What components do i need to build this htpc?

I have built several computers in the past and have a Gig network and wireless N in my house on an Active Directory domain.

I currently have a old half height Dell as a HTPC running Vista Ult. 32. that I want to replace.

I want to build a new HTPC that can do/has the following:

- Display 1080p through HDMI (or DVI to HDMI) to my Mitsubishi 55" 1080p DLP
- Optical Audio out to my 5.1 surround sound Sony Audio system
- Play both DVD and BlueRay (if possible)
- Store all my ripped DVD library and allow me to browse and playback. (Which software is best for this?)
- Work as a DVR to replace my Cox HDTV DVR
- Has a nice silver color HTPC case
- Will be running Vista Ult. 32 or 64

Which CPU/Mobo is the best?
2GB of RAM enough?
Mirrored 1TB drives? What is the best Mobo for this?
Which TV capture card can record Cox HDTV? How does it work with a cable box?
Onboard video/sound or no?
I also have a Gigabyte GeForce 7800 with a Zalman cooler on it that I can use.

Any help would be great, especially with the DVR part as I am not sure how the Capture card/remote works for capturing encoded channels..

Thank you!
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  1. I'd look for a motherboard with an AMD 780G northbridge (native HDMI output) to match with a dual core AMD AM2 processor and at least 2 Gig of RAM. Many (if not all) of these boards have an optical audio out as well.

    As an example:

    For Blu-Ray/DVD Playback, your need a Blu-Ray Drive (preferable internal). While not overly knowledgeable about these, I suspect, the larger the cache, the easier the playback, so I'd recommend one with at least a 4MB cache. Most drives will come with some software for playing blu-ray discs, but I've heard that you may need to purchase the full version of the included software to play all blu-ray discs. Definitely check into that. The 780G (and 790FX, I believe) Northbridge motherboard, when paired with a minimal dual core processor, is more than sufficient for HD playback of blu-ray discs. No additional graphics card needed.

    Storing your ripped DVD library is going to depend on how many movies and what size files they are. My ripped movies (at 0 additional compression to DivX) are generally 1.2 GB is size. Fortunately, my limited library only takes up 1/3rd of my 500GB Media drive. I would certainly recommend some sort of back-up procedure as that many movies takes a LONG time to re-rip. As far as playback, I just use MCE2005 and Vista (premium/ultimate). When paired with an MCE Remote and Keyboard (like this set) it's very easy for me to browse through either my movie or music library as well as watch the big football game on the big screen (projector).

    Off the top of my head, I don't know of any TV Capture Cards that will accept an HD signal. All the ones I've seen so far just have a composite or RF input. For my system, I use an HD TV Tuner Card, but still allow the cable box (Comcast in my case) to do the signal descramble. This, in essence, turns the TV Tuner card into nothing more than a fancy capture card, but I get all the non-clear QAM channels as well (when hooked up to the cable box output). An IR Blaster that comes with some remotes allows you to change the cable box channel using the MCE remote. It's not Hi-Def, but there are tuner cards that have component (vs RF or composite) inputs.

    The case, I'm going to have to leave up to you, but things to look for are motherboard compatibility (ATX, mATX, USB Connections), case cooling (how many fans, what size, noise level, and placement), and drive bays (how many external for optical drives, how many internal for hard drives). Also look to make sure your blu-ray drive tray will not conflict with the drive bay on the case.

    Hope this helps

    -Wolf sends
  2. +1 to Wolf's suggestions!! Very detailed and I probably couldn't have said it better myself!
    Here's an AMD 4850e 45w CPU that will work for your situation. Just pair it up with a 780g or 790gx chipset and your set! Low power and should be pretty quite too!
    Couple of Antec HTPC cases to consider. There are others, so depending on budget, we can find others to fit your particular budget.
  3. I just thought I'd chime in and also suggest GeForce 8200/8300 motherboards to broaden your selection beyond 700G/790GX. 2GM RAM is enough for an HTPC. All of wolf's info is good advice.

    I personally convert DVD's to x264 mkv files and wolf uses divX. Look into this conversion process. This will allow you to really cram a lot of movies into your HTPC. For ripped DVD playback, I suggest you look into the MyMovies 2 plugin for VMC. It can playback compressed mkv, divX, etc too.

    I just made the jump to blu-ray on my HTPC 2 weeks ago and can share some of the teething pains. Most BD drives come with powerdvd software to play movies. I've read many reviews online about the version that comes with OEM drives being crippled and not allowing 5.1 audio to be enabled. I bought my blu-ray drive retail (black friday deal) and the powerdvd that came with it (v7.3) was not crippled in any way... maybe because it was a retail version?? I don't know. It worked OK... a little buggy, but I eventually switched to Arcsoft's Total Media Theatre for blu-ray playback because it integrates into VMC as well as the previously mentioned MyMovies plugin. Here are some coupon codes for Arcsoft TMT.

    You need to research whether or not Cox has clear QAM in your area. Tuning into QAM can be a real tricky business, so you might need to play around with it. You may need an IR blaster to record everything in which case you'll still need the Cox box. Also, do you plan to run Vista with TV Pack 2008 installed?

    Good luck on your HTPC build.
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