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What is most important for a HTPC

Last response: in CPUs
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December 30, 2009 6:51:02 PM

Hi everyone,

I am working on deciding what to put in my new HTCP that I want to build. It's function will be to do run Hulu/Netflix, probaby using Boxee or Zinc. Also to play Blu-Ray sometimes, but mainly streaming.

My initial spec are as follows:
Zotac GF9300-I-E (available early 2010)

Thinking of one of these processors:
>> Intel® Core™2 Quad Processor Q9300 (6M Cache, 2.50 GHz, 1333 MHz FSB)
>> Intel® Core™2 Duo Processor E8300 (6M Cache, 2.83 GHz, 1333 MHz FSB)
>> Intel® Core™2 Quad Processor Q6600 (8M Cache, 2.40 GHz, 1066 MHz FSB)
>> Intel® Core™2 Duo Processor E7600 (3M Cache, 3.06 GHz, 1066 MHz FSB)
>> Intel® Celeron® Processor E3200 (1M Cache, 2.40 GHz, 800 MHz FSB)

4GB, 2 x 2GB Dual Channel Memory

30GB OCZ Solid State Drive - Running Win7 as a single purpose box to stream video and play Blu-Ray only. I will not record. To save on some funds, I am willing to look at other options, but want the speed for fast bootup.

LiteOn Blu-Ray Player
Case of cause

My main question is where can I save of cost but still get the best performance for my streaming box. As for CPU's which should be my chief concern with CPU's: Core, speed or cache?
The drive does not have to be too big, but I want a fast drive. I can get my OS and apps onto 30 GIG or so easily, since it will be a single purpose streaming box (and play Blu-ray sometimes). Need to play HD well.

Memory: 4 or 2 gig?

Sincerely,
J

More about : important htpc

a b à CPUs
December 30, 2009 9:12:33 PM

Forget the SSD as it is high cost and limited storage space. You would be better off using Samsung Spinpoint F3 / 1TB for around £60.00.

CPU wise any of the above choices will be fine except the Celeron as they are not much cop for video work.

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a c 145 à CPUs
December 30, 2009 9:34:07 PM

For the processor stick with a core 2 duo or better. E5200 seems good price/performance. But I wonder how an E1500 would work....

I think you are fine with the solid state drive as long as you're aware they need refreshing periodically. a 1Tb drive would be overkill for someone not recording imo.
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a b à CPUs
December 31, 2009 12:00:29 AM

id agree that an SSD would be very good for a HTPC, even jsut for the reduced noise.

personally id say you should go with a new platform CPU (an athlon II for good price/performance) but if you are set on LGA775, then a decent low power duo should do fine.

for blu-ray playback, youd really need a seperate video card unless you have a very good integrated solution on the mobo. a 9400gt silent (passively cooled) is a very good choice for a htpc.
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a c 99 à CPUs
December 31, 2009 12:19:29 AM

jluyt said:
Hi everyone,

I am working on deciding what to put in my new HTCP that I want to build. It's function will be to do run Hulu/Netflix, probaby using Boxee or Zinc. Also to play Blu-Ray sometimes, but mainly streaming.

My initial spec are as follows:
Zotac GF9300-I-E (available early 2010)

Thinking of one of these processors:
>> Intel® Core™2 Quad Processor Q9300 (6M Cache, 2.50 GHz, 1333 MHz FSB)
>> Intel® Core™2 Duo Processor E8300 (6M Cache, 2.83 GHz, 1333 MHz FSB)
>> Intel® Core™2 Quad Processor Q6600 (8M Cache, 2.40 GHz, 1066 MHz FSB)
>> Intel® Core™2 Duo Processor E7600 (3M Cache, 3.06 GHz, 1066 MHz FSB)
>> Intel® Celeron® Processor E3200 (1M Cache, 2.40 GHz, 800 MHz FSB)

4GB, 2 x 2GB Dual Channel Memory

30GB OCZ Solid State Drive - Running Win7 as a single purpose box to stream video and play Blu-Ray only. I will not record. To save on some funds, I am willing to look at other options, but want the speed for fast bootup.

LiteOn Blu-Ray Player
Case of cause

My main question is where can I save of cost but still get the best performance for my streaming box. As for CPU's which should be my chief concern with CPU's: Core, speed or cache?
The drive does not have to be too big, but I want a fast drive. I can get my OS and apps onto 30 GIG or so easily, since it will be a single purpose streaming box (and play Blu-ray sometimes). Need to play HD well.

Memory: 4 or 2 gig?

Sincerely,
J


The most important things in an HTPC are good video playback and being unobtrusive. You want to stream video from online, so the biggest consideration for you is to make sure that your network connection allows for streaming without interruption or stuttering. You will want a fast Internet connection and enough LAN bandwidth to ensure this can happen. I would suggest you have at least 5 Mbps of Internet bandwidth and connect your HTPC directly to the router or modem using an Ethernet cable to ensure you don't have interference problems with wireless. If you do run wireless, I suggest 802.11n.

Your parts/questions:

1. Motherboard: that motherboard overall looks nice. It's small (good), has good integrated graphics (good), actually is for sale at NewEgg right now (good), but costs $160, which is darned pricey for a typical IGP-containing motherboard. You could also consider the Intel DG45FC, which is a $115 mini-ITX motherboard with the decent-enough X4500HD IGP. There is also a sister version of your Zotac mini-ITX motherboard (GF8200-C-E) for AMD AM2+ CPUs that is $70 less expensive than the Intel version but otherwise appears fairly identical except for a lack of a PCIe x16 slot.

2. CPUs: Playing back streaming video from a website like Hulu generally is done using Adobe Flash player, which is a single-threaded program that loves CPU clock speed. I would go for a high-clocked dual-core CPU but don't worry so much about the cache. More cores won't help much with Flash playback and Blu-Ray playback will be accelerated greatly by the GPU, so there isn't much CPU load. More cores would just yield more heat (not good in a mini-ITX case) and more cost. The C2D E7600 and E8300 would work, but they're pretty expensive for the performance they deliver. I'd go for the Pentium Dual Core E6300 (2M cache, 2.80 GHz, 1066 MHz FSB, $81) for an Intel CPU and the Athlon II X2 250 (2M cache, 3.00 GHz, $68) for an AMD CPU. Both are significantly less expensive than all but the Celeron E3200 (which is slower but not all that much less expensive) and should perform well for such a setup.

3. Memory: sounds fine. Just get standard "value" memory as you won't want to overclock an HTPC. As for 2 GB vs 4 GB, I'd go for 4 GB since RAM is pretty inexpensive.

4. Disk drive: An SSD has some good points and bad points for an HTPC. The good points are that they are silent and fast, and you wanted a fast bootup, which an SSD will deliver. The bad point is that they're very expensive for what space they provide. I'd also recommend something more along the lines of 60 GB since a 30 GB SSD will be pretty much full just with a modern Windows install, page file, and free space for the hibernation file. Windows whines a lot when it has less than a few gigabytes in free disk space. 30 GB may be fine if you're running Windows XP or Linux, however, as those use up only a few gigs of disk space. The other thing to consider is that you may not need to do a full boot all that often. You can put the machine in standby and then resume much faster than doing a cold boot, even from an SSD. Also, modern 2.5" laptop HDDs are nearly silent and much larger and cheaper than SSDs, so I'd seriously consider looking at going that route than getting an SSD if you think you can standby/resume instead of doing a cold boot every time.

5. Blu-Ray player: no comments. My machine would probably laugh at me if I tried to put a Blu-Ray disk in it since it has an old CPU, an old GPU with no video decode acceleration capabilities, and an OS completely devoid of any of the digital restrictions management junk that Blu-Ray disks require for normal playback.
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December 31, 2009 2:47:31 PM

Thank you all for your great input. I am still deliberating on the CPU, but great-great answers here.
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December 31, 2009 2:59:33 PM

Hi all,

Ok, I have my spec down to about where I want my cost:

IN WIN BP655.200BL Black Mini-ITX Desktop Computer Case 200W Power Supply - Retail
SAMSUNG Spinpoint F1 HD753LJ 750GB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" Hard Drive -Bare Drive
PQI TURBO 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 800 (PC2 6400) Dual Channel Kit Desktop Memory Model PQI26400-4GDB - Retail
ZOTAC GF9300-I-E LGA 775 NVIDIA GeForce 9300 HDMI Mini ITX Intel Motherboard - Retail
Intel Pentium Dual-Core E6500 Wolfdale 2.93GHz LGA 775 65W Dual-Core Processor Model BX80571E6500 - Retail
LITE-ON Black 4X Blu-ray Reader SATA Model iHOS104-06 - OEM

Gyration Air Music Remote Control and Keyboard

A question about cooling... Since I am choosing the E6500, what kind of cooling will I need to give it in an ITX case, if any?
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a c 111 à CPUs
December 31, 2009 4:58:13 PM

As understand your ultimate goal you may be a touch out of spec.

Consider a smaller hard drive for your OS/Apps and use the 1Tb drive for media storage. As your library grows you may add additional storage drives. I curreently use an eSATA 'port multiplier' 5-bay external enclosure.

You should not need that much cpu power. I use a Sempy 140 (unlocked) and can capture and record a 4Mb stream at less than 30% cpu utilization at 900MHz. Lookee rite cheer.

Sometimes the fan is spinning so slowly I can't hear it even removing the side panel and sticking my ear next to it :D 


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