I have been having more and more people ask me about setting up their own media center rig and “cutting the cord” (getting rid of cable TV). This past week I helped my brother in law get his setup up and running.
He was currently paying $125 a month for Verizon FiOS TV with DVR and 15 mbps internet and realized that he could get all the content he wanted on the network stations, Netflix, and Hulu. We decided to go with the following hardware from Tigerdirect, Lenovo, and Amazon.
- Gateway SX2801-01e Refurbished Desktop PC – Intel Pentium E5500 2.8GHz, 6GB DDR3, 1TB HDD, DVDRW, Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit ($399)
- Hauppauge WinTV-HVR-2250 ($100)
- Antennacraft Colorstar C290 HDTV/VHF/UHF/FM ($50)
- Lenovo Multimedia Remote with Keyboard N5901 ($30)
We were able to setup the antenna in the attic and run the coax cable to the basement and living room without many issues (other than the attic being well over 100 degrees!). After getting everything setup he now has all the major networks in full HD for free. The computer uses Windows Media Center for DVR features and easy access to Netflix ($7 per month for streaming) and Hulu (Free). Note that the Hauppauge 2250 is a dual tuner which lets you record two different programs at once. If you prefer to navigate the actual Netflix and Hulu websites instead, you can do it easily with the Lenovo remote.
He was also able to call Verizon and lower his internet bill down to $45 a month with 3 mbps speed (which is still plenty for streaming video). All in all he is very happy with the new setup and the monthly savings. Now he also has a central hub for storing all of his families photos, videos, music, and movies. Total savings per month is about $70 with an up front investment of about $600. You make your money back in 9 months, have a better multi-media experience, are contract free, and you get to keep all your equipment.
Check out this link for pics of the hardware and setup, https://picasaweb.google.com/rhoranburg/MatarreseMediaCenter2011.