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Any heat related problems with HTPC case?

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October 21, 2008 7:55:57 PM

I am building a new HTPC. It will consist of a Gigabyte GA-X48-DS4, a Q9550, ATI 4850, 4 gig ram and 2-1TB sata drives and 1-bluray drive (yet to be determined)

I am considering a few different case options, I think my preference would be to run it in an HTPC case but i have some concerns over heat. If i use an HTPC case it will likely be in an enclosed cabinet which will just add to the problems. Is it a really bad idea to consider this option? or do these run pretty cool? Also, think a 750W PS is overkill? I was thinking of grabbing the Corsair CMPSU-750TX but was unsure if it was overkill for what i am planning.

Any help would be appreciated.

Qweez
October 21, 2008 8:19:24 PM

Okay if your going to be in an inclosed cabinet, your just asking for problems. The 4850 is a nice GPU, but needs decent cooling (fan speed adjusted) to keep it happy. Now generally if your building a HTPC you won't need a Quad core CPU or a x48 mobo, let alone a 750w PSU (but the PSU is a good selection normally anyway!!!).
* HTPC mobo's are usually mini(micro) ATX mobo's because of size.
* Onboard GPU is plenty these days for playing any movies (AMD 780g as a minimum)
* Duo Core CPU's (2.2 ghz or better) is all that you really need for smooth video playback.
* 2 gb's of DDR2 is all you need for smooth playback.
* Even a 380w Antec Earthwatts PSU is plenty for the above requirements.
* 2x1TB hard drives is a very good idea for lots of videos!!!

With the above situation you won't need what your proposing. Now if your going to do some gaming other than Oblivion than you will want to upgrade your GPU.
October 21, 2008 8:58:22 PM

^Agreed.

My HTPC is in an entertainment center with only about 1cm clearance on the sides (where the air intakes are), about 4cm clearance on the top, and 2-3cm on the bottom. It has a passively cooled video card and TV tuner that each put out some modest heat. It also has an AMD Brisbane that idles about 30-35°C but I've seen it get up to 65°C when I'm encoding video (5-8hrs of 100% on both cores). This is all housed in a traditional style HTPC case with quiet, but slow moving, fans running.

So, in short you may want to rethink the hot graphics card and quad core. If you do decide to get the HD4850, get one of the HIS ICEQ 4 cards that pushes the air out of the case, though you will lose the slot next to the PCIe-16x. And if you do go for a quad core, make sure you get a HSF that allows you to push air towards some exhaust fans.
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October 21, 2008 9:00:12 PM

First, the best design for a case is one which uses a Heatsink-Fan (HSF) combo that blows the air directly out the side of the case rather than into the case first. I like the idea of the Shuttle designs which allow the graphics card to blow air out the side.

The graphics card still makes some noise. If you are NOT going to play high-end games there are solutions with even lower graphics card power consumption such as integrated graphics. Ensure you get one with the hardware decoders for high-def and low-def MPEG2, H.264/AVC and VC-1.

NVidia now has a motherboard with integrated graphics which which are capable of turning OFF COMPLETELY the high-end PCI-e add-on graphics cards. It's called "Hybrid Power" I believe.

An ATI4850 probably uses about 25Watts in Idle power mode and close to 100Watts when fully used. The CPU, on the other hand will use less than 10 Watts in Idle mode. Even the dual-core Atom might be a good option for a non-gaming HTPC but motherboards are currently limited.

Power Supply: The 750W is a good choice. Power efficiency isn't going to be significantly different than say a 350W PSU and it means you have room to throw in a higher-end card later on.

HDMI:
This is very confusing. Most (or all) current HDMI outputs from graphics cards don't have full audio output. You have to TOGGLE the audio source. For example, a DVD or BluRay movie's audio is not sent to the video card it's simply routed out the HDMI dongle or HDMI output. It's a workaround to route the digital audio to the DVI-I output which normally just has pin-outs for Digital video and Analog video but now the digital HDMI audio pins are there (so the HDMI adapter or "dongle" only works with this card.) No audio from the audio card comes out this slot nor can both audio solutions be set to run at the same time in Windows. This setup makes no sense to me since it seems to require switching the audio source then rebooting to say, get BluRay audio then change in software and reboot again for Windows/gaming audio.

Also, except for a limited number of HDTV's, none have a PC-HDMI input meaning the HDMI input accepts only 480i, 480p, 720p, 1080i and 1080p inputs. There is NO resizing option such as 1024x768 for a video game. You must choose a single resolution and stick with it.

PC-VGA inputs only real disadvantage is that HDCP isn't supported so BluRay won't work (except a software workaround). One option is to have two separate inputs and use the TV/Video on your HDTV remote to toggle between your PC-VGA input or your HDMI input. It's not a bad idea actually until PC-HDMI is standard. However, unless there is an audio input which is grouped with an HDMI input on your HDTV you can't watch a BluRay movie without toggling audio solutions to the graphics HDMI output method, at least until all audio comes out the HDMI output. It may be possible there is a full HDMI output audio solution but I'm not aware of it.

Summary:
It can get confusing really fast. At this point if I was going to be watching a lot of BluRay movies I'd go with a Sony PS3. If you can, consider waiting a little while longer for something like a motherboard with Hybrid Power which has power-efficient graphics but sends ALL the audio out the same HDMI output. Also, at this point I'd go with Vista 64-bit.

If you can't wait, there are a lot of choices. You may even wish to look at the NVidia 9300 series which just came out. As for a good HTPC combo Gaming system, I think your component choices are excellent. If your HD4870 is in a normal case, leave the stock cooling intact to blow outside the case. If you can build a system in which the card is against the side, like Shuttle's solutions I'd consider the Arctic Cooling Accelero Twin Turbo.

http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/nvidia-nforce-730i,...
October 21, 2008 11:07:11 PM

Wow alot of good info there. I havent purchased the components yet so i think its time i look at this a little more closely. Would love to just use a mac mini with XBMC but im not completely sold on its ability to do 1080p.

Im going to do some research on the hybrid power. I dont mind waiting but id rather do it sometime this year and not next so I'll do some reading and see when to expect those boards.

Thanks
October 24, 2008 11:08:34 PM

This may be off topic but I figured this would be a good place to post it since it has the specs of the system i am probably going to get.

Ive decided to go ahead with all my components listed above and im plan on using this pc as a combination gaming/htpc/htpc server (to serve files to both XBMC and my PS3's) My question is regarding blu-ray ripping. What will be the largest load? cpu? video? will this unit struggle to rip blu-ray movies?

Also, In doing some research about hybrid power, i found a few links that refer to "the perfect HTPC motherboard" and list the ASUS P5E-VM HDMI. I like the idea of having hdmi onboard especially if its designed to do 1080p. I dont really care about audio over hdmi although it looks like they are having some minor success with ALSA. Does anyone have any experience with this board? Im looking to build a few HTPC computers that would run XBMC. I don't really care if it runs linux or windows, I will probably run linux since ive been running the linux flavor of XBMC for a few months and its been pretty damn stable for an Alpha release.
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