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Advice for HTPC Newbie.

Last response: in Systems
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February 5, 2007 1:45:53 AM

Hi all, new to the HTPC world and I have got quite a bit of questions.

My current setup:
CPU: Athlon XP 2400+ + stock cooler
Mobo: MSI K7n2 delta motherboard
RAM: 1gb
Graphics: Power Color x700 AGP
HDD: 1 x WD 100GB HDD (IDE)
1 x Seagate 320GB HDD (IDE)
Optical Drives: 1 x DVD/cdrw combo
1 x DVD-rw
Soundcard: X-fi Xtrememusic
PSU: Antec Truepower 480W

As one can see my current setup is pretty ancient, and I have been planning an upgrade for it however I wish to recycle some parts to be used in the new system that I am going to build, e.g. HDD, optical drives, soundcard, psu.

My main headache comes when trying to find a board that will support more then 2 ide devices, since nowadays most of them heavily favor sata. After some searching I found the solution in a couple of mATX boards and decided to go with that. Since a mATX board will be used I thought I might as well convert my current junk into a HTPC, as its been something that I have always wanted to build and since it would help my parents to record some of their favourite late night variety shows on TV.

As such here are some requirements that the HTPC must fulfil:
Watch & Record TV Programmes.
Play my dvd movies & music collection
Be able to play various other media, such as dled anime, view pictures etc.
Since I don't have a home theatre system to speak of, (just a TV (Sony Trinitron), cable box and dvd & vcr players.)
sound still has to come from my TV T_T.
I also have an old xbox and would like to play it on the tv, will the HTPC interfere in any way?

Hi-def content is still new in my area, and hasn't caught on yet. However I would wish to futureproof it to be able to view and record HD when it
becomes more popular.

Another headache is that I am a total idiot when it comes to the video ports and formats. Barely got my xbox360 to display on my LCD. Basically I just try and match the male and female connectors and pray I like what gets displayed on my screen T_T, how am I supposed to set up the entire system so that it would work. Anywhere I can read up on this stuff?

After searching through some guides for recommendations regarding parts I have come up with this,

HTPC Setup:
CPU: AM2 x4200+
HSF: Thermalright SI-128 (I added this mainly cause I wanted to know if it can be runned as a passive cooler)
Mobo: Abit NF-N2 Nview
Ram: 2 x 1 gb Corsair PC5300/667
Graphics: Gigabye 7600GT passive or MSI NX7600GT Diamond Plus
Tuner: Hauppauge WinTV-PVR 500 (I will need a dual tuner to be able to watch & record tv programmes at the same time right?)
Case: Currently using a Lian-Li, but since this guy will be sitting beside my TV sooner or later...Looking at a Silverstone LC14 or LC17 are there any dimension restrictions or cheaper ones.
OS: Windows media Centre, since I have read that its the easiest to configure and setup. Another alternative is MythTV (since its free) however I don't have much experience with Linux, can any experienced users provide feedback?

Thats about it, what other parts will be needed if I wish to view Hi-def content? Are there any other recommendations regarding the components?

Also I apologise for the pretty newbie questions or if information I require have already been posted up here. Much thanks and appreciation for the feedbacks.

More about : advice htpc newbie

February 5, 2007 1:56:52 AM

Your stuff looks good, you can use your drives and PSU. Check the new MB for 2 IDE ports, as you have 4 devices.
On the TV tuner and Software, You are right MCE is the best right now, if you can get it, I had trouble, YMMV. For the other pieces go to slipstream.com good prices on the card and BeyondTV runs circles on MISST-tv. I got the 150 model but you are correct about the 2 programs at once. They show all the features on the 5-6 models.
February 5, 2007 1:58:53 AM

personally I would go with Core 2 Duo.
Related resources
February 5, 2007 2:45:58 AM

Your current setup will not be future-proof for HD content -- you would need to go to at least a C2D 6600 and an 8800GT graphics card for HD. Some of the Silverstone cases have a clearance problem between the video card and the optical drive. I use a Lian-Li C30I, but they're a little pricey. Another consideration is passive cooled gpu's. They are quiet, but they also put heat into the inside of your case, heating it up and causing other fans to run (at higher RPM's). You might consider one that is very quiet, and vents to the outside of the case, then it helps with the cooling. I think for video playback, the ATI based gpu's perform better than the nVidia cards, especially in the mid-priced range. They have chipsets that seem to integrate better with the TV tuner cards.
February 5, 2007 5:51:58 AM

Quote:
Your current setup will not be future-proof for HD content -- you would need to go to at least a C2D 6600 and an 8800GT graphics card for HD. Some of the Silverstone cases have a clearance problem between the video card and the optical drive. I use a Lian-Li C30I, but they're a little pricey. Another consideration is passive cooled gpu's. They are quiet, but they also put heat into the inside of your case, heating it up and causing other fans to run (at higher RPM's). You might consider one that is very quiet, and vents to the outside of the case, then it helps with the cooling. I think for video playback, the ATI based gpu's perform better than the nVidia cards, especially in the mid-priced range. They have chipsets that seem to integrate better with the TV tuner cards.
The part about the processor and video card requirements is dead wrong, the Nvidia recommended setup for HD playback on AMD processors just happens to be a 4200 x2 and a 7600gt. (3800 x2 and a 7600gs is the minimum recommended.)
http://www.nzone.com/object/nzone_pvhd_build.html
-----------
Under windows ATI's AVIVO is better (and free) for video play back, but under linux ATI's playback quality is not quite as good as Nvidia. But this is just due to drivers, AVIVO is supported under linux and as drivers improve the playback quality will get better.
Linux Image Quality Comparison

For a HTPC I would personally choose a passively GPU but you do have to be careful they get enough air flow. The only down side is there is no passively cooled 7600gt's that are HDCP compliant, so you will also have to consider the extra cost of a low noise or passive cooler. (Yes I know all this HDCP stuff is bull shit, welcome to the future of home entertainment.)
This thread at hardocp has a list of HDCP compliant cards.(I'm not sure if its 100% up to date.)

I think the best case's for a matx htpc's at the moment are the Antec Fusion and NSK2400 due to they use 120mm fans, and there are quite a few good (cheep) 120mm fans that are silent at 5v. I'm cooling my computer with a Yate-Loon at 5v right now, and it just happens to have a amd x2 4200 (the older socket 939 89w version) and a 7600gt. So it is more then possible to cool your HTPC configuration nearly silently. (Well along with quality heatsinks and a quiet PSU.)

The 128SI I'm not sure you could use it passively (towers are better for that), but a very low speed 120mm fan would provide enough cooling. A Scythe 800 or 1,200 rpm fan would work well.
The scythe models with fluid dynamic bearings make good quite cpu fans. They have a longer life in high heat situations then sleeve bearing fans, and they make less noise then ball bearing fans.

But really were not asking total newbie questions, it looks like you already did some research into HTPC building. Also try and get the amd X2 with the 62nm core or the 65w version with the 90nm core.

And I'm 90% sure the OP is using AM2 due to motherboard related reasons due to the hard drives being IDE ATA.
February 5, 2007 1:27:08 PM

Quote:
The part about the processor and video card requirements is dead wrong,
To each his own opinion. You might want to weigh in on this article regarding the future of HD playback, then see if you still hold the same opinion. Remember, the OP said "futureproof":

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

Quote:
HTPC I would personally choose a passively GPU
Again, IMHO a passively cooled gpu just puts heat to the inside of the case which will make the other fans work harder, creating the noise you were trying to eliminate with the passvie cooling. Better to get a gpu with a known, quiet fan, or put on an aftermarket fan, like the Arctic Cooler Accelero, that vents to the outside of the case, helping with the airflow and cooling rather than adding to the problem.
February 5, 2007 3:56:00 PM

Why did you link me to that story, all it really says is GPU acceleration is needed for HD playback, frankly your over estimating the processing power needed for smooth play back. For a non future proof HTPC they could of just used there old processor or a single core, besides as long as playback is smooth why do you care if your processor usage spikes at 50% or 90%. Basically this is a computer built just for the purpose of multimedia playback and encoding and it is not a video encoding workstation, instead it is a going to be a appliance in there living room. (Other things like noise and looks become important then brute force.)

Quick FYI, the first HD-DVD players used single core P4 processors. And the first videocards manufactured for HD playback (out side of the pro cards) were the Nvidia 6200 and 6600. (The models that were HDCP compatible were manufactured for use in Sony multimedia computers, and were never sold in the retail market.)

Your physics are not quite right, some of passive coolers used on the cards are actually far more efficient then the stock cooler at moving the heat away from the processor core. So yes in a since a passive card may dump more heat into the case. But the mistake you made in your thinking is you thought passive cards produce more heat due to they run at higher temperatures. A passive card makes just as much heat as a non passive card, just the actively cooled card spreads the heat around a larger area, where is on a passive card the location of the heat is far more concentrated. So the same amount of heat has to be removed from the case just you have to be more careful heat does not build up below and around the card when they are cooled passively.
And not going to count cards that exhaust air from the case due to its hard to say how exactly how efficient that are at it. (But they do not really seem to be all that efficient at it.)
Here is a story about how much power video cards actually use. (The 8800gts uses as much power as a 7900gx2 for reference.)
And THG managed to cool a passively X1900XTX with a Thermalright HR-01. (That is one efficient cooler. 8O )
February 5, 2007 10:28:34 PM

Quote:
So yes in a since a passive card may dump more heat into the case.
I think this was my point. I never indicated one gpu produced more heat; I was merely addressing the ambient temperature on the inside of the case. Since you're lecturing on physics, doesn't it make more sense that a gpu exhausting to the outside of the case is not going to exacerbate the internal temperatures of the case, and actually, in some cases (no pun intended), help with the air flow through the case? And again, the OP was writing about "futureproof" HD, which was the point of the article I linked, since we're in the HD-DVD and Blue Ray era with H.264/mpeg-4, not the initial days of HD gone by. I agree that at this point, it is a lot of conjecture and speculation, and we can all get by on lesser equipment -- I do -- especially since an HDCP, Vista-certified gpu doesn't even exist, yet. Afterall, we put a man on the moon with an SX286 computer, why should we need any more? My intention was to address the question of the OP and provide some other sources of reference, and not get engaged in a tautological exchange.
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