My SageTV System - Home Theater Forum and Systems -

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post #1 of 10 Old 03-13-08, 01:37 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Sep 2006
Location: Naperville, Illinois
Posts: 179
My System
My SageTV System

First off, I have no affiliation with SageTV other than being a customer.
But, as a customer I thought I would share a bit about a recent addition to my home theater based on SageTV's products.

For the past few years, since I bought my first HDTV, I've been using a Sony DHG-HDD250 DVR. This is a discontinued product that was only offered for a short time (less than a year, maybe?). It uses the TV Guide On Screen (TVGOS) infrastructure which sends program guide information as part of local broadcast networks' signal. Plus it's fully HD compatible with both clear QAM and ATSC tuners as well as cablecard support. So, it's pretty much a Tivo HD but without any monthly fees since the TVGOS information is send free over the air. It's a great little box that for whatever reason Sony decided to cancel.

Anyway, my wife started asking for a DVR in the bedroom. But the Sony DHGs like the one I had were still selling used for over $300 on e-bay. (I bought mine new for $400, iirc.) Also, I was thinking that it would be nice to be able to watch anything anywhere. Since the Sony boxes are stand alone boxes, you can only watch what was recorded on the given box. Tivo has the capability to share recordings between boxes, and I was seriously considering going the Tivo route - even though I really didn't want to pay a monthly fee. I was also looking at going along an HTPC route using something like MythTV but, there were two main issues I kept coming across when researching HTPCs: fan noise and video output challenges. Although both these issues are solvable, they definitely scared me in terms of the sort of money I would have to throw at the problem and/or just figuring out what the right solution needs to be.

But, then I caught wind of SageTV's STX-HD100 media extender. The HD100 is a HiDef media extender that interfaces with SageTV's media center software. It is a small, fanless box with HDMI and component video outputs (as well as composite video out) and HDMI and SPDif audio output options (as well as RCA stereo out).

So, it solves my two HTPC issues - no fan and built-in HiDef video and audio support. Although a media server PC is still needed to run the SageTV software and feed the extender, that PC can sit in a basement or closet where fan noise is not an issue and that PC can just use basic VGA video output - if that. (I run mine without any monitor and just use VNC to remotely manage it when I need to - which is pretty much never.) Plus there are no monthly fees involved which solves my Tivo issue. The SageTV Media Center software costs $80 by itself or it can be had for $60 when bundled with a piece of hardware. The HD100 media extender costs $200 each. Although the extender is not cheap, it's not overly expensive either and most importantly, it works great.

I decided to build the media server PC (instead of buying an off-the-shelf PC) because I had never built a PC before and wanted to try it. I bought a barebones system and added the couple of bits that were needed to finish the PC - including Windows XP. Sage supports Linux, but I figured the $80 for XP was worth not having to learn Linux as well. It turned out that putting the PC together was much easier than I thought. I had the unit built and running in one afternoon.

That said, one could easily buy an off-the-shelf PC and be fine - especially if using the media extenders since the server doesn't have to work that hard if it's not doing the video output work. Similarly, Sage offers a product compatible with Windows Home Server boxes.

For tuners, I have an HD Homerun (two tuners) for my clear QAM signals. Then I have two Hauppage PVR-1600s which are right now just tuning my analog cable channels. The 1600 has an ATSC/QAM tuner as well but the two tuners on the HDHR are sufficient for now. So, I have two HD tuners and two SD tuners.

Anyway, the set up is working great. Just last night I was recording two HD programs and two SD programs at the same time without even a hiccup.

The media server PC that runs SageTV and interfaces with the tuners consists of a 2.0GHz Core 2 Duo chip, 3GB RAM, a 160GB drive for the OS, and a 250GB and 500GB drive for media. Besides the recordings, I've also backed up DVDs on there and all my digital photos and my FLAC music collection on there. SageTV lets you play back non-DRM DVDs and display photos through the interface. SageTV also plays music, but I prefer my Squeezebox for that and so the media server PC also feeds my Squeezebox.

So, how much did all this cost me? The media server PC plus the tuners (including the HD Homerun) and software probably added up to around $1000. Plus each extender costs $200. So when all is said and done, the total is about $1400.

So, if I was just looking for an HD DVR, then picking up a used Sony DHG DVR on ebay is definitely a more cost effective way to go.

Comparing it to Tivo, it looks like you can pick up Tivo HDs for about $300 each and 3-year service plans for $300 each. So, assuming I want 2 Tivos, I break even against the Tivo route after about 3 years.

But, the SageTV is really much more than the Sony box and the Tivo box. It is extremely customizable due to a large user population that develops custom features for the product (akin to the plugin community surrounding the squeezebox).
The SageMC customized interface replaces the out-of-the-box SageTV interface and is infinitely customizable. Or you can download others' customizations and just use that. Similarly, there are commercial skipping add-ons that work great so that when you playback a recorded program (that has been processed by the commercial detection software plugin) the system automatically skips over the commercials.

Additionally, besides recorded TV, it provides access to backed up DVDs, photos plus online content such as Youtube and others such as the Onion News Network (a personal favorite). And, I have hopes that at some point in the future Sage will partner with content providers like Netflix Watchnow or Vudu such that this content can be watched on the media extender. (Note, Netflix watchnow can be accessed through a SageTV client running on a PC by downloading a plugin someone developed. But due to licensing issues, it doesn't work for the extenders.)

As you can see, I'm really digging the SageTV setup and think others should check it out if thinking about building a PVR.

Mitch G is offline  
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post #2 of 10 Old 08-03-08, 11:34 AM
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Join Date: Jan 2007
Posts: 2
Re: My SageTV System


Most excellent post. I've just started looking at creating a movie storage / streaming system, and your system sounds like what I'm after. There are quite a few similarities between your system and my current system, including audio streaming via SqueezeCenter. My base OS is Windows Home Server on a Frankenbox (decommissioned / repurposed desktop tower) which I'm looking to replace and reduce overall energy consumption.

My biggest concerns have been (a) selecting a main board that can handle any encoding or transcoding duties for HD QAM signals, and (b) picking up an extender for my Sony HD TV. I'm considering getting an Xbox 360 as the extender as it can handle multiple duties: game system, media extender, and some time in the fall, a Netflix VOD player.

(OT: I would love it if Netflix offered a reduced account for a VOD system, but I doubt it will happen.)

I'll let you know what I decide in the coming months. If you have any insight, would love to hear that too.

miketo is offline  
post #3 of 10 Old 08-26-08, 12:08 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Sep 2006
Location: Naperville, Illinois
Posts: 179
My System
Re: My SageTV System

Sorry, I haven't been around for a while.
As far as your mother board concerns, I honestly think any Core2Duo (or any dual core processor) will more than suffice.
Also, it's probably worth noting that HD is actually easier to handle since there is no need to transcode the signal. The digital signal is basically just stored to the disk as-is.
It's analog signals that require horsepower, but any reasonable tuner card these days will have on-board hardware acceleration. In my case, I think the heavy lifting for the server machine is when it is running the commercial skipping software. But even that's not a problem.

Also, just to continue plugging Sage a bit, if you use the SageMC custom interface, there's a netflix plugin that allows you to view Watch Instantly movies. It works as-is if you have a HTPC colocated with the TV. However, to use it with the Sage HD100 extender, you need to do a hack where you loop the video output (S-Video) into a tuner card with an S-Video input.

Mitch G is offline  
post #4 of 10 Old 08-29-08, 10:34 AM
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Join Date: Jan 2007
Posts: 2
Re: My SageTV System

Hi, Mitch!

No worries on the delay; work has been so crazy lately I haven't had time to scratch, much less do more thinking about the media system.

Thank you for the insights. I'm definitely going to get an HDHomerun in the next couple of months and then get SageTV installed. I can get the Frankenbox system working as a prototype and then move the concept to a dedicated box (boxen, if using NAS) later.

I'll let you know what happens.

miketo is offline  
post #5 of 10 Old 10-08-08, 05:44 PM
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Re: My SageTV System

I've been a long time Windows Media Center user but am fed up with no dish support. How does SageTV stack up against media center? Has anyone here used both products?
post #6 of 10 Old 03-23-10, 08:53 PM
Join Date: Jul 2008
Location: Rockaway, NJ, USA
Posts: 5
Re: My SageTV System

Great Post... I also added a SageTV to my home system to go along with HTPC. I too built the HTPC my self and have 24 TB's of storage running 64 Bit Windows 7 Ultimate OS.
shockwave is offline  
post #7 of 10 Old 08-09-10, 12:12 AM
Join Date: Aug 2010
Posts: 7
Re: My SageTV System

Great Post.........
Maralyn45 is offline  
post #8 of 10 Old 08-24-10, 11:15 PM
Join Date: Jun 2008
Location: Jackson, MN
Posts: 12
Re: My SageTV System

I have had SageTV for years. It's good software in general. I am trying to switch over to MediaPortal which is more robust, but it takes a lot more work to input media files and remote compatibility is lacking somewhat. So until I take the time to really get the kinks worked out on MP, I'll stick with SageTV.
I don't use the PVR aspects anymore, since it takes more equipment to interact/control the DirecTV PVRs.
MixxMaster is offline  
post #9 of 10 Old 10-27-10, 05:35 PM
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Join Date: Aug 2010
Location: Minnesota
Posts: 350
Re: My SageTV System

I used to use Sage, primarily for recording tv to disk but I have found I don't watch enough "TV" to even justify having cable (I despise sports and all talk about it). I watch Netflix a great deal, The Daily Show, and The Colbert Report and of course DVDs and Blu-Rays from Netflix. I "only" have a few Terabytes of storage but it holds a great deal of music I've purchased. I don't need tv in the bedroom and as many doctors have said "the bed is for sleeping in," so I don't have a tv in my bedroom any longer. I think a lot of people getting "media devices" are short changing themselves for "simplicity" (how dumbed down does it have to get?) and losing performance (especially audio) and flexibility. But I'm old and set in my ways.
Theresa is offline  
post #10 of 10 Old 01-31-11, 08:20 PM
Join Date: Oct 2009
Location: Aurora, CO
Posts: 5
Re: My SageTV System

I have had great luck with Sage over the past few years. Using a Hauppage with hardware compression really made a difference in encoding efficiency. The flexibility in using the files anywhere I want is hard to beat. If there were only better content from Comcast without having to go digital and pay too much money per month. Meanwhile, Netflix is so much easier to find good content on. Tivo is really doing a great job, but I have a hard time getting past the monthly cost.
jrb2969 is offline  


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