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HTPC build - help required

Discussion in 'Desktop & Laptop Computers Forum' started by r-06264, Mar 13, 2005.

  1. r-06264

    r-06264
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    Hi all

    I would like to convert my Packard Bell Spirit pc to a HTPC. The specs are as
    follows: P3 600Mhz with 384MB RAM.

    What do I need to convert this to a HTPC? I don't want to get rid of the machine because aesthetically it is very pleasing to the eye. Take a look http://support.packardbell.com/uk/mypc/?PibItemNr=platform_symphonyspirit So I don't really want to sell it. However, if a PIII won't suffice then I'd be forced to sell it. Please advise.

    Thanks in advance.
     
  2. KraGorn

    KraGorn
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    It'll be touch and go whether you'll actually be able to play DVDs on such a relatively low-powered machine, 600Hz is really on the low side. I've no idea just how little CPU power one can get away with but my guess is that's pushing it.

    You'll certainly not get away with a software-only player, you'd need hardware MPEG support which I doubt the S3 Savage provides .. I don't know, it may do.

    I'm not optimistic but I can't be certain, someone else may know your hardware better than I.
     
  3. Rob100

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    What's the FSB of your CPU? I'd of thought if it's 100mhz then you should get away with software DVD players. I remember watching DVD's on my Celeron 300 overclocked to 450 - 5 years or so ago. I think you may find that newer players probably assume a faster CPU so you may have problems there. Don't expect to do any ffdshow post processing or play any hidef content!

    Rob.
     
  4. r-06264

    r-06264
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    Ok, so the CPU is the weakest link. Is there a PCI video card (which supports component output) that I could use to overcome this performance issue?? I really don't want to sell this pc as I'll get nothing for it. And I can't afford to buy a brand new pc at this stage. I definitely would like to play HD material so if there's a video card out there that can help me please tell me. If not, then I'll have to give up on this HTPC project.
     
  5. KraGorn

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    What HD material are you referring to? There are hidef rips off cable and satellite .. very naughty :D .. and then there are hidef WMVs.

    Playing the former isn't too CPU intensive and pretty much any recent ATI or NVidia card could handle it.

    Only the very latest cards from NVidia (not sure about ATI) support WMV decoding in hardware and even then I don't know what sort of CPU power would be needed by the software side.
     
  6. DaveP

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    I hope you are not confusing the latest PCI graphic cards with the PCI cards in your PC! The new standard is PCI Express and these have a special, non-compatible, slot on the mobo.

    You would be hard pressed to find a decent PCI, old style, graphics card, let alone one that supported component output.

    What is the motherboard in your case? If it is micro ATX you could swap it out and put a new one in that supports the latest proccesors and graphics cards

    Dave
     
  7. r-06264

    r-06264
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    Hi chaps. Thanks for your QUICK :eek: replies :) When I mean HD I mean, can the system handle 1080i. I've found this card on Ebuyer http://www.ebuyer.com/customer/prod...2hvd19wcm9kdWN0X292ZXJ2aWV3&product_uid=63943
    Will it work for me??

    Dave,
    I have only recently come across this PCI-E technology and I assumed it won't be supported in my machine. Look at the above link. Let me know what you think. I've noticed that ATi does offer a add-on adapter for component out. I have not checked if it will work with this display adapter yet.

    I'm almost 100% sure the m/b is Micro ATX but I wonder if Packard Bell (PB) would be able to provide me with an upgrade board. I doubt it. It also has a PCI Riser board so I assume it can only be of the PB variety.
     
  8. KraGorn

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    Sorry, I'm still unclear what you're looking to view at 1080i .. simply having a video card capable of outputting 1920x1080i doesn't mean the rest of the system will be capable of feeding a video stream of that resolution.

    A 9200SE is a nice enough card for normal HTPC duty, a 9600 SE would be a better buy and can be had fanless which helps cut down noise. Sadly, to my knowledge at least, there are no UK retailers selling the AT component adapter.

    Your motherboard doesn't support PCI-e.
     
  9. r-06264

    r-06264
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    Ok, so let's ignore 1080i for now, that can always come much later. Right now my main priority is DVD output at 720. Would my system support this capability right now if I upgrade just the video card and maybe the RAM? Clearly I would have to get a more decent pc in time to come but I at least want to get some use of this machine for the time being.
     
  10. KraGorn

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    RAM isn't a problem, 384Mb is fine. If you fit a 9600SE you'll be able to get 720p, I think you can with a 9200 but am not sure. From Rob's comments about his experience with a clocked system it would seem a 600MHz system is probably up to DVD playback.

    Which software player you use is a personal choice. If you can find a trial version of PowerDVD or WinDVD then that'd be a good point to start, TheaterTek only provides a 7-day refund period.

    What O/S are you running? If it's Win98 then you'd have to check if the latest versions of these support that.
     
  11. r-06264

    r-06264
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    I think the 9600SE is only AGP. At least I can't find a 9600SE PCI on Ebuyer. I am running WinXP. Thanks for putting me on the right track Robin (we share the same name), same to you Rob :)
     
  12. Steve.J.Davies

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    Glom a copy of the geexbox linux distrib off the interweb. drop the iso onto CD to make a bootable Cd and give it a wizz.
    will only take a few mins to try. designed to explot low spec machines.
     
  13. r-06264

    r-06264
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    Hmmm.... Linux. Wonder if the 9200SE video card is fully supported under this OS. Definitely an option. I will consider. I'm very familiar with Unix.

    Guys, one thing I forgot to ask about! How will I output DTS soundtracks to my surround receiver? Can someone please recommend a sound card to do this?
     
  14. KraGorn

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    Pretty much any soundcard with a digital output (aks. S/PDIF) will do, you just need to be able to configure AC3 pass-through to get the AC3 stream sent to your receiver.

    Linux does support the ATI chipset, it has done for a long while, I used to use it with a 9700-based system.
     
  15. r-06264

    r-06264
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    Cool. This is getting better and better. Going to order the components pretty soon.
     
  16. Steve.J.Davies

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    geexbox written/built for generic chipsets and purposely to run on smaller/older configs. that said it also support Nforce4 chipsets iirc.
    the download for the bootable cd/iso image/ is only about 6 meg.
    flip to http://geexbox.org/en/index.html.
    as you are familiar with the penguin you could download the larger config and install it to a partition an make it sing (i.e. customise).
     
  17. r-06264

    r-06264
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    Oddly this Geexbox OS wouldn't run on my machine. It brings up the progress bar to about 5% I would say and then stalls. On my old laptop it runs just fine. Arrgh. There obviously seems to be hw compatibility issue. I have done some research today and I think I'm close to settling on the Nvidia FX5200 as it supports DirectX9. Still undecided on exactly which soundcard though and want to order all the hw together to save on postage costs.
     
  18. KraGorn

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    For digital output I think something cheap like a Creative SB Audigy 2 Value at around £27 should do, only downside is that the S/PDIF is a 3.5mm socket so you'd need a 3.5mm jack to male phono cable to connect to a coax digital audio input an a receiver.

    Hardware DX9 support isn't important for an HTPC, certainly not unless you're getting into post-processing which your PC certainly couldn't support .. DX9 in software is all you need, that said the 5200 is a reasonable card.
     
  19. r-06264

    r-06264
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    Found some spare cash and decided to build an HTPC from scratch instead of wasting money on obsolete equipment :clap: Equipment list:

    Silverstone LC10S case
    480w Tagan PSU (so quiet!!)
    Asus P4P-800E Deluxe with SPDIF out (8ch)
    Akasa CPU cooler
    3.0Ghz Intel Prescott S478 CPU
    2 x 256MB Corsair Value DDR PC3200
    ATI 9800 Pro AGP with Artic Cooler

    Using my old HDD but eventually will settle for a SATA.

    Just waiting on my ATI HDTV component adapter to come from the States!!
     
  20. Mondorich

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    Did the adapter arrive? How's it all working.

    I'm thinking of something similar so would like info on the adapter.

    Does a TV with component input (non-HDTV) display signals from the adapter OK?

    Thanks
     
  21. r-06264

    r-06264
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    The adapter works great and it keeps my settings whenever it gets plugged in again.

    As long as your TV can display the resolutions the adapter is compatable with I don't think you'll have any problems.
     

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