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CPU / graphics card for HTPC

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February 8, 2009 12:44:22 AM

I am in the process of reconfiguring my htpc and am in need of some advice. Due to financial reasons I have been forced to get rid of my Q6600 and 9800gt that I used to have in my htpc. What I am looking for now is a CPU and graphics card to replace these componants. My budget is £200 max, although if i can get away with spending less thats great.

My only criteria are this:
- they must be able to handle 1080p
- I would like the htpc to feel reasonably responsive
- assuming that 1200p isn't too far away, I would like the parts to be reletivley future proof.

I have been looking and reading reviews and am tempted by an E5200 (2x2.5ghz - 12.5 multi - 800fsb) due to its low fsb and high multiplier. I have a gygabyte ga-31m-s2l motherboard and so am limited to lga775 only. So,

- would this chip cut it?
- if not, would overclocking to 3ghz (or higher) give a nice speed boost, in terms of media playback only? I have a 3rd party heatsink btw.

I have also been looking at graphics cards. Now, the motherboard has intel gma3100 built in - is that any good for hi-def playback - im guessing not. The amount of low end graphics cards has overwhelmed me really. Do i go nvidia and get a 9400, 9500gt, 9600gso (384, 768 or 512 - and yes i know about bios flashing the 512mb version to an 8800gts) or save cash and get an older architecture - say, 8600 or 8500? Or, do I go ATI and get a 4350, 4550, 4650 or 4670? I'm not biased either way. And the board only has one PCI-E slot, so no SLI/Crossfire.

I don't need the htpc to be a monster, luckily I have an i7 for that :) , but i do want it to feel reletively responsive, and be able to cope with hi-def playback. My PSU is 550W - so more than enough for a low power GPU.

Thanks in advance for any help,

More about : cpu graphics card htpc

February 8, 2009 1:02:40 AM

Generally I like my HTPC to be quiet. Currently, my favorite picks for a cool-running, quiet, and relatively inexpensive setup that's still capable of performing the tasks at hand would be the ATI 4350 and a Celeron e1500 cpu. At least for Intel. AMD also has some interesting options.
The e5200 should be able to perform the tasks needed at stock clocks. For only $10 more than the celeron, it is a good upgrade if you should choose it.
February 8, 2009 2:15:21 PM

Thanks joefriday. I think i'll get the e5200, as it is only marginally more expensive, and should be very overclockable should the need arise.

Does an ATI 4350 have enough poke to warrant upgrading from the GMA 3100, and can if cope with blu-ray playback easily? I only ask because I have an old powerbook G4 and that can't even manage 720p with its graphics adapter.
Related resources
February 10, 2009 4:59:59 AM

the following article shows the 4550 in action. The 4350 should be quite similar:
http://www.xbitlabs.com/articles/video/display/media-pl...

According to Intel's site concerning the G31 igp, it is possible that it may be adequate enough to provide stutter free blue ray playback, especially when couple with the e5200, so it may be wise to try it out before investing in a discrete graphics card.
February 10, 2009 7:33:20 AM

For a HTPC?

Sorry but none of the cards listed will last you till next gen HD (2160p) for a decent frame rate, don't forget that 1200p is already here, as is 1600p. Not even dual DVI can reach 2160p, the only cable I know that supports 2160p is displayport 1.2.

For cooling, the best bet between low temps and low noise is the akasa nero but that may be to big for a htpc. trying looking at scythe's heatsinks as they seem to give the best noise results.

And then you should be good for overclocking as your mobo supports 1600fsb when oc'd so you should be set, once a graphics card with displayport 1.2 comes out.
February 11, 2009 1:04:23 PM

Thanks guys. @ joefriday - yes testing the chipset for blu-ray playback without a graphics card installed would be the most logical way of determining if i need a graphics card or not. I'll try that out.

helloworld_98, thanks for your reply. I had no idea 1600p even existed, maybe us Brits havn't caught up with you guys over the pond yet. Would love to watch a film with that kind of resolution :) 

I assume that in order to watch the upcoming 2160p resolution your TV will need to be fitted with a pisplayport connector, which my tv does not have. This pretty much rules out getting a graphica card with displayport since i'd also need to upgrade my tv, which I don't have the cash to do.

What card would you reccomend for a HTPC able to play 1200p, or possibly 1600p? Or shuld I just stick with integrated untill displayport becomes more prevalent?

I have a thermaltake cooler fitted. Its ok, not too noisy and runs cool enough for me. I know its not in the same league as the akasa nero, but it'll do. And you're correct, my MB does take a 1600fsb, which should allow for a nice overclock on an e5200.

Thanks for your help again.
February 11, 2009 1:06:10 PM

Lol, I meant displayport, not pisplayport!
!