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What to choose for a homebuilt htpc/media center?

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July 16, 2009 7:05:36 PM

hi

the Acer Aspire Revos or the Asrock Ionstar 330 ION hardware have their merit - a relatively cheap, relatively silent, relatively complete package.

BUT - if i understand correctly - the hardware nvidia video acceleration does not support flash videos (for example the youtube and megavideo HD stuff), and this can be a nuisance.

I was wondering if doing something homebuilt can provide better cpu-based performance while staying on the inexpensive side, while - that seems the hardest part - preserving low noise.

it seems impossible to get an almost silent(*) PSU for less than 150€ (and they are low-powered - around 300-400W - and pretty hard to find, anyway )

(*) a quasi-passive solution seems the way to go - on my main machine i have a rather good unit with a 120cm fan, and still i'm bugged by the low whisper)

finding a passive heatsink for the cpu seem nearly as hard and expensive, and one's tempted to throw in the case a fan to avoid fires :-)

just the heat dissipating hardware seem to easily sum up to 300€ (read $, it's almost the same if you don't count european taxes :-) ), then there's the case (real hdtv boxes are pretty expensive), etc.

in the end: is it really possible to build a nearly silent pc with off-the-shelf hardware that doesn't spark combustions in the living room but powerful enough to play megavideo HD stuff for under 700-800€ ?

do 400-500€ laptops make more sense for hd use? aren't they noisy when playing full hd content, after all?

the operating system i'm thinking about is either ubuntu or another linux distribution.

thank you in advance :) 
July 17, 2009 4:58:53 AM

have you taken a look at some of AMD/ATI's stuff. If i remember right, the 780G chipset is great for video stuff, it doesnt need a video card to do Blu-Ray playback. They are also very low power. So something like an AMD Athlon II X2 250, which has a 65W thermal and runs at 3.0GHz plus a 780G motherboard would run very well, with a very low power. Depending on where you put the computer, having a power supply with a 120/140mm fan will be unheard. Also, since the AMD processor is relatively low power, you can cool that passively. At most, a 120mm fan will add some comfort.
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July 17, 2009 6:42:03 AM

What form factor are you aiming for, or does it matter?
July 17, 2009 9:14:29 AM

the last resort said:
have you taken a look at some of AMD/ATI's stuff. ...

This is one place that I look look at an AMD system.

Then you underclock it so that it is just fast enough to play HD video.
July 17, 2009 5:54:18 PM

actually, the athlon x2 5050e can do that with 45w thermal
July 17, 2009 8:51:50 PM

thank you all for your replies!

am i understanding it right? is the 5050e able to play - say - megavideo HD videos without hiccups?


(in the meantime, i'm monitoring this thread, interesting for homebuilt systems too: http://bugs.adobe.com/jira/browse/FP-1152 - they are asking adobe to improve flash support for hardware acceleration)

the form factor: i would like to avoid micro/mini/tower cabinets, and i'm primarily aiming to microatx desktops (or smaller systems).

unfortunately living in europe (living in italy) means much less choice: hardware-wise, we get almost all of the most standard stuff, but anything slightly considered out of the ordinary is terribly hard to find - and tigerdirect iirc - as most of the electronics shops in the US - doesn't ship overseas. anyway thanks for the hint, ill' be putting it into good use looking for inspiration and good ideas ;) 

again, thanks everyone for the hints!
July 18, 2009 12:21:28 AM

Yes the 5050e should do fine for an HTPC, another option would be to get a cheap Intel or AMD CPU like an E5200 or 5200+ and undervolt and downclock it. Video playback doesn't require much from the CPU, even megavideo HD videos.
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