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HTPC advice

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May 25, 2010 1:58:40 PM

Hi,

I just recently setup a home theater system and bought a cheap G1 WDTV.

I've decided to upgrade to a budget HTPC and have been doing a lot of reading but still need some advice.

I'm on a tight budget and want to make a HTPC for as cheap as possible. All I will be using it for is watching HD content, mostly MKV's but I would like to have to capability to eventually use Blu Ray.

For my CPU would this be sufficent? And is this at a good price?
AMD Athlon 64 X2 5200+ Processor ADO5200IAA5DO - 2.70GHz, Socket AM2, 1MB Cache, 1000MHz (2000 MT/s) FSB, Brisbane, Dual-Core, OEM - 29.99$ CAD after rebate

Motherboard:
Foxconn M61PMV AM2+/AM2 NVIDIA GeForce 6100 Micro ATX AMD Motherboard - 39.99$
http://www.newegg.ca/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E1681...

Video Card:
SAPPHIRE 100291L Radeon HD 5450 (Cedar) 512MB 64-bit DDR2 PCI Express 2.1 x16 HDCP Ready CrossFireX Support Video Card - 45$
http://www.newegg.ca/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E1681...

Would these parts be able to handle all HD content thrown at them?

Also I've read for a minimum HTPC the processor should be 2.4ghz Dual Core or 3.5ghz single core minimum, is this correct? If not what processor speed should I be looking at? Also does it make a big difference if the processor is higher then 2.4ghz if the system is only for media playback purposes?

Thanks.

More about : htpc advice

May 25, 2010 3:00:28 PM

I wouldn't build that. That CPU is a very old one and isn't worth spending money one. The board is also an old one, not to mention from a poor quality brand. Also, the nVidia chipset AMD boards are notorious for problems.

How much are you looking to spend? If you've got $200-$250, you should be looking at the i3-530 and an H55 board. With that, you won't need a GPU at all, as Intel's integrated graphics make the i3 perfect for HTPCs. $210 gets you a combo with the CPU and some mid-range MSI boards, while $230 wil get you the CPU and a high quality board.

Another option is getting a 8xx chipset AMD board. I'd personally get the X3 440 ($77) and Gigabyte GA-880GM-USB3 ($95) but you could go as low as the X2 245 ($63).
May 25, 2010 3:52:23 PM

Just to chime in with some first hand experience to answer your question:

My last HTPC had that exact CPU. It could not play blu-ray smoothly without hardware acceleration. That being said, it played blu-ray perfectly with a HA supported video card (HD3450 in my case). So yes, it can play blu-ray with the right video chipset.

The admiral is right though, unless you have a severe budget, there are better options out there for more current hardware. "Old" hehe... my 5200+ was pretty good back in 2007.
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May 25, 2010 7:46:13 PM

thanks for the advice. i'm hoping to spend 250$ max hopefully on a CPU, Motherboard, Video Card and Case. I have a SATA HD already and RAM isn't too expensive so if it doesn't fit in the 250$ i dont think it would add that much to the cost.

The X3 440 and X2 245 both look attractive but I wanted to ask for media playback only would their be any differences, noticeable or unoticable?

Also I found a couple other cpu's and i'm kind of confused.
AMD Athlon II X2 250 Regor 3.0GHz 2 x 1MB L2 Cache Socket AM3 65W Dual-Core Processor
http://www.newegg.ca/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E1681...
AMD Athlon II X3 435 2.9GHz Socket AM3 95W Triple-Core Processor - OEM
http://www.newegg.ca/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E1681...
AMD Athlon II X2 255 Regor 3.1GHz 2 x 1MB L2 Cache Socket AM3 65W Dual-Core Desktop Processor
http://www.newegg.ca/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E1681...

I was hoping someone could explain to me the differences, benefits and negatives of a dual core and a triple core as well as a X3 and X2 (i know their different chipsets).

I'm confused about how much is necessary for this type of system and what would be overkill.

Also do the motherboards make a big difference? I know a lot i've looked at seem to support the same processors and speeds and the only differences i can tell are the ram and the amount and types of outputs.

Thanks.
May 25, 2010 8:04:52 PM

I'll start with the board. The motherboard doesn't really affect performance that much, but it's the base of every build. You don't want to get a poor quality board and it can quickly sink the rest of the build. The board basically determines what CPU you can use, the RAM you need, the number of video cards and devices you can use and what extras you might have to buy. In general, there isn't a whole lot of difference among boards with similar prices and quality. The prices are basically set by the minor changes and details.

The benefit of a triple core is basically that it's more powerful, better for multi-tasking, yet still has a cheap price. The only benefit of a dual core is that it's cheap. If possible, I would get a triple core simply because it's more future proof and more powerful for a marginal cost.
May 25, 2010 10:32:30 PM

great thanks. so of all the CPU's posted you would go with the triple core?

also i'm trying to look at motherboards but most seem to have Nvidia integrated graphics. Is it worth spending extra to go with a different chipset even if i'm not going to be using the integrated graphics?

And will the video card I posted be sufficient as well. From what i've read it can do DTS Master Audio and Full HD audio but i just want to make sure.

The other thing I needed help with was making sure i'm buying a case that isn't too noisey since a lot of people complain about this. Is it usually the PSU, the heatsink or the case fans that cause the noise?

thanks again admiral.
May 26, 2010 12:03:34 AM

I'd just avoid nVidia chipsets on AMD boards entirely. There are plenty of boards out there without onboard graphics. However, I'll point out that if you get the newer board with integrated graphics (like the one I posted), you won't NEED a GPU.

As for noise, it's really a combination of all three. I'd say the loudest is the CPU fan (assuming stock cooling) followed by case fans then the PSU.
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