A dilemma Powerful PC vs HTPC

I started to hook up my xbox 360 to my computer. Because I was able to do this connection I actually started to stream media files to the Xbox and onto the TV. This has works fairly well, but gave me the desire to combine both the computer and TV experience.

So for my next build I was going to try to combine the best of both worlds. Have a power house computer, with Home Theater and DVR capabilities. But I’m starting to run into a dilemma.

Sound!!! --- For a normal high end machine people are not that worried about how loud the computer is. You might pick a different CPU cooler, a better case but that’s about it. But with a HTPC you want it to be as quiet as you possible can make it. For fans and CPU cooler and even a case can all be overcome. My problem is the graphic Card. I start to sacrifice GPU power for being quiet. (I think I probably could allow the Graphic Card be loud as long as everything else is quiet)

Old Habits--- I’m so use to doing my computer tasks on a desk in the usually Keyboard and Mouse set up. If I move over to HTPC its made to sit in a chair and control things from your lap. I could overcome some of the game side by getting a game controller.
But I hope to do some Computer Programming (xna) and do Blender Animation. This doesn’t fit as well for Home Theater PC use. I think e-mails and web surfing I can handle. Word Document I’m not sure how I would like it from HTPC.

These dilemmas have caused me to re-think my approach.

The only solution I can think of, but not sure if it can be done is run two screens from one computer. Not really dual screen in the normal sense but a way to watch Movies and TV and even play some games on a TV, then be able to switch it to a Monitor and do the normal Word Document, Computer Programming, and play games.

Is there a way to do this? (I’m not sure how well the TV would still function when the computer would be “switched over” to the Monitor side)

Or do I need to split this into two different computers?

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  1. This is THE big dilema/problem with a HTPC. It's a topic I have researched extensively and written about (though no new material for a long while).

    If you are picky about noise, you have to take sacrifice some power. Though www.silentpcreview.com have the best solutions to dampen the sound. There are some decent fanless GPUs out there that will give you some gaming capacity, but not much.

    Though if you were not worried about the Xbox 360's noise, the computer won't be any worse.

    My solution would be to split the duties to two products, though not necessarily two PCs. Set up your computer to do the DVR duties (it you can get it connected, in Canada that means a cable outlet close by). Then stream media to another device.

    There are some great network capable DVD players out there. Also many media streamers (though I feel these could use some growing up). These can be hooked up via ethernet (best option if you can do it) or Wifi.

    Another way to go is a media hard drive enclosure. They are usually a bit more difficult to get files to, but simple and practical. Like this one:

    Then if you really want to surf the net on your TV, by a cheap-cheap computer just for that.

    My two cents anyway.
  2. Having a quiet but powerful Gaming / HTPC machine can be difficult to achieve, but not impossible. However, if you want an absolutely silent PC, then that can be impossible.

    As you mentioned, the biggest hurdle is the GPU. Other components are manageable. I plan on building a new HTPC by the end of the year around my current E6600 in my primary rig. But I don't plan on using it to play games, just for media playback and compression so I don't plan on installing anything faster than a nVidia 8600GT/S or it's ATI equivalent.

    You will either need to install a 3rd party HSF like the Zalman VF-900 or wait around until someone like ASUS builds a silent GPU which will only use a large heatsink and heatpipes to cool the GPU. However this can cause a buildup of heat inside the case so good ventilation is necessary. I plan on using the LIAN LI PC-V800B Black Aluminum ATX.


    There are two primary drawbacks to the case though:

    1. The PSU is located in the front of the case so that this somewhat small case can accommodate an ATX motherboard. You know, for overclocking.

    2. The included fans, two 60mm and one 80mm, will be too noisy for my tastes.

    The solution will be:

    a. Install an exceptionally quiet PSU like one of the Seasonic S12.


    b. Replace the three fans with quieter ones, but that will cost about $50.


    One other problem with the case is that the ventilation holes can let more dust in than the average PC case. But that's the downside for having good ventilation.
  3. Tom's has had two articles on HTPC this month. Read those and the other links. Like someone said" Speed, cheap, Quiet; Pick any 2"
  4. Grab the Asus 690G HDMI mobo with a X2 3600+ cpu, very cheap and powerful.

    Has optical sound, HDTV & HDMI
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