Sign in with
Sign up | Sign in
Your question

Any guides for HTPC?

Tags:
  • Homebuilt
  • Systems
  • Product
Last response: in Systems
Share
February 1, 2007 2:07:23 PM

Im looking at building a HTPC for my moms TV and while im good at making gaming computers, HTPCs are a different kinda beast.

She has a 48" TV downstairs. Its not flatscreen or anything special, just a regular 5-8 year old TV.

I want to have it as her whole media center, so I want it to be able to play DVDs, PVR, and also stuff from digital camera when she goes on trips.

My basic plan is:
Dual Core CPU (maybe a 4300 or a 6300)
1 Gig RAM
750Gig HD (since I will be putting her DVDs on the HD and it will have PVR)
Light-On DVD-DL drive

When it comes to Video cards and Video Capture cards im a little out of my element. I know she wont need a Nvidia 8800GTX, but I dont want to underpower her system as well. She dont play games at all, so its mostly email & looking up stuff on the web.

She has no plans to go HD in the near future, but if it was possible to get a card that does FM as well would be a nice touch (then I could get rid of her old radio as well).

I would perfer it to be a PCI card, just to cut down on the clutter. Also I would like a wireless remote and keyboard if possible. Though I dont know how well you can view text at 20 feet out on a 48" screen.

Any suggestions or guides would be a great help. Thank you in advance.

More about : guides htpc

February 1, 2007 2:38:22 PM

Check out extremetech.com. They put together different builds for different uses, e.g., HTPC, so it's a good starting point. I would make sure the mobo has onboard firewire for the camcorder and at least 3 PCI slots. I would also get 2 SATA 3 hdd, one small one 40GB or 80GB for the OS and programs and a large one, 320GB if it fits in your budget, for storage. If she is using a digital camcorder, you won't need a separate capture card because they hook up via firewire. If she is using a analogue camcorder, you can buy an external capture box, at least the one I have connects using firewire. A digital camcorder is a zillion times easier. I currently have my sound card running through my receiver using analogue cables but plan to get a new receiver to connect using digital, of course the sound card has to have digital out and it works very well. Various reviews generally give Haupage good reviews for video capture and I believe some will capture analogue from VCR or analogue camcorder. About a year and a half ago I tried to run my computer through the TV and never did get it to work very well. There are devices that allow you to send video and audio signals wirelessly to the TV and receiver, which could be a better but more expensive option. If she plans on putting VCR tapes onto a DVD, I would recommend a DVD/VCR recorder, again a lot easier unless you want to edit them. From what I've read, at this point in time, using your computer as a primary source for entertainment, especially for vido, is one of those things that your willing to put money into and then play around with it, i.e., you don't just turn it on and have it work.
February 1, 2007 6:01:59 PM

The ATI Theater 650 Retail package comes with a remote, but most remotes require the use of Windows MCE for full functionality. Most of the iMon remotes fall into the same circumstance. The 650 has also had a recent history of hardware problems. My preference is the Saber2020 from VistaView. It has 2 TV tuners, FM, and video capture capabilties. Both the Saber and the 650 fit in the PCI-e slot, and both are analog tuners. Since the saber has video capture, you can save some on the video card. I prefer the X1950Pro chipsets, but the X1650Pro or the nVidia 7600GS or 7600GT will work fine in your circumstance, and choice will really only depend on your budget.
Related resources
February 1, 2007 6:33:19 PM

Quote:
The ATI Theater 650 Retail package comes with a remote, but most remotes require the use of Windows MCE for full functionality. Most of the iMon remotes fall into the same circumstance. The 650 has also had a recent history of hardware problems. My preference is the Saber2020 from VistaView. It has 2 TV tuners, FM, and video capture capabilties. Both the Saber and the 650 fit in the PCI-e slot, and both are analog tuners. Since the saber has video capture, you can save some on the video card. I prefer the X1950Pro chipsets, but the X1650Pro or the nVidia 7600GS or 7600GT will work fine in your circumstance, and choice will really only depend on your budget.


Are you currently using the Saber and if so, are you running it to your TV and how does it work?
February 1, 2007 7:27:46 PM

Yes. I'm running the Saber2020 through Windows MCE. It works flawlessly and the recorded images are almost as good as original. Unfortuately, I'm running them through an analog TV, so everything looks the same (mediocre). I bought mine here, and there's currently a rebate, so the price is very good.
February 1, 2007 7:44:09 PM

Quote:
Yes. I'm running the Saber2020 through Windows MCE. It works flawlessly and the recorded images are almost as good as original. Unfortuately, I'm running them through an analog TV, so everything looks the same (mediocre). I bought mine here, and there's currently a rebate, so the price is very good.


All my TVs are analogue, poverty sucks :x Looks like a nice card and like the fact it's PCIe not only for the quality but because most mobo now only come with at most 3 PCI slots. Appreciate the info
February 1, 2007 8:05:00 PM

I assume you need 2 Video Capture cards if you want to do picture in picture or watch and record at the same time.

Or get one with dual inputs, like the VISTAVIEW Saber 2020 Dual Analog
February 1, 2007 9:12:34 PM

The Saber only needs one input. It splits the signal internally to the two tuners. So you can record two shows, or record one and watch another, or watch two simultaneously - picture-in-picture, or watch one and listen to FM. The dual inputs are one for cable, one for FM, if you so choose.
February 1, 2007 9:12:56 PM

How about considering this Video card. Has a TV Tuner,PVR, FM Radio, and ready to connect to a tv. This card is great, produces a rich quality image. If someday u want to play a game on your moms htpc, u are able to with this card.Is it a Single 750gb drive, cause winxp only read up to 500 gb or 600gb no more than that, u will require to upgrade to Vista.
If u upgrade to vista and with this drive ill recommend to create two partitions. Make partition 1 about 30 to 35gb for windows and the rest will go to partition 2 , that will be your storage drive. That way windows will never run slow cause will never be loaded. All music, photos, videos will go to partition 2.

ATI All-In-Wonder 2006 Edition Radeon X1300 Video Card $146.40
February 1, 2007 9:16:45 PM

Quote:
This card is great, produces a rich quality image.
If you read the reviews, the image quality doesn't even approach the Saber, Theater 650, or Hauppauge PVR-500. IMHO, anytime you start combining functions, it doesn't do any of them well.
February 1, 2007 11:00:27 PM

Ok HTPC fun to play with, but like building any pc, you need some kind of budget. As it keeps you from going over board.

1) What OS to use?
Windows XP or windows media center or vista or Linux
- XP? If you going to use an ATI or some other TV card, some come with there own software for setting up media center (not WMC) or open source like media portal
- WMC? THE require hardware that is supported by this OS. There are many free plugins, ready do extend the function WMC. So check the net
- Vista? With new Home premium and ultimate editions, you get latest version of media center. The only problem is that it is NEW and supported hardware will but will be a thing to keep an eye on. Will not be, as may plugins available to start with
- Linux? There are capable of build of Linux designed for home media centers, with lots of plugins. Hardware compatibility is also a thing to watch.

2) HTPC case
- Big flashy cases with lots of lights are no good.
- A most of htpc cases do put restrictions what hardware you can fit in
- Good airflow
- High speed fans are bad!

Htpc usually sit in plain sign in your lounge room, so have a look around, do not rush, because you are going have to look at it everyday.

3) Hardware
This been covered but other posts, even though you mother may not think of having HDTV now. It is good thing have a sold base to handle it in the future if your got build a new system like you have stated.

Therefore, a PCI-E motherboard is a good option,
ATI budget x1000 series have very good support and image quality (older all in wonders do have some problem).
One gig ram is good.
TV card there quite a few sites dedicated to HTPC and most do reviews or have user reviews (video cards too)
Hard drive - having the main OS on a separate hard disk is good but not a requirement (recommend on a different partition at around 40 GB), I personally like value per GB of the 320 GB drives. Two in

Heat is not your friend in htpc either is fan noise. If you vides card is fan less, which is good I personally always put a low speed fan on them

PS: normal TV has a resolution of 640x480

Links
http://www.team-mediaportal.com/
http://www.tv-cards.com/
http://thegreenbutton.com

Sorry but i have to go out this should be enough for you to think about, I have playing around for a while with setting up a HTPC and I have come to the conclusion that all I personal need is a xbox360 and Windows Vista Home Premium (with some extra software), because I am not using the TV to do work on. Just for TV and video play back (with a few plug-in-ns
February 2, 2007 3:02:09 AM

Well through my diggings and looking around I have come across a few ideas:

Case: Thermaltake Bach VB8001BNS w/Media Lab $115
Motherboard: Asus P5B $140.00
CPU: Intel C2D E6300 $190
GPU: EVGA GeForce 7300 GT / 512MB $105
RAM: Corsair TWIN2X1024A-6400 (2x 512) $109
HD: Western Digital WD4000KS-R (400GB) $127
Optical: Lite-On AllWrite DVD-DL $33
OS: Windows Media Center

The case comes with a remote, so I assume that will allow me to manuever around in WMC.

The only parts im not 100% on is a wireless keyboard and the video capture cards. The range will be about 20 feet, so im not sure if that is a factor with wireless keyboards.

I only say that id use WMC, cause its simple for my mother to use it. Mostly "dummy-proof". A friend suggested MythTV software, but not all capture cards would work with it, but I only grazed over the material. If this was for myself, then I would use whatever software was best, but since this is for my mom is has to be easier.

One of the main points is I want this to be a entertainment center and not a computer that can display the TV signal. IE: I dont want the TV to look any difference from how it does now vs once everything is hooked up when your watching normal TV.

I looked at smaller HDs for a OS HD, but a 300GB is the same price as a 30GB, plus I might have a 20GB ATA133 floating around here somewhere.

One Gig of RAM should be enough for what she wants to do. The only other then I would need to add is a wireless card for internet, but I could put that out of her old computer.

I hope this gives you a better guideline of what im looking for. Mostly im just stuck on the capture cards, which ones and if I need 2 of them or not. I would like the ability to record one channel and view another.

Thanks for the help so far.
February 2, 2007 1:48:17 PM

Pop an extra $40 and get the P5B Deluxe -- it comes with firewire and an 8-phase power supply, which is much more stable. It also has heatpipes on the northbridge and mosfets, so it will stay cooler and your fans won't run as often. Fanless video cards are a double-edged sword: you get less fan noise, but because the card pitches its heat directly to the inside of your case, it causes the other fans to kick in. Better to find a video card with a super quiet fan that exhausts to the outside of the case. The new Logitech DeNovo Edge is the penultimate HTPC keyboard, but the price is outa sight. This is the other favored child for HTPC keyboards:

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1682...

Downside of using Vista versus Windows MCE is the DRM controls for dealing with HD content are somewhat limiting. Some vendors are giving a free Vista upgrade coupon if you buy MCE, also.
February 2, 2007 1:56:06 PM

Adendum: when choosing a case/video card, be careful. Some video cards won't fit either beause of their length -- for example on some of the Silverstone cases, the video card can hit the optical drive, even when using short (length) drives, or their height. If the case is low profile, you may have to get a low profile card, or a low profile bracket for a normal height card.
February 2, 2007 2:23:56 PM

What are you doing for sound? An HTPC is wholly incomplete without a full sound system (in my oppinion). If you have the money, I would suggest buying an external stereo reciever with an optical in and a good surround sound setup. This will let you play DVDs in their original digital format (if the reciever supports the decoder and the sound card supports passthrough). The difference between PC speakers and a true sound system can be immense - DEFINITELY worth looking into. THe little speakers in TV sets tend to be worse than even PC speakers.
February 2, 2007 6:08:29 PM

Well I had a whole elabrate responce, but I lost it all (Damn IE tabs).

Anyways, here are the highlight points: (Sorry for the cut and dry here, but I dont want to re type all that again)

a) She has the TV hooked up to stereo w/ 2 box speakers. Never uses them. So any speaker setup other then the default TV speakers would be an improvement.

b) I dont think she would need anything over a Nvidia 6800, since she aint doing games. Anything with Video out would work, I just perfer Nvidia. This comes down to more "bang for buck".

c) I looked at the DiNovo Edge and it looked nice, but damn $200. The one that you linked from newegg looks good at $100. It wouldnt get alot of use, mostly the remote for TV.

d) Back to the Video Capture cards, would I only need to get one of the Saber2020 cards to do everything I wanted too? Ive seen some guides that suggest 2 cards. If you took everything from my "list" and added the Saber2020 would this allow me to do what I have been asking for?

Like I said, I know computers, but HTPC is completely new to me and I dont know the "elements" of it.
February 2, 2007 9:52:19 PM

You only need one Saber card, it has two TV tuners on the one card. Ppl that put in two are either putting in two singles, or they're doing a humongous amount of recording. If you are running Windows MCE, putting in more than two tuners requires modifying the registry because MCE doesn't recognize more than 2 tuners on its own. Remember, this is an analog card. There are HD cards, but they are mostly used for pulling hi-def over an antenna; if you have cable, you still need their converter for the HD, and you would still plug it into something like one of these tuner cards. If you get the P5B Deluxe, it has 7.1 channel sound, with an optical cable output, so if in the future, you get a killer receiver, like the other poster mentioned, then you can connect your HTPC to it. At that point, some will suggest an add-in sount card with true Dolby decoders, etc.
February 2, 2007 10:21:27 PM

She has cable, but she has no point to get HD. "Extended Basic" cable is more then enough for her. Dont need the cable box to run anything (any cable ready TV runs it find).

So if the only other thing I would need would be that Saber2020 card, then I have a good idea what I need to look at and buy.

Thanks for all the help.
February 7, 2007 2:24:04 AM

medial lab- if i remember correctly is a "media center" program not WMC. i do believe there was some programs to make them work with WMC, what i dont remember if "Media Lab" released it or was a third party plugin.

ram- i would look at the corsair value select, they are cheaper with not heat spreders

os- windows media is also sold with a remote or you can buy the remote by it self.they also have a wireless keyboard(ir) which is no good for game.

wireless keyboard are bad for gaming because most use IR, but there are some bluetooth one out there.

i would put a fan on that 7300gt, i have a 7600gs fanless and getts to hot with out a fan(80mm quiet case fan)

PS
i am guess you want to overclock the e6300,
Quote:
RAM: Corsair TWIN2X1024A-6400 (2x 512) $109
in that case i would go for the e4300 and ddr2-533, and increase the fsb to 266 which = 2.4ghz. this can be done on standard intell cpu cooler or ddr2-667 the fsb 667 which = 3ghz with a good cpu cooler.
!