5 Questions about my venture into HTPC!

Q

qwerty123

Guest
Hey guys, never even built a PC before (never mind a HTPC) but this is undoubtably the place to get started, so let me tell you about my plans and maybe you can help!

I have budget of £3000 but this has to include everything I need (a 32-37" LCD, the HTPC, the 5.1, cables, etc - I'm starting completely from scratch!!)..

Here is what I would like my system to do : -

- Watch/record lot of TV (just Analogue atm, prob get Digital box soon)
- Play DVD's in 5.1 surround (about 2 rented DVD's a week)
- Play and download MP3's, I have 30Gb of iTunes (128Kbps :( )
- Only game played is Pro Evolution Soccer 5 (PC)
- Note my rack (only thing I have!) allows for 4x 190mm tall boxes

* I'll use my Centrino laptop for photo's, editing pics, most web browsing, e-mail and playing poorer quality video (i.e. avi clips)

5 Starter Questions

1. How best I split my overall budget? I was thinking..

35% on the LCD - £1050
40% on the HTPC - £1200
20% on the 5.1 - £600
10% on cables/devices (i.e. W'less Keyboard, Remote, Gamepad) - £300

Does this seem reasonable?

2. How best I split a £1200 HTPC budget? i.e. Case, Motherboard, Processor, Cards, Memory, Harddrive

3. With me not playing games how do I approach the need for a graphics card? Sorry for sounding stupid but how (if at all) does the graphics card impact DVD disc playback quality from the HTPC?
:oops:
4. With my budget how should I look at connecting the 5.1 to the HTPC, via an AV Amp or speakers straight into HTPC?

5. Would like system to be relatively HD future proof but I'll be based in Holland for next 4 years, anyone know the what the Hi-Def TV score is out here?

Sorry for the long post!

Thanks :smashin:
 
S

Skunkpipe

Guest
The best way to divide the budget, I say is to decide on what you want from the HTPC first and see how much that costs.
£1200 should build you a very capable HTPC.
Do you have an idea of what HTPC software you want to run (MCE, Meedia, Showshifter etc.?)
You mention recording analogue TV but then adding a freeview box. This can be done but if you can go freeview from the off this will be a better solution as you won't loose quality from the converstion from digital to analogue squirting it dowm a wire to the HTPC and then converting it from analouge back to digital. There's also nothing to stop you using multiple cards so you can watch one channel and record another at the same time. or record 2 channels etc.

As for the HTPC; find the case that meets your needs in terms of size and quality/looks, then think about what needs to be done to cool it quietly - quiet cooling can be done reasonably well reasonable cheaply, but can be done very well for a price. CPU choice also has a big bearing on cooling. Pentium's tend to run hot, AMD 64's run cool, and some go for the mobile Pentium chips. The downside of the mobile CPU's is the limited number of M/boards available, the cost and the limited CPU cooling - done right an AMD64 (S939) system can be just as if not quieter.

GFx cards can make a difference in quality as can CODEC's. The nVidia 6600(GT) is the current darling; this can be had in passively cooled guise so is silent with it. A 6600GT with a good CPU and integrated HD capable (which is most) freeview tuners should leave you pretty HD future proof.

The £600 for 5.1 - is that for amp speakers? Have you thought of using active speaker plugged straight into the HTPC and having that as a one box solution, or do you need an amp for other devices?
 

ukaudiophile

Active Member
Hi,

Just a quick question, does it have to be an LCD screen? For around £1,200 you can now have a 50" Sony rear projection screen which is HDTv compatible and gives stunning picture quality. I know this is a little more than you planned to spend, but seriously £900 will build you a killer HTCP setup which will do everything you asked for and a little more besides.

I think £600 for the 5.1 is a little tight to do anything really impressive, likewise £300 is a shade more than you should need for control and cables.

I wouldn't bother with analogue TV cards at all, I think the quality compromise you have to make versus Freeview cards is just not worth it, and with excellent freeview cards like the Sweetspot MCE for around £65, I'd definitely go with Freeview. For example I have a machine in my living room which uses a Shuttle case, an NEC DVD rewriter, AMD 64 3 GHz Venice processor and a Radeon 9550 passively cooled card with DVI output, together with 250GB HD and a wireless BTC keyboard, and the whole package weighed in slightly over £600. My main HTPC uses a Silverstone LC03V, an Asus Socket 734 motherboard (now obsolete) with 3 GHz AMD 64 processor, 512MB RAM, 200GB Maxtor HD, NEC DVD Rewriter, Passively cooled Radeon 9550 graphics card, M-Audio Audiophile 96/24 sound card, Zalman CPU cooler and basic power supply (awaiting a passively cooled psu) with the whole package costing around £750 (now probably a lot less).

If you save another £300 on your HTPC build you're looking at £1,200, more than enough for a Denon entry level A/V receiver and a set of Onyx Rocket ELT speakers. This should deliver you a stunning sound system to complement the HTPC and Sony 50" display.

I hope this helps.

Dave
 
Q

qwerty123

Guest
Excellent guys really appreciate your help, so fast as well, I'll try and respond to most of the points..

Firstly regarding the HTPC software, I hadn't explored them all enough to have made a decision yet, to be honest I was hoping to put this part off for a bit since I'm a bit over my head on the headware side of things currently. I think all I'll need is 5-10 easy to use tabs like Watch TV, Record TV, Music, Watch DVD, Play Pro Evo 5 etc.. All preferably controlled by the Pro Evo 5 pad (maybe XBOX360 one?) or/and remote (for recording TV, changing channels, volume etc).. Should the software have much bearing on the hardware I'm considering?

The £600 was an novice estimate at what I might need to have reasonable 5.1 and yes I was considering an AV Amp.. however if I can get good sounds from HTPC straight to 5.1, I'll certainly explore this.. (I don't need to power any other devices either, I'm starting from stratch).. I'll do some testing and if it doesn't work for me I'll invest the extra as you suggest analogueaddict..

Regarding the screen it doesn't have to be LCD but it'll have to be on top of my rack which is 1m wide and only 1.5ft high (2 shelves, each can hold 2 AV Amp sized boxes, this type but glass and with no centre divide http://www.ikea.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/ProductDisplay?catalogId=10101&storeId=7&productId=32419&langId=-20&parentCats=10104*10174)
My room is approx 12ft squared with a 7-8ft viewing distance if that affects screensize? Maybe 50" is a bit too much?

The HTPC case cannot be taller than 190mm (which ruled out my first choice the Silverstone LC17), I was liking the look of the mCubed hFX HTPC Case which would fit the rack, look the business but might be tight inside!

I think the one thing which I need to sort out faster than I hoped is the digital TV then.. The reason I thought I'd give it a few months is because I'm new to Holland and the digital provider (UPC) sounds like a pain in the @ss to deal with so thought I'd brush up on some Dutch before tackling them! I'll get this done in the next couple of days so I can concentrate on the HTPC then..

Finally, thank you Skunkpipe for the HTPC component info, I had read about the nVidiea card being top choice but wasn't sure with me not being a serious gamer whether I needed it's functionality, however being the newbie I am I didn't consider/wasn't sure about the need to produce the HiDef
:oops:
 
Q

qwerty123

Guest
analogueaddict said:
...likewise £300 is a shade more than you should need for control and cables.
I agree looking back, maybe remote (£60) gamepad (£25) interconnects and speaker cable (£100) is better...
£100+ free'ed up for screen or sounds! :smashin:
 
S

Skunkpipe

Guest
Have a look at teh Accent HT400 - it's 150mm high or the d-Vine 5 at 145mm
 
Q

qwerty123

Guest
Skunkpipe said:
Have a look at teh Accent HT400 - it's 150mm high or the d-Vine 5 at 145mm
Will do thanks for the recommendation..

I'm leaning towards plugging speakers directly into the HTPC (no Amp), I can comprise a bit with sound since my music collection is poorish quality and I watch only a couple of films a week in 5.1..
Might re-direct the budget towards the screen since that's the only thing I won't be able to afford to upgrade for 3+ years..

37" all the way!! :clap:
 

Welwynnick

Well-known Member
I'm with analogeaddict. If you want to play DVDs, you don't really need a £1200 PC. The money would be better spent on the display, and there are several DLP RPTVs out there now that are fantastic value. I think you would need a proper AV amp, though. There are lots of expensive ways to make an HTPC once you get interested in it, and assembling a box of bits may not the most cost effective way to do it. If you can pick up one that someone else had put together - say in the hardware classifieds here - you can get good value. Good luck.

Nick
 
Q

qwerty123

Guest
welwynnick said:
I'm with analogeaddict. If you want to play DVDs, you don't really need a £1200 PC. The money would be better spent on the display, and there are several DLP RPTVs out there now that are fantastic value. I think you would need a proper AV amp, though. There are lots of expensive ways to make an HTPC once you get interested in it, and assembling a box of bits may not the most cost effective way to do it. If you can pick up one that someone else had put together - say in the hardware classifieds here - you can get good value. Good luck.

Nick
Thanks Nick.
I really want to get my hands dirty, have a crack from scratch doing the lot - the sense of achievement would be immense if I got it right! - but maybe I should scale down my workload/involvement a bit, especially since I'm a new comer in to the HTPC world.

Ok, I'll start by buying the screen since that's what I need the most (I've borrowed a 10 yr old 17" Sanyo!) and then the AV Amp. I got offered a DVD player yesterday I can pick this up cheap as a temporary measure before investing big in the speakers. Next thing is to invest in a HTPC case I like, and get a professional to put the pieces together and setup the OS. Finally I'll research and install the software to use on my media centre, then sit back and enjoy the show :thumbsup:

I think I'll take a £1000 screen, spend £800 on the HTPC, £1000 on the Amp/Speakers and finally £200 on the cables/interconnects/control device.

Good work guys, I feel I'm on my way already and will take some pictures when the job's done. :smashin:
 
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