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Building Core i7 HTPC, which mobo is best?

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January 14, 2010 4:30:10 AM

I'm rebuilding my HTPC, and am trying to decide on which mobo to get. I've had good experiences with my current Asus one and Asus mobo's tend to get generally good reviews, so I've decided to stick with Asus for this. I want to use the Core i7 960 3.2 GHz processor, and it'll be running Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit. My main concern is the speed of the PCIe slots, as it needs to run 2, maybe 3, cards: a graphics card (preferably with HDMI), a Ceton CableCard quad-tuner, and potentially a ClearQAM TV tuner. Ceton's card hasn't been released yet (Feb sometime), but they recommend an x16 slot, and the other tuner is my current tuner that, if there's room, I'd like to put in my rebuilt system. I'm trying to decide between the P6T6, P6T7, P6X58D, and the P6T (not sure which flavor: standard, SE, Deluxe, etc., but they all seem similar), maybe even the Rampage II Extreme. I haven't chosen a graphics card yet, as it depends on what I have room for, and I haven't done much research yet (prob Nvidia), and the RAM'll prob be some 1333 DDR3, just don't know which yet.

So, which board would be the best for my purposes? The P6T6 & P6T7 have more x16 slots, but can I really run 3 cards all at x16? Also, the P6T7 is a CEB form factor rather than ATX. I haven't heard of CEB, what's the difference? The P6X58D has the newer USB 3.0 & SATA 6GB/s, but only runs PCIe at x16/x8/x8 or x16/x16/x1. But I can skip using the extra TV Tuner if these are worth it. And, while I'm asking, does a video card with HDMI output actually output sound with the video?

If anybody can make some reccomendations on these boards, I'd really appreciate it. Sorry for so many questions, I'm just not sure exactly what the best route to follow is. Thanks!
January 14, 2010 4:55:16 AM

If this is going to be JUST a HTPC you are spending WAAAAAAAAY too much money. A simple dual core system is more than enough for home theater. IF you play on doing a lot of video editing then going i7 makes sense, but you should be looking at an i7 920 and overclocking it rather than the 960. To answer your question about MB...since you don't plan on building a Tesla computer or gaming rig there is little point to the more expensive MBs. An Asus P6t SE or vanilla is more than enough for your needs. When the tv tuner makers say you need a x16 slot, they are using that to describe the type of pcie slot you need, not that it really needs to be running at that speed for the card. Most of those cards will work just as well in an x1 or x4 configuration. Unless you plan on doing gaming you won't need a powerful video card...something like the HD4650 will work fine and be able to carry audio over HDMI without extra wiring to the card. Some Nvidia cards can carry sound over HDMI, but you have to wire the internal sound to the card before it will work.
January 14, 2010 8:50:35 PM

Ok, thanks for the suggestion!

Is there a significant difference between the P6T, P6T SE, and P6T Deluxe? They all look to have pretty much the same specs, to me.

As for why I chose i7, it's not just a plain HTPC that only needs to play TV & DVD's. I also need it to do photo and video editing, as well as be able to run engineering programs like MATLAB and CAD software. My current set up is a Core 2 Duo, and it's great when I'm just watching TV, but if I try to do anything else, while Media Center is running, then I tend to run into issues. The video editing is a big part of why I want to go with the i7.

I'm not too experienced with OCing either. I tried it with my current machine, and never got a stable system to work, so I just went back to the standard speed. (I suspect that my issue might have been RAM, but could never figure it out.) How difficult will it be to OC the 920?

Finally, for the video card, what manufacturer is the HD4650? Would that be sufficient for something like MS Flight Sim or XPlane? I'm not specifically designing it for this, but I'm working on getting my instrument rating on my pilot's license, and flight sims like those two are actually really great practice for it.

Again, thanks for the help!!! I really appreciate it!
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January 15, 2010 1:19:33 AM

There are slight differences in the P6t boards, but nothing too major that should affect you for your needs. The most significant is the SE version only supports crossfire and NOT sli.
Since you are doing video editing the i7 does make sense. It is very easy to OC...in fact the Asus boards come with an automated OCing utility if you don't want to get your hands dirty in the bios, but I would recommend reading a couple of OCing guides and giving it a try. It is very easy to get to 4.0ghz with good aftermarket cooling. I suggest the Hyper 212 plus
http://www.newegg.com/Product/NewProduct.aspx?Item=N82E...
Another thing I suggest to make the OC a little smother is to get 1600mhz ram, it will give you more headroom when overclocking.
Also, one last suggestion, if you plan on multitasking while video editing, you will probably want to max out your ram to 12gb.

For the video card, the 4650 is made by ATI, and is fine for video editing and media, but not a good gamer. I'm not familiar with your flight sims, but MOST are really CPU intensive, and don't need a high end card. I would change my recommendation to a 250 GTS made by Nvidia since it has Cuda and PhysX which might be handy for some programs you'll be running that are optimized for those features.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/NewProduct.aspx?Item=N82E...
January 15, 2010 6:35:18 PM

Ok, thanks! I'll go with the 920 and try OCing it, then. Last time I got tripped up by the RAM, not sure if I didn't get the the speeds matched properly, but I ended up having to go get a slower RAM to have a stable system. Is there a certain manufacturer that I should go with? And I'm definitely going to get 12GB.

Since I'm not planning on using multiple graphics cards, does it matter if the mobo supports crossfire or SLI?

That cooler looks exactly like the one I currently have, but it's not the same brand. Mine's Rocketfish (Best Buy's own brand). Do you know if Cooler Master rebrands for distributors?

Again, thanks so much for the reccomendations!
January 15, 2010 6:50:23 PM

buying a couple of 6gb kits at the same time should result in compatible ram. For overclocking you'll want the 1600mhz ram...something like this
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
You can adjust the ram speed and timings on any of the boards, just remember when you OC that will also be overclocking the ram, so make your adjustments accordingly.

No need for either xfire or sli if you are not going to use multiple video cards.

I'm not sure who makes rocketfish for best buy, but there are several similar looking coolers on the market. Unfortunately you cannot tell much from looks when it comes to coolers....what really matters is the contact area and cooling pipes, which are not obvious just by looking at the aluminum fins. You could always try the cooler you have, and if you don't get the results you want move on the the Hyper 212.
!