Say you have the following setup for A/V and Gaming, what else would you need ? …Besides enough money to pay for the bills, of course.
- A good TV, maybe two*
A TV that has Full HD resolution, but preferably even higher. Somewhere in the range of 40 inches. Connects via HDMI (two or three inputs) and via Ethernet. Most flatpanel TVs have all of these connections nowadays. If you use the Ethernet connection on your home network, you can view files directly from any shared HDDs directly (without having to use a computer).
- A beamer*
Beamers are awesome for watching movies. But they also make playing certain games much more fun than even a big TV does. They do need a lot of distance to the screen or wall where you want the picture. Not many rooms are that spacious. The room also needs to be very dark to get a good picture quality. Getting a high resolution beamer with the inputs you want to use (HDMI/DVI and Ethernet preferably), can be an expensive task.
- A high end PC
One that plays the games you like, preferably also the games you like in a year or two. One that is able to feed all the media to your TVs directly. Having plenty of graphic power (my favorite atm is a dual GTX 580 setup, but that’s me) lets you use the HDMI connections to both/all And also, it is likely to use a lot of bandwidth on your network (and the internet), so a good network card is handy. If you are into BluRay discs, make sure you have a BR drive. If you have a subscription to cable TV (HD or otherwise), you can decide to plug it in to your PC (which then needs a TV Tuner, with/without HD, with the correct system for your area like PAL/NTSC). If you want to record audio (I like to plug my guitar in stereo through two mono-Jacks into my computer), you’ll need the required inputs (or low-latency) converters on your PC too.
- External storage devices
If all your TV(s)/beamers are connecting to your network directly, you could use external HDDs (with an Ethernet connection) to feed them the media. This frees up your computer for other things. And it allows you to watch a movie without having to turn on your computer (which costs more power and can be noisy). External storage is great for backing up all the files you can’t live without. Keep your back up discs safe and secure; turn it on only when you need it and scan your files before copying them over. When you run out of storage space, you can easily add more drives to the setup.
- A fast and secure router, maybe two*
To connect your TV(s)/beamer directly to your network, you need to make sure you have plenty of space on your router. I would even think about having one router that connects to the internet and the computers, and another that connects to the first and to the TV(s)/beamer and the storage devices. The setup can be made so that only one computer can access this second router through the first. This keeps your TV(s)/beamer and storage devices safe(r) from intrusion.
- A surround set
Now here is the tricky part. This needs to connect to everything that you use to watch a movie or play a game on. Otherwise, you might not get sound when you watch a movie on your beamer for instance. So make sure you have plenty of inputs for 5.1 (or even 7.1) surround sound. You also need to figure out where you put the speakers. Surround works best when you are in the exact middle of the advised setup. This is explained in the manual. Sitting in the same spot every time can be problematic, but so is dragging your speakers to other ends of the room. Most of the current sets allow you to connect to the network like TVs do. Grabbing bulks of MP3s directly from your network is great. For the same reasons as watching movies directly from the network.
- A server*
If you set up a server on your network, you can do a bunch of cool things. Server OSs have tons of automated tricks you can use to organize the data on your network. It can run back ups, security scans, set usage priority, handle user (and hardware) permissions, whatever. You can use it to download without end, freeing up your PC again. Unless you need the full capacity of your internet connection to play games with low latency or stream videos from the web. But then again, if you set the rules and priorities right, you shouldn’t need to. And after you set it up, you don’t even need to have a keyboard, mouse and monitor connected to it. You can simply access it remotely from your PC. It does not need much at all (no fancy CPU, GPU, etc.). Remember to turn off the screen saver. Easy to forget the simple things.
You will need plenty of space to put all this stuff. To hide away the parts you don’t need physicle access to at all times. To mount or put your beamer. A desk to sit behind, with plenty of space for doing other things aside from using the computer. A few good seats to watch movies comfortably (with your friends). This may very well be the first item on the list. You can’t put in more gear than will fit in your house. Most of this stuff is likely to end up in one room. Make sure your hardware gets plenty of ventilation so it does not overheat.
- Portable hardware*
Having a USB-powered external HDD lets you easily share data with your friends. Having a laptop is less mobile, but gives you many more options. Like accessing your network from elsewhere or from your bed. A very high end gaming laptop could be good enough to replace a PC, depending on your needs. However, they have several disadvantages compared to PCs (like price and heat).
So here you’d have a lot of hardware that needs to be connected to eachother through HDMI/Ethernet. It’s quite a bit of work to set it all up, but afterwards…you’d never have to leave the house again !