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Question about building HTPC?

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January 18, 2011 12:57:17 AM

Hello,
I have as of late become really interesting in HTPC's and how effective they are with getting content from the net to your tv an I was thinking of building myself one. Now here is what I need help with, while I do have the money to build a whole new system all from scratch I was wondering if I could turn my old Dell XPS 410 with at 2.1 GHz core 2 duo processor and 2 gigs of ram into one. Yes the graphics card in it is pretty much crap at this point if I'm not mistake its an old G-force 7900 gt that i would have to upgrade to probably a ATI card and also it would need a good tv tuner. That is the other thing that I'm not sure on which to purchase I've looked at so many different tuners both PCI Express an USB that my eyes are crossed on that. My cable is through Directv so I don't need anything with a cable card just something that I could run the satellite through and DVR some shows. An what software is the best or pretty good for DVR on a HTPC I was looking at some software from Nero that has Tivo with it but not sure of how well that would function.

As for making a fresh build I was looking into the new I5 series of chips since they are the new hotness so I was thinking of building a few system using that as a base with a micro ATX motherboard and a smaller case to house everything in. Any advice or help that you can give me on this would be greatly appreciated, thanks in advance. Oh and if you need any other details to help me out don't hesitate to ask. Thanks again.

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January 18, 2011 1:11:01 AM

I don't know much about HTPCs but from my understanding the priority is to keep it quiet, cool, and energy efficient in that order. Most of the times they end up getting shoved into entertainment cases in which ventilation is at a minimum.

With that in mind you'd probably want to stick with an i3 with either integrated graphics or a fan less discrete card. The only difference between the i3 and i5 is turbo boost, of which I see very little benefit for streaming. TV tuners you can purchase independently of a gpu so I wouldn't concern yourself with having to find a card with that feature.

The only downside I see to using the dell is that it's not going to be very HTPC like. Hiding it will pose problems, I'm sure it's somewhat noisy and the c2d weren't exactly cool or energy efficient. If the aesthetics of have a pc sitting next to your TV doesn't bother you, and you can deal with the fan noise I say give it a shot.
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January 18, 2011 3:40:57 AM

These are the details on your PC: http://www.dell.com/us/en/dfh/desktops/xpsdt_410/pd.asp...

It seems you do have a PCIe x16 slot so you could replace the existing graphics with something like an HD5450. It looks like a blu-ray player was an option for your 410 so someone expected it to be able to view HD video.

As for making this work with Satellite, that's out of my league but I have doubts about how possible that will be. Satellite is closed up tighter than cable. Your best route might be the Happauge HD-PVR using the component outputs from your satellite set-top box. However, there are satellite tuner cards but who knows how those work with your provider. Apparently, if you are in Europe, it'll work but if you are in the US not so much. Someone else might chime in about some magical hardware.

As for a new system: i5-2500K, Gigabyte or ASUS H67 motherboard, Antec Fusion Remote case, Antec 380W PSU, 64GB SSD and/or Samsung F4 2TB drive, Lite-On Blu-ray player, 4GB ram, Windows 7 x64, IOGear RF keyboard/trackball would be a pretty nice build. You could save quite a bit of coin using i3-540/H55 instead with all the same components mentioned.
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January 18, 2011 2:39:15 PM

Dougie is spot on about capturing a satellite feed. Hauppauge recently announced at CES a new product coming in 2Q called the Colossus that will capture unencrypted 1080i from any source, similar to the HD PVR (link). It works just like the HD PVR: you have the satellite box tune and decrypt the feed and capture it with the device. It comes with an IR blaster so the HTPC can change channels on the satellite box.
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January 20, 2011 11:59:28 PM

while i was reading your reply i was thinking about that dell and the noise that it would kick out at times. i think i am leaning more to just building a whole fresh new rig and figuring out something else to do with the dell. i just didnt want to have yet another computer sitting around the house with no purpose since i already have pretty good i7 setup i built last year. an i think im going to go either with an i3 with integrated graphics or the new i5 chips that dougie is talking about just gotta do some price comparison for the whole deal. thanks for the help.

a4mula said:
I don't know much about HTPCs but from my understanding the priority is to keep it quiet, cool, and energy efficient in that order. Most of the times they end up getting shoved into entertainment cases in which ventilation is at a minimum.

With that in mind you'd probably want to stick with an i3 with either integrated graphics or a fan less discrete card. The only difference between the i3 and i5 is turbo boost, of which I see very little benefit for streaming. TV tuners you can purchase independently of a gpu so I wouldn't concern yourself with having to find a card with that feature.

The only downside I see to using the dell is that it's not going to be very HTPC like. Hiding it will pose problems, I'm sure it's somewhat noisy and the c2d weren't exactly cool or energy efficient. If the aesthetics of have a pc sitting next to your TV doesn't bother you, and you can deal with the fan noise I say give it a shot.

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January 21, 2011 12:10:56 AM

thanks for the advice and after looking at your recommended setup i think i will just build something fresh since i want it to run blu rays do dvr and the whole 9 while still being quiet and running with relatively low power consumption. i'm not really looking to use this to play any games but having everything in cripsy 1080p is a must have. after i read about the new sandy bridge chips i'm sold on getting the 2500k i5 its a tad more than i wanted to spend on a processor but i can always expand on it an i like that idea. i was looking at that happauge hd-pvr external box but that new card rwpritchett
has me tempted also the WinTV-HVR-2250 looks like a good pick. the only problem i see with the WinTV-HVR-2250 is running everything coaxial id have to have the sat box on top or below the htpc, which isnt such a big deal i guess. thanks again for the help i'm going to put a little something together from newegg and post a slightly different list to see what you all think of the setup.


Dougie Fresh said:
These are the details on your PC: http://www.dell.com/us/en/dfh/desktops/xpsdt_410/pd.asp...

It seems you do have a PCIe x16 slot so you could replace the existing graphics with something like an HD5450. It looks like a blu-ray player was an option for your 410 so someone expected it to be able to view HD video.

As for making this work with Satellite, that's out of my league but I have doubts about how possible that will be. Satellite is closed up tighter than cable. Your best route might be the Happauge HD-PVR using the component outputs from your satellite set-top box. However, there are satellite tuner cards but who knows how those work with your provider. Apparently, if you are in Europe, it'll work but if you are in the US not so much. Someone else might chime in about some magical hardware.

As for a new system: i5-2500K, Gigabyte or ASUS H67 motherboard, Antec Fusion Remote case, Antec 380W PSU, 64GB SSD and/or Samsung F4 2TB drive, Lite-On Blu-ray player, 4GB ram, Windows 7 x64, IOGear RF keyboard/trackball would be a pretty nice build. You could save quite a bit of coin using i3-540/H55 instead with all the same components mentioned.

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January 21, 2011 2:27:31 AM

You could repurpose your Dell as a home server. I have an old Dell GX280 performing that function. I has Windows Home Server and that's where I keep all my media and backups.
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January 21, 2011 2:00:44 PM

thats a good idea i would like to ultimately get rid of cable in the house all together and just keep content stored on one pc to share with the house along with music and photos the usual stuff. that pc would be good for that so i will def look into doing that with it.

Dougie Fresh said:
You could repurpose your Dell as a home server. I have an old Dell GX280 performing that function. I has Windows Home Server and that's where I keep all my media and backups.

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January 22, 2011 12:12:27 AM

This is the build that I came up with looking around at Newegg, I would look around to see if I could get any of these parts cheaper before i ordered any of them but what do you think so far. It adds up to be a bit more than I wanted to spend but still not so bad considering I don't have to buy a graphics card nor a power supply. Was wondering though should I go with a cheaper sandy bridge processor considering I probably won't be pushing this system too much only with 1080p blu ray's or mkv files running at 1080p that I rip from my blu rays's. Thanks.

Intel Core i5-2500K Sandy Bridge 3.3GHz (3.7GHz Turbo Boost) 4 x 256KB L2 Cache 6MB L3 Cache LGA 1155 95W Quad-Core Desktop Processor BX80623I52500K
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

ASRock H67M LGA 1155 Intel H67 HDMI SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 Micro ATX Intel Motherboard
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

CORSAIR XMS3 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333 (PC3 10666) Dual Channel Kit Desktop Memory Model TW3X4G1333C9
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Intel X25-V SSDSA2MP040G2K5 2.5" 40GB SATA II MLC Internal Solid State Drive (SSD)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Western Digital Caviar Green WD20EARS 2TB 64MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive -Bare Drive
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Antec MicroFusion Remote 350 Micro ATX Media Center / HTPC Case
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

LITE-ON Black 12X BD-R 2X BD-RE 16X DVD+R 12X DVD-RAM 8X BD-ROM 8MB Cache SATA Internal Blu-ray Burner 12X Blu-ray Burner with Blu-ray 3D feature Model iHBS112 - OEM
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...


AZiO BTD-V201 USB 2.0 Micro Bluetooth Adapter (Class 1, V2.1 + EDR)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Hauppauge WinTV-HVR-2250 Dual TV Tuner / Encoder 1229 PCI-Express x1 Interface - OEM
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

IOGEAR GKM561R Black 2.4GHz Wireless HTPC Multimedia Keyboard with Laser Trackball and Scroll Wheel
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

or this if i can find it cheap as a keyboard:

Logitech diNovo Mini Black 63 Normal Keys Bluetooth Wireless Mini Keyboard
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
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January 30, 2011 4:55:11 AM

Best answer selected by shiroren8.
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