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HTPC Build Dilemma

edb49

Active Member
Hi everyone,

I've currently got a Sony BDP-S350 Bluray player and Foxsat HDR Freesat HD PVR connected to my TV. I control them with a Logitech Harmony remote. There are a couple of things I don't like about this:

1) From inserting a BD to playing the film, it's at least 2 minutes. Why do I have to watch the anti-piracy stuff when I've paid for it?

2) The EPG on the Foxsat is very clunky, and the box in general is slow.

So I'm pretty much decided I'd like to replace both boxes with a HTPC set up. I think my requirements are:

* Very quiet and lower power - it will be left on the whole time.
* Record TV from Freesat HD and Freeview HD
* Pause/rewind/fast forward live TV
* Watch DVDs/BDs
* Rip DVDs/BDs to Synology NAS, and play back from there (not bothered about transcoding them, I just hate all the 'forced' trailers on BDs)
* Play other media like MP4, MKV, M2TS from cameras etc.
* Play back in 1080p24, 1080p50i etc, to suit media
* Output sound over HDMI to Onkyo amp

The bits I'm looking at to achieve this are:

Gigabyte GA-H67M-UD2H-B3
Intel Core i3-2100T 2.5GHz (35 watts)
4GB DDR3 RAM
OCZ Technology 60GB Vertex 2 SSD
Samsung 12x BD-ROM/DVDRW Lightscribe SATA
Windows 7 Home Premium OEM 64-bit
AnyDVD HD

Then these bits that I've not decided on yet:

- Case/PSU
- Remote
- Keyboard/mouse
- DVB-T2 tuner
- Dual DVB-S tuner

Just wanted to get some initial feedback from the community on here to see if I'm going along the right lines?

One other thing I was wondering about was output - the HTPC will output 1080p over HDMI the whole time I assume, so I will be relying on it to deinterlace and upscale content. Is this going to be good? I'm planning to put it into a pretty decent surround sound system and TV.
 

nunovi

Active Member
Hi,

You can't really go wrong with the kit you've chosen, it's a great htpc setup. Just beware that there are some problems with 24fps output with the standard Core i3 graphics (check this AVForum thread). If this is something you want to avoid with the i3, you'll need a discrete graphics card to do the job (Radeon 6450 comes to mind).

If your use is mainly for recording TV and watching movies, maybe a AMD E350 Zacate would actually be a better solution. The integrated Radeon 6310 does bitstreaming and 24p perfectly and it's only 18W TDP. It will struggle with HD Video played through flash, as adobe is still working in accelerating video properly with the new APU, but I'm guessing it's a question of time. An ASUS E35M1 Micro-Atx board is fanless, so it would be silent too. With the money you save, get a good case with excellent airflow and you'll have a great HTPC, quiet and fairly cheap.

Hope this helps.

Nuno
 

steford

Active Member
Going DVB-T and DVB-S(2) will save you some cash currently as twin DVB-T2 tuners can be expensive. I prefer PCI over USB so went for the single tuner TBS DVB-S2 for £49.99 (The cheaper DVB-S Compro S350 wouldn't fit my case) and the Peak Dual DVB-T. Merged HD and SD for BBC1, ITV1 and C4 to get HD viewing/recording by default. Works very nicely and have had no clashes to date albeit with my very limited viewing needs.

Remote - got a MCE compatible "Aim PC Infra Red Remote" for £12 from eBay just for the IR receiver and use my Harmony although the remote that came with it isn't that bad.

Hope this helps.
 

edb49

Active Member
You can't really go wrong with the kit you've chosen, it's a great htpc setup. Just beware that there are some problems with 24fps output with the standard Core i3 graphics (check this AVForum thread). If this is something you want to avoid with the i3, you'll need a discrete graphics card to do the job (Radeon 6450 comes to mind).

Aha, thanks very much for your advice. I think in that case I'll get a discrete gfx card, this one is about £30 give or take:

Sapphire Technology ATI Radeon HD 5450 650Mhz 512MB DDR3

Just reading through the rest of the follow ups. :)
 

edb49

Active Member
I've had a look at the AMD E350 Zacate, and to me it seems like too much of a compromise. There's an interesting review here, which indicates it doesn't even save on power compared to the Core i3:

Every Watt Counts: AMD E-350 vs. Intel Core i3-2100T - X-bit labs

The main reason to get a DVB-T2 card was so I can get Channel 4 in HD. However, I think that this is just a limitation of the Freesat devices which is planned to change soon anyway. Can I manually tune the HTPC to pick up C4 in HD? If so, what's the recommendation for a dual-port DVB-S2 card?
 

cheenis

Standard Member
If you do want to get a dual tuner then this link TBS Dual DVB-S2 High Definition Digital Satellite Tuner: Amazon.co.uk: Electronics (or search for TBS Dual DVB-S2 High Definition Digital Satellite Tuner PCI Express Card HD (DVB-S2/DVB-S) Receiver on amazon and you may be as lucky as myself and all the other people that have left feedback to say you get the 6981 card instead of the 6980 card... all for £75 :thumbsup: I got mine about 3 weeks ago so it was still happening then. You never know!
 

edb49

Active Member
Cool, feel like I'm making decent progress then. :) Here's a revised kit list:

Gigabyte GA-H67M-UD2H-B3
Intel Core i3-2100T 2.5GHz (35 watts)
4GB DDR3 RAM
OCZ Technology 60GB Vertex 2 SSD
Samsung 12x BD-ROM/DVDRW Lightscribe SATA
TBS Dual DVB-S2 High Definition Digital Satellite Tuner
Keysonic ACK-540RF Wireless keyboard/trackpad combo

Windows 7 Home Premium OEM 64-bit
AnyDVD HD


For a case/PSU, I've seen this thread recommend
http://www.avforums.com/forums/home...62198-step-step-home-build-my-dream-htpc.html

Antec Fusion Remote Black
Seasonic SS-400FL X-Series 400W Fanless Power Supply

I really have no clue whether these would be suitable or not, so any thoughts on this would be good.
 

Stephen Neal

Distinguished Member
I've had a look at the AMD E350 Zacate, and to me it seems like too much of a compromise. There's an interesting review here, which indicates it doesn't even save on power compared to the Core i3:

Every Watt Counts: AMD E-350 vs. Intel Core i3-2100T - X-bit labs

The main reason to get a DVB-T2 card was so I can get Channel 4 in HD. However, I think that this is just a limitation of the Freesat devices which is planned to change soon anyway. Can I manually tune the HTPC to pick up C4 in HD? If so, what's the recommendation for a dual-port DVB-S2 card?

I've got an E35M1-M E350 system and an Intel i3-540 system. The i3 is definitely noisier using the stock cooler (the non-Pro E35M1-M is passively cooled)

For TV and DVD/Blu-ray viewing the E350 is impressive (and AIUI doesn't have the Intel 23.976Hz bug) - but the i3 is in a different league in processing power.
 

edb49

Active Member
Thanks for the advice everyone. I've made the decision and bought the bits now, I went for i3 in the end as it gives a bit more flexibility in the future.

Quite happy to put photos up of the build here if it's interesting?
 

DavidT

Well-known Member
We love photo's :clap:

David
 

spendec

Active Member
I know you've already put an order in but just a thought -

I initially started with just a small SSD in my i3 HTPC, but that only gives you a couple of hours recording, particularly in HD. I've added a 2.5" 160GB laptop drive that I had sat around now that just acts as an initial recording dump before it all gets archived automatically to my server (7MC won't record straight across the network). Made a big difference. If you follow the guide on Hack7MC you can also make it so it records to the larger drive but still has the Live TV buffer on the SSD so the pause/RWD/FWD options are all much quicker.

As a final aside, C4 HD is on Freesat now, my HTPC picked it up fine when I rescanned it last week, and I've got the dual S2 TBS card from Amazon.
 

edb49

Active Member
Hi spendec, I did have a last minute change of heart and went for the 120GB SSD; again to give some flexibility with how I used it.

I'm going to have a go with Media Portal; I've not looked in detail at the config yet, but I'm hoping it will allow me to record stuff to the SSD and then ship it off to the NAS overnight. This is more because I'm concerned about network flakiness corrupting a recording - I am using powerline network (AV 500), and don't want any drop outs to cause corruption.
 

cheenis

Standard Member
edb49 - Let me know how you get on with this please as I have a similar set up to my NAS using the homeplugs. I was just going to go in straight with 7MC, but thanks to Spendec I now know that I was fooling myself! :blush:

I'm building my beauty this weekend (I've been running out of my desk top since my old HTPC died) I've not gone wild on the spec either as I've no need, but there are some obvious excesses. I'll post up some pictures and do a build log if I get time. When tuning you may come accross a couple of funnies where the EPG is right, but no channel exists when you switch on to it(see my other post regarding tuning for BBC2 Wales) I found the guidance I got here very useful and it points to some links with all the frequencies.

Assuming you are using your SSD for your OS, there are some good tutorials and proper geek stuff out there about optimising with people looking to squeeze every last millisecond of performance out of their drive. You may not be looking to go to that extreme and Win 7 seems to do most of it for you, but I found some excellent tutorials that guid you through the basics that you do need to cover... well they seem to be, I'll comment again after I've followed them :D Not sure I can post the links here as it was a long time since I read the rules, but happy to share them & will put them in my bubild log, but if you google for it then you'll get them at the top.

Good luck with your build, I'll wiat and see how you get on with Media Portal before I dabble.
 

edb49

Active Member
Yep, I've used SSDs for quite a while so know about aligning the sectors to get the speeds up etc. Although as you say, I don't think you need to do this for Win7, as the installer recognises it as an SSD.

Hopefully the bits will turn up over the course of next week, so I'll take some photos and put them together then.
 

edb49

Active Member
SSD bracket has come, also the drives for the NAS. Only 13 deliveries left to go! Will update with photos when they're all here.
 

edb49

Active Member
Hi everyone. Thanks for all the advice on putting this system together. As promised, here are the build photos. Pretty much finished it last night apart from a few components still to be delivered.

Things to note:

1. I didn't need to by a separate SSD 3.5" to 2.5" cage, as one comes with the OCZ Vertex.

2. The 3.5" SSD cage isn't big enough to use four screws to attach it to the case. So it's got two screws and some tape. Also the screws supplied with the case are the wrong thread, which is annoying... as they are special long-reach screws because of the rubber HD dampers.


All boxes (apart from CPU, sat card, and gfx card)
P1060652.JPG


Synology NAS unboxed:
P1060654.JPG


Installing drives in Synology NAS:
P1060655.JPG


HTPC bits unboxed:
P1060656.JPG


PSU, BD-drive and SSD installed: (note tape for SSD)
P1060659.JPG


Mobo installed:
P1060661.JPG


Power cables connected and routed, other cables routed:
P1060663.JPG


So that's pretty much the end of the thread for me. I'm just waiting for delivery of the CPU, graphics card and satellite tuner... they're all simple drop in things so another 10 minutes work and the system will be ready to be installed.

Overall impressions:

PSU - wow, what overkill on packaging! Draw string velvet bags.
Case - Slightly disappointed with build quality considering the price.
 

cheenis

Standard Member
How have you found setting up the Synology NAS? I had the devils own with mine and I'm still not happy as half of the features I've still not got around to setting up - I had an issue where the support guys had to connect and change something on my NAS so it's not all been me, but I've not had the results suggested by following the instructions they supply & I know very little/ nothing about networks.

What are you using it for? Just media sotrage and streaming or are you doing backups to it as well? If you're doing back ups, what software are you using and is it quick? I find my takes disproportionately long times (say 1 day for 300Gb) to back up data using the synology software. I've not had the time to investigate to see how abnormal that is, but it sounds terrifically slow to me. It's been like this when hard wired to my machine with only a router inbetween and it's slow over my home plugs (I'd expect some sluggishness, but not this much... the plugs I have (85 ones) almost play an uncompressed DVD from the NAS without jitters so the data transfer can't be that slow.

I'd like to image my machine (OS, etc) and back up some of the data (Photos, etc) to the NAS... any software that you or anybody else has found works well?
 

edb49

Active Member
I'm not using my NAS for backups, I just use it for storage. So very little in the way of functionality at the moment, just Windows file sharing and that's it. I may use it for Squeezebox/DLNA in the future, but no current plans.

It was really easy to set up this functionality. The only hiccup was during the initialisation of the RAID array I had a power cut, so had to run through that process again.

I've got two Samsung 2GB drives in a RAID 1 array, transfer rates over gigabit are typically 30-40mb/sec. (That's megabytes, not bits.) So to copy 300GB at that rate would take about 2.5 hours. Sounds like something is slowing down your backup, maybe the software? Have you tried a basic file copy to see the rates.

Sometimes lots of small files will slow things down too.
 

cheenis

Standard Member
I thought it was chronically slow. I've just not had time to investigate. It's my next project so I'll run some tests and post on the appropriate forum on this site. I get variable results from dropping files over, but the play back seems right so it's a bit of a mystery at the minute. Hopefully I'll get it fixed. I've got a [email protected] old free router and had loads of trouble with the port forwarding, but the main problem is that I don't know what I'm doing thus anything I do is too hit and miss right now.

I've got my squeezebox radio set up from the NAS though (mine is the DS210j) and it works perfectly, it's just half the advertised features and the backups that are shoddy. I'm going to try some other back up tool to get a comparison.

Glad you got yours all set up! I posted my build log, but I think it's a little bit too long, mot people will drop off, but I hope it helps somebody along the way :)
 

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