Old Presario -> HTPC

I just a hold of an older Presario SR1403WM
http://h10025.www1.hp.com/ewfrf/wc/document?docname=c00257657&lc=en&cc=pe&dlc=es&product=501310 and want to tweak it into a low level HTPC. I'll hopefully be hooking it up to an HDTV, although I'm not hoping to get HD content out of the PC.

What I'd like to do with the computer is to hook up to an HDTV to - steam video online via Netflix, play DVDs. That's it :)

With those requirements in mind, I've started thinking about tweaking the rig but would really appreciate any help you guys can offer. Obviously my budget is limited (otherwise I'd just build a new HTPC) and I'd like to keep costs under $100.

I figure I'll add a 1GB of RAM http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820161627 and a video card http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814161080.

What do you guys think?
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  1. First, and most important, look inside the computer to physical see if you actualy have an AGP slot, and not just a spot for it on the motherboard. its amazing what corners OEMs will cut.

    look for a used video card, ebay, craig's list etc. nVidia made the 7900 in AGP.

    ATI and nVidia had (and probably have) guides to tell what features what cards have in regaurd to movie playback (one reasson I went with my 7900gs instead of a 7600gt).

    you might be able to get HD content out of your old PC.

    if your TV is lacking a digital tuner, think about geting a tuner card for it too.

    you could build a new one for $200
    the OBG of the AMD 780g chipset can handle HD, for under $90, throw on a $60 CPU and DDR2 and your good to go. keep that in mind before you blow too much in your antique.
  2. one more thing.
    I think the AMD 754 based systems didn't use dual channel memory controlers (I may be way off), so spend the extra $4 and get 1x1gig instead of 2x 512. then leave an old chip there for more total memory, or leave it blank for room to upgrade, or just have a bigger chip to sell in the future when you sick of that computer.
  3. Thanks for the replies groo.

    I've opened up the case and the mobo definitely has an AGP slot, so I'm good to go on that front.

    I also went through the BIOS and found out that the memory installed is PC 3200 DDR SDRAM. I did some checking online and I think you're right about the 754 socket and not being able to run in dual channel. So I'll go with the 1GB stick instead of 2x 512s. Thanks for that tip.

    My final concern is still about the video card. I've played around with the system a bit. I've played DVDs and streamed videos with 0 problems so far, even with the current configuration. So for the video card, I'm hoping to go low budget to gain a little performance and gain a DVI out, so that I can hook into HDMI input.

    Here's my thoughts on cards:

    Radeon 9550 http://www.newegg.com/product/product.aspx?item=N82E16814161080
    or
    GeForce 6200 http://www.newegg.com/product/product.aspx?item=N82E16814150107

    I like the 6200 better for two reasons. 1) It seems to be geared towards my goals 2) With the low profile, I could fit it into the custom case that I want to build more easily.
  4. My current system is based on a 6150 mobo, basicly 6200 graphic onboard. It can handle TV, maybe HDTV, but not 1080p.

    I still say, look for a used video card.

    they used to make 754 socket mobos based on the nvidia 6100 chipset (pretty much the same as the 6200 your looking at).
    you might find one for about the same price as the grafix card, and that would give PCIe for the future.
    Albatron made a 6100 based miniITX board for the 754, if you want to go real small in the future.

    I don't realy know much about AGP cards beside the fact that when I bought one, I chose bad.
  5. If you are already playing DVDs and streaming video successfully, then I don't know how much good the 9550 is going to do for you. What inputs does your HDTV have? What rez is it? What rez does each input support?

    There is a small difference between VGA and DVI-D / HDMI, but other differences (native resolution vs. scaled, HQV rendering vs. basic, screen quality, sound immersion) will have a more substantial impact on your viewing and gaming experiences. IIRC, the "entry point" for getting high scores for HQV rendering was an ATi 2600 Pro, and there were some shortcomings but better gaming from the NV 8600. With anything less, you will get so little more than what you already have, it might not be worth the trouble.

    Now if you're connecting to your HDTV over S-Video, OTOH, then by all means switch to a technology that supports your TV's native rez. S-Video isn't even able to support full-resolution DVD output.
  6. I'm planning on plugging the PC into this TV http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16889104087 or something very similar to it.

    To be honest, this HTPC project is as much about the fun of building it, as it is about performance of the thing. If, however, I can get decent performance/HDTV output from the computer for under a hundred bucks, then all the better. I don't have any hopes of gaming on this PC, the one in my sig is what I use, but if I can get a fun, cheap HTPC project that will look decent on an HDTV outta the computer, that's all I'm shooting for.

    How much do those new perspectives change things? Would the output from either of the video cards I listed have an impact on the viewing experience?

    I guess the biggest catch, is that I'd like to have the best performance I can get for under $100. Which I understand severely limits my options :) On second thought... maybe I should just build this into a crappo HTPC, wait a few months and then fund a new rig (having saved 100 by not upgrading this POS). It'd keep me entertained at least :) Then all I'd need is a D-Sub to TV cable.

    The biggest savings I could get from cannibalizing this Presario would be the XP code (sadly the computer didn't come with the XP reinstall CD) and the DVD player. The PSU (250W), RAM (outdated) and HDD (about to die) are all crap.
  7. The rub is that I could build a brand-spanking-new HTPC for ~$400. But I wonder if I would really gain much performance from it compared to the POS I have now. Food for thought :)
  8. I don't have any knowledge of a "D-Sub to TV cable". If it puts out 1080p or 1080i component without altering the resolution characteristics of your analog video signal, then I still say you won't see much benefit from the 9550.

    One alternative would be to get a TV that supports 1080p via VGA input. They do exist, and that might solve your problem in a different way. It all depends on how attached you are to the Philips being your TV selection.

    I would still encourage 6.1 or 7.1 sound capabilities before a 9550 for that rig, if you're using it to watch DVDs on a 42" screen.
  9. Thanks for all the advice guys. After a bit of thinking, I've decided to forgot my POS HTPC aspirations :) It's just really not worth the money, especially when for a bit more coin, I could put together a really nice lil HTPC that will handle HD content like a champ.

    Thanks for putting up with the questions and thought process :)
  10. we've all had similar bright ideas from time to time. The best thing about these forums is the shot of reality.

    you can probably sell your POS for $100. that, plus you $100 saved has you half way to you goal or further.

    The hot HTPC setup is the AMD 780G chipset. All of them I've look at have an HDMI output. it has basicly an ATI 2400 for on board graphics, and can handle 1080p with a pretty low end processor. It also does the hybris crossfire with add on low end cards (2400 or 3400). It also fully suport the AM2+ slot. I'm just giving a few more manufactures a chance to release boards before buying myself. Gigabyte's version is the best out there now. Good bios, and apparently OCing the OBG 70+% is pretty easy. Asus looks similar but a little worse. ECS looks cheap. I want to see the MSI and J&W versions.
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