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PVR/Media Center PC

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May 18, 2004 8:56:45 PM

I'm building a Media Center/PVR box for my home theatre. The computer will act as a media server and PVR box only. I'm also trying to go as cheep as possible. So my question is, what's the minimum speed Athlon XP I'd need to encode a TV/Video stream into MPEG 4 Video and MP3 Audio in real time without dropping frames and still be able to perform some other basic tasks like watching a DVD, playing MP3's, or sending a file to a remote PC? Does anybody know? Also, since there are a lot of options out there. Does it matter much which Mpeg4 codec or encoder program/media server program is used?

Thanks.

More about : pvr media center

a b à CPUs
May 19, 2004 3:52:25 AM

hehe, with a good video card and a good TV-Tuner card with hardware MPEG2 encoding you could get by with an Athlon 700! Heck, a PIII 350 with a MPEG2 encoder card and separate MPEG2 decoder card could probably do what you want! But, in practicality you have to balance the cost of the other hardware and the price of the CPU depending on your budget. Heck, a PIII 350 with a MPEG2 encoder card and separate MPEG2 decoder card could probably do what you want!

It's always best to have hardware encoding, Hauppauge's WinDVR series has it, and yes those cards are expensive. But they take probably 90% of the recording load off the CPU and put it on the encoder chip.

The best home theaters are rack systems, I propose you consider a Micro ATX desktop style case that matches the style of typical home theater receivers. These are shorter and wider than "cubes", but even though they are "larger" the shorter height means they take up less space on a rack, and the much wider width more closely matches the 17-18" of the typical home theater audio rack system.

And there's the key: total system performance. You can get some NICE Micro ATX boards for the Athlon XP. Boards with the superior nForce2 chipset. Also, some Micro ATX desktops allow for full sized power supplies, while still being a little narrower than the typical HT audio receiver, and very short in height.

How much video power do you need? You COULD have a "do everything" media center that can play games well, simply by choosing the right video card. I like the 9600 Pro because it's powerfull yet very efficient, putting out very little heat.

The BEST settup would be to use a hardware-compression TV-tuner card, separate video card, and separate sound card. That's 3 slots, the Micro ATX form factor offers 4.

Back to the CPU, look at prices and consider them, the XP2500+ isn't expensive. When you get to a certain point you'll see prices increase faster than model numbers, make your decision based on finances.

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May 19, 2004 10:40:49 PM

Thanks Crash

I'm torn between going really cheep and going really quiet.

On the one hand the option is to get a full ATX board, Athlon XP 2500+, ATI 9000 AIW, and everything else you need.

But silence from my a media center PC is really important to me, so what do you think of this?

I get a TV tuner with a hardware Mpeg encoder, a Moble XP 2600+, a Micro ATX board with a passive heatsink on the north bridge and some over clocking options particularly a multiplier adjustment, and I crank the sucker down to about 1ghz. Do you think I could get away with running that just with a passive heatsink if the case is well vented?

I'll probably just end up somewhere in the middle.
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a b à CPUs
May 19, 2004 11:16:21 PM

In fact I do. If your board supports LOWERING the vCore, you should be able to get an XP2500+ (1833MHz) down to 1466MHz at 133MHz FSB (DDR266), which is the speed of the 1700+, but with Barton's improved core would probably give you 1800+ or better performance. That should run at 1.4v.

Of course you could get a MOBILE CPU which is pre-picked to run at low voltages and try to get down to 1.3v at around the same speed.

I don't know what the lowest voltage for most desktop XP boards is, but there is a limit as to how low it can go, so you'll likely not get the voltage much lower than that. But you could probably get by with a huge passive cooler as long as the case is well ventilated.

That being said, an 80mm 1500RPM fan is so quiet I doubt you'd hear it with the case closed, so I'd probably go with a low speed fan on a large CPU cooler.

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May 20, 2004 5:31:00 PM

Does anybody know of any good Micro ATX nForce2 Mobos that have good Over/Underclocking? Most of the ones I've found are "Value" boards and have next to no adjustments. I'd also like to find one with the MCP-T. I'd like to use the Soundstorm Optical out to connect to my home theatre. Idealy the board should have a passive heat sink on the north bridge.

Thanks

<P ID="edit"><FONT SIZE=-1><EM>Edited by Archer01 on 05/20/04 01:32 PM.</EM></FONT></P>
a b à CPUs
May 20, 2004 9:47:15 PM

Soundstorm is more than the nForce APU, it's a certification for use with standard drivers. In order to be "certified" the board has to use approved codecs, but since you'd be bypassing those it's really not that important. I'm sure I've seen MCP-T Micro ATX boards that weren't soundstorm certified, but it's been so long since I've looked that I can't remember the models.

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<font color=red>Only a place as big as the internet could be home to an ego as large as Crashman's!</font color=red>
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