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High End HTPC

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January 26, 2010 6:40:08 PM

Hello everyone,

I'm new to this forum and this is my first post, so please excuse any protocol violations.

I work in IT but I don't have intimate knowledge of building PC's or troubleshooting. I am pretty comfortable with opening up a PC and replacing components and with installing software, configuring a router / AP, etc. I have put together hardware before on the job but it was a while ago.

Note: if the questions about watching on other TV's complicates things, then please ignore.

APPROXIMATE PURCHASE DATE: I'm ready to go. I've been wanting to do this for a couple of years now
BUDGET RANGE: Open. I would like a high end system that can grow and won't be obsolete soon. Of course, I don't want to waste money.

SYSTEM USAGE FROM MOST TO LEAST IMPORTANT:

This HTPC will be used in our TV room with a 58" Samsung 860 series plasma.
Ideally I would like to use an extender, or something like that, to play contents on a couple of other HD TVs in the house
I would like to use it to replace my cable providers DVR. My provider is Cox. I don't have any premium channels such as HBO or Showtime, but I would like to watch and record channels such as speed, history, etc.
I would like to be able to play blu-ray dvd's;
I would like to be able to play standard dvd's;
I have a netflix subscription so I would like to be able to watch movies on the fly
I would like to be able to watch Hulu content
I would like to also hold my MP3 music collection; or I would like to be able to access the music from a central server
I would like to store my pictures on this machine and view the pics on the TV; or I would like to be able to access my pictures from a central server.

PARTS NOT REQUIRED: TV / Monitor, speakers

PREFERRED WEBSITE(S) FOR PARTS: I have no preferences
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: USA

PARTS PREFERENCES: I have no preferences. But I would like to use a case that fits with the rest of my audio / video components aesthetically.

OVERCLOCKING: If needed
CROSSFIRE: If needed. But size, noise, and aesthetics take priority over gaming.

MONITOR RESOLUTION: 1080p; 1920 x 1080 via HDMI. I'm really close to my knowledge limit here.

ADDITIONAL COMMENTS: Any advise on the Media PC cases that have a touch screen? They look cool but I'm not sure how well they work and what other issues they cause.

Thank you to everyone in advance.

More about : high end htpc

January 26, 2010 6:55:56 PM

You aren't going to be able to record programs from your provider very easily. Over the air is about as far as TV tuners get.

As far as picking a case, it doesn't help us to tell us that you would like it to fit your aesthetics. We have no idea what your room looks like. And I haven't heard of any case with touch screens...

I'll flesh out the guts, and figure out what extras you need from there.

CPU: i3-540 $145
Mobo: Asus P7P55D-E Pro $190
RAM: Corsair XMS3 2x2 GB 1600 mhz CAS Latency 7 $110
HDD: 2x Samsung Spinpoint F3 1 TB $180 ($90 each)
PSU: Seasonic 850W Silver $110
Case: No idea (for reasons above). I also don't find any HTPC cases apealing. Budget $125 for it.
GPU: HD 5770 $155 (or switch the motherboard for ASUS P7H57D-V EVO for $10 more and use integrated grahpics)
OS: Windows 7 $105
Optical: BluRay reader $95

Total: $1,215. You're probably going to want to add a wireless card, aftermarket heatsink/fan for the CPU, and possibly a TV tuner (won't work with cable).
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January 26, 2010 7:01:09 PM

By aesthetics I didn't mean anything specific. Just not a tower or server case. Something that looks like typical audio / video equipment. So probably some kind of HTPC / Media PC case.
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January 26, 2010 7:37:51 PM

I would recommend taking a look at the Zalman HD160 plus @ http://www.zalman.co.kr/eng/product/Product_Read.asp?Id...

This case also comes with the IMON/Imedian remote and software than can be used to control windows media center and DVD playing software.

I use the HD160xt plus (higher end model) and love it. My case has a 7inch touch screen (which I would not recommend). Touch screens are totally unnecessary, and basically disfunctional. By the time you shrink your desktop down to 7 inches , attempting to navigate by touching becomes futile. I also would highly recommend a fanless video card and fan speed controllers to minimize case noise.

I use an Asus xonar audio card that has Burr Brown digital audio converters attached to a high end audio system that sounds fantastic. If your concerned about sound, this card is worth a look.

If you do end up going with a second screen in your case, you (may) need to go with an ATI video card as I am unsure if Nvidia cards support dual Monitor output. I have a screen in my case and NEVER use it. It was a total waste of money.

Have Fun building your system.
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January 26, 2010 9:07:09 PM

I don't see anything in the wants/needs list w.r.t. gaming so I think a 850W PSU and HD5770 video card are overkill. If you're truly going to be using this for home theater, the IGP in the Core i3-540 would be fine. For the less $$ though, if you're willing to order from MicroCenter, you can get the Core i5-650 for $120+shipping. It's a faster processor for less.

http://www.microcenter.com/single_product_results.phtml...

I've always been a fan of the look of this particular HTPC case:

Antec Black Aluminum / Steel Fusion Remote Black Micro ATX Media Center / HTPC Case
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

It's a micro-ATX case so you'd need an H55 motherboard like this one:

ASUS P7H55-M PRO LGA 1156 Intel H55 HDMI Micro ATX Intel Motherboard
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

I have this HTPC case and I really like the look of it. It looks very similar to my Onkyo receiver. It just doesn't come with any fancy LCDs or anything and you'd need to use an external IR receiver.

nMEDIAPC Black Aluminum panel & Steel HTPC 1000B Micro ATX Media Center / HTPC Case
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

As for a PSU, you could go with something more like this when running just a blu-ray, couple of HDDs and the IGP included with the i5 chip and save on your electric bill:

CORSAIR CMPSU-400CX 400W ATX12V V2.2 80 PLUS Certified Compatible with Core i7 Power Supply
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
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January 26, 2010 10:42:28 PM

NaderEbeid said:
By aesthetics I didn't mean anything specific. Just not a tower or server case. Something that looks like typical audio / video equipment. So probably some kind of HTPC / Media PC case.

^+1 to Dougie on the PSU (EDIT, uh huh huh, I said UPS before edit). 850W is monstrous...although that is a good PSU.
I can personally vouch for the Antec case that Dougie suggests. It is very cool and very quiet...stock.
I love it with a couple caveats that I will list along with other problems you are going to have to consider as far as cases.

CASE
1. Size. The Zalman and the Silverstone listed earlier are huge. Pay attention to dimensions and where you would like to place your HTPC. In a case, on a stand or are you going to have to build a shrine? The good thing is they hold many drives. Even my Antec is 17" deep. By comparison my Denon AVR2809ci is 14" deep.
2. Built in remote. As with my Antec there are other cases out there that have an IR receiver and usually an LCD/VFD display with Imon/Imedian software. The built in IR receiver is great., the LCD display is useless crap and bright. The remote is stupid. If you go with Windows Media Center you can set the Imon software to emulate a WMC remote and get a WMC remote. Makes things easier. Personally I have the Harmony One remote and it works great after a bit of tweaking.
3. available HDD bays/upgradeability. Problem with my Antec is it only holds 2 HDD's. My solution was a server. If you don't want to go the server route you will need a big boy like the Zalman or Silverstone depending on your choice of built in IR.
4. fit and function. Avoid any case that makes you stick the DVD drive door to the face of your DVD drive via double sticky back tape. that is just stupid and from what I read it is a pain to get it to look just right when the door is closed.
5. Also pay attention to mobo form factor the case will fit.

Bluray
Do you have a home theater receiver you plan on running your video and/or audio through? If you do can it decode the HD audio such as True HD, HD Master and HD DTS?
If you have this capability you will want to look into any of the ATI Radeon HD 5xxx series, maybe especially the New HD5670 type cards. I do not have one of those and I have a stand alone Bluray player so I have not really pursued this. One thing is for sure, any onboard audio or audio cards do not produce or decode the HD audio bitstream. The Asus Xonar card mentioned earlier will PASS the bitstream which means the bluray player software you use (which you will also have to buy if it is not bundled with a bluray player) will, depending on your settings, transmit the bitstream, pass through the Xonar which I assume is then hooked up to a video card so that audio and video get transmitted over a single HDMI cable and then your receiver decodes the bitstream. However, sound cards are now becoming part of the past. With the HD5xxx cards they also Pass the bitstream.

If you don't have that capability then you can still do 5.1, 7.1, DTS over the HDMI or S/PDIF


You mention a couple times about a central server. Do you have one or plan to build one?
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January 26, 2010 10:58:06 PM
January 27, 2010 2:30:33 AM

@RWPritchett....
Cause they include a screwdriver with the case? LOL
Pmanfred has mentioned those touch screens are useless and I have always wondered......and
#4 on my list above. You gotta glue/tape/attach the case's exterior DVD door to the Drive's front plate. Paying that much for a case I want an exterior door that gets pushed open by the drive.

Of course that is just my opinion. 2 against one pal. LOL.
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January 27, 2010 12:38:17 PM

I wouldn't be too concerned with room for internal HDDs these days. If you get a mobo with an eSATA port, or even if you don't and later get an adapter you can attach an external eSATA drive for storage or if you have room a multi-bay port multiplier.

Having a dedicated home server is really nice though. It's especially good when you decide you want to be able to watch things in your HT or you living room or the kids playroom or the basement, etc. You can make small, lightweight HTPCs or get media extenders running off your main rig / home server sharing everything all over your network.

With an open-ended budget think about how you'd design your whole house (network, extenders/HTPCs, media server) not just the one HTPC box. It's good to think outside the box, literally :) .
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