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First time HTPC

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October 14, 2009 10:37:19 PM

I've already got a couple items from my previous build that I'd like to salvage if possible. Included are an intel 2 GHz chip, pre-'core 2' (it's pretty old), a 535W Enermax PSU, 3x 1GB of Kingston KVX DDR memory (also very old), two 160gb IDE HDDs, a EVGA 7600 GT GPU and a nameless mid-size case (smaller than an antec 900 but can still fit atx, albiet tightly)

Admittedly these components, except maybe the case and video card, are probably outdated enough to not be worth using, but i have a pretty tight budget ($300 or so if i'm building this year, more the longer i wait)

Are any of these components salvageable for use in an HTPC? If not, what should I be looking for? Is my budget prohibitively small such that I should abandon the idea until I have more to spend?

On a much broader scale, what exactly does an HTPC DO? What I would like it to do is provide a larger storage capacity for my saved DVR programs. I use Comcast and their DVRs on each of three TVs, each with unique recording needs, but each with only 120 gb of space (the TV I'd use the HTPC with is an HD and I would like to expand my space significantly) Other than expanded storage space, what else is an HTPC used for, given that I have a PS3 for Blu-Ray and a stereo receiver for audio?

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October 15, 2009 1:36:34 AM

Someone else will have to help on the dvr side of things but maybe I can help you with the other stuff. Lets start with your tv. You say it's hd. Is it 720p or 1080p? What is your best video input? HDMI, dvi or component? The 7600gt should have at least one dvi output and that can be converted to hdmi video output only if necessary. I think you may be able to play 720p content smoothly with that video card. I'm pretty sure 1080p will stutter badly. You'll need a dvd or hd content video player software. I think they're all good for dvd quality content. I have had good luck with Arcsoft Totalmedia Theater. What motherboard do you have? If it has on board digital sound output, coaxial or optical, you can run that to your receiver if it supports it and avoid the need for a sound card. Your receiver should be able to do the digital to analog decoding. Digital output can support 5.1 channels of compressed audio. You said your receiver was stereo right? So you don't have to worry about multichannel sound. Give me some more information on exactly what you want the htpc to do. We can help you do it if possible. Will you be storing you video content on this pc or somewhere else like a file server on your local area network? Storage isn't a problem. You can upgrade the hard drives you currently have or get external usb hard drives. Cpu and memory look fine. Honestly, I think you can get what you have to work pretty well. Of course you'll need your video capture tuner cards that hopefully someone else can help with because I'm not much of a live video recorder. You could even watch Netflix or Hulu on your tv with this htpc as long as it's connected to the internet. I recommend a wired connection versus wireless.
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October 15, 2009 6:36:04 AM

47" LG 1080p TV, HDMI input. The 7600 GT does have DVI output and i have an HDMI converter already. I don't have a motherboard, the board that went with this system burnt out, one of the reasons i bought the PC i have now (see sig) receiver is good for 7.1 but i currently have 2.0 actually hooked up (thats another project for another day)

i mostly want my htpc to provide me with expanded dvr recording space. if the 7600 gt won't do 1080p then it's probably going to need to be upgraded, how much better than that will i need for 1080p?

you said the cpu and memory are ok, i just wanted to make sure you knew that my ram is PC3200 184 pin memory, i have 3 1gb sticks of that, and the chip is about as old as that memory, is that really good enough? id be thrilled if it is but surprised so i'm asking again

internet access isn't an issue, even wireless should be pretty decent because i have a 25mbps connection, wireless doesn't cut much away from that, but another "for another day" project is wiring my living room for internet from the upstairs office where the modem is.
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October 15, 2009 7:43:26 AM

I thought you had a motherboard. That changes things a little. Your processor is probably socket 478 going by the ddr. We could look for an old motherboard but I think your money will be better spent on newer technology.

I just built a htpc with the GIGABYTE GA-E7AUM-DS2H micro atx motherboard. It has Blu-ray capable on board graphics and sound via hdmi. I tried to find it on New egg but it says its been deactivated. Maybe you can find it somewhere else or the replacement is coming soon. There is a DFI motherboard with the Nvidia 9400 on board graphics on there but I don't know anything about it. You don't need a lot of processor so a Pentium Dual-Core E5300 will be just fine according to AVSFORUM: http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showthread.php?t=940972&... That is a great thread to check out as it has a lot of information. Tom's also had an article a couple weeks ago: http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/avivo-purevideo-cle... Nvidia 9300 onboard would work too or you can overclock it like Toms did to get it to 9400 speeds.

So figure 130 for the motherboard, 70 for the processor and 40 for 2 gig of descent ddr2 memory. If you want to go with your old processor and memory, hoping that it didn't get damaged when the motherboard went, look on flee bay for a motherboard and you'd need an agp video card like a Radeon HD 4650 1GB for about 85 bucks from New Egg.

I tried g wireless and it would play hd content choppy. I haven't tried the new n wireless, they say it's better. I just run everything gigabit wired and don't have any worries.
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October 15, 2009 2:45:47 PM

You don't need a mini form factor setup since you already have a decent size case. Going with an Athlon II setup or a micro atx Pentium Dual Core setup will be a lot cheaper. The Athlon II setup is a better buy, as the mobo is a bit better quality than the Intel, but I gave you both in case you had a preference

Athlon II: CPU+MOBO- $120
http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?Ite...

Pentium Dual Core: CPU- $68
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

MOBO- $53
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Heres some good RAM- $40
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

And here's an HD 4650 (with onboard HDMI)- $55
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
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October 16, 2009 1:19:13 AM

thanks to both of you ... i think i'm actually going to lean toward a micro atx since the case is really not all that large. it fits an atx mobo but not a lot of space left over.

this system is so old i'd actually forgotten which cpu it was, it's an Asus A8N32-Sli Deluxe, so it's a socket 939 amd chip i have.
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October 16, 2009 1:31:56 AM

I was under the impression that you had a p4. If you have an Athlon or Athlon X2 system, that would perfectly viable as an HTPC. All you'd need to do is upgrade your graphics card. Of course, you can upgrade the whole system if you want, and it may last a bit longer, but if you want to save cash, you could just keep your current setup with the upgrade.

As for the builds I presented above, I'm sorry if there was any confusion, but both are micro-atx boards, so either could go into your case.
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October 16, 2009 5:52:43 AM

I figured it was a P4 too. 939 is completely doable. You can find that same motherboard on the big auction site for 95 bucks or other 939 motherboards. Like Pepperman said, you'd still need the video card. Is it a single or dual core processor? I think we've given you plenty of options. I'm curious to see which way you'll go. :) 
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October 16, 2009 1:41:56 PM

definitely single core, it's a good 3 years old - i tried getting a new one on big auction before but the new one was DOA so i'm a bit wary of that for now. to be honest i probably don't have the money to spend on that any time soon as it is, even just a couple hundred bucks let alone more, but it's good to know what i need to do for when i can save the money
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