Alright, here is the deal: I have been scouring the internet trying to do research on building an HTPC. I have come across a lot of great information but am still at a slight loss as to what to choose in the realm of Motherboard and CPU.
I am not locked down to AMD or Intel. Although from what I can tell, the i3; i5; i7 processors dominate the HTPC build community, although if AMD is better, I would like to know it.
APPROXIMATE PURCHASE DATE: Within the Next 6 Months BUDGET RANGE: $500-1000 SYSTEM USAGE FROM MOST TO LEAST IMPORTANT: Television Viewing; DVR functionality; Video Ripping & Encoding. PARTS NOT REQUIRED: Need everything except monitor. Completely fresh build. PREFERRED WEBSITE(S) FOR PARTS: No real preference as long as they are trustworthy. I regularly use Newegg.com; Zipzoomfly.com; and Amazon.com. PARTS PREFERENCES: Nothing firm atm, just want the most bang for my buck. OVERCLOCKING: Don't see a need for it. SLI OR CROSSFIRE: Don't see a need for it. MONITOR RESOLUTION: 1920x1080; HD resolutions for a 40" LCD, with future expandability for a larger screen. ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: I don't need nor necessarily want on board graphics, I am fine with an add on card for that job, although I am open to the idea of on board graphics if it will be able to handle what I need it to. I do need it to output both HD video to 1080 AND HD audio. I am also looking to have 4 TV tuners so a good recommendation for that would be superb. I have been looking at a Micro-ATX form factor board.
I have built gaming rigs before, but I am unsure on the nuances of HD video playback and encoding. I know that type of stuff uses much more CPU power, but I am unsure on what to look for in the rest of the components. I appreciate everyone's help on this.
Video encoding takes some processing power especially if you want to encode using the H.264 codec. DivX and XviD are less demanding than H.264 and they only use two CPU cores.
H.264 will utilize all available cores, but encodes slower, but is offset by the fact that all core are used. However, H.264 codec can be used to create videos that look as good as DivX and XviD (if not better) at lower bit rate. A quad core CPU is best for encoding with H.264.
For playback purposes I would simply get a HD 5570 which has true-bit audio via HDMI, meaning you can get DTS sound.
I got a C2D E6600 in my HTPC, it was the CPU in my former primary PC. Do not dare to encode 1080p movies with it. Even my Q9450 is a too slow for my taste for 1080p H.264 encoding. I don't have Blu-Ray yet, but when I do I will upgrade to the most powerful quad core CPU I can afford for under $500 - $600 to start Blu-Ray encoding in my primary PC.
Thank you for that info jaguarskx, quite helpful. One more quick question for the community though. I want to digitize my entire movie collection so I don't have to rely on inserting dvd's to watch a movie, while DVD's aren't really an issue I haven't been able to figure out how to transfer a Blu Ray while preserving it's full HD quality (essentially playing the movie from a file but essentially being the same as if I had inserted the disc). Are there any programs or methods that make it possible to do this?
Oh hey Dragoth, I just started doing that myself. I think the program is called DVDx and it simply decodes trhe DVD and places all the files into a folder. When you click the 1st file in the folder labeled VIDEO_TS it will seemlessly play the entire DVD. I simply make a shortcut to that one file and voila!
This link seems to have some interesting information relevant to your last question.
Regarding the quad-core for encoding + discreet video card, have you decided how you'll address heat issues in a small case in your entertainment center?
Yes, more than likely I will be using a liquid cooling system. I currently use a Zalman RESERATOR 1 V2 in my gaming rig and even during gaming sessions it keeps my CPU cool enough I can actually touch it without feeling much heat, so I may be using that for my HTPC as well. The case I plan on using is supposed to actually have great air flow as well.