1. Join Now

    AVForums.com uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Advice on HTPC Build Please

Discussion in 'Desktop & Laptop Computers Forum' started by gcmillwood, Aug 12, 2002.

  1. gcmillwood

    gcmillwood
    Guest

    Products Owned:
    0
    Products Wanted:
    0
    Ratings:
    +0
    I think I've finally convinced my wife to let me built a PC for our living room, but since I've never done the HTPC thing before I think I ought to ask for some advice before I start.

    The PC will be used mainly for playing DVDs, mp3s, and CDs (and other such home entertainment goodies). It will also see occaisional use for games and web surfing. (The main games/internet machine lives upstairs in the office, but sometimes both the wife and I want to play games at the same time).

    I want to use my TV as the display (its a 28 inch Toshiba widescreen).

    Anyway, here are the components I'm thinking of using:
    - Shuttle Spacewalker SS51G Aluminium Barebones System
    - Intel Pentium 4 2.0Ghz
    - 256 Mb PC2100 RAM from Crucial
    - Pioneer DVD-106S
    - Leadtek WinFast A250LE TD MyVIVO (GeForce4 Ti4200, 128Mb)
    - IR Keyboard with integrated trackball
    - Seagate Barracuda 60Gb hard drive

    The shuttle base system comes with built in sound, video and network capabilities, but onyl has 2 expansion slots - 1 AGP (to be occupied by the GeForce 4) and 1 PCI (expected to be empty). If necessary I will underclock the processor to keep the temperature down, as the fan can then run at a slower speed.

    Future upgrade are likely to include a TV tuner of some description (maybe swap in an ATI All in Wonder card) so I could turn it into a tivo style pvr. I'd also love to get a Pronto remote. With any luck I will also get a better display of some kind as well.

    So what do you think - is there any chance this will work?
    What should I change?
    Is connecting this to my TV going to be more hassle than it is worth?

    The one thing I am really not sure about with this system is the sound. I'm going to need some speakers to go with it already, but do I need some with a 'decoder' or can the PC do that for me?
    What about if I want to plug other devices into the speakers?
    Is the Realtek ALC 650 onboard sound good enough or should I fill the PCI slot with a sound card?

    In fact I'd appreciate any advice you could give me.
     
  2. JSW

    JSW
    Well-known Member

    Joined:
    Feb 21, 2002
    Messages:
    4,217
    Products Owned:
    0
    Products Wanted:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    106
    Location:
    Staffs
    Ratings:
    +300
    Should be fine but personally i'd go with a Radeon card.
     
  3. MAW

    MAW
    Banned

    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2002
    Messages:
    14,082
    Products Owned:
    0
    Products Wanted:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    106
    Location:
    Nr Dorking
    Ratings:
    +412
    There's quite a short list of cards that are really rated by people here. You need digital out, and you need a decoder/amp (external). An alternative if you are short of PCI slots might be one of the USB solutions, discussed on several threads here. I'm mucking around with one at the moment. You can get a pass-through solution to get the DD signal to your processor/amp, mine is stubbornly refusing at present, but I have 6ch out, so that's OK. You may find that your TV as a display will be more hasle than it's worth. The main reason for a HCPC is to power a plasma or projector, you can really make the most from one of these with a PC.
     
  4. Branxx

    Branxx
    Standard Member

    Joined:
    Nov 1, 2000
    Messages:
    801
    Products Owned:
    0
    Products Wanted:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    18
    Location:
    London, UK
    Ratings:
    +1
    gcmillwood,

    Before you put any PC into your living room for watching DVD and listening to music you need to check how noisy they are.

    Generally, audio and video equipment is completelly silent as it has no actively cooled components. Shuttle PC on the other hand has at least 3 fans. Equipment with acceptable operating noise level should have sub 25dB noise reading.

    I've tried previous version of shuttle PC back in February and had to return it due to unacceptable high operating noise level. Additionally, audio quality was particularly poor.
     
  5. gcmillwood

    gcmillwood
    Guest

    Products Owned:
    0
    Products Wanted:
    0
    Ratings:
    +0
    Thanks for the responses.

    I'll look at the Radeon cards and see what I can find. Is it worth spending the extra and getting an All in Wonder version?

    On sound levels I know that the older shuttle pcs were loud. However a lot of reviews (there's another with some figures at anandtech) have commented that this new one is a hell of a lot quieter - only 1 80mm fan to cool case and processor (via a clever looking heatsink with heatpipes and stuff) plus the PSU fan. The main system fan also slows down depending on the processor temperature. Is 51dB 6 inches from the front of the case loud? (It seems very hard to compare noise levels when different people measure from different distances, and sometimes using different units - what is the difference between dB and dBA? A google search gives me a very technical description of the differences, but I'm still not sure I understand).

    Audio wise the mobo has spdif in and spdif out apparantly, and the system uses a different chip to the c-media ones used on previous models. I guess I'll try the on-board audio and see if it is 'good enough' (I'm no audiophile).
     
  6. MAW

    MAW
    Banned

    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2002
    Messages:
    14,082
    Products Owned:
    0
    Products Wanted:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    106
    Location:
    Nr Dorking
    Ratings:
    +412
    Audio wise, that's what I'd do. When listening to Dolby Digital or DTS material, you should be able to tell if the MOBO offers pass through for the signal, your processor will show what signal it is receiving, and somewhere, audio properties most likely, you may be able to specify the sample rate of the output sound. DD is 48khz. Other frequencies will work but you will lose something from the finished sound. I don't just mean for those funny blokes who work in Hi-Fi shops, generally you find centre channel dialogue is muddy and more difficult to make out. I'm sure it all suffers, but that's where I've noticed it most.
     
  7. gcmillwood

    gcmillwood
    Guest

    Products Owned:
    0
    Products Wanted:
    0
    Ratings:
    +0
    In the end I ordered a different DVD drive (a LiteOn LTD-165D) and graphics card (ATI Radeon 8500 All-in-Wonder 64Mb).

    Most of the bits have arrived and been assembled - still waiting for the Radeon and the keyboard, which should turn up tomorrow.

    Sound levels are fine for me. I can't hear the system over the sound of my fishtank. The fan has 3 speeds and is very quiet on the slowest one. It speeds up when the processor temperature hits a limit you specify in the BIOS (I've set mine to 52'C and it hasn't hit that yet) and goes to top speed if the processor gets to 80'C.

    The only problem I have with it is the LEDs on the front of the case. Damn they are bright. Easily fixable though. On the front of the case is a piece of white paper, covered by a blue plastic sheet. I'm going to get some textured, coloured paper to cut a new paper template from and not cut holes for the LEDs. This should bring them down to acceptable levels, and tone down the 'blueness' as well.
     
  8. Lem

    Lem
    Guest

    Products Owned:
    0
    Products Wanted:
    0
    Ratings:
    +0
    The new heat-pipe shuttles are your best bet for a small pc.
    The older ones (esp. the SV25) are a bit noisy..
    Otherwise if you are in the US, try Soldam or the japanese site for the latest stuff. I have imported some of these in the Uk for customer builds, but they are expensive after shipping/tax etc.
     

Share This Page

Loading...