Dismiss Notice
Attention AVForums app / Tapatalk users
Sadly GDPR means that, from 25th, we can no longer offer access to AVForums via the branded app or Tapatalk.
Click here for more information.

HTPC build - please help.

Discussion in 'Desktop & Laptop Computers Forum' started by phasmax, Sep 5, 2004.

  1. phasmax

    phasmax
    Guest

    Products Owned:
    0
    Products Wanted:
    0
    Ratings:
    +0
    Before I even start, THANKS for the help!

    I realise this question have been posted so many times before, but my "requirements" for building an HTPC (or at least my idea of what I want) is pretty specific. Maybe somebody could help me with the details:

    What I want:
    1.) Watch TV, as well as playback DVD, DivX, Mpeg - just about anything under the sun in media format type - output to TV/projector. Of course, also playback CD, MP3, etc - the usual.

    2.) Be able to digitally record (from TV) directly onto the disc. I would love to do real-time DivX encoding, but for that you probably need a bit more hefty processor, so recording in raw MPEG is fine - I can put a big HDD in there.

    3.) Preferable a SFF-based system (Shuttle, Biostar, etc).

    4.) Preferably an AMD based solution (dunno why... ;)

    NOTE: ***I am NOT interested in gaming (not even pacman) for this machine - it's a dedicated HTPC and nothing more.***

    Questions:
    1.) Can anybody recommend a good SFF-based system. Obviously having card-readers on the front would be a nice bonus, and even an instant-on MP3 playback (like the MSI Mega).

    2.) What graphics card would be good - an ATI AIW with a Remote Wonder comes to mind, but the question is - which one? Does the 9600 AIW have anything better than the 7500 as far as video/tv quality etc is concerned? If not, then I can just as well get the 7500 right?

    3.) What CPU would be sufficient for digital recording, DVD playback etc?

    3.) Software - I guess it doesn't matter whether I go for Linux/Windows, but whatever you guys can suggest for on both sides would be much appreciated.

    Thanks a million!!!
    Phasmax
     
  2. MikeTV

    MikeTV
    Well-known Member

    Joined:
    Feb 1, 2003
    Messages:
    7,782
    Products Owned:
    0
    Products Wanted:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    136
    Location:
    Ealing, London
    Ratings:
    +842
    1) I recommend the Nebula DigiTV card for realtime digital TV recording. For analogue recordings it's more complicated, and depends on how much you are prepared to spend. At the higher-end is the sweetspot card which supports scart/RGBs input. Otherwise any card based on the saa7134 chipset will suffice (like the Packard Bell TV-100, available from mainstream stores). However, you may have difficulty with high quality realtime encoding with the cheaper cards, except perhaps on a very high spec PC.

    2) Any of the ATI 9x00 radeons should be enough. These are preferred because of their ability to support a variety of custom resolutions, including HDTV resolutions (which is useful when attaching to projectors, etc.)

    3) The Nebula card has inbuilt hardware for mpg2 encoding, and so it's demands on the CPU are quite low. Some analogue capture cards also have mpg hardware, and also do not require a high spec CPU. But the cheaper cards do not, and so you may difficulty encoding in realtime at full resolutions and frame rates.

    For dvd playback, any modern PC will be fine (even 1gb CPU's).

    4) I do see the attraction, and I really don't want to start a religious war, but I wouldn't even contemplate using Linux - simply because it supports less hardware and software, and fewer people are using it. Unfortunately it is still very much a minority interest. Windows XP (home/pro) is most common. Others may disagree though.
     
  3. keylion

    keylion
    Active Member

    Joined:
    Oct 13, 2002
    Messages:
    212
    Products Owned:
    1
    Products Wanted:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    21
    Location:
    Lancashire
    Ratings:
    +9
    Be aware that if you want to playback Hi-Def material you will need a fairly fast PC, perhaps at least a XP2600 with 512MB of RAM.

    KL
     
  4. Mark Ward

    Mark Ward
    Active Member

    Joined:
    Sep 12, 2001
    Messages:
    1,815
    Products Owned:
    0
    Products Wanted:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    41
    Location:
    Kent
    Ratings:
    +18
    I'd consider waiting a short while whilst the performance of the new NVidea PCIe Gfx cards becomes more well known. Theatertek (the choice of many HTPC owners, including me) Version 2.0 is out soon and according to the TT Forum website the new NVidea cards have features giving them an advantage over the Radeons.

    Also 64bit Archicture is still a little "young" but has to be the way forward.

    For me right now is one of those "between technologies" times when if you build now 3 months down the road you may find you'd have made different choices.

    I'd agree with the Nebula card for freeview coverage, but that won't help if you want "Top-Up TV", though why anyone would is beyond me;)

    Also, I see that you do want a small form factor, be aware that in order to keep an HTPC quiet and cool people typically replace noisy internal fans with large heatsinks this isn't easy in a small case. You also need to allow for expansion cards. Decent sound card and quite possibly an input card ans well as a Nebula TV card will take up 3 PCI slots. My shuttle only has 1 PCI slot so would never have made an HTPC, I went for a larger LMP-HTPC case, but there are other very attractive good quality cases that although bigger than a mini-atx still look very good and fit in a HT Rack.

    As far as CPU speed, I'd not consider anything under 3Ghz moving forward, this is what is recommended by Microsoft for playback of 1080i WMV material which is superior to DVD and slowly becoming more available.

    Good luck,

    Mark.
     
  5. kwijibo

    kwijibo
    Standard Member

    Joined:
    Feb 4, 2002
    Messages:
    475
    Products Owned:
    0
    Products Wanted:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    18
    Location:
    essex
    Ratings:
    +2
    Is it possible to have a HCPC that does all the audio (DD, DTS etc)processing too. I would love to use that as a front end and just take outpus to a big power amp. I can't see any reason why this cannot be done, but I've never heard it mentioned. It would be great to have a decent EQ system built in too, and again, I can't see any reason why this cannot be done
     
  6. KraGorn

    KraGorn
    Active Member

    Joined:
    Aug 30, 2003
    Messages:
    4,745
    Products Owned:
    0
    Products Wanted:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    68
    Location:
    Warrington
    Ratings:
    +27
    The 9600 has a superior MPEG decoder than the 7500, I've seen it said that there's even an improvement over 9500 and earlier 9x00 models.

    So yes, a 9600 is preferable to a 7500.

    I like the ATI Remote, being radio has advantages, though is seems the majority of HTPC users prefer IR. One thing, TheaterTek provides a plug-in that let's you drive TT from the Remote Wonder.
     
  7. KraGorn

    KraGorn
    Active Member

    Joined:
    Aug 30, 2003
    Messages:
    4,745
    Products Owned:
    0
    Products Wanted:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    68
    Location:
    Warrington
    Ratings:
    +27
    While PCs can and do have decoders for DD, DTS etc. you're still left with the problem of amplification to drive a 5.1 or 7.1 system.

    I have never seen a multi-channel power-amp-only device, which is what you're talking about here, I'm sure they probably exist in the 'specialist' (aka. damned expensive) part of the market but I don't know of any that'd be worth buying.

    Remember, the main bulk of amp/receivers are the power amp output stages etc, the preamps/video&audio switching components aren't that bulky so a power-amp-only isn't going to be much smaller than a normal receiver/amp.
     
  8. kwijibo

    kwijibo
    Standard Member

    Joined:
    Feb 4, 2002
    Messages:
    475
    Products Owned:
    0
    Products Wanted:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    18
    Location:
    essex
    Ratings:
    +2
    I'll just use a 5 or 7 channel power amp. There are loads of them on the market. I'm not worried about keeping it all small as it is to be installed in a rack in another room
     
  9. KraGorn

    KraGorn
    Active Member

    Joined:
    Aug 30, 2003
    Messages:
    4,745
    Products Owned:
    0
    Products Wanted:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    68
    Location:
    Warrington
    Ratings:
    +27
    But what's the point in doing that? If it isn't the size of the thing that matters I'm bemused why you want to go this route, which ties you completely to using just an HTPC .. what happens when you want to use an HD-DVD/whatever because there's no PC support for the type of media you want to play .. *cough* SACD *cough* for example. :)
     
  10. kwijibo

    kwijibo
    Standard Member

    Joined:
    Feb 4, 2002
    Messages:
    475
    Products Owned:
    0
    Products Wanted:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    18
    Location:
    essex
    Ratings:
    +2
    I'm new to the HCPC idea, but my understanding such as it is is that they offer better DVD playback - better picture and sound, you can store loads of media on them, and they are upgradable. You can use them as a scaler and put sky+ etc through them to improve all sources to a projector and plasma. SACD does not interest me in the slightest, and HD is already possible, just not via a DVD drive yet. That will come soon (probably before stand alone machine in the uk), and will be upgradable.

    If it was just about being smaller would we all go to Dixons and buy a nice neat Sony??

    I am asking the questions because I don't have any experience of them first hand and want to know how, and when, I should look at getting my IT mate to build one for me...
     
  11. KraGorn

    KraGorn
    Active Member

    Joined:
    Aug 30, 2003
    Messages:
    4,745
    Products Owned:
    0
    Products Wanted:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    68
    Location:
    Warrington
    Ratings:
    +27
    That's fair enough, I too mainly use an HTPC but I do use a networked MP3 player for music (running off a 24/7 server so I don't need to boot the HTPC) and occasionaly an ancient VCR then a receiver offers me flexibility.

    If indeed you only ever expect to use an HTPC then your route would obviously be attractive, certainly in the short term .. what I'm not at all sure about is what will happen late next year or so when BluRay/HD-DVD starts appearing, how soon/long will it be before there's support in PCs for it.
     
  12. NaTT

    NaTT
    Active Member

    Joined:
    May 27, 2003
    Messages:
    1,123
    Products Owned:
    0
    Products Wanted:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    51
    Location:
    Abbots Langley
    Ratings:
    +77
    M$ recommends a 3Ghz processor or "equiviallant" which I guess pertains to AMD processors as my A64 3200 runs @ 2 to 2.2 Ghz and does better than a 3.2Ghz Pentium in most tests.
    Or to be more specific runs my 1080 video clips just fine.
     

Share This Page

Loading...
  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.
    Dismiss Notice