Dell 5150 HTPC

Discussion in 'Home Entertainment Computers' started by spencer_uk, Mar 13, 2006.

  1. spencer_uk

    spencer_uk
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    Hi,

    I just bought a Hitachi PJ-TX200 Projector and have it set up in my office where the PC (dell 8400 - 3GHz, 1.5Gb RAM, ATI 9800 XT) is. So I thought I'd plug in my PC and see how it goes for watching TV / DVDs. It is pretty noisy though so I thought about rebuilding it and making it quieter (new quiet case, psu, and graphics card) so that when I watch films it does not bug me. After I looked up the components I might need it all totalled nearly 300 quid (SilentMaxx case, quiet PSU, 6600GT passively cooled). Then I looked on Dell Outlet and saw a 5150 for about 300 quid. So it got me thinking. Is it just worth buying a new PC for the same price as some people here report the 5150s are very quiet? 300 quid seems like a real bargain.

    So here is the spec:
    Pentium 4 630 (3Ghz)
    Operating System: Genuine Windows® XP Media Centre Edition 2005
    Memory: 512MB (2 X 256, NON-ECC400MHZ DDRII)
    Hard Disk Drive: 160GB 7200rpm SATA Hard Drive
    Video: ATI Radeon X600 256MB HyperMemory
    Modem: V.92 Modem Data/Fax/Voice PCI UK
    DVD Drive: 16 X DVD +/- RW

    I would pretty much like to watch DVDs through my PJ on it. Possibly using Theatertek and using other neat tools like FFDShow and DScaler to upscale my Sky+. So I'll need a capture card and there is the bonus that if I feed the SKy into the PC I only need a single DVI-HDMI cable going to the PJ. Also I'd use it as a DVD Recorder. The odd game would be good however I have a gaming PC for that.

    So here are my questions:
    - does anyone know how silent the 5150s are?
    - there are some available with X300's which I think are passively cooled however will the fan noise of the X600 be significant? Can you clock the fans down during movie playback?
    - how can I hook up my Denon AV2801 amp? It has digital coax and optical in ; what soundcard would be viable?

    Thanks for your help,
    Spencer.
     
  2. guido

    guido
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    Think that the X600 in the Dells are passively cooled too. Have GX620 at work with X600 low profile card in it with Dual-DVI out via special cable... only heatsink and no fan.

    Small Form Factor business PCs make great HTPCs IMHO... usually pretty quiet (I'm using a Fujitsu Scenic E600). I stuck in a Trust 714DX to provide pass through to my AV Receiver using the Coaxial out from the card. Get DD/DTS pass through no probs.
     
  3. mrm3

    mrm3
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    The x600 on the dell is passively cooled. I have a 5150 with one.
     
  4. mrm3

    mrm3
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    - 5150s are very quite (to be fair like many dell machines)
    - x600 is passive so zero noise
    - You can hook up to your amp through the onboard sound using analogue 5.1 outputs 3 x 3.5mm cables to 6 phonos. Unfortunately it does not have a digital out. So you need a PCI sound card with SPDIFF to get your dolby digital etc. Though this can be a minefield if you are new to it.

    Biggest drawback is only 2 spare PCI slots. So for you that would be a capture card and sound card.

    PS Would recommend the 5150 if it meets your req.
     
  5. Yakboy

    Yakboy
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    Interesting idea spencer, I'm also looking to buy a TX200 and will also be using a HTPC to play DVD, Divx and hopefully to rescale my Sky.

    I had been thinking about an MSI mobo based on the 6150 chipset, this would allow me to use purevideo until I felt upto fiddling with FFDShow. Thing is is that once I add on the cost of processor, RAM, power supply, optical and HDD then things do tend to notch up in price. Choosing an off-the-shelf system may well be the answer to the mounting costs.

    Just tried de-specing the systems, basically trying to get rid of the monitor would be useful. Taking off the 3 year warranty down to a year slices off a fair chunk (~£120) obviously if you're willing to sacrifice it.

    Might see what price I can get through work, should be able to lose the monitor as well.

    Is there an ATi equiv to NVidia Purevideo?
     
  6. spencer_uk

    spencer_uk
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    Cheers MRM3 and guido. I think I am ok with just two PCI slots if there is an Ethernet socket straight into the Motherboard. Do you know if the modem takes up one of those 2 slots already (I can always take it out)?

    I am not familiar with SPDIFF - is there a corresponding socket on the back of my Amp? I looked there the other day and could only see a Digital Coax and Optical socket.
     
  7. spencer_uk

    spencer_uk
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    Yakboy - I was picking it off the Dell Outlet which are refurbished machines and the spec I put at the top of the thread does not include a 3yr warranty or a monitor. That is what makes it so cheap.

    It is also in one of those Dell cases so it is not as aesthetically pleasing as a HTPC case that fits in with the rest of my hi-fi equipment. Given that it is in the office though - I don't care about how it looks too much.
     
  8. ajp558

    ajp558
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    Hi Spencer,

    I have a Dell 5150 with similar spec to the one you list in the 1st post, but with XP Pro and a DVD/CDRW drive.

    After adding some felt padding here and there inside the casing and between some of the gaps it is now pretty much silent when the disk and DVD drive are idle. The X600 graphics card is passively cooled and the single large case fan is the quietest I have ever heard. In fact it is a cracking machine for the price and has me looking at the 9150 for a work machine.

    However, the hard disk is quite noisy when the head moves around, and I can't say how noisy or quiet your DVD player is. Those would be the two things I'd have to sort before using it as an HTPC. The Dell BIOS does include settings to make the hyard drive run in quite, variable or performance mode, but it doesn't sound like it makes much difference to me. For HTPC use I'd swap it for the quietest SATA drive I could find and stick the original in a USB caddy for backups.

    Let us know how you get on if you proceed as I am interested.

    AJP
     
  9. mrm3

    mrm3
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    It would be the digital coax. S/PDIF as I should have correctly said is the Sony/Philips digital interface basically you can connect that to your amp.Allows your amp to do the proper decoding.
    Do a search for sound card options on here and lots of S/PDIF talk and recommendations.
     
  10. mrm3

    mrm3
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    Oh yeah I took the modem out but still think only 2 left. You also have an additional PCI E slot for non gfx cards if you can make use of that.
     
  11. ccparkhill

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    It amazes me that Dell sell TVs and install MCE on their PCs but they've never made a proper HTPC that would look good under a TV. They would sell stacks if they did. They do the XPS Gaming range so why not a MCE range?
     
  12. Brakeinup

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    My wife has a 5150 and I too had to silence the HDD by removing it from its tray and sitting it on 4 foam feet as it resonated in the case. Its a Seagate SATA drive and you can tell when its at work.

    The PC in general is very silent though.
     
  13. spencer_uk

    spencer_uk
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    Thanks for the advice. Hmmm... so I'd probably need to replace the hard disk and the dvd drive.

    So what separates these from the 9150s, other than the Pentium Ds and more PCI slots? Would they be significantly noisier if they shared most of the same parts? Is the only difference the PSU and whatever cooling the CPU needs? Could that be significantly louder?
     
  14. CTID

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    unless you live in a monestry then the sound of the HD and DVD will be inconsequential. The huge fans that PC's have are the main problem with using a PC as a HTPC. I have 1 HD in my HTPC, 1 in my dreambox and 1 in my Panasonic dvd burner. I swear the fan on my Samsung 50in DLP is noisier than all these hard disks put together.
     
  15. loz

    loz
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    Well the 5150c comes in a more desirable form factor than your average Dell.

    Don't let your first impressions fool you when you visit that page. It is in fact a relatively small form factor (less than 1/2 the size of the 5150) and is finished in silver with white side panels. It is almost Apple like!
    It also comes fitted with small rubber feet so you can lay it down sideways as well as stand it vertically (and when sideways, the DVD is then horizontal, if you get what I mean)

    It is also reasonably quite and powerful. Though the fan can get noisy when the processor is worked hard.

    Bought my son one for his birthday and he added a proper MCE remote control and it works a treat.
     
  16. mrm3

    mrm3
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    No your HDD should be fine and seagate are considered quiet. Mine is. Some are just a bit noiser than others.

    The DVD is noisy because of the speed it can run it. Reduce the speed to suit...for just watching DVDs. Should be a BIOS setting? Or firmware.

    Replacing these is pointless unless the are particular noisy ones.
     
  17. spencer_uk

    spencer_uk
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    CTID / mrm3- that is why I was wondering what the noise was like on a 9150 If the case, hard disk and optical disk are the same in a 9150 as a 5150 then the only difference would be the PS, graphics card fan and any additional cooling a Pentium D might need.

    I originally thought a separate 5150 as a HTPC would be better as it would be significantly quieter. If I bought a ninja machine (a 9150) then I could do all the things I need to on it (work + games + htpc) so long as it is not too noisy, saving myself an extra pc.
     
  18. mrm3

    mrm3
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