Sign in with
Sign up | Sign in
Your question

Home Media Centre minimum CPU specs - recommendations??

Tags:
Last response: in CPUs
Share
October 24, 2006 9:34:53 PM

Hey guys,


First post here, been on this site alot for the past year but never ventured the forums.

Here goes.... I'm building a couple Media Centres but am not sure what chip they'd require for basic use. I'm probably going to use the 805 D on the faster one (for myself), but I'm also building one for a family mbr who will use for basic use - recording, burning and viewing digital television. Multitasking will be at a minimum as there'd be only 1 ATSC digital TV tuner input, and one output devise - a GPU with basic (non HDTV) functions using an svideo output to the tv.


SO, my question is, what would a suitable chip (cpu) for this unit? What would be a bare minimum and what would be overkill for processor power? I'd like to keep this as budget-oriented as possible - aka single core... :lol: 

I've never really worked with a media centre before - my knowledge is unfortunetely predominantly pooled in the gaming sector - so I really have no idea what's needed for this.

I read that for HD playback a chip > 2.4ghz is required.... is this right? Although this system wont require it, it's definetely good to know this.


Finally, any ram requirements?

Thanks for the help guys.
October 24, 2006 10:01:35 PM

Ok, so a media centre.

For the CPU, get the Core 2 duo E6300. It's cheap and it's fast.

Now, any idea of the mobo?

A GPU? Maybe a Geforce 7300 or a Radeon x1300xt depending on your preference.

Ram? Try to get at least 1GB of ram. Ok... so now this begs the question(s)

Do you have any idea what your other hardware is going to be like your HDD optical drive or anything?
October 24, 2006 10:41:24 PM

Thx for the reply....


an E6300 is more than what I'm looking to spend. I need to work where you do if cheap is $250.... :lol: 

Plus I think it would be serious overkill for the small, basic media centre. I've got the video card and ram covered. Nothing fancy on the optical drive or hard drives, a sony dvd writer and a fat SATA 16meg cache / 1.5 gb/s hard drive will do the trick.

I just need to know what would barely do the job, and I can go from there. For example, would a celeron 2.8ghz work well, or no? How about something slower with more ram, like a 1.8 or something? 64 bit or 32, or does it really not matter?

I'm not even sure Windows Media Centre has a 64 bit version... lol.
Related resources
October 24, 2006 10:42:32 PM

For CPU, get one that is powerful enough for what you need it to do, but one that does not generate a lot of heat, especially if you are considering using an HTPC case (horizontal, with little room, compared to mondo vertical server towers).

Also, you have to decide on good parts that won't crap out on you due to heat. Heat and noise are the worse things for a media center, especially if it's going to be in your living room/den/family room/entertainment room.

E6300 or X2 3800+ should be good. I would personally stay away from P4 for HTPC setups. Too hot. Best would be a Merom (mobile in desktop) configuration, but those CPUs are more costly than C2D.

Good luck.
October 24, 2006 10:58:48 PM

Um... are you talking $250 for everything or just the CPU because an E6300 is $183 on newegg
October 24, 2006 11:01:43 PM

Well in my experience, if you have a hardware encoder on you capture card, you can go almost as low as you can buy now. I have an athlon MP 2000+ in my media center (with MythTv a much better program/OS in my opinion) and it does everything I want it to do. This does not speak to the future though. HD Video will likely put alot of good systems to the wall.
October 24, 2006 11:02:24 PM

I'm in Canada, so a $183 = around $220 CAD (plus tax)
October 24, 2006 11:08:28 PM

I'd just get a single-core AMD64...maybe a 3500+ or somewhere around there. Even the 939 socket leaves room for a worthwhile CPU upgrade later down the road when prices drop further. CPU, MB and 1GB of RAM should be around $200 or less that way.
October 24, 2006 11:09:04 PM

Quote:
Well in my experience, if you have a hardware encoder on you capture card, you can go almost as low as you can buy now. I have an athlon MP 2000+ in my media center (with MythTv a much better program/OS in my opinion) and it does everything I want it to do. This does not speak to the future though. HD Video will likely put alot of good systems to the wall.



Excellent, see this is more of what I'm talking about. I figured I didnt need a dual core or anything that fancy for basic use. I'm really trying to stretch my dollars here... so something along those lines would really work. MythTv you say? I'll definetely check it out. You go with a gig of ram or 2?
October 24, 2006 11:23:50 PM

Yeah MythTv is really quite nice and cheap (free). It is sort of a pain to get setup but its been made easier with time. I suggest either KnoppMyth or getting Fedora and using this Guide .
October 24, 2006 11:32:56 PM

for the budget system,consider buying a cheap used emachines box (k7, sempron 3000+) and adding a decent hardware encoding tv-tuner, and an agp card with tv out.


here is my mediacentre that I've been using for the last two years:

I keep up to date with the windows patches but no av or adaware installed to free up resources.

mobo asrock K7 generation board (it was the cheapest I could find at the time)

cpu K7 Sempron 2400+ (barton core I think, the cheapest cpu I could find)

2 x 512mb ddr 400 ram (no name, each stick is different make)

enermax 300watt psu

sapphire ati 9250 128mb with tv out

liteon dvd burner (cuz a little more money get burner instead of dvd rom)

cooler master case -- no reset button :( 

259gb 133 hard drive (cant remember the brand)

Hauppauge mce 150 (got another one, realized later I can't fit the second one. Thats ok - when I upgrade I'll find a mobo that can fit two, hopefully with three pci slots so they dont have to be right next to each other. The only reason I'm upgrading is to set up a dual tuner system - otherwise I would just stick with what I have.

I also purchased a winxp mce 2005 license. I dont have the patience to configure a myth tv box, but I agree it is better (I am told lower hardware requirements... and the ususal a more secure system)

My current system works well. I only have it on the evenings that our tv shows are running and turn it off before i go to bed.

there are issue of properly waking from sleep mode to copy tv, thats why I dont leave it on 24/7
October 24, 2006 11:41:24 PM

Oh, so MythTv is Linux based? I doubt that'll work, as the unit is for my grandfather, is only familiar with windows, so windows it must be.

Smelly, see that setup is great - I actually have an old emachines micro-atx case ready to go for this :) 

What software are you using? Whatever comes with the tuner?
October 24, 2006 11:49:24 PM

Well its linux based, but I haven't seen anything that looked like KDE/GNOME/etc. I really only have to deal with the MythTV screens which are pretty glossy. He will have to become comfortable with MCE too. Maybe for home it is better to go with MCE though in case something happens or he want to use it for other Windows software.
October 24, 2006 11:51:21 PM

Depends on the use. Before considering using that box, check if it has a free pci slot and agp slot.

will it be dedicated on the TV, or will it be used on a computer monitor?

You will need to purchase a windows xp mediacentre license (about 150-170$CAN), a microsoft IR Blaster (50$CAN)

Video card and TV tuner will have dedicated Windows XP mediacentre edition drivers (so be aware that you shouldnt just install any drivers for these components). Make sure the TV tuner you buy is certified to run on windows mediacentre edition. ATI and Nvidia have special mediacentre drivers/catalyst etc. that you need to install. You also need to install the .net framework but ati and nvidia web sites should link you to the necessary download for .net.

hope this helps. Don't buy anything until you know whats under the hood of that emachines box.
October 25, 2006 12:35:54 AM

oops, forgot to mention that if you already have a spare windows xp license (just normal windows xp home or pro edition) you can also use other 3rd party programs (some free some not - and in some cases the epg, or electronic programming guide requires a monthly fee)

try:

http://www.snapstream.com/products/beyondtv/

check out their bundles:

http://www.snapstream.com/products/beyondtv/

And there is also sagetv which also runs on top of windows xp

http://www.sagetv.com/

these may be cheaper than buying a winxp mce license + tuner + ir blaster all separately. You're gonna have to price different scenarios your self. I like windows mediacentre edition myself. Perhaps other forum users have experience with snapstream or sagetv, or some other program that is free and runs on top of windows xp/ or win 2k
October 25, 2006 12:51:10 AM

Quote:
Well in my experience, if you have a hardware encoder on you capture card, you can go almost as low as you can buy now. I have an athlon MP 2000+ in my media center (with MythTv a much better program/OS in my opinion) and it does everything I want it to do.

If you want your MC to be able to decode HD video, you need something more powerful than an MP 2000+. However if you're only interested in standard definition video and only want a cheap DIY DVR then an MP 2000+ might be enough. It really depends on what you want the "media center" to do.

Here's an article from the Inquirer that shows how, at the time, no single core Intel or AMD cpu could render H.264 encoded video at 1080p. That was in August last year and things have changed. Video cards can now help the CPU decode the video. But the article gives you a good idea about just how much CPU power is required to render video at different resolutions. You don't need a C2D but you should get a dual core CPU. You can use any Pentium D or Athlon 64 X2 but the X2 runs cooler than the PD and is a better CPU overall.

WRGT MythTV, it runs under Linux so prepare yourself for learning how to install, use and maintain a different OS. There are Linux drivers for ATI and nVidia video cards but don't expect the features of Windows or Mac OS. And don't expect to just pop in a commercial DVD and play it without having to jump through all sorts of hoops. Even after jumping through all the hoops I can still never get DVDs, even non copy-protected ones, to play reliably. This is not meant to dissuade you from trying Linux or MythTV but to warn you that it's not a piece of cake. There is a free Windows alternative to MythTV called GB-PVR, if you don't want to deal with Linux. But since Linux is free, if you want to expend the time and effort to learn it, go for it. It's definitely a worthwhile experience.
October 25, 2006 1:29:39 AM

Well, I think I'll do both. My grandfather has digital TV, and a standard CRT television, so HDTV is something he wont be needing or using at all. So, I can pick up a Semperon 3000+ and a cheap mobo for under $100, so that's what I'll use for his system.


Mine on the other hand will be a bit juicier - I'll be using the cash-efficient 805 D chip, probably OC'd if I can fit a Zalman hs + fan in my Silverstone LC02, and I think I'm gonna run Linux off it, just to get a feel for it all.

:) 
October 25, 2006 2:47:47 AM

Sorry if it sounded like I thought the cheapest CPU would be fine for high quality HD TV. I didn't mean to come across that way. Anyone looking for a anything high than 720 should buy dual core. This said if you have older hardware you can still play at least 720 on a single core, but you need to use the right codec's. Don't expect quicktime content to play but WM will. Personally I'm happy with good old 720x480 (720 HD is 1280x720), since HD files are huge HUGE. Far too big unless you build a monster sytem.
a b à CPUs
October 25, 2006 3:31:17 AM

Athlon 64 3200+ works nice. You can even underclock it at lower voltage if you want to reduce fan speeds.
a c 478 à CPUs
October 25, 2006 2:31:41 PM

I currently have an HTPC that is based on the Athlon XP-M 2600+ in an Antec Aria case. I built it a little over 2 years ago. I don't have HDTV yet, just SDTV. It is somewhat of a basic HTPC that uses the old All-In-Wonder Radeon 9600XT to record programs. The OS that I use is Windows XP Pro.

The main purpose of this PC is to record/watch TV programs and movies, encode/play music, and encode my DVDs to DivX files so that I can store all my movies and hard drives. The old Athlon XP-M is capable of handling all these task. The only problem I seem to be having is with the DivX 6.2 codec, I get errors when I try to encode with it and it sometimes crashes my system (even on a clean install) therefore I use the older DivX 5.1 codec.

Anywaste, having a hot CPU like the P4 805D in a small case like the Silverstone LC02 you mentioned is generally not a good idea. If you cannot afford to buy an C2D or X2 CPU (which runs cooler), then simply go for an Athlon 64 3500+. That should be more than adequate for your needs and is pretty cheap. A GPU like one of the Radeons can help decode HD content so that the CPU will not be stressed. But make sure you buy a low profile GPU since the case is not very tall.

Also consider that the Silverstone LC02 comes with a 220w flex ATX power supply. It's not a very powerful PSU to say the least; the P4 805D isn't exactly to most power efficient CPU especially when overclocked. The case has no fans other than the one in the PSU which isn't very big. There are two vents on either side of the case, but there are no fans. I assume you can attach your own fans, but I'm not sure. There is also a vent on top of the case for the CPU.

Lastly, keep in mind that the case you've chosen uses a slim CD/DVD drive like those found on notebooks. The drive bay is not big enough for a standard 5.25" optical drive. Those slim drives are fairly expensive and not as fast as the standard versions.
a b à CPUs
October 25, 2006 2:42:39 PM

Putting any dual-core into a limited use system sounds quite silly, especially when you're trying to control heat. A cheap Athlon 64 would do fine, it's half of an X2 so it should easily handle half as many simultanious threads at the same speed (or more).
a c 478 à CPUs
October 25, 2006 3:40:53 PM

Quote:
Putting any dual-core into a limited use system sounds quite silly, especially when you're trying to control heat. A cheap Athlon 64 would do fine, it's half of an X2 so it should easily handle half as many simultanious threads at the same speed (or more).


I simply threw in the C2D and X2 'cause the OP mentioned the 805D. Both runs cooler and consumes less power than the 805D and they are more powerful. However, I did mention that the A64 3500+ should be adequate for his needs. It will run cooler too.
a b à CPUs
October 25, 2006 4:34:48 PM

Yeh, too cold actually: My office gets cold in the winter...I used to have a P4 so it wasn't too bad...but now I'm forced to overclock my A64 just to get similar heat...
!