for flexibility. You got me thinking, I like that.
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nail - I don't know about nightowl - but I was just joking. It's your boat and your home - I agree that you should do whatever you want to with it.

I have my current home theatre set-up through a Mac mini - with an iTV setup. It's really pretty awesome for TV, DVD w/5.1, music, web, etc. - but I am bummed that they don't have the Blu-Ray technology yet.
Yep, the PS3 is a pretty versatile beast and always worth considering. You are right, they are fairly big and can run hot and loud, but I think that problem was mostly fixed in the later versions, and completely in the new slimline version. The downside of the slim one though is apparently you now can't do the linux install on it anymore, whether that will inspire people to actually get proper graphic support on the older ones now remains to be seen or indeed if someone ends up getting linux on a slimline. I think the mouse/kb with a PS3 goes quite a way to challenging the PC in the FPS genre too, agreed it's nowhere near them when using a standard gaming controller though.
The difference between team fortress 2 on ps3 and pc is a case study in the dichotomy. Valve has effectively cut off support for the ps3 port and meanwhile the pc users have been showered with a bonanza of updates and add-ons.

Let me be clear, I was a heavy ps3 player when I had a roommate with one and the xbox and wii are no contest, but for what I do i could take it or leave it.
Indeed, but a PC that is capable of playing most of the current crop of games is also going to be a fairly big, heavy, noisy and hot beast.
Ultimately, get what can do what you want it to, but also remember where it has to live :)
Audio-wise, you aren't going to need a lot of volume and a home theatre amp is going to be waaay overkill I'd have thought. If you go down the PC route then why not get one with built in support for HD audio (i.e. a 5.1 or better still a 7.1) with the appropriate number of audio outs. You could then feed these to small self-powered speakers. OK it's never going to be great but then it's stuck in a boat, hardly the pinnacle of audio chambers!
Seriously i think the big issue will be getting it wet if you sail much on a 30' boat
FWIW, my HP laptop has Blu-Ray as well as an HDMI Out port so I can output the video to my 26" widescreen TV. I also use an air-card to watch HULU or my home TV via Slingbox and output it to the TV too. Laptop was pretty cheap a year ago, no doubt cheaper now. My kid has played WOW on it with no problems, and he's picky about lag.

Boooo! Tv Sucks!
I agree wholeheartedly. Movies and on-demand content, however..
i use a laptop with powered computer speakers, feeding a mounted 15 inch computer screen. and a tv usb tuner that does digital tv. i can do split screen and surf the internet on the laptop screen while the tv is on the 15 inch monitor

i have decent sound, and switchable power draws. the wife also plugs her ipod into the computer speakers

the monitor draws less than 3 amps, the laptop can be on battery and the speakers dont draw much they came with a 12 volt 250 milli amp walwart.

the other nice thing is i can feed chart data to the bigger screen.

it works well for what i want and need
If you already have a home theater setup mouldering away in a box, I'd say go with the cheap CPU approach. Although, I think the question really is whether you intend to use the theater while you're out cruising, or whether it's more a dock-side attraction. If it's the latter, I wouldn't worry about the amperage or dc vs. inverter question, since it sounds like any of your CPU or PS3 based solutions would draw a substantial amount of power anyway and you might as well just plug them into the dock.

If you intend to watch/play while out on the water though: 1) Are you nuts? You're in the wild blue yonder! :) ; and 2) I'd take the laptop route since it solves the DC problem for you and you could still game on it if you get one with a dedicated graphics card. Plus it's easier to stow.

For my 30'er, I actually got rid of an AC/DC tv/dvd player since it seemed too old fashioned for my purposes. Now I'm rocking an older dual-booted Imac with the stand cut off and mounted in the v-berth, so that I may blow my enemies into tiny bits (TF2 ftw) or curl up with Hulu while at the dock or via inverter in a pinch. I also picked up a netbook to do my casual work and surfing from the salon table, or to act as my chart plotter when I hook it up to the GPS. It works for me, but you may have grander ambitions. Good luck either way and let us know if you devise the perfect setup.
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Now I'm rocking an older dual-booted Imac with the stand cut off and mounted in the v-berth, so that I may blow my enemies into tiny bits (TF2 ftw) or curl up with Hulu while at the dock or via inverter in a pinch. I also picked up a netbook to do my casual work and surfing from the salon table, or to act as my chart plotter when I hook it up to the GPS. It works for me, but you may have grander ambitions. Good luck either way and let us know if you devise the perfect setup.
Dude - the iMac thing is kind of brilliant, I must say. Sweet.
Thanks! It took up valuable real estate on my table for far too long (plus it was a PitA to stow for sailing) before I decided to hell with it and pulled out the hack saw. You gotta work with what you got though.

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I use a nano-ITX board w/ 12vdc power, works great, runs Linux just fine. The board I use is extremely low power, but they make them even lower, there is one nano-ITX board out there that is about 6 watts and doesn't even require a fan, it just has a heat sink, so you can hide it away in whatever enclosure you want to use. Simple enough to add IR sensors so you can use a remote control, though I have not actually done that (yet), high resolution video, enough to drive my display at 1280x1024, ether, etc. Combine it with a solid state drive and it is very, very hard to kill.

Edit, also, I would use an external drive, because the drive ends up using more power than the µP.

Edit #2, and I did manage to kill a power supply, but I have lots of radios and sensors hooked up to my µP so things like that happen sometimes. Now that I have installed reverse polarity protection on all of my circuits I hope I won't cause myself any more problems.

Edit #3, before you commit to a display, you might consider looking around, I found a display that is 12vdc with an external 120vac supply. I use a dc-to-dc converter for that and it works great, my entire setup is now 12vdc and doesn't require an inverter.
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