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HW recommendations for an HTPC?

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September 27, 2009 2:53:51 AM

Any current hardware recommendations for buildin an HTPC?

I want to use this as a digital cable box, DVR, and to stream music. Budget is flexible, but I was hoping around $700 not including software.
I'll be running Win7 on this.

A few questions:
- 2x core or 4x core? I was thinking the 4x core.
- Any reason I want virtualization capabilities in the CPU?
- Can anyone recommend a good video card?
- Can anyone recommend a good TV Tuner card?
- What is the recommended power supply to power all this?
- What is the best way to convert digital sound signal to analog to run through my speakers? Should I get a stand-alone digital receiver, or are PC cards sufficient?
- Anything else I need to know?


Thanks a lot for your help.

More about : recommendations htpc

September 27, 2009 4:43:02 AM

Far from an expert on HTPC, but I'll answer what questions I can.

If you plan to keep this on all the time, green low power parts are very important to your electric bill. Cav Green HDDs or any of the LP lines are good choices. With that in mind, 4 core CPUs use more power than 2 core CPUs. Unless you're doing encoding with the system, you'll only need the 2. If you do get a tri or quad, I feel its worth the extra few bucks to get the low power version of the chips. Intel lists them with an "s" at the end of the model number and AMD lists them with an "e"

From what I've read, virtualization isn't ideal for HTPC, so unless you have a need for it, I'd avoid that setup.

For video, the visual part of it will work even on the onboard video for AMD or the geforce 9x00. What gets goofy is the audio if you're trying to send it over the HDMI cable from the onboard sound. The sound quality is fine from the onboard chip. Its just the way you need the signal to pass to the receiver. The AMD 785g mobos can handle 6.1 channel over HDMI, but not 8.1. So depending on your needs, will determine if an aftermarket audio card is needed.

I haven't dealth with picking one TV card over another, so you'll need to lean on someone else for that.

The powersupply doesn't have to be very big at all. And like the first comments, efficency is everything. I generally spec out something like a seasonic that has a 5 year warranty and 5.0 energy star compliant. Or, you can get a HTPC case that has one built in. But be consciencous of the warranty on them, who knows what kind of crap they hid in there to cut cost.

Hope this gets you a start on your build.
September 27, 2009 2:42:19 PM

wait until Q1 2010, tv tuners can only use the broadcast stations (as these are unencrypted), the cable channels (like comedy central, the ones you cannot find over the air at all) are encrypted and you need something called a CableCard Tuner

the reason i say wait is this CableCard Tuners

though you could build the pc now and add the tuner later

Here is a build that will be fine (you don't need a Quad Core)
CPU: AMD Athlon II X2 240
Mobo: ASUS M4A785TD-V EVO AM3 AMD 785G
Ram: G.SKILL 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333
HDD (OS/Apps); SAMSUNG Spinpoint F3 HD502HJ 500GB
HDD (DVR): SAMSUNG Spinpoint F3 HD103SJ 1TB
PSU; CORSAIR CMPSU-450VX 450W
*ODD: LITE-ON Black 8X BD-ROM
Case: depends on what you want

*note: if you don't want a Blu-Ray player and standard sata dvd drive will work
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September 27, 2009 6:11:12 PM

Thanks a lot for your suggestions. They really help.

Another thing that popped into my head: I'm thinking of doing using RAID on the HTPC. Reason is that I had a hard drive die a few years ago, and how I have to re-rip a bunch of music. I was thinking a RAID-5 config.

Any thoughts on using RAID? Are the built-in mobo controllers good enough (I've never used one...).

September 27, 2009 6:29:28 PM

Another question: I anticipate using this box to simultaneously stream music, play back recordings, & record. I thought this would place high demand on the CPU, and it would benefit from multiple cores (or hyper threading).

Does anyone know what the CPU load would be for this kind of multi-tasking? Thinking a bit more, I would guess that disk I/O would be the bottle-neck to simultaneously stream, play back & record.
September 30, 2009 10:12:10 PM

The on-board controllers are good enough. No need to invest in separate card. I myself am more of a fan of an external drive for backup purposes and physically storing the drive in a different location than the computer. A raid setup can't protect from fire/water or epic PSU failures.

More cores may benefit you, may not. If you are already using the software you anticipate to be multitasking, I'd fire them up one at a time and check the CPU load in task manager. If they eat up a lot of the resources, then adding cores may be a good idea.

Sorry this took so long to get back to.
October 2, 2009 10:08:16 PM

What about running dual atoms? I'm looking at this board/CPU:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

ZOTAC IONITX-D-E Intel Atom N330 Dual Core 1.6 GHz 441 NVIDIA ION Mini ITX Motherboard/CPU Combo w/ CUDA

That should be enough horsepower to encode/decode h.264 w/ CUDA, right?
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