1st HTPC build ~£1000 budgett, suggestions appreciated!

Discussion in 'Home Entertainment Computers' started by number1jon, Sep 2, 2007.

  1. number1jon

    number1jon
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    I'm looking to build my first PC for both home cinema and in a few months it will become my main/only home PC for personal use. I want it to give optimum home cinema performance - picture & sound on HD DVD, Blu Ray and DVD, and to be quiet. I may play the odd game and would like a decent amount of power for general use and futureproofing. Viewing will be done on a 50" 1080p samsung plasma, and my Pioneer AX10Ai does not have HDMI.

    I will be ordering the bits and pieces soon and have a rough spec:


    Case
    SilverStone Grandia GD01 £73.99
    http://www.scan.co.uk/Products/ProductInfo.asp?WebProductID=537560

    Processor (CPU)
    Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 G0 Stepping (2.4GHz 1066MHz) Socket 775 L2 8MB Cache (2x4MB (4MB per core pair)) Retail Boxed Processor £176.85
    http://www.ebuyer.com/UK/product/131950
    http://www.scan.co.uk/Products/ProductInfo.asp?WebProductID=643237
    or
    Intel Core 2 Duo E6750 2.66GHz 1333FSB Socket 775 4MB Cache £120.07

    CPU Cooler
    Scythe mini-ninja £28.19
    http://www.scan.co.uk/Products/ProductInfo.asp?WebProductID=657369
    + a quiet 120mm fan

    OR

    ZALMAN CNPS 9500 AT Socket 775 CPU Cooler £23.72
    http://www.ebuyer.com/UK/product/116413

    OR

    Zalman CNPS 9700 LED £34.36
    http://www.ebuyer.com/customer/prod...hvd19wcm9kdWN0X3Jldmlld3M=&product_uid=120876

    Motherboard
    ASUS P5K-E/WIFI-AP AiLifestyle Series P35 Socket 775 Socket eSATA 8 channel Audio ATX Motherboard £103.65
    http://www.ebuyer.com/customer/prod...9kdWN0X3NwZWNpZmljYXRpb25z&product_uid=129126

    Memory2GB (2x1GB) CorsairTwinX XMS2, DDR2 PC2-6400 (800), 240 Pins, Non-ECC Unbuffered, CAS 4-4-4-12, EPP £66.55
    http://www.scan.co.uk/Products/ProductInfo.asp?WebProductID=402849

    Graphics Card - I'm not sure which would suit best out of these:
    MSI 8600GT Silent edition 256MB DVI HDTV PCI £73.85
    http://www.ebuyer.com/UK/product/126985 Whoops - http://www.xsreviews.co.uk/reviews/graphics-cards/msi-8600gt/4/

    gigabyte 2600XT £67.67 - leaning towards this onehttp://www.scan.co.uk/Products/ProductInfo.asp?WebProductID=661

    gigabyte 8600GT £71.68
    http://www.scan.co.uk/Products/ProductInfo.asp?WebProductID=661334
    And GTS £105.74
    http://www.scan.co.uk/Products/ProductInfo.asp?WebProductID=661333

    Asus EN8600GT SILENT £73.13 (‘EN' Vs ‘VGA' prefix???)
    http://www.lambda-tek.com/componentshop/index.pl?prodID=B77749

    Hard Drive(s)3* Samsung SpinPoint HD501LJ 500GB SATAII Hard Drive 16MB Cache – OEM £59.79(*3)
    http://www.ebuyer.com/UK/product/130454

    PSU -
    I'd like to save £25 and get the 520watt model if I can get away with it
    Corsair HX Series 620W Modular PSU - ATX12V v2.2 APFC £91.91
    http://www.ebuyer.com/UK/product/114941

    OR

    Corsair HX Series 520 watt £63.32
    http://www.scan.co.uk/Products/ProductInfo.asp?WebProductID=446788

    Optical Drives
    Pioneer BDC-202 Blu-Ray Reader 12X DVD1RWDL/RAM SATA Black – OEM £135.49
    http://www.ebuyer.com/UK/product/130747/rb/0
    and
    Toshiba SD-H802A £117.14 (+£7.50 postage)
    http://www.lambda-tek.com/componentshop/index.pl?origin=gbase1.1&prodID=B75140

    KeyboardKeysonic wireless £27.85
    http://www.ebuyer.com/UK/product/104608/rb/0

    MouseMicrosoft Wireless Laser Mouse 5000 £22
    http://www.ebuyer.com/UK/product/109416

    Remote
    Cyberlink £9.99
    http://www.ebuyer.com/UK/product/129977/rb/0
     
  2. badbob

    badbob
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    Only things I would disagree with..

    Quad core- not needed for HTPC or games for a while yet (just Supreme Commander) dual core is more than enough.

    Graphics card, lousy for gaming. But passive and suitable for HTPC duties. So you have to make a choice, a gaming card ie 8800GTX or ATi X2900 are going to be power hungry, high in power consumption and more heat produced.

    I have that same keyboard/trackpad Keysonic, works great.

    If possible just have one drive in the HTPC, and have server elseware. Much less heat and noise. Got a Samsung 500GB in the HTPC, and a NAS elseware
     
  3. number1jon

    number1jon
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    Decisions I need to make

    Altough I'm open to suggestions I'm happy with the spec apart from a few things:

    Which CPU cooler?
    I would like the whole thing to be pretty much silent when I'm watching films. I'm probably going to go with the Q6600 (G0 stepping) and may well try a bit of mild overclocking so I need a decent cooling solution, but I'm concerned about which of the mentioned coolers (or any others) will fit in the motherboard properly and fit in the case (170mm tall inc feet), and which will be the quietest.

    Which graphics card?
    ATI or nvida? I like the idea of the ATI outputting sound over the HDMI to the TV, this means I don't have to turn on my HC amp to watch casual TV. Other than that I want the best possible picture at 1080p/24hz, and may tinker with the odd RTS game.

    Soundcard
    I did look into the X-Meridian card but as powerdvd downsamples the HD audio I thought there was no point in spending the £££. I am also making quite a big assuption that I'm not sure of - can powerdvd downsample e.g. dolby trueHD to 1.5mbps (as the tosh hd dvd players do) dts?

    520W power supply enough?
    Given that down the line I may add a soundcard, overclock the processor, end up with 5 or 6 internal hard drives and add a DVB tuner?

    2-channel PCM to my CD player DAC
    I chose a mobo with 2 digital audio outputs because I want one to output bitstream surround sound to my integrated HC amp when watching movies, and one to output 2 channel PCM to my CD player DAC so I can get the most out of mp3 music. How can I do this?!?!?!

    Thanks for suggestions!
     
  4. number1jon

    number1jon
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    Yes I was just thinking about in the future it will be the main PC, and as the prices have come down quite a bit I thought why not

    This isn't really an option unfortunately
     
  5. badbob

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    Why do you need quad core? Quad core uses more power and expels more heat. Therefore need better cooler with more case and CPU fan air movement, thus more noise.

    CPU cooler will depend on case size.

    If you're gaming at 1920x1080 resolution, I would look at 8800GTS as a minimum.

    Does your dac or av amp have digital out? You could it through the unit.

    PSU will also depend on what graphics card.
     
  6. number1jon

    number1jon
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    As I'm not too serious about gaming, and with the cost and heat produced by these high-end cards I think I'll stick with the nvida 8600 or ATI 2600 series

    Yes it does, though if possible I'd like to not to have to turn on my AV amp when just listening to stereo (it eats up to 800 watts!!). Also if possible (and I've no idea how all this works) I'd like to not have to go into an option on the PC and change the digital out from bitstream to 2 channel PCM. Any idea if I can set the software to do this, maybe I could use iTunes and make a setting there?
     
  7. ash

    ash
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    Maybe go for a Core Duo for now, and wait for quad-core to become cheaper, you will see prices drop dramatically in a year I think.

    :)

    Also what OS? Vista or XP
     
  8. number1jon

    number1jon
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    I'm too tempted by the quad! It saves faffing around later and straight away it will become the main computer for a lot of the time. About to order it now:eek:

    I'm going to go with Vista. My understanding is that 32-bit is the only option as 64-bit is for 64-bit processors and only Athlon do those. Is that right? I'd probably go with 32-bit anyway as they say the drivers are more stable.
     
  9. cosmicblue

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    Interesting thread - I am going down the same road and it is something I have been researching on and off for about 18 months....

    What I'm going to suggest is perhaps a little different and will get close to your budget.

    I want my HTPC to silent - that means no fans or at worst only the PSU with a fan that only comes on when it needs to. To do this you need to find a case that is most probably made out of aluminum of sufficient thickness to act as passive heatsink using heat-pipes to draw the heat away from the toasty components - silently.

    Like you I also want to be able to play games on the TV - I reckon Toca Racedriver would be fun on a big widescreen and that means finding a case that can take a decent video-card, probably with a motherboard with enough spare slots for a decent sound card and TV tuner card.

    In the research that I did I found two companies that manufacture heat-sink cases:

    Atech Fabrication in the USA - http://www.atechfabrication.com/HTPC_cases.htm

    and Mcubed in Austria - http://www.hifiatx.com/hfx.php?lang=EN

    The Atech stuff looks lovely but is expensive by the time you add all the desireable options - everything is an option, even the reset button is an extra, it isn't hard to configure a £750 case... Do check out the external disk cases too for a future upgrade....you can never have enough disk!

    Mcubed do a heat sink case called the 'Classic', which can take full size ATX components and they can supply heat-pipe kits for CPU, GPU and Chipset cooling along with silent disk caddies.....and I've ordered this little lot today:

    1 x iMon VFD and IR (530) = 89,00EUR
    2 x Vertical Silence Rev.2 - black/black (325) = 58,00EUR
    1 x BorgFX VGA - Heatpipe GPU Cooler (521) = 65,00EUR
    1 x BorgFX CPU classic - Heatpipe Processor Cooler (520) = 79,00EUR
    1 x HFX® classic - black/black with front connectors (503) = 434,00EUR
    1 x VFD Filter blue 2x16 (619) = 4,96EUR
    1 x HFX Safety Control System (532) = 25,00EUR
    ------------------------------------------------------
    Sub-Total: 754,96EUR
    German Logistics Systems (4-6 days) (Parcel (1 x 17.875 kg)): 20,11EUR
    incl. VAT (MWSt.) in EU (16%): 129,18EUR
    Total: 775,07EUR

    By the time Paypal have had their slice it was £538, the iMon VFD and IR bit is the display that goes in the front of the case and the IR receiver/remote control - the Vertical silence components are the two silenced disk caddies.

    Now for the PC components, Nvidia published a recommended spec - http://www.nzone.com/object/nzone_pvhd_build.html They also produced a PDF suggesting that a Dual Core CPU AMD 4200+ was one of recommended CPUs for decoding HD-DVD and Blu-Ray I'll try and attach it to this post, if not PM me for it…..

    I looked at this all ways and then had a stroke of luck – I sent my VoodooPC-Omen (ultimate gaming machine) back to Canada for a big upgrade and bought an AcerPC from Ebuyer to use whilst it was away….. http://www.ebuyer.com/UK/product/126116 despite what it says on the box it was a Dual Core Athlon 64x2 4200+ CPU and I also bought a 7600GT video card for gaming. Ebuyer have this up for £330 inc vat and the video cards are £60 inc vat. The Acer had Windows Home Premium (which includes the Media Centre user interface as standard) and some other useful software included too, another 1Gb stick of RAM and it absolutely flies. Even the on-board 7.1 Realtek sound is good – comparable to a Soundblaster Live anyway

    Now bear in mind that My VoodooPC is a fast SLi water cooled machine, 1000w PSU with 2x 768mb 8800GTX's and a Quad Core 6700 all madly overclocked so I do know what a quick PC is like….

    The Acer with the a 7600GT an extra 1Gb of ram would play Half life2 at 1600x1200 as smooth as can be……and I now know that I have wasted a four figure sum upgrading the Voodoo….drat!

    If you add up all the bits that make the Acer up including Vista and the extras and factor in the peace of mind that you know it all works together before you start it is hard to buy this much PC for the price….. If you see an Acer case on Fleabay in a month or two – it will probably be me…

    The Voodoo is back now and the Acer will be donating its internals for my media PC, the PSU has a fan and only does 250watts and seems very quiet so I'll use that initially for testing and then put a fanless PSU in. You would even have change out of your budget to buy a 2nd big disk. I'm going to wait until the dual format HD-DVD/Blu-ray drives fall in price a bit further and use the Acer's DVD writer until then.

    Let us know what you decide to do.
     

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  10. badbob

    badbob
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    Not a true test of games. HL2 is playable on very low hardware, even on high settings. Intel P4 with MX440 1024x768 high detail and smooth framerate! So really you need to play other games, Fear & Oblivion are the two of the most demanding games.
     
  11. cosmicblue

    cosmicblue
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    This is good advice, there are NO games on the market that can even moderately stretch a dual core CPU (in fact very few games or applications can actually utilize the 2nd core anyway - and that is a fact!) the Quad Core CPUs are, in effect a pair of Dual CPUs on the same die.

    On the Graphic card front it is much the same, you will just buy performance you can't use....says he that has done it in a BIG way:lesson:


    OS - use Vista Home Premium - I have found it to be pretty robust and the media centre stuff is there as standard...
     
  12. cosmicblue

    cosmicblue
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    Yes, plays those beautifully too - you can add FarCry and Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter2 (which looks gorgeous as well) and is very demanding graphically.
     
  13. badbob

    badbob
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    At what settings? Resolution? AA? Texture settings? I doubt a 7600GT can do that on higher resolutions/AA (Nvidia slow down with AA)
     
  14. cosmicblue

    cosmicblue
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    As you would expect on a £60 video card you can't crank all the settings to the max - medium on textures, 4xAA delivered 30+fps at 1600x1200 in Fear Expansion Pack. For the money it is outstanding performance.

    In the scenario here with a desire to vew HD DVD content at 1080p the video card will ultimately have to be HDCP compliant so either a high end 7 series card or an 8 series.
     
  15. sibeer

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    I can give a bit of advice having chased a "silent" PC myself.

    1. Unless you spend most of your budget on silencing it you will still hear the PC. It will also likely limit your spec as the likes of Quad processors don't really suit a passive cooler. Personally I eventually decided a quiet PC would do rather than a silent one as the

    2. Zalman products are over rated. The Ninja cooler will give you far better flexabilty as you can invest in a really good quality fan that will give a decent airflow at low RPM.

    3. Ensure you use as many fan spaces as you can in the case. It is far quieter to have 4 fans running on a low rpm than a couple of faster ones.

    4. Passive graphics cards get hot. I would look for a quiet solution rather than silent, particularly for HD gaming. Personally on your budget and with games in mind I would get an EVGA ACS3 edition 8800GTS. The cooling system is not really any quieter then the reference design but it keeps the card cooler enabling the other fans to run slower. If you do want passive Zotac do an 8600 GT which will output HDMI with audio using the included adapters:

    http://www.microdirect.co.uk/(21749)Zotac-nFire-Geforce-8600GT-256MB-Zone-Edition.aspx

    5. Even quiet hard drives are quite loud. I was really disapointed when I made a fully passive system based on low power products as the hard drive and electronic noise were still what I considered too noisey. This is despite the hard drive being a Seagate 5400RPM Baracuda IV, a quieter drive than any I have used since. If you are trying for a quiet machine forget 3 drives and move to NAS.

    6. Buy a quad core processor. They are currently so close in price it is silly not to, esspecially if you are going to keep the machine a while. I would try to get a low voltage one though to keep the heat down:

    http://www.overclockers.co.uk/showproduct.php?prodid=CP-161-IN

    7. Vista 64 Bit will work fine with your system. Personally I see no point in trying to build such a top PC then basing the whole running of it on a 32 Bit OS. In the next 12 months more and mroe people will follow as any software written for Vista is compatible with the 64 Bit version (a requirement from up top).

    8. I would not get overly worried about maxing out the PSU. A good quality PSU around the 500 Watt mark will run all you are talking about with ease. The only things which really push them is top of the range dual graphics card setups.

    9. Test your system before spashing out on a soundcard. With good external decoders like you are planning on the sound should be fine. With regards your dual audio setup it should be possible. What is likely to happen will be that both digitals will output regardless and you will use sofware such as AC3Filter to tell the computer what situations to output a bitstream. It is very unlikely that you will get the system to turn outputs on and off though.
     
  16. sibeer

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  17. ash

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    DDR3 RAM is available as well :p

    No idea how good it is.

    Vista it is then :)
     
  18. sibeer

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    DDR3 Ram is good stuff, the prices are astronomical though. Personally I think it will be at least a year before it is worth even considering.

    I must also admit to still prefering XP to Vista. The system halt every time you try to delete a file drives me bananas :) That said I would still put Vista Home Premium 64 Bit on any decent new system just to future proof it.
     
  19. badbob

    badbob
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    Yeah really annoying. Deleting a short cut takes 15 seconds to think, then another 10 to delete it.
    When copying a large directory it just sits there "thinking" before the copy process.

    Dual core, 2GB RAM. It's acting like a 1mhz PC :rotfl:
    Vista is a big pile of manure.
     
  20. Stolly

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    Turn off UAC

    http://www.petri.co.il/disable_uac_in_windows_vista.htm

    Stops the prompts, makes your system less secure.

    Your choice....
     
  21. GLP1

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    Cosmicblue

    I run 2 hFX Classic systems a Fanless Pentium M based HTPC and a Quiet E6600 based Workstation.

    I would save yourself a bit of hassle and use a Silverstone ST30NF power supply Artic Silvered to the front left heatsink from day 1. As depending on the depth of your Motherboard you may have to completely disasemble the PC to change the PSU as it sits at the front, just behind the VFD and those heatpipes are messy once the are silvered up. A conventional PSU will just exhaust hot air into this case.

    Secondly Shop around for some thin copper sheeting so that you can attach one end to the vertical silence HDD cooler and the other to the front case heatsinks so that you can conduct heat away more quickly.

    I found the Borg CPU cooler inadequate in cooling my 65W E6600.

    Have you considered going the Core 2 Duo Mobile or the E2140, E2160, E2180 route

    Good luck with your build
    It's a Great Case.

    Gavin
     
  22. number1jon

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    Thanks for all the replies. Cosmicblue you've got some very interesting ideas on that completely passively cooled HTPC. It would be the ultimate in silent PCs but I think for me it would limit the kind of powerful components I want to put in it, and all that silence comes at a price! My Dad's home computer uses an E6600 (stock cooled), a passive gfx card and an antec tower case and it's so quiet it's barely noticable with no other noise in the room. After I've built my PC I may well look into those hard drive silencers though, any idea on the best place to get them from?

    RAM-wise that overclockers.co.uk branded 1066mhz stuff is much cheaper than other brands, it's roughly the same price as the corsair 800mhz. I've had a little read around and apparently the jump from 800 to 1066 only brings about marginal improvements. One guy on a forum said that his 1066 crucial rRAM came up on his screen as crucial 800 stuff, overclocked to 1066. I'm leaning towards going with the corsair 800, its lifetime warranty and possibly overclocking if need be. Though to go with Vista64 I'll put 4gb in. This will be quite a powerhouse of a machine but I think I will see the advantages as I do a fair amount of video editing (not HD at the mo), tend to have a shed load of programs open at any one time and want some futureproofing.

    On the PSU front I'm probably going to play it safe and go with the 620W over the 520W as after reading around and playing around with this PSU calculator
    http://www.extreme.outervision.com/psucalculatorlite.jsp
    I've found that adding lots of hard drives eats alot of power, as does overclocking plus in the future I may well add an X-Meridian soundcard and a DVB tuner.
    I'm going to have a quick look over things and order it tonight:eek:
     
  23. sibeer

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    All 1066Mhz memory needs to be "overclocked" to reach its rated speed due to 1066Mhz not being a recognised standard. The difference is that the RAM will have been specifically designed for that purpose. As with many changes to a PC it will only produce marginal improvements, but by using the OCUK stuff it does so for no additional cost. Given that the OCUK stuff has been run significantly faster by some users suggests the RAM is plenty reliable enough.

    Personally I bought decent 800Mhz RAM for my recent upgrade due to the silly prices of most 1066Mhz stuff. When I spotted the OCUK stuff I kicked myself :rolleyes:
     
  24. cosmicblue

    cosmicblue
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    Thanks for the advice Gavin, really appreciated - I will order an ST30NF now as well, I don't really like the idea of having to tear it apart again.

    On the CPU front, I did originally plan to use a Core2 Duo Mobile....but with thi spare Acer sitting here it seems a shame not to use internals - especially as I know that it all works.....I'll bet it dosent after I've had it all apart though.:thumbsdow
     
  25. cosmicblue

    cosmicblue
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    You are most welcome - all I'd add is 'don't sucked into buy the fastest kit - cpu/graphics card/ram' trap unless 3DMark score bragging rights are important to you.

    The latest and greatest kit always drops drammatically in price, just after you have bought it:mad: And you have bought the equivalent of an Aston Martin whilst living on Jersey (30 mph limit) - you have jaw dropping performance and absolutely no way of using it........ Fast RAM speed is measured in millionths of a second...you cannot tell the difference between the fastest and slowest in the real world...really you can't except that the credit card bill is higher...:lesson:

    Good luck
     
  26. enablerbro1

    enablerbro1
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    .... and you make your bank manager cry.

    :)
     

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