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Min spec HTPC you can get away with.

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Last response: in Home Theatre Legacy
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November 8, 2007 7:59:17 AM

I’m at impasse.

My Tivo & my DVD player died within the space of a month of each other. And sky T.V. is dull as always.

What a great time to put together a HTPC with “none of the trimmings.”

I’ve built a few game rigs and normally that means, best kit you can afford.
But now I want to know what I can get away with? cheapest without stuttering video.

Minimum Requirements
1. Record and rewind the t.v. to replace tivo.
2. Play films and DVDs with lovely 5.1 sound (I have dolby5.1 AMP with optical input).
3. Silent as I can make it.

4. No Hi-Def T.V – (few beers and it all looks Hi-Def to me anyway.)

AMD cpu (cheap)
Mother board with optical out,
T.V Capture card - No idea about these.
1 GB ram,
Average HDD (silent as I can get)
Small mini case and Power supply.

Software
Ubuntu - I guess.

Will fix the tivo; but I'm using this as an excuse to get a pc into the front room. :) 

Any ideas?

More about : min spec htpc

January 16, 2008 6:56:49 PM

I can't help feeling that this could be a great opportunity for you to build yourself an ITX design Media Center.
It may be a little too 'enthusiast' than what you had in mind but regardless, I have one in my living room, and it is fantastic!

If you have no idea what I'm talking about, have a look at:
http://www.mini-itx.com/

They are basically, TINY motherboards with inbuilt CPUs, mostly made by VIA.

There are different designs and connections to suit absolutely any application (including dual monitor). Most of the board are completely fanless for a silent system, and there are plenty with graphic acceleration, optical sound output and even HDMI (even though you have said this is unnecessary)

I've had a quick look for you, and I believe the EPIA EX 10000EG Fanless C7 to be the best option for your particular setup. It has everything you have requested on your list minus a TV Card.
At £129 it may seem a bit steep, but don't forget you are getting the board and the processor and the graphics for this price.

There are a huge variety of cases on the site, although some of them tend to get on the pricey side. If you fancied turning this into a bit of a project, you could make your own case out of... well just about anything.People have used old PSOnes, guitars, DVD player cases. Have a look at http://www.mini-itx.com/projects.asp for inspiration.

You can also pick up all the required drives (DVD and Hard drives) As well as any adaptors required.

All in all, from a quick spec I ran up, you could have the entire system minus the TV card for between £220 and £250 depending of spec and drives etc.

I would suggest purchasing the board and case from www.mini-itx.com and the rest of the gear from eBuyer www.ebuyer.co.uk

And I know you said you wanted to use normal drives, but I would seriously consider using a laptop (2.5") drive for a media center. Speed won't be an issue, and you don't want to hear the constant clicking and vibration from a larger, faster drive.

I've mapped out a possible spec from eBuyer here:

RAM http://www.ebuyer.com/product/64183
HDD http://www.ebuyer.com/product/122084
or HDD http://www.ebuyer.com/product/131214
DVD-RW http://www.ebuyer.com/product/132742
or DVD-RW http://www.ebuyer.com/product/139414

You could spoil yourself and get a wireless keyboard with integrated mouse:
http://www.ebuyer.com/product/104608
http://www.ebuyer.com/product/128075

There are also a selective of decent media center cases, including a couple of ITX:
http://www.ebuyer.com/search/?strSearch=&bolShowAll=tru...

Also, it may prove useful to take a look here for advice on connecting your TV card to different boxes and equipment. There are also some recommendations for different TV capture cards:
http://www.radioandtelly.co.uk/onyourpc.html

Just make sure your TV card fits your case! Maybe a USB is the best bet.

You may also be interested in the following bits of software:
SilentDrive
http://www.rt-sw.de/en/freeware/freeware.html
Lets you lower the noise created by most IDE hard drives

Hitachi Feature Tool
http://www.hitachigst.com/hdd/support/download.htm#Feat...
Works on both SATA and IDE drives, not just those made by Hitachi to lower drive noise. You must burn it to a CD and boot to it, but this has the added advantage of working with Linux or Windows.

Anyway, this is long enough now. If you'd still like to do an AMD setup, I can give you some advice on the board and CPU but it will obviously be a much bigger setup and will almost certainly need a fan for the CPU as a media center case will be too small for a passive heatsink cooler. Also you will have to use a standard PSU which will also have a fan.
September 2, 2008 9:39:23 AM

I recently decided to do a similar thing to yourself. I built a media PC with the lowest spec I knew should be able to run BluRay/HD-DVDs and did it for £135. Runs a treat with my 32" HDTV with HDMI.

I have written an article about the components that I chose etc here:

http://basicdog.co.uk/?q=Low_Wattage_HD_HTPC

It has served me flawlessly since I built it last month and was cheap as chips to boot. Just need to wait for HD-DVD drives to go down in price and it will be complete.

Good luck with your build.

-kihoninu
November 8, 2008 12:53:41 PM

Good thinkin man. I like the way you think
!