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September 16, 2009 5:15:05 PM

I'm building an HTPC for my grandfather. Naturally, I wish it to be as cheap as possible, but I'm not willing to compromise on quality in any significant manner.

I've had bad experience with on-board graphics cards, even for 2D applications. In fact, it's been my experience that when a computer relies on an on-board graphics card, everything that has anything to do with displaying to the screen, grinds to a halt (that is, even scrolling down a web-page becomes an excruciating experience). As such, I would rather avoid those, unless I can be 100% guaranteed that this is no longer the case.

I am willing to buy a pre-built HTPC, if it's good and cheap enough. Barring that, here is my plan so far:

* Antec Fusion Remote (Black) - case and remote control. I am led to believe I will be able to turn the computer on and off with that remote.
* Cheap generic power supply. About 350W, I presume.
* 2GB of cheap DDR2 memory
* An E6600 processor, or something similar. Maybe an E8400.
* Some (preferably passively cooled) cheap video card that's capable of outputting 1920x1080 decently. Preferably with HDMI output, but that's not necessary, as I'm not sure I will be able to combine that with the audio.

Now, the part I'm having trouble with (but I'll most appreciate any input on the above) is the motherboard. It has to be:
1. microATX
2. Have an on-board audio solution.
3. An on-board network card.
4. In addition to the above-mentioned ethernet socket, built-in support for blue-tooth would be nice.
5. What's required of the motherboard for the remote control of my case (first bullet-point) to work? I have no idea how the IR-receiver is connected to the motherboard.

A penny for your thoughts.

More about : htpc

September 16, 2009 5:29:42 PM

you have the basics down with only 1 critical change. Don't get a cheap PSU to save money. "when you buy cheap, you buy twice"

Get a Corsair 400 watt PSU, they are inexpensive, but don't cut back on quality. Anything cheaper will only give you grief down the road.

Your parts list sounds fine for the application. Newegg even had some complete bundles a few days ago that would meet your needs very well if they are still around. If they are gone though, I'd recommend going with an AMD micro ATX bundle, AMD just released the first quad core that costs less than $100.

I wouldn't look too hard for onboard bluetooth. they make bluetooth dongles so small that they barely stick out past USB 2.0 ports now, and maybe cost $20. Otherwise, most mATX boards should have all of what you are asking.
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a b U Graphics card
September 16, 2009 6:25:46 PM

+1 to al of wathman's comments.

You may also want to look at these PSU's:

PC Power & Cooling 370W
Seasonic 350W
Antec Earthwatts 380W

To answer your remote question, yes the remote that comes with that case will be able to turn on the system (even if it is all the way off- you can tell by the 24-pin bridge cable included with the case). The IR receiver in the case will connect to one of the motherboard's internal USB connectors which are standard on all motherboards.
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a b U Graphics card
September 16, 2009 7:20:23 PM

Dorfl said:
I've had bad experience with on-board graphics cards, even for 2D applications. In fact, it's been my experience that when a computer relies on an on-board graphics card, everything that has anything to do with displaying to the screen, grinds to a halt (that is, even scrolling down a web-page becomes an excruciating experience). As such, I would rather avoid those, unless I can be 100% guaranteed that this is no longer the case.
How long ago was your experiance? What CPU & IGP were involved?

Since its soooo easy to add a video card in later - why not test one of the current crop of IGP before you commit to a discrete GPU.

Im sure you know that the remote for that Antec Fusion case will do a lot more than just turn the computer on or off.
(or more likely - send it to sleep mode).
(5) You can check out the Antec Fusion manual to see how the on/off functions are wired - plus a whole lot of other good info - such as independent reviews of the case.

(1,2,3,4) Audio and Ethernet included. BlueTooth - not so much. There were a few a while back but no current MBs that I know of have BlueTooth except for the new Intel P55 DP55KG Extreme board. USB Bluetooh adapter

AMD combo: Athlon II X2 250 3.0GHz AM3 & GIGABYTE GA-MA785GM-US2H AM3785G HDMI motherboard $136 IGP HD 4200

Intel Combo: Pentium E6300 Wolfdale 2.8GHz & GIGABYTE GA-G41M-ES2H G41 HDMI motherboard $153 IGP X4500 G45
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September 19, 2009 5:47:23 PM

WR2 said:
How long ago was your experiance? What CPU & IGP were involved?

Since its soooo easy to add a video card in later - why not test one of the current crop of IGP before you commit to a discrete GPU.

Im sure you know that the remote for that Antec Fusion case will do a lot more than just turn the computer on or off.
(or more likely - send it to sleep mode).
(5) You can check out the Antec Fusion manual to see how the on/off functions are wired - plus a whole lot of other good info - such as independent reviews of the case.

(1,2,3,4) Audio and Ethernet included. BlueTooth - not so much. There were a few a while back but no current MBs that I know of have BlueTooth except for the new Intel P55 DP55KG Extreme board. USB Bluetooh adapter

AMD combo: Athlon II X2 250 3.0GHz AM3 & GIGABYTE GA-MA785GM-US2H AM3785G HDMI motherboard $136 IGP HD 4200

Intel Combo: Pentium E6300 Wolfdale 2.8GHz & GIGABYTE GA-G41M-ES2H G41 HDMI motherboard $153 IGP X4500 G45


1. Should I be concerned about the south-bridge? Isn't ICH7 quite old?
2. Is the X4500 a strong enough video card (chip) to handle 1920x1080 without a hitch?
3. I assume the board must support wake-by-USB, or something similarly named, for the remote to be able to turn the computer on?
4. Which combo would you say is preferable?
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September 20, 2009 3:17:02 AM

I believe the GMA X4500/700HD is an Intel and the short word is, AVOID LGA775 AT ALL COSTS! Even if they're not planning to upgrade.
So I say the AMD build would be better or you can get the Intel LGA775 system and hope they release the i3 for it. (We'll find out Q2 2010~)

Here is a nice cheap passively cooled GPU -- $45.

Medo
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September 20, 2009 4:29:48 AM

This computer is for my grandpa's TV. I intend to SSH into it, manage the movies it stores, and have him watch them. There's no reason to upgrade to a future processor - a current one is more than enough. The only question is, how do I build a cheap system that serves his needs entirely - no hitches while playing. Will the GMA X4500HD suffice for that?
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a b U Graphics card
September 20, 2009 3:26:23 PM

Dorfl said:
1. Should I be concerned about the south-bridge? Isn't ICH7 quite old?
It shouldnt be an issue for your intended usage.
2. X4500 and E6300 is plenty strong enough for intensive video decoding such as you find in Blu-Ray video. X4500HD has extra hardware support to lower CPU usage for video decoding. It would a potential issue if you went with an older, slower CPU (single core P4 for example).
3. No. Refer to the Antec Fusion manual I linked above.
4. I personally think the X2 250 and 785 MB is the better option. HD 4200 vs X4500HD in video playback
You could go with a X4500HD G45 MB combo like Celeron E3200 Wolfdale 2.4GHz $55 and ECS G45T-M2 G45 Motherboard $90
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a b U Graphics card
September 20, 2009 3:29:31 PM

psycho sykes said:
AVOID LGA775 AT ALL COSTS!
775 is still a great choice for budget minded builders/owners. More 775 systems will be sold in 2010 than 1156 and 1366 combined (probably by a wide margin too).
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September 20, 2009 3:39:35 PM

You don't know yet!
Why is it just me who get told not to talk futuristic while others do :??:  ? (don't mean offense)
I read somewhere that i3 would be for LGA775 but Intel hasn't spoke a word yet.
I can't recommend the i5 for those uses but still can't recommend LGA775 and a AM3/2+ system would be enough.
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a b U Graphics card
September 20, 2009 3:51:23 PM

psycho sykes said:
You don't know yet!
Actually I do.
And if you add in laptop sales socket 775 will BLOW away all socket 1156/1366/AM3 combined sales.
The mid to high end computer market is a small percentage of overall computer systems.
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September 20, 2009 4:19:00 PM

Laptop?? He said HTPC so the cheaper semi-proofed AM3/2+ is better in my opinion than the almost EOL'ed LGA775 platform.

Edit --->> The AM3/2+ is for low-end market (currently)

Medo
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a b U Graphics card
September 20, 2009 4:32:17 PM

psycho sykes said:
Edit --->> The AM3/2+ is for low-end market (currently)
What is for the high end market? ;) 
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September 20, 2009 4:39:57 PM

i7 (currently), SkullTrail platforms, i9 (soon) and Thuban (soon~) :D 
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a b U Graphics card
September 20, 2009 4:46:49 PM

psycho sykes said:
i7 (currently), SkullTrail platforms, i9 (soon) and Thuban (soon~) :D 
Those are sockets? You are confusing yourself.
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a b U Graphics card
September 20, 2009 4:48:30 PM

psycho sykes said:
Edit --->> The AM3/2+ is for low-end market (currently)
Hint;
AM2/3 is for the high end market.
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September 20, 2009 4:50:44 PM

^^ i7 and i9 use the same socket. Skulltrial is available for LGA1366. Thuban will be released Q2 2010 for AM3. So they're 2 sockets ONLY!! But different platforms and power.
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September 20, 2009 4:53:50 PM

^^ AM3/2+ WAS for the high-end market. Till AMD manages to release a good competitor (eg. X6 vs i9, PIII X4 vs i7) the AM3 platform isn't worth it.
It maybe designed for high-end market but it doesn't have its goodies.
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a b U Graphics card
September 20, 2009 4:57:55 PM

psycho sykes said:
Skulltrial is available for LGA1366.
Got a link for that? Ahhhhh the NEW SkullTrail. I thought Skulltrial was something else in the pipeline.
AMD will be disappointed to know you think they're not in the high end market anymore.
Oh wait. They don't agree with you. ;) 


(Thuban, i9......and you complained about my 'futuristic googles'? lol)
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September 20, 2009 5:08:09 PM

I'll search for the link (appropriate one)
AMD isn't in the high-end market anymore as Intel's mid-end i5 750 DESTROYS AMD Phenom II 955 (i5: 2.66GHz, no HT vs PII955 3.2GHz)
I still want AMD to catch up with Intel to teach them some lessons about being "wallet friendly" :lol:  I really do.
I'm not being futuristic as i i didn't talk about something that no info is available for. Can you give me a link confirming that Intel is releasing an i3 and for LGA775 socket??
The i9 and Thuban have been mentioned in Intel's and AMD's official road-maps respectively.
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September 21, 2009 1:41:37 AM

Some more issues:
1. If I have a stand-alone graphics card with HDMI output, can I redirect the sound somehow, so that it would also be output-ted by that HDMI socket? How difficult will that be under linux? Windows?
2. If an IGP has hardware video-acceleration, do I need to install some drivers for that? Should the media player be somehow aware of the existence of that hardware? How hard will it be to find these drivers for linux, do you think?
3. What's a good, chip, well-supported-under-linux motherboard if I go for a stand-alone graphics card, and don't need an IGP?
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September 21, 2009 1:48:06 AM

We can't tell how well a chip is supported under Linux so it's better to choose it then check the vendor support.
You don't need to install a driver for HW video acceleration but you may need/want to install the control tools. Like ForceWare for nVidia and Catalyst for ATI (discrete).
For the audio over HDMI you'll have to check vendor's website for the specific model.

Regards.
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September 21, 2009 1:51:11 AM

psycho sykes said:

For the audio over HDMI you'll have to check vendor's website for the specific model.

But it's generally possible?
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September 21, 2009 1:52:53 AM

Sometimes...Yes.
Atleast sometimes they do tell directly that it's supported..
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September 21, 2009 1:58:01 AM

Are extra cables involved? I found an older post on these forums where they said you needed cables, but that might have changed with newer drivers by now. Let's suppose I'm talking about nVidia's 9400GT.
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September 21, 2009 2:02:21 AM

Cables sometimes are required for HDMI support on cards that don't "natively" support them. So if the card has a native HDMI port then the audio transfer is im/-possible and this is what you look for at the vendor's site.
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a b U Graphics card
September 21, 2009 8:21:26 PM

Dorfl said:
Some more issues:
1. If I have a stand-alone graphics card with HDMI output, can I redirect the sound somehow, so that it would also be output-ted by that HDMI socket? How difficult will that be under linux? Windows?
2. If an IGP has hardware video-acceleration, do I need to install some drivers for that? Should the media player be somehow aware of the existence of that hardware? How hard will it be to find these drivers for linux, do you think?
3. What's a good, chip, well-supported-under-linux motherboard if I go for a stand-alone graphics card, and don't need an IGP?
With a HD4XXX series video card (HD4350 for example) the audio is output through the HDMI port with no extra cables. With some Nvidia video cards (9400GT for example) you'll need to hook up a separate S/PDIF cable from the motherboard spdif header to the video card to output sound through the HDMI port. You should get a cable in the accessory pack for the Nvidia cards but check to make sure its included. (S/PDIF cable shown below in a GIGABYTE 9400 GT accessory pack)

Windows vs Linux - Linux drivers and software could be an issue depending on your hardware, Linux distro version, the media software and their driver support. I think Ubuntu has the best HTPC options at the moment. Any previous or current experience with Linux?
Less of a problem for Windows Vista MCE IMO.
2. You treat IGP just as you would a stand-alone graphics card. One exception might be to disable the IGP on BIOS if you also have a stand-alone graphics card. You can get HDMI output from modern IGP motherboards too.
3. Linux support can be a moving target but a good linux distro like Ubuntu 9.04 will support most mainstream hardware.
Hardware that has been out for a while increases your chances of finding good drivers.
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a b U Graphics card
September 23, 2009 6:19:53 AM

I didn't find a 775 X4500HD motherboard I thought was a worthy recommendation.
There are two great GMA X4500HD MBs GIGABYTE GA-EG45M-UD2H G45 and ASUS P5Q-EM G45 @ about $130 each. You can see the rest of the specs at the link. There are a lot of nice features that you'd be paying for but not necessarily need for your intended use.
The MSI G45M-FD GMA X4500HD MB was less expensive @ $95 but there were mixed reviews posted by the NewEgg reviewers. And the ECS G45T-M2 X4500HD is the best price of all @ $70 after rebate, but its new with no NewEgg reviews yet.

I think you're getting held up over the HD in the GMA 4500 IGP. ALL of the 4500 IGPs output HD video, including 1080HD video. The HD is a bit better optimized to offload decoding duties from the CPU but when you have a powerful CPU like the E6300 or X2 250 it won't make that much difference. It would be different if you were going for a low power single core 1.8Ghz Celeron.

For what you're considering - you may want to select the OS and software first. And then look for hardware that supports it well. In the mean time you can get yourself some hands-on experiance with the OS setting up a dual-boot trial on your own PC.
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