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HTPC Build Critiques

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January 12, 2007 6:14:38 PM

Hey guys, need a few pointers from those of you who have built a HTPC before. I myself have found that building a cutting edge gaming rig to be far simpler than building an HTPC so I've come here for help. I'm not buying this thing anytime soon (probably in the summer when I've got more $$$ :D  ) and am open to ideas. I've read the THG article on building your own HTPC and tried to adhere to these goals: cost and noise (lack of each).

Here are the specs for what I'm thinking of building:

HDD: Western Digital Caviar SE 160gb $59.99
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1682...

CPU: AMD Athlon 64 3200+ Skt 939 $59.00
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1681...

Mobo: ASUS A8R32-MVP Deluxe $122.99
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1681...

RAM: 1gb Kingston Value RAM $109.98
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1682...

VGA: ATi Radeon X1300 Pro $109.99
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1681...

Sound Card: Creative SBA 4 $77.99
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1682...

DVD Drive: Lite-On 16x Dual Layer DVD Drive SATA interface $35.99
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1682...

Case: ZALMAN HTPC Case $287.99
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1681...

PSU: ENERMAX Liberty 400w Modular PSU $79.99
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1681...

Total Cost: $943.91

Something that I already have for this thing is a ATi HDTV Tuner card w/o flag chip so I've got that end nailed down secure.

Also, I've got a question about which OS to use. Should I use Windows XP Media Center or just get XP Home?

This is not going to be used for gaming, its just going to be a fancy file player.

Thanks in advance for your alls help!

More about : htpc build critiques

January 12, 2007 7:08:53 PM

I'd save the money on the sound card, that motherboard has digital audio out, save the money and buy nice heat-pipe cpu/vga coolers to get the noise down.

As for the video card, at that price newegg also shows x1600pros, including some passively cooled ones from sapphire/HIS/etc.
January 12, 2007 7:11:03 PM

I would go with at least a 250 or higher HDD, also if you can try to get a dual core 3800 or something, because if you will be ripping and encoding media dual core will make a big difference and as far as the HDD dvds take up ALOT of space you will fill even a 250gb very quickly.
Related resources
January 12, 2007 7:16:39 PM

Not too bad. You might find the 160GB HDD to be a bit small, then again I don't know if you plan on recording TV programs with it. I have about 280GB of storage in my current HTPC. For my next HTCP I plan on having between 640GB to 1TB of storage capacity using two drives.

I use Windows XP Pro on my current HTPC and I am happy with it. I never experienced Windows Media Center.

I have Gyration keyboard mouse combo. The mouse comes in handy since you can use it in mid air to click around your desktop.

One thing that you might want to take into consideration is HD content playback. I haven't done any research yet, but some people have recommended at least a C2D E6600 (or AMD equivalent), otherwise the CPU will be maxed and you'll get dropped frames.
January 12, 2007 7:51:46 PM

First, are you planning on doing HD output with this to an HDTV? If so, remember that quality sound is important too so you might want to get a sound card with optical out.

Xi-Fi are nice, but Audigy 2 Platinum has DTS ES and all the bells and whistles for considerably cheaper.

Also, as others have pointed out, for ripping you could do better.

What's your budget? What do you plan on doing other than watching movies at progressive resolution on a big tv?

Ripping?

Storing data (movies/videos)?
January 13, 2007 12:16:05 AM

Thanks for all the input so far guys. I don't intend on ripping or encoding much with this thing thats what I've got my current PC for. Specs are as follows:

AMD 64 X2 3800+ OC'ed to 2.2 Ghz
BFG 7900 GTX 512 mb OC'ed
ASUS A8N-SLi Deluxe
2 Gb Kingston Value RAM CAS Latency 2.5-3-3-6
Creative Labs Sound Blaster Audigy 4
Westen Digital 74 Gb Raptor ADFD
2x Western Digital 250 Gb Caviar SE
3x Thermaltake Hardcano 14 HDD coolers
Thermaltake Blue Orb II CPU cooler
Zalman VF-Cu 900 Blue LED VGA cooler
Thermaltake Extreme Spirit Northbridge cooler
PC Power & Cooling 510w PSU

My above mentioned PC is also what I'll use for storage. I figured if all I'm doing is saving TV shows on my HTPC I can setup a wireless network and play movies and other stuff off my PC onto the HTPC. I currently don't have a HDTV to watch anything on, but I'm going to buy a 50" DLP HDTV from SAMSUNG when I have the money to do so. As for the HDDVD content path, that's what I'm going to use my X-Box 360 for. All I have to do is buy the external HDDVD player and I'm good to go. I'm not too much of an audiophile so all I was going to do is hook up a Logitech Z-5500 set to my HTPC and have fairly good audio. IMO the Audigy 4 is a killer sound card for the money. It supports EAX, DTS, Dobly Digital II, and 7.1 surround.

I figure if I can network these 2 PC's I'll be able to have Home Theater requirements met. Then all I have to do is wait a few years to buy my HDTV.

Keep the replies and comments coming guys. Thanks again!
January 14, 2007 2:25:12 PM

I agree with jaguarskx, if you want to play HD content, esp Blue-Ray or HD-DVD in the future, you need a C2Duo cpu, minimum E6400 (better E6600) and a faster gpu with HDCP (otherwise it won't display protected content). Read this article:

http://www.anandtech.com/video/showdoc.aspx?i=2886&p=1

I'd also consider a m/b that is a little "future-proof", that will take the next gen of cpu's, such as quad-core.
January 14, 2007 3:05:34 PM

The 7900 GTX will be a noisy beast! Id reccoment the X1950Pro/XT. They do silent versions of it somewhere.

Definately get the C2D.

Windows MCE has definate benefits over Home.

Sound card - I personally use Auzentechs card 'Digital xPlosion'. however this isn't the newest one, I believe the newest is the X-Meridian. Anyway, you connect this to an amp via optical or digital coax and it upmixes everything to 5.1/6.1/7.1 channels depending on your audio setup. Also its able to play back Dolby Digital (EX?) and DTS (ES?) for all your optical disk needs.

You may want to consider a HD-DVD or Blu-Ray drive in the future if you are going for HD content - but then you will need a monitor and GPU compatible with HDCP.
January 14, 2007 3:23:01 PM

Quote:
The 7900 GTX will be a noisy beast! Id reccoment the X1950Pro/XT. They do silent versions of it somewhere.

Definately get the C2D.

Windows MCE has definate benefits over Home.

Sound card - I personally use Auzentechs card 'Digital xPlosion'. however this isn't the newest one, I believe the newest is the X-Meridian. Anyway, you connect this to an amp via optical or digital coax and it upmixes everything to 5.1/6.1/7.1 channels depending on your audio setup. Also its able to play back Dolby Digital (EX?) and DTS (ES?) for all your optical disk needs.

You may want to consider a HD-DVD or Blu-Ray drive in the future if you are going for HD content - but then you will need a monitor and GPU compatible with HDCP.


Agree. I built mine with an HIS X1950pro with ICQ3. It is very quiet, cool, crossfire capable, and good performance (esp. for the price). If you buy Windows MCE, some vendors give you a coupon for a free upgrade to Vista. If you don't want to go that route, then you can try some of the free multimedia gui's like MythTV, BeyondTV, or SageTV. Try some of these forum sites for more info:

http://www.missingremote.com/index.php?option=com_conte...

http://www.htpcnews.com/index.php
January 14, 2007 4:16:22 PM

Hey guys I'm not intending for this thing to be a workhorse, thats not what I want to do with it. All my HTPC will do is play media files, as far as encoding and ripping goes thats what I've got my current rig for.

My current PC will be my workhorse until I upgrade, my HTPC is nothing more than a networked file player for it. My PC will sit in my room while the HTPC is setup in my living room in the basement. As I've said before I will be using my X-Box 360 to play HD-DVD's. All I've got to do is go out and buy the HD kit for it and the HD-DVD player addon and I'm good to go. I figure its cheaper to go out and spend $650 on my X-Box 360 setup and get 95% of my HD content requirements covered vs. spending $1700 on building a new system that will need $1700 in parts in 2 years just to keep up with all the new HD standards that came out. The way I see it here is that I'll be spending $1700 on 2 systems that won't need upgrading for a long while and will have 99% of my requirements met.

If you guys had read my OP you would see that I am using an ATi X1300 Pro in my HTPC not a 7900 GTX. The system I laid out in my original post is pretty much not going to be upgraded at all for probably 5 yrs or more. I've said it before and I'll say it again, this HTPC isn't for gaming, ripping, or encoding, its just a fancy file player. One thing that would really help is if someone could point out silent cooling solutions, cheaper parts, or a combination of both.

In reply to comments about the mobo I'm using, I'm going to use a mobo with nothing but an ATi chipset because me and my friends have had severe trouble getting an ATi HDTV tuner installed on boards w/o an ATi chipset. For some reason the drivers for the tuner corrupt Intel and Nvidia chipset drivers alike, and the work required to make the thing work really makes getting the thing setup really suck.
January 14, 2007 7:58:35 PM

The Zalman case will cool well if you don't use all three HD bays, although it is a little on the expensive side. You can't use its volume control knob unless you install Windows MCE. Because it's aluminum, it can suffer from "strumming" -- resonance of the HD vibrations, and reviews say the HD mounting method adds to that noise. I used the Lian-Li C30I (vfd and iMon remote) because it has a different HD mounting system and the case has a cross-brace across the top (intended to allow a monitor to sit on top) which also reduces the stumming resonance. I did use a Zalman 460w p/s, and CNPS9500 HSF, which are very quiet. I still think your video card is insufficient for what you are going to do. My understanding is that if you are going to play HD copyrighted content, you need an HDPC ready video card, regardless of whether you use your X-Box as the source, and playing any HD video content will cause a bottleneck at your gpu. Read this article:

http://www.anandtech.com/video/showdoc.aspx?i=2886&p=1

For a few dollars more, I would go with this card. It is very quiet, good performance, and HDCP capable:

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1681...

BTW, before ripping on those of us who take the time to anwer your questions, you should review your own posts. In your second post, you did list the 7900GTX:

"Thanks for all the input so far guys. I don't intend on ripping or encoding much with this thing thats what I've got my current PC for. Specs are as follows:

AMD 64 X2 3800+ OC'ed to 2.2 Ghz
BFG 7900 GTX 512 mb OC'ed
ASUS A8N-SLi Deluxe "

It looked like this was your HTPC, not your gaming rig.
January 14, 2007 11:40:40 PM

I have the same board, and it is great. It is passively cooled, and fast. It has HD onboard sound so no need for PCI sound card and this board already have the digital sound output (both coax and optical). You are right, you don't need a workhorse to play media content. The 3200+ will be sufficient. You will probably want to put the X2 later when you'll upgrade your gaming rig. That would make a nice media center plateform.

Don't listen to Core2 lovers that think that no other CPU is OK. You don't need 157 FPS if you already have 137 FPS... And the x1300 is OK. When dx10 will be current, and newer video card be available that support hdmi for hdtv, you'll just have to upgrade then. That's what I'm planning to do, even if I have the Asus x1600xt silent. I'm using XP pro, for my media center, but I may switch to Vista when available. There is thir party media center application available for free, so you may just get one instead of the XPMCE.

You should add more room with a bigger hdd. 320 gigs are cheap enough these day.

The PSU should be sufficient, but look at the Silverstone Element 500w. I really like mine. This is the one I have. A bit more expensive, but certified efficiency and quiet
January 15, 2007 12:38:29 AM

Also check out this memory, I have it in my P5B Deluxe with a E6600, 7600GT, and it works great.
January 15, 2007 1:18:08 AM

Thanks for the info about the PSU. If Silverstone had a some what cheaper modular PSU I'd gone for that instead. The reason I'm wanting a modular PSU for this thing is that I want to have the best airflow possible so that it stays as quiet as possible. It's looking like I'll have to spend $50 on a ZALMAN VGA heatsink if I want to lower noise.

To madmurph:

I've got no need for an HDCP capable VGA because I'm not routing the X-Box 360 video output through the HTPC, its going straight to my TV. Now in the event that my HDTV has only one Component input, I can buy a massive video input hub from Audio Authority and put upto 4 Component video inputs and HD audio inputs on the same TV for about $200. As long as the source and receiving TV are HDCP compliant then I've got nothing to worry about. Also sorry about ripping you guys who came down on my 7900 GTX, but to me it looked as if no one had read my first post.

Thanks for all the input so far guys. Keep the comments coming.
January 15, 2007 8:43:53 PM

Quote:
Thanks for the info about the PSU. If Silverstone had a some what cheaper modular PSU I'd gone for that instead. The reason I'm wanting a modular PSU for this thing is that I want to have the best airflow possible so that it stays as quiet as possible. It's looking like I'll have to spend $50 on a ZALMAN VGA heatsink if I want to lower noise.

To madmurph:

I've got no need for an HDCP capable VGA because I'm not routing the X-Box 360 video output through the HTPC, its going straight to my TV. Now in the event that my HDTV has only one Component input, I can buy a massive video input hub from Audio Authority and put upto 4 Component video inputs and HD audio inputs on the same TV for about $200. As long as the source and receiving TV are HDCP compliant then I've got nothing to worry about. Also sorry about ripping you guys who came down on my 7900 GTX, but to me it looked as if no one had read my first post.

Thanks for all the input so far guys. Keep the comments coming.
No prob. I'm not "mad" just a half bubble off plumb (crazy!)
!