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First HTPC/DVR - Need parts advise

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December 8, 2011 12:41:13 AM

I need some advice on building my first HTPC/DVR. I primarily want it to record/watch over-the-air HD programming (ATSC), streaming online TV (e.g. Netflix), DVDs, and possibly Blu-ray. My HDTV accepts HDMI or D Sub. I am not much of a Linux person, so as of now I am planning to go with Windows 7 Media Center.
All suggestions are welcome.

CPU: I have read a lot of good reviews with AMD Llano (better graphics and lower cost than Intel route). Is an A4 adequate, or is an A8 overkill, dual/triple/quad core?

AMD A4-3400 Llano 2.7GHz Socket FM1 65W Dual-Core Desktop APU with DirectX 11 Graphic AMD Radeon HD 6410D - $70
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

AMD A6-3500 Llano 2.1GHz (2.4GHz Max Turbo) Socket FM1 65W Triple-Core Desktop APU with DirectX 11 Graphic AMD Radeon HD 6530D - $90
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

AMD A6-3650 Llano 2.6GHz Socket FM1 100W Quad-Core Desktop APU with DirectX 11 Graphic AMD Radeon HD 6530D - $120
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

AMD A8-3850 Llano 2.9GHz Socket FM1 100W Quad-Core Desktop APU with DirectX 11 Graphic AMD Radeon HD 6550D – $140
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Motherboard: I am leaning towards one of the Gigabyte boards below based on price, features (2 PCI Express ports) and reviews.

ASRock A75M FM1 AMD A75 (Hudson D3) HDMI SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 Micro ATX AMD Motherboard with UEFI BIOS - $80 ($75 + $5)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

GIGABYTE GA-A75M-D2H FM1 AMD A75 (Hudson D3) HDMI SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 Micro ATX AMD Motherboard - $80 (after mail in rebate)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

GIGABYTE GA-A75M-UD2H FM1 AMD A75 (Hudson D3) HDMI SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 Micro ATX AMD Motherboard - $85 (after mail in rebate)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

ASUS F1A75-M FM1 AMD A75 (Hudson D3) HDMI SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 Micro ATX AMD Motherboard with UEFI BIOS - $100
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Tuner Card: I already purchased a Hauppauge 2250.

Power Supply:
Antec EarthWatts Green EA-380D Green 380W Continuous power ATX12V v2.3 / EPS12V 80 PLUS BRONZE Certified Active PFC Power Supply - $47 ($45 + $2)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Antec EarthWatts Green EA-430D Green 430W Continuous power ATX12V v2.3 / EPS 12V 80 PLUS BRONZE Certified Active PFC Power Supply - $40 after rebate
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Antec NEO ECO 400C 400W Continuous Power ATX12V 2.3 / EPS12V 80 PLUS Certified Active PFC Power Supply - $25 after rebate
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

RAM: 4 GB should do be adequate? Any DDR3 SDRAM 1333?
G.SKILL 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333 (PC3 10600) Dual Channel Kit Desktop Memory Model F3-10600CL9D-4GBPK - $25
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Case: (cabinet depth is only about 17”, so I need a short case)
SILVERSTONE Black 8.0mm aluminum front panel, 0.8mm SECC body GRANDIA GD04B Micro ATX Media Center / HTPC Case $94 ($74 + $20)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

SILVERSTONE Black Aluminum / 0.8mm SECC Grandia Series GD05B micro-ATX / Mini-DTX / Mini-ITX MB, 1x5.25", 2x3.5"+1x2.5"HDD or 1x3.5"+2x2.5"HDD, 3x120mm golf bladed fan, 11" expansion card capable HTPC Case $104 ($84 + $20)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Hard drive: a hard drive is a hard drive?
Seagate Barracuda ST31000524AS 1TB 7200 RPM 32MB Cache SATA 6.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive -Bare Drive - $140
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Blu-Ray Burner:
ASUS Black 12X BD-R 2X BD-RE 16X DVD+R 12X DVD-RAM 8X BD-ROM 8MB Cache SATA Blu-ray Burner BW-12B1ST/BLK/G/AS – $85 ($100 - $20 + $5)
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 SATA 12X Blu-ray Burner with Blu Ray 3D Feature IHBS112-04 – OEM - $85 ($100 - $20 + $5)
Free Cyberlink BD software w/ purchase, limited offer
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

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Best solution

December 8, 2011 3:51:15 PM

You list is good.

For the CPU, the A4 is good enough. You'll only need more cores if you plan to re-encode video.

Motherboard, all are good choices. I prefer Asus and Gigabyte myself. I've never used ASRock. Of the two Gigabyte boards, I'd go with the UD2H over the D2H if the price is that close.

Tuner card, you got the best one already.

PSU, the 380W Antec is perfect unless you plan to get a beefy video card now or later.

RAM, 4GB is plenty.

Case, a subjective matter but both choices are excellent.

Hard drive... uggggh it's too bad prices have skyrocketed. I personally prefer to have a quick OS drive and then a separate large 5400rpm drive for media storage.

Blu-ray, the lite-on is the better deal if it comes with the latest and full featured playback software.
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December 8, 2011 10:44:34 PM

Thank you for the response.

When/why would I want to re-encode (honest question, not trying to be smart)? Is that only if I want to convert to a different format (like ripping DVDs/blu-rays)? I like the idea of getting the A4 to save money, but would the A6/A8 offer any benefits?

Why a 5400rpm drive? Is it quieter/cheaper?


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December 9, 2011 12:57:33 AM

Yeah, re-encoding is only done when you either want to convert to a different format (say for example, an iPod compatible format) or if you are trying to save storage space at the cost of quality (shrink a 1080p blu-ray to 720p, for example).

A6 and A8 have better built-in graphics, but the A4 graphics are perfectly fine for media duties.

5400rpm drives are quieter, run cooler, and typically come in larger capacities.
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December 10, 2011 1:56:57 AM

Thanks for all the input. I pulled the trigger tonight and ordered the A6-3500 to get the slightly better built-in graphics and additional core per your suggestions (it was only $20 more). I also got the GIGABYTE GA-A75M-UD2H FM1 motherboard for the additional PCI Express slot (just in case). I picket up a case, Seagate Barracuda Green 2TB hard drive and the LG burner (BH12LS38) last night at Fry's.

Someone has asked me if I have checked to see if the integrated graphics can handle audio over HDMI. The thought never even crossed my mind, but I am not sure when to confirm. Any thoughts?
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December 10, 2011 12:40:48 PM

Yes, the Llano built-in HDMI can bitstream HD and non-HD audio just fine. It can also do 3D blu-ray if that interests you.
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December 25, 2011 1:12:49 AM

The system is built and runs great. So now for the follow up questions. Is there a way to have audio through HDMI (to my TV) and via optical (to my old receiver) simultaneously? I would prefer to not have to modify the configuration manually each time I decide which type of sound to use. I am currently using Windows 7 Media Center.

Also, is there a way to skip commercials automatically for programs recorded over the air? Perhaps I should use something other than Windows 7 Media Center to achieve both of these?

Thanks again in advance.
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a b À AMD
December 26, 2011 3:41:24 AM

While I don't know of any way to run dual audio streams, simultaneously, I have a couple ideas:

1) I came across this thread a while back, but never implemented it. Seems there is a Windows Media Center Plug-in that will allow you to switch between audio outputs.
http://windowsmediacenter.blogspot.com/2010/12/change-d...

2) AutoHotKey. This is a program that runs on your system and allows you to set up a hot-key combination (like ALT+F12) that runs a scripts which switches your default audio output. This is what I use.

As far as skipping commercials, look at a program called, "ComSkip". It might be what you're looking for.

Glad you're happy with your system!

-Wolf sends
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December 26, 2011 11:32:21 AM

Some receivers have the ability to pass HDMI audio to the TV when the receiver is not in use. My new Yamaha does it, but my old Yamaha did not. Check and see if your receiver has that capability for the easiest solution to your question about running multiple audio out.
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December 31, 2011 1:31:23 AM

Thank you both for the responses.

I'll have to look into Comskip. I have just started a 30-day trial of ShowAnalyzer, but have not had much luck with it (not very accurate, and it appears to be dead). Comskip development seems to be very alive and well, but does not yet support live tv yet, but is at the top of the developer's todo list.

Unfortunately my receiver is too old and does not support HDMI. I will hopefully get some time this weekend to play with the audio options you described.

Thanks,
Serge
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January 2, 2012 4:09:46 PM

Update...

I just re-wired it so that audio goes from my HTPC to the TV via HDMI and then from the TV to receiver and it works great! I am thankful this TV supports this functionality since my receiver is so old. This is actually the most convenient setup because now I do not have to change the input to the receiver depending on the source of the audio. It is always configured correctly by default.

I have also tried ComSkip. Although I have only tried it on a few shows so far, I think this program is great! It has been very accurate on commercial so far. I am anxiously waiting for ComSkip to support live tv, but otherwise it is great and extremely easy to set up.

I also have sleep mode working properly now. The HTPC goes to sleep when it should and wakes up few minutes before the next scheduled recording.

So, everything is now working the way I wanted. This has been a fun learning experience. Thanks to all for the suggestions/guidance.

The only question left is whether GBPVR/NextPVR is better than Windows 7 Media Center and worth switching over. Any opinions/suggestions/guidance?
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January 7, 2012 1:18:31 AM

Best answer selected by serge.
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