I'm wanting an HTPC for streaming online content (getting rid of cable) and any video rips and music I have onto my Sony 46" LCD. I may expand later for a Bluray player/burner and rip my Blurays onto it for easier playing but not necessary now. I use my PS3 for playing DVD's and Blurays and will be using it here soon for Netflix
I have two desktop computers, one is our "daily user" (though really it's only used to store all our pictures, music, and videos and share my printer to the laptops since it's not wifi) and my wife's old computer.
Old computer (Compaq SR1820NX):
ASUS A8N-LA motherboard
AMD Athlon 64 3400+
Windows XP (currently, have 7 or may Ubuntu)
My homebuilt computer:
ASUS M2N-SLI Deluxe motherboard
AMD Athlon 64 X2 4600+
NVIDIA GeForce 7900 GS
Antec SmartPower 2.0 SP-500 500W
Would either of those work for what I'm wanting to accomplish. I'm planning on building a real HTPC down the road and will use it for a media server as well, but for now I just need something that will make the no-cable transition easier. I'm already planning on having to buy a simple HDMI video card since my TV doesn't have DVI, is there anything in particular I should look for there?
For a HTPC, the "My homebuilt computer" would work fine. Dual core cpu, maybe OC it if you want but not required, plenty of ram, decent GPU. Heck, if you can OC that CPu to 3ghz, the whole system would still be worth using for another couple years.
You should try connecting with a DVI -> HDMI adapter if you want 1080p instead of getting another card and save the money to put towards your actual HTPC build you mentioned later on. the GeForce 7900 GS is plenty fine for video playback.
A 5450 would be a good card to take a look at. The 7900GS would work, but you'll prob want a passively cooled card (you won't want to deal with fan noise in a HTPC) Is your 4600+the winsor or brisbane core? if it's the brisbane core, underclock it, undervolt it, and ensure you have cool n quiet turned on. If it's the winsor it's not particularly well suited for HTPC, but in a solid case could work.
It's a Windsor. Yeah the video card is a little noisy so maybe I'll start looking for a good passively cooled one for my later build. My rear case fan is also a little noisy but I've planned on putting in a 120mm on the top at slow speed to keep it all cool. And good thinking on the DVI>HDMI adapter, i'm sure it'll be alot cheaper for now.
The Compaq is underpowered for a HTPC but as a home server it would be fine. Otherwise it will be a decent office PC. You can probably squeeze some life out of it with a discrete GPU but may not be worth puting money into it. The card would be at most $40 unless you or a friend has one lying around. Not sure how much you can get from it though, I'd say $200 tops but not probable unless they know nothing about PCs.