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Will this HTPC build work?

Last response: in Systems
December 1, 2012 2:35:43 PM

Hello folks- i'm about ready to pull the trigger on this new HTPC builds but would like the experts in this forum to bless my options. I'm looking for a whole-home htpc that will have the ability to watch/record HDTV (via Time Warner Cable) and then distribute the video/audio throughout the home to about 4-5 different destinations via media center extenders and HDMI baluns (the whole house has been run with plenty of CAT6 cable). I 'beefed' up this build because I also wanted the ability to edit out commercials from the recorded HD shows. This computer will reside in my basement in my media closet so I'm not too concerned about fan noise, case size, etc. Here's my proposal....

-CPU = Intel Core i3-3225 3.3GHz Dual-Core Processor
-MOBO = ASRock Z77 Extreme4 ATX LGA1155 Motherboard
-RAM = G.Skill Sniper 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3-1600 Memory
-SSD (for OS/programs) = Crucial M4 64GB 2.5" Solid State Disk
-HDD (stored content) = 2 x Western Digital Caviar Blue 1TB 3.5" 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive
-PSU = Antec EarthWatts Green 380W 80 PLUS Bronze Certified ATX12V / EPS12V Power Supply
-Tuner Card = Ceton InfiniTV 4 Quad-tuner Card
-Case = TBD
-Optical Drive = Asus BW-12B1ST/BLK/G/AS Blu-Ray/DVD/CD Writer (will probably be added at a later date) (summary of my build w/ prices)

A couple of questions - 1.) will tthis setup work with my expectations? 2.) I think i'm going to start with just one HDD and eventually setup a home media server - will this be possible down the road or should I start with the two HDDs? 3.) PSU - is this too much or not enough? 4.) Is my HDD capabilities enough to be able to record a couple of shows and then watch a couple of shows simultaneously? 5.) Is there anything I'm missing or should consider?

Thanks in advance for your expertise!

More about : htpc build work

December 1, 2012 3:42:33 PM

Unless something has changes since the last time I checked, the Ceton InfiniTV4 card does not allow for dynamic assigning of tuners to the various components in your network. A "whole home" scenario requiring more than four assigned tuners would require more than one Ceton card (and more than one cablecard from Time Warner).

If this is an issue, then look into the HDHomeRun Prime 3cc/6cc from SiliconDust or the WinTV-DCR-2650 from Hauppauge. Both of these are external devices, but have dynamically allocated TV Tuners. If you're never going to use more than two tuners simultaneously, then the Hauppauge would work for you. No more than three? Then the SiliconDust HDHomeRun Prime 3cc will work. However, given your situation (as stated), I would look to see if you could get your hands on a HDHomeRun Prime 6CC (6 tuners/2 cablecards/1 box) or actually get two Ceton Cards.

I've looked into this a bit and I've heard that for a multi-room setup like you're looking for, you would be better served if your main system had one CPU core and 1-2GB of RAM for each assigned tuner. For your situation, I would seriously look at going with an AMD Hexa-Core processor. two Ceton InfiniTV4 cards, and 16GB of RAM.

As for your questions:
1) I don't think so. I think your build is a little under-powered to handle more than two or three simultaneous systems accessing a single tuner card.
2) This depends on what you are recording. Each recording from Time Warner (I assume they're the same as Comcast) has a copy-flag attached to it. There are three flags:
a) Copy Never: This means you should never be able to actually record this program.
b) Copy Once: This means you can record the program, but it's only viewable on the system AND hard drive that it was initially recorded on. You cannot copy or move this recording once it's recorded.
c) Copy Free: This means once a program has been recorded, you can edit, move and manipulate it in any fashion you desire.

If it is your intention to record movies/TV programs for long-term storage, then it would be wise to build as large of a hard disk array as you can afford now.

3) Your power supply is perfect for your system as listed. If you decide to add another Ceton card and a few more hard drives, I'd probably step up to a 450 watt power supply; 500 watts if you decide to add a mid-range discrete graphics card. (Note: My HTPC runs a Sapphire HD 4670)

4) I'd say your system is a bit iffy in this regard. I can say that my AMD Athlon II X2-240 based HTPC was successful in recording three programs while I simultaneously watched a fourth. Actually viewing two programs at the same time, I would think would be too much for just a dual core processor. Writing three streams to a hard drive while sending a fourth to the monitor is one thing. Writing two streams to a hard drive while sending one stream to a monitor and another over the network seems like a bit much to me.

5) You've got a great beginning system; one that surpasses my own and should work just great for up to two simultaneous views; something I do with my current system. Right now, my HTPC has three of the four Ceton tuners assigned to it. The fourth tuner is assigned to my all-purpose rig. I usually use this for Sunday football when I want to keep track of two games at the same time. The HTPC, attached to my HDTV, will display the primary football game, while my all-purpose system will display the secondary game on my monitor (both systems are viewable from my living room couch).

5a) Unless you already have a wireless MCE Keyboard, I highly recommend getting an MCE Remote Control like this one from Hauppauge so you can control Media Center from your couch.

5b) Neither Windows 7 nor Windows 8 will play Blu-Ray discs natively. When you decide you want Blu-Ray playback, you will need play-back software. I'd recommend, when the time comes, to get a retail version of a blu-ray drive that includes the software as opposed to an OEM drive which may not. When I ordered my OEM blu-ray drive, I lucked out and Newegg sent along a copy of PowerDVD 9 anyway. Otherwise, you're looking at another $60-$100 for the playback software.

Hope this helps. If you have any other questions, feel free to ask.

-Wolf sends
December 3, 2012 6:10:02 PM

Thanks for the awesome feedback WolfSends.

I think I will upgrade to a quad-core per your recommendation to the i5-3570k w/ the HD4000 graphics (versus the dual core). Though I specified that I would like the streams in 5 different rooms, it would be extremeley doubtful all going at the same time (perhaps worst case scenario- 3 different streams simultaneously). I'll also upgrade my PSU to your recommended 450watts for any future additions. Would this 450watts still fit with the new CPU and one tuner card? I know there is a big debate regard AMD vs Intel for iGPU, but I would like to stick with Intel (brand loyal customer here) - besides it sounds that AMD is just about equal w/ Intel's HD 4000 - do you concur? Also, my research has led me to believe that a discrete graphics card is excessive with the current integrated graphics cards for an HTPC (1080p).

Also, i didn't even consider asigning tuners to a specific room. I believe i need to do some more research on the topic. I like Ceton products so will probably stick with their 4-tuner setup. Let me do some more research on this subject to see what tuner card would be good for me.

As far as the remote, my plans were to grab one of those Harmony remotes. From what I understand, it is pretty easy to train your Harmony remote with the WMC - again something I need to do more research on. What are your thoughts on Harmony remotes and it's ability to handle the HTPC controls?

Thanks again for helping me out. I went from knowing nothing on the subject starting last month to, well, knowing a little more. :) 
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December 4, 2012 1:25:35 PM

If you're looking at only three simultaneous streams, then I'd agree with your upgrade to a quad-core. While Intel's HD4000 series embedded graphics should suffice for your needs, they do not come close to the graphic capabilities of the AMD APUs.

I think you'll be fine with a quality 450 watt power supply. I don't think you'd go wrong by sticking with Antec as a supplier.

I don't have any specific information concerning using a Harmony Remote Control to manage your HTPC, but I've heard the same as you in that it's fairly easy.

If you want some more detailed information on just about any HTPC topic, you can head over to The Green Button. I used to go there regularly. They are also the official site for the Ceton Corp Forums, with several Ceton folks regularly dropping in to answer questions and interact with the folks there. Of course, I'm still here as well, so if you have any more questions for me, feel free to ask.

-Wolf sends
December 10, 2012 8:12:11 PM

I setup a HTPC with a dual-core Pentium, 4GB RAM (3.3GB useable), 330MB HDD, 1TB eSata drive (for recording TV), Silicondust HDHomerun Prime, and an XBox 360 for an extender.

I record 8 programs weekly, Wednesday night being the busy night, with 2 simultaneous recordings in HD, 3 total programs that night. I stream to my HDTV while the recordings are going (all 3 tuners churning away, 2 recording, 1 viewing). Most nights, only 1 program is recording, 1 viewing.

The XBox is connected via wireless (it is about 10 feet from the AP, going through a wall).

The only complaints I have is Windows Media Center is a bit slow as compared to the Cable Boxes in changing channels (this is Microsoft's problem - not hardware).

I turned in all my cable boxes a month ago...and don't regret it. $60 per month in savings (2 X DVR).

2TB of drive space should be plenty, unless you keep recordings for extended amounts of time...I usually watch all the recordings within a week or two of the original show date, and rarely use more than 5-10% of the drive.