Best CPU & Motherboard for MCE 2005 / Vista / Power usage

mark.carline

Novice Member
I have been looking for a new motherboard and CPU for my MCE 2005 PC.

My main needs are:

- Low power usage (as I have it on 24x7)
- Want to use ViiV Away Mode (as I have an XBOX 360) and dont want to use S3 standby
- Dont want very very high processing power (ie not for gaming)
- Need two normal PCI slots (for two Hauppauge NOVA-T-500 Dual cards)
- My current hard drive is a SATA-II so need a SATA-II slot

I have been thinking about three types of technology which are:

1) Traditional Intel ViiV
When I looked at this a while ago I saw a min spec ViiV was a D820 but they dont seem to be shipping now.

2) New Intel Core 2 Duo
Intel have some new CPUs out that look more towards the low power media centre market:
http://www.reghardware.co.uk/2006/07/26/intel_readies_conroe_launch/
the cheapest one scan sell is the E6300 for £135 inc VAT:
http://www.scan.co.uk/Products/ProductInfo.asp?WebProductID=439209
Not sure what motherboard to use but I have seen this one and i'm not sure if its ViiV compliant:
http://www.scan.co.uk/Products/ProductInfo.asp?WebProductID=437657

3) Intel Mobile technology on desktop
I have seen that ASUS do a range of motherboards that are designed to fit in desktop PCs but use mobile CPUs, have a look at this:
http://uk.asus.com/products2.aspx?l1=3&l2=54
Scan do this motherboard for £91 inc vat:
http://www.scan.co.uk/Products/ProductInfo.asp?WebProductID=401837
and I could then use the following Core DUO CPU with it for £136 inc vat but not sure what kind of heatsink / fan it uses?
http://www.scan.co.uk/Products/ProductInfo.asp?WebProductID=397717
I have also noticed that GigaByte have a Media PC that uses the Intel Core 2 Duo Mobile CPU called "Merom" see:
http://www.reghardware.co.uk/2006/06/07/gigabyte_merom_mini_media_pc/
Can anyone comment on what is perhaps the best route ?. I dont know if its just me but there seems to be sooooooooo much to choose from at the moment and its not easy "seening the wood from the trees" when it comes to choosing the best CPU / motherboard for a MCE pc at the moment- agghhgghh :mad: :mad:
 

mark.carline

Novice Member
I guess i have answered my own question with this but having done a bit more research the one I am now very tempted to get is the following:

Motherboard:
ASUS N4L-VM DH
http://www.scan.co.uk/Products/ProductInfo.asp?WebProductID=401837
http://uk.asus.com/products4.aspx?l1=3&l2=54&l3=0&model=1092&modelmenu=1

CPU:
Intel Core Duo T2300E Socket479, Yonah, 1.66GHz, 2MBCache, FSB667 Retail
http://www.scan.co.uk/Products/ProductInfo.asp?WebProductID=397717

Only thing that putting me off is :

1) Will this be fast enough for Vista ?]
2) Will the "Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 950" be fast enough for 720p High Def ?

Anyone else using this as a basis for a Media Centre 2005 PC ?

EDIT: I found a good review of the M/B here:
http://www.hothardware.com/viewarticle.aspx?articleid=811&cid=3
which mentioned that the Intel graphics card is Vista Compliant.
 

nigelbb

Distinguished Member
That's the old laptop Core Duo. Core 2 is supposed to be out this week although I don't see any retailers with stock. With the release of Cor 2 the AMD dual core processors have literally halved in price. I recently built a system with the following specifications that is cool, quiet, very fast & handles all the MCE & HD stuff that I throw a it:-

AMD Athlon 64 X2 3800 AM2 socket
ASUS M2NPV-VM with onboard Nvidia 6150 graphics
1GB Corsair DDR2 memory
Samsung 300GB S-ATA II disk drive

The onboard graphics are really good & fast. The onboard sound is excellent although the SPDIF bracket is not shipped as standard but costs an extra 6.50 pounds. The motherboard does ship with a component out bracket as well as having VGA & DVI on-board. It also has Gb LAN plus a PCI Express 16x & PCI Express 1x & 2 x PCI. plus USB & Firewire

It's all housed in an Antec Sonata II. I like a decent sized case as it is so much easier to work on & keep cool. It has a 450w power supply is piano black & very quiet. Good value too. My wife thinks that it looks so cool next to the TV that she wants me to build her one just the same for her own use:)
 

mark.carline

Novice Member
nigelbb said:
.......It has a 450w power supply is piano black & very quiet. ...
ouch !

The m/b and cpu in the 2nd post use (at max) a 250w power supply and when running in normal mode the actual power used is around 68w actual power.

Quote from the review of the asus m/b above:

The entire platform is extremely light when it comes to power consumption. When we tested the platform using the onboard Intel GMA950 video (no dedicated graphics card), our configuration (Core Duo T2500, 2 GB of RAM, Raptor 74GB hard drive), the system used only 68 Watts at idle. Of course, when idling, the Core Duo's Enhanced Speedstep functionality will kick in and clock the CPU down to 1.0 GHz in order to conserve energy. Still, when we kicked up the system to full load, the system still only was using 89 Watts of power. This platform is ridiculously efficient.
 

mark.carline

Novice Member
nigelbb said:
That's the old laptop Core Duo. Core 2 is supposed to be out this week although I don't see any retailers with stock.
Does anyone know what the difference is between the Core and the Core 2 when it comes to Pentium M type CPUs ?

EDIT: Think i've just answered our own question again but I just found a note on intels site about the Core 2 :]

http://www.intel.com/products/processor/core2duo/index.htm

and energy-efficiency built in – up to 40% faster and up to 40% more energy efficient
I think i'll hang on for the "Merom" T5500 (approx £120) which should be out soon....

http://www.reghardware.co.uk/2006/07/17/intel_merom_price_plan/

more info here:
http://guides.macrumors.com/Merom
 

mac_monkey

Active Member
mark.carline said:
I guess i have answered my own question with this but having done a bit more research the one I am now very tempted to get is the following:

Motherboard:
ASUS N4L-VM DH
http://www.scan.co.uk/Products/ProductInfo.asp?WebProductID=401837
http://uk.asus.com/products4.aspx?l1=3&l2=54&l3=0&model=1092&modelmenu=1

CPU:
Intel Core Duo T2300E Socket479, Yonah, 1.66GHz, 2MBCache, FSB667 Retail
http://www.scan.co.uk/Products/ProductInfo.asp?WebProductID=397717

Only thing that putting me off is :

1) Will this be fast enough for Vista ?]
2) Will the "Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 950" be fast enough for 720p High Def ?

Anyone else using this as a basis for a Media Centre 2005 PC ?

EDIT: I found a good review of the M/B here:
http://www.hothardware.com/viewarticle.aspx?articleid=811&cid=3
which mentioned that the Intel graphics card is Vista Compliant.
I have that CPU + GPU in my Mac mini running MCE and it handles all current MCE duties without even being stretched. Dont know about VISTA tho'
 

mark.carline

Novice Member
I have also just discovered that the "ASUS N4L-VM DH" motherboard has a BIOS update which includes:

N4L-VM DH BIOS 0603
1.Fix sometime will hang at BIOS when overclocking over 5% and than load default.
2.Fix CPU frequency show correctly in DMI type4 when overclocking.
3.Support Merom CPU.
4.Update CPU ucode.
5.Update JMB option rom.(V1.06)
6. Update MRC code.
so I could get a Core Duo Mobile now and then upgrade to a Core 2 Duo Mobile later !
 

trifin

Novice Member
hi mark,

i have the asus and the mobile core duo.

one large different between the laptop & the desktop versions is that the laptop version does not support 64bit instructions. Most have felt that this is completely un-necessary in a HTPC - whether that is true or not i have no idea! I think 64bit instructions help complex calcuations...

The laptop core duo consumes alot less that the desktop version - even though the desktop versions consume considerably less than previous intel chips.

Have you considered using some laptop hard drives? They comsume alot less power and very quiet. I have two 7200rpm hitachi's and they are great.

BUT i recommended the Nova-t-500's!!! And I will say right now my machine is not behaving perfectly. I put this down to the fact that everything in it is really new kit and that with bios revisions and updates it will become stable.
 

mark.carline

Novice Member
trifin said:
i have the asus and the mobile core duo.
cool - What kind of CPU cooler are you using ?

trifin said:
one large different between the laptop & the desktop versions is that the laptop version does not support 64bit instructions. Most have felt that this is completely un-necessary in a HTPC - whether that is true or not i have no idea! I think 64bit instructions help complex calcuations...
Yep i certainly dont need 64bit for MCE !!

trifin said:
The laptop core duo consumes alot less than the desktop version - even though the desktop versions consume considerably less than previous intel chips.
Yep which is why I think they fit perfectly for MCE PCs

trifin said:
Have you considered using some laptop hard drives? They comsume alot less power and very quiet. I have two 7200rpm hitachi's and they are great.
I have but I would sooner have the power saving features switched on so that if the HDD hasnt been used in 3 mins then it gets switched off. I would sooner stick to my 300Gb 3.5" maxtor drive (in an ultra quiet case)

trifin said:
BUT i recommended the Nova-t-500's!!! And I will say right now my machine is not behaving perfectly. I put this down to the fact that everything in it is really new kit and that with bios revisions and updates it will become stable.
Yep mine also turned up this week - Very very nice card (and mine works 100%). The ASUS has two PCI slots so I may get another one, see this thred:

http://www.avforums.com/forums/showthread.php?t=374247

I am certainly coming round to the idea that this config will make a perfect MCE machine - Just need to think about CPU fans.

I currently have a QTechnology 350W power supply and I am now also thinking about getting rid of it for a lower power 250w PSU (maybe a fanless one) - Any recommendations??
 

trifin

Novice Member
the mobo comes with a heatsink & fan - it doesn't look very good but is very quiet indeed and keeps the cpu cool. bear in mind thats its s479 so there arent any 3rd party coolers (that i could find)

Passive powersupplies - i dont really like them to be honest. I think any pc should have at least one exhaust fan and that might as well be in the psu. I have tried to build totally passive pc's but in the end however good your components and case layout - there is always a build up of heat. I have decided to use decent fans where the noise doesnt annoy me and that way I have a cool box. There is always some noise with a pc and as long as you dont have a screamer I doubt you will be able to hear the psu over the HDs etc. Something to consider is that it is good to get a highly efficient psu - that way it wastes less power. I think Seasonic do an over 80% efficient psu with a slow & quiet 120mm fan.

The other thing about noise & htpc's is that generally you dont sit as close to a htpc as you would a pc on ur desk. 6ft away and fan noise is very hard to hear.
 

mark.carline

Novice Member
trifin said:
the mobo comes with a heatsink & fan - it doesn't look very good but is very quiet indeed and keeps the cpu cool. bear in mind thats its s479 so there arent any 3rd party coolers (that i could find)
You ever thought about one of these:

http://www.kustompcs.co.uk/acatalog/info_2624.html

My "acid test" is to have the MCE PC in a room which is the spare bedroom and for sombody to sleep in there without hearing it. Ignoring the HDD (which shuts down after 3 mins) the only noise I currently get is the CPU and PSU.

I do think that its a new world now with these new intel cores and I do think that a fanless PC that doesnt use that much CPU is a reality especially when its based on laptop technology. The laptop i am using now has no fans and when the hard drive spins down it is 100% silent.
 

trifin

Novice Member
nice heatsink! i did try hard to find a better one when i bought the mobo but as the one that comes with it is so good i forgot about it. maybe try the one that comes with the mobo if it isnt good enough then get that one from Kustom (great guys!)

i agree that with the correct components it can be done and thinking more about it if you are using the onboard gpu you should be fine. I guess you know that gpu's are drawing more current than cpu's these days.

Are thinking about upgrading the video card when HD content (with HDCP encryption) actually arrives in the uk? Actually I wonder how that will work in your case - if you are just using the htpc as a streaming server to an xbox360 - would the xbox need a HDMI port to display HD tv..?
 

mark.carline

Novice Member
trifin said:
Are thinking about upgrading the video card when HD content (with HDCP encryption) actually arrives in the uk? Actually I wonder how that will work in your case - if you are just using the htpc as a streaming server to an xbox360 - would the xbox need a HDMI port to display HD tv..?
Will only upgrade the GPU if/when I connect the PC directy to my 32" LCD.

The 360 has a perfectly good component connection to a HD TV.

I really cant wait until the new media centre extenders come out at the start of next year. It will be great to have a single PC with four tuners in the same room and then just a collection of extenders around the home. The 360 is great but the fans are just too noisey for me.
 

dmce

Active Member
Surely the size of the PSU doesnt particularly matter as its only what you draw out of it that amounts to how many WATTS are used? As mentioned efficiency will also have an impact.

You can get 35 and 65 WATT AM2 cpu's, which is the same for Conroe and merom Respectively. Intel also have some real low power Yonah cpus (9W)

Stating the obvious here but lower power useage would mean less strain on your cooling needs as less heat.
 

trifin

Novice Member
yep - i dont have any extenders but i want one or two! Do you have any details of the new ones? Will they actually be for sale in the UK?

My point was afaik inorder to watch HD content (in usa) you will need:

vista, a CableCard and a video card with HDCP. From what I have Cablecard will not allow selling of these cards to joe public.

How the BBC will do it I don't know but for sure they will have to include HDCP or the industry won't give them any content! Note that Sky have made it impossible to connect SkyHD to a pc. It seems as though 'they' are VERY concerned about us recording HD content.

Although AUS has HD freeview and there aren't really HDMI video cards around.. but i guess they can record HD tv. I am confused now - i thought the movie industry was completely against us recording and then distributing HD content. Any one know if they have HD movies on AUS tv or is just HD Neighbours? (pukes...)
 

nigelbb

Distinguished Member
trifin said:
How the BBC will do it I don't know but for sure they will have to include HDCP or the industry won't give them any content!
Unlike Sky the BBC produce most of their own content.
 

mark.carline

Novice Member
mark.carline said:
Not sure where I read it but I am sure that the Core 2 Mobile can use as little as 1w of power :eek:
I found the article I mentioned above:

http://laptoplogic.com/news/detail.php?id=981

quote:

With a maximum power draw of 9W and an average power draw of 0.75W, the Core Duo U2500 looks to drastically improve performance in small laptops
I think this U2500 is the older Core as opposed to the new Core 2.

I am certainly impressed with some of these mobile CPUs, so much so infact that my old motherboard, cpu and video card are going on ebay next weekend and i'll be placing an order for the ASUS m/b. I just need to make my mind up on the CPU type from this list:

Core 2 Duo (Dual Core, 65nm, 64-bit)
Core 2 Duo T5500 - 1.66 GHz (2 MB L2 Cache, 667 MHz FSB) - $209
Core 2 Duo T5600 - 1.83 GHz (2 MB L2 Cache, 667 MHz FSB) - $240
Core 2 Duo T7200 - 2.00 GHz (4 MB L2 Cache, 667 MHz FSB) - $294
Core 2 Duo T7400 - 2.16 GHz (4 MB L2 Cache, 667 MHz FSB) - $423
Core 2 Duo T7600 - 2.33 GHz (4 MB L2 Cache, 667 MHz FSB) - $637

(taken from here http://guides.macrumors.com/Merom)

I think the T5500 would be the best bet for price / value but I cant find anyone in the UK yet thats selling these - any ideas ??
 

mark.carline

Novice Member
dmce said:
This article also confirms the low power U2500. Its a Yonah and Core Duo not Core 2 Duo which is what you said.

http://www.dailytech.com/article.aspx?newsid=3380

My chip choice is really going to depend on the motherboard i opt for. Sadly that Asus board doesnt have DVi
Thanks and I just need to try and find a supplier for the U2500. The U2400 looks like that ones not out until 3rd Sept which is a bit long to wait for me (Just ordered the m/b from scan :D ).
 

mark.carline

Novice Member
UPDATE:

Just spotted the 1st merom cpu on ebay:

Intel_Core_2_Duo_M.e.r.o.m T.7.400 CPU 2.16Ghz, 4MB L2
http://cgi.ebay.co.uk/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&ih=018&item=280011812086&rd=1&sspagename=STRK%3AMEWA%3AIT&rd=1

Bit much for £256 but if you look at the US prices above they seem about right when you work it out US to Pound and then plus VAT. I think i'm after the T5500 when they in the UK (around the £120 mark).

I'm very very impressed with this new stuff from Intel - Certainly think that it'll make a perfect MCE machine (cpu power / power usage etc)
 

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