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Planning on building HTPC

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February 19, 2006 6:02:41 PM

Well I want to build a Media Center PC, and as I'm a relative noob to building PCs in general, let alone HTPCs, I was wondering if you guys could help me out...

Heres what I was planning (The budget here is <$1500)

Motherboard:
Asus A8N VM-CSM

Memory:
2 GB OCZ DDR 500 PC 4000 "Gold Gamer"

CPU:
AMD Athlon 64 X2 4400+

Hard Drive:
Seagate 7200.9 250GB SATA II

Case:
Thermaltake Mystic

PSU:
Enermax Liberty 400W

DVD Drive:
NEC 3550A DVD+-RW

Video Devices:
Hauppage WinTV 150MCE
Gigabyte Geforce 6600GT w/ VIVO


I'm sure my newness is apparent in the part selection, so I'd like to know where I can cut costs, especially in the RAM and Processor departments. So here are a couple of specific questions:
1.) Is there that much difference between the X2 3800, 4200, and 4400 to justify the cost difference?

2.) For this purpose, would cheaper ram (such as value select) be a better choice than the RAM that I've picked (I picked it for the speed, but I'm not sure it would really matter unless I was using this for gaming right?)

3.) Do I need a sound card, or will onboard sound suffice?

Other than those two questions, any other suggestions you guys may have regarding parts selection (or anything else, for that matter) would be greatly appreciated.

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February 19, 2006 7:16:26 PM

I,m planning on building an htpc Myself I,ve don alot of research on the parts.

1 The cpu with the best price/ peformance is the X2 4200. There is a big difference in performance over the X2 3800, But the difference over the X2 4400 is not worth te extra cash. But if you really prefer a fast cpu you should check out the opteron 170 (939), it has the same specs as the X2 4400 and is 50 bucks cheaper.

2 Can't give you too much info here, except that 2 gb is alot for an htpc. You can run all you programs with no problem as long you don't play any heavy games like fear and battlefield 2 then you would need 2 gb.

3 if it is worth it getting a sound card really depends on you surround system. If you have a good surround system +- >€400 you'll notice a big difference if you get a sound card like the X -fi. Getting a sound card will reduce some of the load on the cpu, but on the dual core that you are looking at you don't really need it.

The parts I,m going to get are:

X2 4200

NEC 3550 A

Hauppage 500MCE

500 GB Hitachi

Power & Cooling silancer 470 Or Enermax Liberty 400W (not sure yet)

Origen X11

A8N-VM CSM

CORSAIR XMS 1GB
February 19, 2006 7:26:08 PM

Thanks for the info :)  But your response has elicited another question...

From what I've been reading, a graphics card is used in the generic HTPC, with the tv signal going in through the tuner, and the image coming out through the graphics card. As you didnt mention using a graphics card in your build, I'm now slightly confused as to whether I need one in mine or not...
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February 19, 2006 7:50:40 PM

i think that a turion would be better cause it takes less power and makes less heat which equals quieter pc
February 19, 2006 7:53:53 PM

Keep the Hauppague. However, I recommend going with an ATI solution for the video card. NVidia performs well enough when for VIVO; however, it is software driven, meaning, you will have to wait until the OS loads in order to see the computer on the television/monitor. Whereas ATI supports VIVO directly through hardware, meaning you can actually watch the PC POST and BOOT on the monitor and do not have to wait for the OS to load. A friend of mine was using an nVidia product with his HTPC but had to keep a spare CRT next to his media center for those instances where he need to perform any maintenance on the machine. Whereas the ATI card supporting hardware based VIVO, you can use the HTPC television/monitor as you would a normal CRT, which makes the media center less cluttered as well as updates and tweaking the BIOS a snap. Also, are you going to run the VIVO cable directly from the card to the TV/monitor -OR- will you be sending the video thru a stereo receiver? With my media center, the HTPC is treated just like any AV component, i.e.; it is channeled thru the receiver just the the VCR, CATV, and stand-alone DVD player. With this set up and using the ATI card, the VO goes into the VI on the receiver and I just switch channels on the receiver to determine which component I want. A single core cpu of moderate speed (min 2GHz) will be more than enough. Match it with the value ram with CAS of at least 2.5, expensive RAM won't buy much in an HTPC scenario. Lastly, I recommend a stand alone sound card (not onboard!) that supports at least 7.1 optical out or 7.1 digital coax out, M-Audio and Audiotrak support this feature. With most Creative/Audugy products you must use the break out box to take full advantage of surround sound. Again, just more to diddle with and clutter up the area.
February 19, 2006 7:54:26 PM

Well the Asus A8N-VM CSM mobo has an Integrated GeForce6 GPU, it has an VGA and DVI output. This mobo has an onboard GPU and is a really good GPU for an onboard mobo. It will be good enough for an HTPC, and is able to play most games pretty good. Unless you plan on playing games like fear an BF2 then you would need a better graphics card. Some of the generic HTPC don't use a mobo with an onboard GPU in that case you would need an dedicated graphics card.

The only games that I plan on playing on the HTPC are Empire at war and command & conquer generals, and the onboard can handle those games well enough.
February 20, 2006 12:07:54 AM

Thanks for the info everyone :) 

To Chunkymonster, what would be the differences between using an X1600 and an X1800. This wont be used for gaming at all, so what kind of differences would I see in terms of picture quality, etc.

Also, is the concept you described (with the VIVO being in the hardware, rather than the software) what ATI calls AVIVO?
February 20, 2006 3:26:25 AM

If you're not really gonna use the video card to play games, then I don't see any difference between the x1600 or x1800. My HTPC has a 9600XT AIW, I don't game with it other than MAME and the 9600XT is old compared to the X1600. The AVIVO thing seems to be ATI's latest marketing to tout their multi-media capabilities and nothing to do with hardware based VIVO. The hardware based VIVO is inherent in ATI products. I would think that any of the newer/newest ATI products would give you outstanding picture quality.
February 20, 2006 11:53:54 AM

And the VIVO in hardware...is that something found in just ATI cards (cards manufactured by ATI), or is it present in all of ATI's partners too (Powercolor, Sapphiretech, etc.)
February 20, 2006 1:13:19 PM

The X2 will consume far too much power.
Get a Pentium M with a 100 MHz FSB (those have a TDP of only 21W). Therefore you will also need to choose a new motherboard. Id advise using the CT-479 Kit paired with an ASUS S478 board.

You also dont need that much high-end RAM.
1GB of cheaper RAM will do just fine (I dont think youre going to OC). If your going with the Pentium M, DDR2 will help you to keep power consumption and heat down.

The Seagate HDD also isnt the best choice.
Samsung SpinPoints consume less power and are a lot quieter.

Your video devices, DVD Drive, PSU and case are good.
February 20, 2006 1:34:05 PM

look he wanted an amd system and thats what well give him to da original poster if you can wait a few months for socket m2 then do it will have an x2 proc that has a tdp of 35 watts same speed as the 3800. but if you must build it now go with an opty s939 165 it operates at a lower voltage than the x2 it runs cooler and it takes less power.
February 20, 2006 2:14:40 PM

Nope, he didnt want an AMD system, he wanted a HTPC and X2s are simply not used there.
But that 35W X2 paired with powersaving DDR2 is gonna be the alternative option to a S939 X2.
February 20, 2006 7:27:23 PM

Look, HTPCs need two things first and foremost, to be cool and to be quiet. An X2 is WAY overkill for a HTPC. Heck, a 64 3200+ is FINE. Pentiums run hot, which means you’ll need a good cooler and that typically means ‘noise’. If you need the power (ripping, encoding and decoding) then the best cost/performance will be reached with an X2 3800+ because it runs really cool (as duals go). However, if all you’ll ever do is watch and record TV then the 3200+ would be fine.

Next, an Audigy will be a waist of money unless he’s going to be playing games. Look into M-Audio or Prodigy 7.1 – both will run you less and are better suited to being HTPC sound solutions.

As for video, the current ‘excellent’ budget choice is Gigabyte’s NVIDIA 6600GT/VIVO card because it is fanless (silent) and has on chip enhancements for decoding. ATI is playing catch-up. Otherwise, if you want something bigger then look into Toxic X800 Pro VIVO.

Do research on ‘silent cases’. You will be surprised how annoying noisy case can be!

Get two hard drives, a faster more expensive one for the system drive and a really big one for storage.
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