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HCPC - a million questions, could you spare some time to answer a few....:-)

Discussion in 'Desktop & Laptop Computers Forum' started by UrbanT, Feb 28, 2004.

  1. UrbanT

    UrbanT
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    I've decided to go the PJ route for the new garage conversion. The PJ is likely to be a Panny AE500 or Sanyo Z2. I had set my mind on getting a new DVD player, probably the Denon A11, until it became obvious there are current problems, DVI related. 'theritz' kindly reminded me to look at HCPC's again, so here I am!

    I have read a stack of threads on the forum, but still have quite a few questions. I'd be grateful for any input. Money is not the key driver here, quality counts. Current equipment in sig. Here goes....

    a) is there a recommendation for a specific DVD rom drive? I do not need rewriting facilities or anything fancy
    b) sound is vital, what is the absolute best way to connect the HCPC to my Tag. Would this be helped with a sound card and if so, which one? SACD/DVDA and CD WILL NOT be played through the HCPC
    c) the ability to play games would be fantastic. However, the Rad 9600 is probably a bit underpowered, although fanless. Is there a better choice, or can a more powerful card (I'm using a 9800 pro in the current system) be quietened
    d) there will be a Sky+ box next to the HCPC. What is the best way to connect this to the HCPC. Is there a recommended card?
    e) I plan to use AMD processer, perhaps even the new 64bit jobs. Is there a recommended chip coller rather than the standard retail unit
    f) Can someone recommend the most quiet power supply
    g) are mobo fans noisy? Are there good and bad mobo's for noise or should they all be treated equal when buying
    h) same again for HD's, is there a recommended quiet HD or would you recommend a device to make the HD quiet, if so which one?
    i) Is there such a thing as a sound-proofed PC case?


    And finally, I've seen an acoustic cupboard for a PC for £700. This seems excessive. But is it worth considering this? Is there a cheaper alternative.

    Huge apologies for all these questions (some probably daft!), and thanks for any help. :)
     
  2. ReTrO

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    f) I run a SilenX PSU and I can't hear it at all so would definately recommend it.

    h) Seagate Baracuda HDD's are popular for runnign quietly, I use an 80Gb IV and a 160Gb V.
     
  3. zAndy1

    zAndy1
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    a) A Pioneer DVD Rom drive will do, they're easily flashable to multi region although you can use something like anydvd from slysoft to get round the region code protection anyway

    b) If you're not planning on playing any music through the PC just connect a digital coaxial cable from the soundcard to your amp. I would have said an MAudio revolution but might be overkill if you're just piping DD/DTS to your amp.

    c) You can replace fans on graphics cards with passive cooling solutions , I didn't fancy doing it myself so went for a Radeon 9600 (plus games weren't important on the HTPC, got a 9800 Pro in this PC for games duties).

    d) For connecting Sky+ you could use the Sweetspot card which there is a lot of info about on these forums , that will use DScaler and also comes with Showshifter now I believe for PVR duties (although having Sky+ kind of makes that less important). Failing that a Packard Bell TV100 card from PC World is good then just use DScaler with that.

    e) Not sure, think there's a coolermaster cpu cooler and fan on ebuyer for about £8 or £9 that is supposed to be very good and quiet. Not sure if it's compatible with the 64bit Athlons though...

    f) Would agree with Retro on the PSU

    g) Not sure about this one, I've never really thought much about replacing the mb fan, I wouldn't put it top of the list of priorities when choosing a motherboard put it that way

    h) Seagate barracude all the way, they're extremely quiet and very good

    i) Antec do some cases that are supposed to keep things quiet, e.g. Sonato or Overture. As long as you chose the components inside wisely I don't think it's that important getting a soundproof case, I had an LMP case and couldn't hear my HTPC, with a quiet PSU and CPU cooling fan (or passive CPU cooler) there's not a lot of noise being made in the first place!

    HTH

    Cheers
    Andy
     
  4. Kramer

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    OK, my 2p :)

    Antec Sonata case if a tower is suitable. The HDDs are isolated & it has a very good PSU (single 120mm fan - practically silent).

    I'd go for an nForce 2 mainboard (my favourite, the Abit NF7-S Rev. 2). This has on-board optical out & co-axial with a very simple mod. This will quite happily pass DTS/DD 5.1 (SPDIF) to your processor.

    CPU, well I'm an AMD man too so whatever takes your fancy.

    I'm fully watercooled (all PCs, apart from the laptop but I'm working on that :D).

    It's not that difficult to build a near to silent (HC)PC. As the performance/speed goes up it becomes more difficult though.

    You'll have some noise from the PJ in your viewing room too so the PC doesn't have to be completely passive/silent.

    HD - Euro1080i/WMVHD etc....HCPC all the way!

    :smoke:
     
  5. UrbanT

    UrbanT
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    The suggestions so far have been superb and have put me back on track. I hadn't even considered Sweetspot for example. After some searching, heres the current spec I'll probably order (with some reasoning). Positive criticism very welcome, as well as any suggestions.

    Case Antec Sonata Quiet PC case and PSU with additional acoustic pack - good reviews and standard quiet PSU seems up to the job

    Mobo DFI NFII Ultra Infinity - no fan!, good reviews, plenty of USB's, Nforce2 chipset and decent inbuilt sound

    Chip and memory AMD 3200 barton and 1gb PC3200 DDR

    Graphics ATI Radeon Pro 9800 and Zalman replacement cooling - great for games and relatively cost effective

    HD Seagate Barracuda 120GB Sata - as recommended on the fprum :)

    Capture Sweetspot + Xcard. Seems to offer everything for perfect pictures. Direct digital input from DVD Rom drive for scaling output from DVI Radeon plus coaxial bypass for sound to Tag. Remore control? Expensive but appears to offer massive benefits for DVI PJ like Panny or Sanyo?


    What do you think?

    Whilst researching, a few more questions came to mind.

    1) The remote that comes with the Xcard. Can this be used to control a software DVD player on the PC or does it have functions relating solely to the Xcard?

    2) It occured to me that I will need a wireless keyboard and mouse. I hate batteries. Is there a keyboard/mouse combo that works from say 12/13ft that has some sort of recharge facility? Or any other suggestions?

    3) If I play a game on the PC, will I get sound through the coaxial, or will I connect the normal sound card jack to the Tag? Would this be a mini jack to 2 phono?

    4) How would I connect Sky+ to the PC through the Xcard? Sweetspot sell a scart to 3 phono, would I need one of these?

    Chris :)
     
  6. lynx

    lynx
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    Kramer, whats the simple mod ?
     
  7. zAndy1

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    Couple of points, you could save some money and get an XP2500+ and overclock it if need be. XP3200 is probably overkill for HTPC (unless it's required for hidef playback but then you could overclock the 2500+ and I'm sure it would be good for hidef). Also 1GB of memory isn't really necessary for HTPC duties, might be getting more of an issue with the latest games releases though, although I always understood 1GB of ram didn't really make that much difference, just another area a few pennies could be saved...
    As far as the keyboard/mouse is concerned I think the gyration seems to be the one to go for. Personally I use an ATI remote wonder (£20ish from ebuyer) that controls Theatertek etc and works really well. Can't really comment on your other questions, sorry!
    BTW If you don't want the hassle of building one yourself Uvem do some nice ones apparently.

    Cheers,
    Andy.
     
  8. UrbanT

    UrbanT
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    Cheers Andy,

    Building it myself isn't a problem as I've been doing it for a few years (and I'm a tight arse!)

    I want this to be a top notch games machine as well as HCPC, although I did wonder whether 1gb of memory was overkill. I might start with 512mb and add more if required.

    The reason I didn't go the overclocking route is heat. The garage will have no windows, just basic ventilation. For reliability, I thought the stock 3200 might be better?

    The remote wonder seems a great idea, can't find it on Ebuyer yet but would fit the bill perfectly.

    Chris :)
     
  9. Kramer

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    ...err, simple mod?

    That'd be me :blush:

    :D

    A 5 minute job, some details ere. You'll only need a chassis mounted phono socket - use a PCI slot blanking plate.

    Chris,

    Best to walk before you can run. I'm not having a go or anything, just saying that a HCPC can be built/taylored in stages/over time. First thing - choose your case, mainboard, CPU, memory. graphics accelerator etc.

    Then consider adittional hardware - TV capture, remote control etc.

    BTW, I'll endorse the Sweetspot for capture duties - in a word, excellent :smashin:

    I'd also recomment an IRMan/Girder for remote control duties. There are also USB UIRT dongles available although I've no experience of these.

    Config/software is every bit as important (if not more so) than the hardware used. I'd suggest a good software DVD player (TheaterTek being the one of choice around here) rather than an Xcard.

    :smoke:
     
  10. UrbanT

    UrbanT
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    Kramer, any and all suggestions are welcome. I should be in bed but I'm still sitting here reading threads trying to understand :)

    As you were posting, I was just reading a thread and understanding my misunderstandings ;)

    If I'm right, the Xcard is a hardware DVD player, right? It users a program called Dscaler to send pictures out?

    This is where i'm confused slightly. If you are using a DVD ROm drive in the HCPC, do you need Sweetspot at all? Would you just not use Theatertek to output and scale as necessary?

    I'm assuming therefore that Sweetspot is just for accepting external inputs, ie, an external DVD player, Sky, consoles etc? If so, is there a cheaper alternative to Sweetspot if all I want is to capture Sky+?

    I'm assuming that all I need for DD/DTS is a mini jack to coaxial adapter plugged into the mobo's speaker socket?

    Either I'm getting warmer or I'm totally tied up in knots!
     
  11. zAndy1

    zAndy1
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    I don't use Sweetspot for playing DVDs, I use Theatertek and to be honest I would recommend Theatertek, basically the aspect ratio adjustments you can make are a godsend (i.e. if a film doesn't completely fill the screen you can alter it so it does and it will remember it for next time). As far as I see it Sweetspot is, as you said for capturing external video e.g. Sky+, how it compares to using a PB TV100 (£30 odd) and Dscaler I'm not sure but I'd like to see it to find out! I find the results with the PB TV100 more than acceptable, having said that don't expect miracles, Skys output is mediocre at best and blown up to 6ft or more it aint gonna look squeaky clean!

    You're right about the DD/DTS output, again not sure how using the motherboards output will compare to using a 'proper' soundcards output though but a soundcard can always be added later if need be.

    As regards overclocking the XP2500 and heat generation I don't think it would be a big issue, look on ebuyer for that CPU and there are loads of comments from people that have overclocked it and some examples of temps if I remember rightly. It is £100 cheaper at the end of the day so is worthy of consideration. Also worthy of consideration is the Athlon 3200 64 bit version , not a lot more than the 3200 Barton and by all accounts quite a bit faster so if you had your mind set on the 3200 Barton I'd seriously consider the 64bit 3200.

    Cheers
    Andy
     
  12. UrbanT

    UrbanT
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    Cheers Andy, very useful stuff. I was in bed this morning thinking, 'why the hell am I worried about Sky, think what Pro Evo 3 will look like on a 7ft screen!'.

    Might still use Sweetspot as it seems to be good quality and its within budget, although I won't get the Xcard as there doesn't seem any point.

    I was looking at Thearteks website, there seemed to be a few complaints regarding the registration service. Is it just a serial you buy, or does your HCPC have to connected to the net for some sort of activation?

    Chris
     
  13. KraGorn

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    Some clarification. :)

    X-Card is a stand-alone device, it plugs into a PCI slot, you connect a DVD drive to it and use it's own software to play DVDs. On the back of the card are connections for, among other things, connecting to a standard VGA monitor ..it's an RGB anolog signal capable of being fed into a projector for example with such an input, ie. most. It also has its' own coaxial SPD/IF output for feeding digital audio to an amp.

    As far as the X-Card per se is concerned, end of story, that's what Sigma sell ... but ...

    The X-Card also has a digital output connector called an PDI, the Sweetspot, as well as having an RGB and S-Video input to handle things like Sky boxes, VCRs etc, also has an SDI input. Thus, the X-Card's SDI output can be connected to the Sweetspot's PDI input.

    Why? Well, the output from the Sweetspot can be fed to D-Scaler for de-interlacing and scaling.

    Why? Well, D-Scaler has the possiblility of producing a better picture quality than the X-Card's own player does.

    However, in my experience TheaterTek is better .. and to be fair, the guys selling Sweetspot with an X-Card admit that .. so in the end using an X-Card for playing DVDs is an option offering some convenience but not much else.


    As for outputting DD/DTS, the output on the soundcard will be separate from the speaker outputs, depending on the card it may more usually be a phono/RCA rather than a mini-jack .. for instance my Audigy has a phono as does my motherboard with on-board sound .. and the mobo's output is no worse than that of the Audigy IMO.


    Hope this helps .. and doesn't confuse even more. :D
     
  14. cwick

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    If noise is an issue for you I'd suggest you forget the acoustic pack, and replace the power supply instead. The standard one is pretty good, but not even close to a Silenx in terms of noise (or lack of), and will have a far greater impact on the noise of the final box that the acoustic pack.

    Cheers, Carl.
     
  15. ReTrO

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    Heh.:D

    The X-card has a PDI interface internally for inter card connection, rather than SDI, as does the Sweetspot. SDI would be nice though. :)
     
  16. JSW

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  17. KraGorn

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    Ooops :blush: .. thanks for pointing out the faux pas, I edited the original accordingly.

    Don't you love TLAs. :D
     
  18. KraGorn

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    I like the Wonder, it supports TheaterTek using a simple plug-in that's supplied with TT as far as I can remember, and has 6 buttons which can be configured using simple point-and-click. Beyond that, if you know some simple C programming you can make the Wonder control pretty much any Windows program.

    They're not the most widely used remotes from what I can see but they're cheap and pretty cheerful. :)
     

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