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Want to turn a 4year old computer to an HTPC

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May 30, 2007 1:44:42 AM

Ok so I'm going to buy a whole new computer during late Q3-Q4 this year and I want to turn my current computer into a HTPC by that time. What I want from this HTPC:

* Watch videofiles up to 1080p on my TV (Samsung LE-40M87)
* some casual gaming (not necessary)
* being quiet
* blend in in my livingroom ^^ (nice looking case)
* hope for IR port so I can use MS Media Center Keyboard, otherwise I just use a cheap wireless keyboard
* Wireless networkcard (I've DIR-655 Wireless N router)
* Not to spend alot of money

OK and this is what I currently have:

CPU: P4 2.4GHz (OC -> 3.0GHz) Northwood, S478
Mobo: Asus P4P800
Memory: 1Gb PC3200 (2.5, 4, 4, 8 )
GPU: Asus Radeon 9600XT 128MB DDR (AGP 8x)
Case: Chieftec Matrix Miditower
PSU: Chieftec HPC-360-202 (says on the +12V: 17A, 204W) pic of PSU
HDD: Samsung SpinPoint P120S 200GB, old WD 120GB disk
Sound: Creative SB Audigy
DVD: some Sony DVD Burner

Thoughts:
I really don't know if my old computer can handle what I ask of it. As sometimes I can't even watch 720p videos properly (but that may also be due to bad encoding). I don't know much about PSUs but even I know that my PSU isn't any good, I don't know how much more it can candle... maybe I'm even pushing it with my current setup? To release some load from PSU I think that I can clock back my CPU to 2.4 and remove one HDD (storage wont be any problem as I'll have a 500Gb-1TB disk connected to my router ;) ) and maybe remove the soundcard as the mobo have a integrated sound card. What I think I need to upgrade is GPU and more ram and a new case, I really want to stick with the PSU for as long as I can to keep the cost down.
So this is what I'm thinking of:
note: Since I live in Europe (Sweden) my prices will most likely be somewhat higher than north american prices.

GPU: HD 2400-2600 if they get released this year (audio through HDMI FTW! ^^) otherwise:
* GF 7600 ; GS 256 DDR2 ~114$/85€ ; GT 256 DDR3 ~178$/133€
* x1650 ; pro 256 DDR3 ~128$/96€
* x1950 ; GT 256 DDR3 ~197$/147€ , pro 256 DDR3 ~250$/185€
note: my PSU will most likely decide what card I'm going do buy.
Reminder: my mobo supports AGP NOT PCIe

Network: Whatever is needed to play videofiles flawlessly from my HD attached to my router.
* D-Link DWL-G510 54Mbps (~32$/24€)
* D-Link RangeBooster N 650 (~81$/60€)
Memory: +1Gb PC3200 (~100$/74€)
PSU: if i reeeeally have to :/ 
Case:
* Advance Minitower Slimtower 8601S (incl. 480W PSU and will fit an ATX mobo) Link! (~78$/58€)
* Advance HTPC 2610 Link! (~143$/106€)
* Chieftec Maestro AE-01B-SL-OP Link! (~150$/112€)
* Cooler Master Cavalier 4 (incl 350W PSU says nothing about how much the +12V can handle :/ ) Link! (~143$/106€)
* Silverstone LC17 Link! (~163$/121€)
* Silverstone LC10 Link! (~143$/106€)
Keyboard:
* Microsoft Wireless Optical Desktop 700 (~46$/34€)
* Microsoft Remote Keyboard for WinXP Media Center (~83$/62€)

So if I go with the cheapest option (7600gs/54Mps/+1bg/Slimtower/Desktop 700) it'll be a total of ~370$/275€.
And the most expensive would be (x1950pro/N650/+1gb/LC17/MS Remote) ~677$/502€.

So what do you think? Is it worth the effort and money? Or shouldn't I even bother with it? Your thoughts and suggestions?
May 30, 2007 4:26:27 PM

first off you need dual HDMI for 1080p {I think}
your current pc would make a good HTPC, but HD-HTPC?

the old computer is Ideal for turning into a media center your not really going to be doing to many things at once. Do you have the vsync on your current video card and is it hooked up to the TV using DVI or Svideo.

Start by just keeping it in the living room, see if you like it for what it does.

You don't have to do it all at once.

Don't know if an AGP version of the 2400 is going to be released so I don't know if you can get this HD setup with your current hardware.

I'm looking forward to H.264 encoding / decoding
http://www.elecard.com/technology/avc-dxva.php
May 30, 2007 4:52:14 PM

I don't see a listing for a tv tuner card. You'll probably want one of those. My 9600xt handled high resolutions and 720p without a problem, are you sure you need a new vid card? And unless you don't have extra slots, I would stick with the soundcard, they ALWAYS sound better than onboard. Look at cases with 120 mm fans if at all possible, they are naturally quieter. I'm using a Silverstone lc-20, and the 80 mm fan I put on it is still noisier than any of my 120's.
Related resources
May 30, 2007 4:59:27 PM

If you are planning on watching HD video then you are probably going to want to get an 8000 series Geforce because of their h.264 decoding abilities. However this will require you getting a new motherboard or waiting for an AGP version which may never come.
a b B Homebuilt system
May 30, 2007 5:10:01 PM

I'm also kicking around the idea of turning my #2 computer into an HTPC. From my own research, I have found this excellent guide that will give you some good tips:

http://www.extrememhz.com/htpcguide-p1.shtml

Here are my own tips:

I would suggest getting a case that does not include a PSU, but can take a full size ATX PSU and throw a Seasonic in there. Also, many cases come bundled with a remote, so you can save money. One case that I would LOVE to get is made by Moneual and is bundled with a keyboard and remote, but very expensive (~$400). From all the reviews I've read, Silverstone seems to be the winner when it comes to cooling/price/quality.

I've read many tutorials on HTPC's that highly recommend nVidia cards over ATI because they are much easier to correct overscanning. I'm personally looking at getting the passive cooled Gigabyte 8500GT HDCP card so hopefully I can upgrade to Blu-Ray or HD-DVD in the future (HDCP required). If you plan to game, however, a stronger card would be required and AGP will limit your options.

There are two new tuner cards out now that have a combination of HD and standard definition antenna inputs: AverMedia M780 and Hauppauge HVR-1600. The M780 is PCIe, so it won't work for you, but you can save money by getting the HVR-1600 instead of two separate tuners.

What OS do you plan to run on this setup? If you decide on Windows XP, you can use the free GBPVR and save, or you can get either MCE 2005 or Vista Premium, both of which have built in media centers.

I'm looking forward to see what you end up building. Post back what you decide on.
May 30, 2007 5:37:48 PM

I do not see the point in spending $100+ for a video card for an HTPC, when you can buy a motherboard with an HDMI connector and HD video decoder built in for less than that. Buy that motherboard (search newegg) and buy a X2 3600 and a couple small stix of ram and you'll be set. Hell you could go with a sempron and 256 mb if you want to get really cheap about it.
May 30, 2007 8:41:10 PM

Just judging from some software I have (SnapStream Media's BeyondTV), the minimum processor for HDTV is P4 2.5GHz or equivalent. Since that's the minimum, I'm thinking you really want something around 2.8-3.0GHz.

Does a HD TV card offload the processing from the CPU? I understand the ATI Wonder650 is one of the better HD cards out there.

And you only need one HDMI for 1080p.
May 30, 2007 8:52:39 PM

Quote:
Does a HD TV card offload the processing from the CPU?


The 8500-8600 series from nVidia offloads nearly all the work from the CPU.
May 30, 2007 9:51:12 PM

so the current computer is no good for HD :cry: 
the I's have it

so new computer time. 8)
May 31, 2007 12:15:33 AM

for comparison, here is what I have:

250gb + 350gb HD
barton core Sempron 2400+
2x512 ddr
Dfi matx
enermax 300W
2x Hauppauge mce150
sapphire 9250 agp 128mb passive cooling
dvd burner

I connected to my 720p max resolution 32 inch LCD via agp connection for best resolution.

My system is loud though since I'm using stock cooler.

All your components are more powerfull than mine so you should be fine.
my system plays 1080 res. divx HD files with a little bit of stuttering but still quite watchable.

I did barebones install of mediacentre. No games, apps, no antivirus, adaware etc... so that max amount of resources reserved for the computers intended purpose
May 31, 2007 6:58:27 PM

Quote:

my system plays 1080 res. divx HD files with a little bit of stuttering but still quite watchable.

:?

stutstutstutstuttering = not that fun. :( 
me too. :oops: 
June 1, 2007 1:50:53 AM

wow thanks for the replies so far ^^ I'll try to answer them as best as I can.

@utaka95:
I have a older tv tuner card but most swedish television isn't worth recording :p  at least in SD, and the HD chanels are still quite expensive. Some 720P videos that I've watched worked pretty well, but some are horrible :/  guess it might be bad encoding.

@fredgiblet:
Is a decoder card THAT important? But I'll only wait for dx10 cards for so long. But don't the gf7 and x1k cards any h.264 hw acc?

@rwpritchett:

Nice guide... thanks for the tip. I want to stick with that I have for as long as possible (less cost = more money on my new computer ^^). If the HD2k series get released on AGP I think I'll go with those as audio on HDMI eliminates some cables and that's a very good think IMO. As for gaming... it's only a plus. As for gaming now I just want C&C3 to work at 30fps, I can't do that with my current setup.
As I mentioned earlier I won't bother with a tv tuner card as long as there arn't anything worth recording on swedish tv. I'll be using WinXP.
It may take a while before I do this as I don't know when I'll buy my new computer yet ;P.

@shadowmaster625:
Well that beats the whole point in my thread. I started this thread because I want reuse my current parts. I can't reuse any of my current parts with a new mobo. But if I wanted to build a new HTPC I'd probably do that.

@smelly_feet:
Odd my computer don't play 1080P videos well at all. I must be doing something wrong :p 
!