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CPU for an HTPC

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July 18, 2009 4:55:37 AM

I have slapped together many a computer over the years, especially thanks to what I have read in the forums here. I am now pondering putting together an HTPC, and while I have a good idea of what motherboard, memory etc to get I have no clue as to what CPU would be the best. And since the CPU will drive the motherboard selection, it's kind of important.

I am going to be using this to play Blue-Ray movies, stream movies from fearnet.com etc, and maybe play an old game or two like starcraft if I'm in the mood on a 46'' Samsung HDTV. I don't have a surround system now (my ex took took that) but I will in the not too distant future. Since I was planning on putting this in my entertainment center I am concerned about:
1) Heat in an enclosed space and
2) Noise
all while being able to appreciate hd/blueray/whatever. I don't mind spending a little bit more since I doubt there will be any huge advances in media in the near future.

I don't have a fanboism for AMD or Intel, so any suggestions or links to guides are appreciated. I was just getting frustrated because most guides and comments seemed to center around motherboards or graphics cards and ignored the processor! Thanks for any help!!!

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July 18, 2009 12:49:31 PM

One of AMD's Athlon X2 processors rated at 45W like the one ct1615 has provided a link too would work great.

Or for an Intel recommendation you could go with a Pentium Dual Core E5200.
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July 18, 2009 1:43:19 PM

I simply use CPUs that were formally in my primary PC. My first HTPC had an AMD Athlon XP 2600m CPU, my current HTPC has an Intel C2D E6600 since that was my previous primary PC CPU.

My next HTPC will have a C2Q Q9450 because that is the CPU in my current primary PC.
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July 18, 2009 4:13:14 PM

I agree with waiting on the new motherboards with the AMD 785g chipset.
Also here is one CPU that would go great with a HTPC.It is AMD's new low power quad core Phenom II series CPU the Phenom II 905e.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
Here is the tri core version which is a less expensive
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
Tom's had an article that featured the new low power quad cores and tri cores for an HTPC.It was also
http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/phenom-ii-x2,2324-3...
July 19, 2009 5:27:59 AM

Well I agree with ct1615 on those 45nm, 45W AMD chips for a HTPC.
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July 19, 2009 6:45:07 AM

What input on your HDTV will you use?

1) VGA-PC
2) HDMI
3) HCMI-PC

I'm assuming you'll use the normal HDMI (Video) input which means you need to set your computer to 1080p permanently (1920x1080). This also means it's your only resolution you can use which will cause problems for games.

If you have a VGA-PC input it might not be 1080p (maybe 1360x768). Anway, you can't use VGA for BluRay (Slysoft I think can bypass the HDCP to allow BluRay in VGA mode).

I know you're getting a Surround Sound system. Carefully think out how you want the audio and video to work before buying parts.

Get an audio card that supports AVC, MPEG2 and VC-1 decoding.

You should install the K-Lite codec pack and use WMPC-HC with DXVA enabled for the above three codecs. There are other programs you'll want of course but this should be installed.

There are several articles on building a HTPC around and one or two at Tomshardware. It can be tricky and you'll need to compromise.

My dad's laptop has an HP laptop with HDMI out and it can play all the video there is and is very quiet.
July 19, 2009 2:20:16 PM

I agree with the 905e I will be posting a short review of this proc at tR later this week.

I will also mention the alternatives.
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July 19, 2009 3:04:39 PM

I have built a few HTPC's and the old 3800+ X2 CPU is a good little workhorse for this sort of thing.

An X2 rated at about 2Ghz is enough to push HDTV at about a 20% CPU load on a DVICO or similar card. 45 watter would be great with a decent cooler (from a 6000+).

Couple of gigs of cheap ram and a good mobo with a decent IGP like the new 780 chipset or later is enough.

I did use an NVidia gigabyte passive heatpipe PCI-E card in one system - 6600 GPU . That seemed ok and was quiet and cool.

You want a small PC case with fairly quiet fans and focus on the whole thing not generating a heap of heat or noise.

Alternatively an E5 series cpu will be just as good.

Oh and put a big HDD in and partition a small boot drive (put a ghost image of that on the D drive when it's up and running ... then when some turkey stuffs it up you can re-image quickly. point the directory for recording to the second drive as well.


Good luck.
July 19, 2009 3:36:44 PM

I agree that if all you want to do is watch movies that is all you need but Games and encode/transcode are part of the game as well, otherwise get a PS3/360 as it is cheaper.
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July 20, 2009 2:35:07 AM

bosch1974 said:
I have slapped together many a computer over the years, especially thanks to what I have read in the forums here. I am now pondering putting together an HTPC, and while I have a good idea of what motherboard, memory etc to get I have no clue as to what CPU would be the best. And since the CPU will drive the motherboard selection, it's kind of important.

I am going to be using this to play Blue-Ray movies, stream movies from fearnet.com etc, and maybe play an old game or two like starcraft if I'm in the mood on a 46'' Samsung HDTV. I don't have a surround system now (my ex took took that) but I will in the not too distant future. Since I was planning on putting this in my entertainment center I am concerned about:
1) Heat in an enclosed space and
2) Noise
all while being able to appreciate hd/blueray/whatever. I don't mind spending a little bit more since I doubt there will be any huge advances in media in the near future.

I don't have a fanboism for AMD or Intel, so any suggestions or links to guides are appreciated. I was just getting frustrated because most guides and comments seemed to center around motherboards or graphics cards and ignored the processor! Thanks for any help!!!


You really don't need much for a CPU to play back video with a good modern IGP that has accelerated MPEG-4/H.264/VC-1 playback. That means a motherboard with an NVIDIA 8000/9000-series chipset, AMD 780G or 790GX chipset, or one with an Intel G45 chipset. I would probably go for the Athlon II X2 250 in a 780G board if I were you as the unit is very efficient at idle and the 780G is a great HTPC chipset. If you want to go the Intel route, a Pentium E5200 in a G45 board would work well, too.
July 20, 2009 3:07:50 PM


As can be seen above the 905e and 705e dont have the thermal issues as the other Tri and Quad procs making them just as viable as the standard X2.
July 21, 2009 2:25:23 AM

Sweet, thanks everyone for the input. I can wait another month or so for the new motherboard. It's good to know that I can drop in pretty much any AMD processor and be set. Thanks for all the replies!
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July 21, 2009 11:31:03 PM

Not a bad effort Archer !!
July 21, 2009 11:39:40 PM

Regarding G45, anyone got latest info on the situation of X4500HD and DxVA for H.264 and VC-1 (@1080p24) decoding? Which codec works and which doesn't etc.
Last I heard PDVD9 codec works, but still kinda buggy. What about MPCVideoDec.ax or the latest bundled with ffdshow(has DxVA support now)?
July 22, 2009 10:23:03 AM

AKM880 said:
@ wuzy

They seem to talk about it here
http://nunnally.ahmygoddess.net/watching-h264-videos-us...


Link not working. *shrugs*

I quick search and reading suggests the latest build of PowerDVD8 or 9 and Arcsoft codecs works fine with X4500HD. Apparently Intel's ClearVideo has a more proprietary DxVA to work Directfilter and softwares wishing to implant it will need to get help from Intel, which CyberLink and Arcsoft did.
!