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HTPC build and how it works

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May 6, 2012 8:55:52 PM

I'm thinking of building an HTPC and to be perfectly honest I have no idea how the whole process differentiates from a regular PC build. But I do know there are a few parts that I want to recycle and use instead of just lying around being unused.

I have

XFX HD6770
Athlon x4 645
OCZ 500w PSU

What else do I need for the build? Just the typical 9ish components? Also, how exactly does a tv tuner work? This is something I've always wondered and would like to sink my teeth into. Thank you in advance!

More about : htpc build works

a c 118 B Homebuilt system
May 6, 2012 11:31:35 PM

AS far as I understand it, the definition of HTPC can be in the eye of the beholder. As I understand it, its just a low power, cheap computer since playing movies and such really isn't particularly taxing on a system. Perhaps with several hard drives onboard for storage of movies, video, music.

In that sense, those parts would be more than powerful enough for the task.

As far as TV tuners, they're just cards with co-ax cables like you'd find on your cable box, and it converts the signal into something recognizable by the PC.
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a b B Homebuilt system
May 7, 2012 2:32:47 PM

The only changes to the build process for an HTPC is that most people want this system to be quieter than say a Gaming PC, because it typically sits in the living room. The components list is going to depend on what usage you intend for it. Some people want to game on their typically larger HDTV, so they should build with gaming in mind. Others (like myself) simply want it for media purposes only and can then build using lower powered components.

TV Tuner cards are as nekulturny states, but there are several different types of tuners. Which type you should get depends on your TV source. Do you subscribe to Cable/Satellite TV or use free Over-The-Air broadcasts? If you subscribe to cable TV, does your subscription require the use of a set top box?

Aside from the TV Tuner Card, components are still just the usual 9ish components. If you want to get into recording TV shows, you'll want to put more emphasis on storage space. The components you already have are more than enough for an HTPC.

-Wolf sends
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May 9, 2012 4:38:07 AM

I do currently have cable tv through time warner. I've read around that they have some issues with tv tuner cards and as of yet I have not come to a definitive conclusion as to what tv tuner card would work for me.

While I am here I might as well ask how the card works? Do I simply open a program software included with the TV tuner hardware to watch tv? Thanks guys
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a b B Homebuilt system
May 9, 2012 12:53:53 PM

If you head over to http://www.thegreenbutton.tv/forums/index.php and search for Time Warner, you should come up with quite a few hits. We're pretty much all about HTPCs over there.

With a TV Tuner card installed and set up (channels scanned), you could use either the software that comes with the card or Windows Media Center (my preference).

Since you currently have Time Warner Cable, there are really two options:

1) If you do not have/require a set top box from Time Warner, then pretty much any ATSC/ClearQAM tuner card will work for you. Pretty much the gold standard right now is the Hauppauge WinTV-HVR-2250, but others will work as well, so long as it has a ClearQAM tuner. I've used this AVerMedia AVerTV Combo PCI-E TV Tuner and it worked well enough for me.

2) If you do have a set top box from Time Warner, then you could still use a tuner card like the one above, but you may want to consider getting a cablecard solution to replace your set top box. There are a few cablecard solutions available:

1) Ceton InfiniTV4 PCI-E - Four Tuners <-- What I use.
2) Ceton InfiniTV4 USB - Four Tuners.
3) SiliconDust HDHomeRun Prime - Three Tuners.
4) Hauppauge WinTV-DCR-2650 - Two Tuners.
5) SiliconDust HDHomeRun Prime 6CC - Six Tuners <-- Requires two cablecards.

How many tuners you need is really up to you. It's my understanding that each of these devices work equally well. It's only happened once in the 10 months that I've owned my Ceton card, but I did need to record three shows while watching a fourth.

With the cablecard solution, you'd need to get the cablecard itself from Time Warner. The cablecard inserts into the TV tuning device and the device is either installed into your HTPC (InfiniTV4 PCI-E) or connected to your HTPC/Network (external boxes). Once it's set up, your HTPC has most of the functionality of the set top box. You will lose the ability to watch Pay-Per-Views and you will lose the TV Guide channel (your TV Guide is downloaded by either the TV Tuner card software or Windows Media Center). Everything else works the same.

Another benefit of cablecard solutions is that if you have other Windows 7 PCs wired to a network, you can assign one or more of the tuners to that PC and THAT PC will act as if it has a tuner card installed.

I hope this is of use to you. Any other questions, feel free to ask.

-Wolf sends
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May 9, 2012 1:30:05 PM

As has been said above, a HTPC is really just a PC which is dedicated to media consumption. If you want to use one which is quiet (and if it's in the living room, that's really what you want), then you need to have as many low powered and passive parts as you can (eg. fanless PSU, passively cooled GPU). I don't know what your wider setup is (surround sound etc), but a 6xxx AMD GPU is good as it supports both 3D and bitstreaming of HD soundtracks. You want low powered components to avoid as much heat as you can, as heat = fan speed = noise.

The exact setup will depend on your own preference. Some people have a HDD or two in theirs, others (myself included) use a home server in another room to store the movies etc and then just stream it over a LAN to the HTPC. For a possible build, check my sig...not saying it's right for you, but it gives an idea of what sort of build may work. As I have a home server, my HTPC HDD is an SSD (those acronyms just roll right off the tongue!), as I essentially use my HTPC as a front-end to my server content.

Your current components look fine. An OCZ PSU isn't generally considered high-end, but a HTPC won't stress a 500W PSU much so it should be fine. The CPU is excessive for an HTPC, and may be a bit hot, but that may be resolvable by underclocking it and / or disabling some cores if possible. The GPU is more than enough for an HTPC; my only concern would be that the fan is audible, but that's down to preference. At the very least, use those components to test the concept and see if you like it...if so, you can customise from there.
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May 10, 2012 6:14:04 AM

Wow. seriously amazing information just given out. I really and truly appreciate the time and feedback you guys have given me. I was thinking of putting those components on a mATX board in a portable computer case to lug around with me to act as my LAN and HTPC. Are all PCIe slots created equal on the mobo?

I'm still new to building pc's and being more tech saavy but I learn so much just by participating on these boards. Thank you so very much again.
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May 10, 2012 7:24:21 AM

You're welcome, it's what we like doing. :) 

A combined HTPC and server isn't a bad idea in principle, but you will get increased sound levels from the HDDs. If that's something you're OK with, then you're good to go but it drives me a bit nuts if I can hear PC noise from my HTPC! The other thing to consider with a joint system is the OS you use...a dedicated server can use Windows Home Server or FreeNAS, but I'm not sure how those behave for an HTPC also. It's not something I've done myself, but other may have some input.

PCIe slots come in different flavours...x1, which is a small slot about an inch or so long, or x16 which is the 'full size' one (which you'd typically put a GPU into). Due to physical size, you can't put an x16 card into an x1 slot, but you can put an x1 card into an x16 slot. Have a look at a picture of a modern motherboard and you'll see what I mean. Not to confuse the issue, there are also PCI slots...these are of similar size to PCIe x16 slots, and you can differentiate the two as PCIe x16 slots tend to have a release lever for GPUs on them. Additionally, most motherboard manufacturers colour code their slots (eg blue for PCIe x16, black for PCIe x1 and PCI). Depending on how the motherboard is put together, the different slots have different controllers and therefore bandwidth...however, that's only really a concern for multiple GPU setups. AFAIK, the PCIe bus has plenty of bandwidth to deal with SATA port plug-in cards.
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May 10, 2012 6:40:27 PM

Best answer selected by ohyouknow.
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