HTPC Newbie question

M

marcm

Guest
Hello all
As the title suggests, I am looking at an inexpensive way into HTPC. I am about to move house and will be getting a 50" plasma (HD) I have an OK spec desktop, which I plan to keep in my office, but wanted something to browse the webm email and access content from my office PC and 250GB external HD. Mainly music and occasional movies. Will use DVD directly formost viewing.
I came accross this deal at PC world and looks like it could fit nicely into my setup as it looks like a bit of hifi kit.

Will this do the job, will it cope with HD whenever it becomes mainstream.
Any comments or reviews on this system?
ADVENT DHE 1000 LIVING ROOM PC
Intel Pentium 4 Processor 630
3.0GHz Clock-Speed
800MHz FSB, 2Mb Cache
Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005
1024 mb DDR RAM Memory
250 Gb Hard Disk Capacity
Multi-Format Dual Layer DVD RW
TV Tuner and Remote Control
128Mb nVidia 6600 graphics
802.11g Wireless Network Ready
Total price less than £460

Thanks
 

MikeTV

Well-known Member
That PC will do the jobs you describe nicely, I'd have thought. The only issues I'd might look into is the expandability (can you add more PCI cards - like TV/satellite capture cards?), and what are you going to do about the sound. Ideally you may want to use a S/PDIF connection to a hifi receiver, so the sound comes through your sound system, and so that dolby digital/DTS sound track is passed directly to your surround receiver (assuming you have a receiver that decodes DD/DTS signals).
 
M

marcm

Guest
MikeTV said:
That PC will do the jobs you describe nicely, I'd have thought. The only issues I'd might look into is the expandability (can you add more PCI cards - like TV/satellite capture cards?), and what are you going to do about the sound. Ideally you may want to use a S/PDIF connection to a hifi receiver, so the sound comes through your sound system, and so that dolby digital/DTS sound track is passed directly to your surround receiver (assuming you have a receiver that decodes DD/DTS signals).

Mike
Thanks for the feedback. I have a Yamaha amp, with DTS/DD etc. I have lifted these additional specs from the web on cards etc. What is S/PDIF?

Graphics Memory 128 MB mb
Graphics Description NVIDIA 6600
No of PCI Slots 2 ?????? I hope this means they are spare
No. of Firewire Connections 3
Sound Card Realpek ALC860, 5.1

It looks like I may be going for it.
 

MikeTV

Well-known Member
S/PDIF - this is a digital audio connector (also found on CD and DVD players) sometimes described as a digital coax or digital optical connection. It allows the sound card to pass the bits to the receiver directly, and many surround receivers have digital coax/optical inputs. If the PC doesn't have this, you can always buy a sound card that does. It usually provides excellent (the best) sound quality.

If your receiver doesn't have digital inputs, you will have to use the regular analogue ones instead (ie. line inputs) (which the PC will definitely have). (ie. the old fashioned way :) )
 

MikeTV

Well-known Member
Another consideration is connecting the plasma display and how you plan to do this. You probably want to drive the display using the maximum possible resolution (to get the most from it's HD capabilities). This is easier said than done, because most plasmas are not designed to be driven by a PC.

If the plasma really is HD-Ready, you can configure the nvidia card to output HD resolutions, and use a suitable cable directly from the graphics card. The possibilities are similar to the audio - ie. whether to use a digital connection (eg. HDMI/DVI) or analog (VGA/RGBHV/component), and depend on what the plasma is capable of accepting, in terms of a video connection. I suggest investigating whether the graphics card supports the same kind of connection as the plasma. I can confirm the Nvidia card does support HDTV resolutions, which is good. So it should just be a question of whether to go digital or analogue. In either case the picture quality should be excellent.
 
R

robharden

Guest
I've just bought one of these machines, having wrestled with a self-build media pc for a year or so - so far so good, seems to work OK, but as you probably know media pcs tend to have all sorts of glitches etc that spring up from time to time....

Anyway, on the connections side:
- I've got mine hooked up to a widescreen 37" plasma on something like 1260x780 resolution (can't remember the exact figs, but it's widescreen, called WGA resolution I think) - this is the max my screen will go to rather than the max of the PC

- I use a coaxial SPDIF (ie digital audio out) - to my 5.1 amplifier. The PC can do coaxial digital out or optical digital out, and would do 7.1 if I had the gear to hook it up to

- the PC has twin analogue tuners - this is often cited as a shortcoming - in my case, however, my freeview reception is very temperamental so it works better for me to get 2 external freeview boxes working properly and then plug them into the yellow comopsite video in sockets at the back of the machine - this works great.

- graphics card is reckoned to be mid spec I think but it does fine for video/TV, but probably not the best for gaming

- I've looked inside my machine and I can't see any spare PCI sockets - it's very tightly packed in, but I could be wrong.....

- I think mine has realtek 880 sound card - seems to work fine to me

Finally, it runs pretty quietly - much quieter than I ever managed to get my self-build to run - I put it in the 'sideboard' with the surround soun amp and it emits only a very low noise (that you have to strain to hear) in most circumstances (put it this way, the sound from the boiler in the kitchen, 2 rooms away, is much louder!)

All in all I'm pleased with it, though it's only day 4 for me so it could still end in tears.

I hope this helps and good luck...
 
M

marcm

Guest
I've been silent for a while as I have just emigrated to Dubai and haven't had time until the last few days to put my grand plan into action with the media pc.

I have bought Samsung PS50 P5H plasma. (sorry for the panny and pioneer owners, personally I could not see a reason to spend an extra £1000 for discernable difference to my eyes(yes £2100)) - slightly off topic. I have also bought a Yamaha RXV 4600 amp with HDMI output.

I have hooked the media PC up through the Amp via DVI and SPDIF, and from the Amp to TV by HDMI. The sound and picture is great. I havent been able to run any hidef demo's yet, as I only got internet connection 2 hrs ago. I will be attempting to run the satellite box through the PC as well, (only got installed 2 hrs ago too)

Anyway so far so good, I had a few problems tweaking the screen size to fit my plasma, as I had scrolling edges for awhile (PC screen was bigger than viewing size). That is sorted now.

I will experimenting more as time allows.
 

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