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HTPC Part recommendations

Discussion in 'Desktop & Laptop Computers Forum' started by creative-av, Jun 9, 2005.

  1. creative-av

    creative-av
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    Hi All,

    I have just purchased a Pio MXE1 and am looking to build a HTPC to get the best out of it. I will mainly be using the HTPC for DVD playback but might use it to capture Sky aswell.

    So, my question is simple really - what parts do people recommend? I am looking to use the Silverstone LC03V case and would like to use a P4 chip. Am looking at 2 or 3 Seagate HDD's and will also have the SweetSpot to capture SKY.

    Thanks,

    Steve
     
  2. KraGorn

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    Not sure what you're asking beyond the post I already replied to.

    Your choice of HD and capture card seems fine, I've commented on your processor/mobo/graphics choices, for software the choice is usually TheaterTek 2 or WinDVD 6, though some do prefer PowerDVD 6.
     
  3. creative-av

    creative-av
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    Sorry Robin, posted the thread when I came out of a meeting and then read my messages.

    Steve
     
  4. KraGorn

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    :) .. no problem, just couldn't see what I had missed in your PM.
     
  5. bnewbie

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    Hi,

    You may wish to look at Samsung Spinpoint hard drives simply because they are some of the quietest drives on the market (if not the quietest). Here's some links of reviews (some don't have noise levels) :

    http://www.tomshardware.com/storage/20050427/
    http://www.anandtech.com/storage/showdoc.aspx?i=2396&p=16

    I only linked the ones from big (half reputable) sites. The second URL isn't a review of the hard drive itself but it shows temperature and noise comparisons with various other drives.

    With regards to CPU you may want to look at mobile versions of Athlon XP, 64 or Pentium M - the reason why I say this is that so you might be able to get away with passive cooling. Again less noise.

    If you want brute force power and still silence you can use watercooling, in specific Zalman Reserators. I have a couple of these and they truly are silent. Occasionally you hear bubbles from the water but that can be classed as good Feng Shui (misspelt I'm sure) :)

    Anyhow, hope it helps.

    L
     
  6. creative-av

    creative-av
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    Thanks L. Will look into the Samsung drives.

    Any recommendations on gfx cards & sound cards? Am thinking about the fanless 6600.

    Steve
     
  7. KraGorn

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    Careful with Samsungs.

    They used to be the quietest drives and then last summer they changed their supplier of motors and they becase a LOT noisier and Seagate Barracudas regained the vote for quietest drive.

    Maybe they've gone back to the first brand of motors with these SATAs but past experience makes me cautious .. and I speak as someone with 3 120/160 Samsung ATAs as well as 4 'Cudda 120s.
     
  8. creative-av

    creative-av
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    Cheers Robin.

    Must admit am a bit undecided now whether to go the scaler route or not. I guess the HTPC appealed because you can store your dvds, music etc on it and access all your media from one source. A time for reflection me thinks!

    Steve
     
  9. betamac

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    Haved to say i bought a Samsung hard drive (160GB) about 2 months ago well after the supposed motor change, as i needed bigger i whent for 200GB seagate and its was so obviously noisier than the Samsung i am really tempted to get a 200GB samsung now they have increased in size,

    The segates have got a noisier IDLE noise and an annoying tick noise which just happens out the blue and is a known problem, i found the samsung much better personly
     
  10. TheCrow

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    Hi Steve,

    It would seem we have similar tastes, I have a Pio 50MXE1 which I use with a HTPC built in a Silverstone LC03V case using a 3.4GHz P4, a fanless 6600 and Sweetsopt card.

    My full spec is :-
    Silverstone LC03V case (I wanted a full ATX motherboard and accessable bays)
    Acousti AcoustiPack Standard Acoustic Material Kit
    Gigabyte GA-8I915P Duo Pro motherboard (PCI-ex, 3 PCI slots, Firewire, SATA & PATA RAID, HD Audio, SPDIF i/o, etc)
    Intel P4 3.4GHz
    Thermalright XP-120 CPU cooler with AcoustiFan™ Fan
    512MB DDR2 533MHz memory
    Gigabyte GV-NX66T128VP graphics (nVidia 6600, passive cooling, HD component out, video in)
    300GB Seagate Barracuda P-ATA hard drive. (Just because I had it knocking around, but also nice and quiet)
    Plextor PX-716A DVD burner (I guess any would do)
    TwinhanDTV Mini Ter Freeview Digital TV card (WinMCE compatable)
    Sweetspot Component capture card
    Enermax UC-9FATR2 Multifunction panel (Front panel Firewire, USB2, SATA breakout, Card reader and dual fan controller)
    Windows MCE 2005
    nVidia DVD decoder

    I am very happy with my setup except the Sweetspot card which is not MCE compatible and have yet to get it working the way I would like.

    The Silverstone case suits me fine, I would prefer a little better finish as some of the corners seem a little sharp, also the cooling could be better. An alternative you could look at is the Thermaltake Tenor VB2000SNS around £65 incVAT

    I would definately recommend the Gigabyte graphics card.

    I use the motherboard onboard HD audio for sound which gives me SPDIF out for AC3 and DTS but it will not do 44.1k so upsamples CD to 48k or 96k (not ideal). It also does live AC3 encoding which can be handy. I've not got the SPDIF in to work yet and Gigabyte support are not really helpful. I am also having trouble getting Dscaler to pass audio but Media Portal functions OK with the Sweetspot card.

    Hope some of this is helpful to you
     
  11. creative-av

    creative-av
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    Thanks for the replies Mac/Crow.

    Crow - PM'd you a little while ago re HTPC but have just noticed that you have a 868AVi aswell - how does the dvd playback from the HTPC compare to the 868? Did you have to spend a long time configuring the HTPC for decent playback etc etc?

    Cheers,

    Steve
     
  12. bnewbie

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    Hi,

    I know this sounds (no pun intended) a bit extreme, but do you think you can place the computer in another room and just bring the VGA cable into your main viewing room (same thing with any infra-red remote or suchlike).

    The reason why I suggest this is that it's a very cheap and relatively easy way of making your computer silent without having to bother with special components or any sort of comprimise.

    Anyhow if that isn't possible (for most people, including myself it isn't), you could go down a couple of routes :-

    http://www.quietpc.com/uk/tnn500af.php - expensive and ugly but it really is quiet (I can vouch for that personally).

    With regards to video cards, you can get Zalman heatpipe coolers for most cards - they take up a bit of space (in the sense that they may take up 2 PCI slots (at least 1)) but you get silence and again your choice of video cards is a bit more open. Quiet PC again sells them (I think many others do too).

    I can't really recommend a single card over another as it's been a couple of years since I reviewed anything like that (ATI All in Wonder 9800 PRO was very very good back then but still had a few driver issues - but that was 2 years ago so don't read too much into that comment).

    To be honest a lot depends on your budget.

    Just moving back to hard drives, try to get some passive cooling on there if you can. One of the big problems these days are hard drives failing. On a HTPC you may not store much info but it's still a pain if they die. Anyhow insufficient cooling is usually to blame but since we're kicking out active cooling (apart from maybe watercooling) try to get some passive cooling on there (again taken from Quiet PC) : http://www.quietpc.com/uk/harddrive.php (go down to the Zalman one). Don't even be tempted by the top "quilt" product, I've reviewed one myself and these days it's almost hard drive suicide to use one of those - well I wouldn't anyway.

    Cases, I have to agree with TheCrow, Silverstone look very nice.

    Hope it helps,

    L
     
  13. betamac

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    I use a Silentmaxx Aluminium HD-Silencer

    Have to say its very good, cuts 90% of all hard drive noise for me and i did not notice more than about 2 - 4c increase in temps by using it
     
  14. TheCrow

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    Hi Steve,

    As you will know the MXE1 hasn't got HDCP so I cannot use the 868s HDMI for a digital connection into the plasma, leaving me with an anologue component connection.

    When comparing the 868 via component to the HTPC via DVI there is no contest the HTPC wins by a mile.
    This is unfair on the 868 as I am sure most of the improvements are due to the digital connection.
    Everything is cleaner (i.e. a lack of noise) and sharper, edges are better defined, it is just in a different league for picture clarity.
    It's often hard to tell the difference between upscaled DVD and WMV-HD.

    I only use the 868 for playing music via iLink though my AX10i, which I must say sounds fantastic, much better than I was expecting. Not sure if that's the 868 or AX10 or the combo.

    HTPC setup was more than just plug and play, but OK if you're technically minded and read these forums. My main issues were getting the graphics refresh rate down to 50Hz (99.9% of the things I watch are PAL - Powerstrip did the trick) and the Sweetspot card which I am still struggling with.

    I think getting the right brightness and contrast settings is key to a good picture and that's not too difficult with something like DVE.
     
  15. creative-av

    creative-av
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    Thanks all.

    L - kit would all be in the same room so would like a quiet option but nice looking!

    Crow - must say that is one expensive cd player you have there! If you had the choice out of a HTPC and say a scaler what would you choose? I work in IT so don't mind all the playing around I just don't want to be doing it all the time!

    Have a copy of DVE so wil use that when I get to the 150-200 hour mark.
     
  16. TheCrow

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    The 868 is cheaper than my old Meridian CD player and it does DVD-Audio and SACDs as well. Although I did originally purchase it as a DVD player but that was before I chose the MXE1 without HDCP.

    I have never seen a plasma with a scaler so I could not say which would be better. But if you want to go digitaly into the MXE1 don't forget you need to deal with HDCP so I guess that means waiting for a HDMI board for the MXE1 or buying a SDI modified DVD player.

    Personaly I like the extras you get with a HTPC, having a DVD collection on HD, using it as a PVR with a Freeview card, music jukebox, playing games etc.
    Although being a PC it can be a pain in the ass sometimes.
     
  17. Alex Simon

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    We've done an awful lot of comparing HTPCs with DVD/Scaler combos here.
    Obviously there are loads of choices with each so it's not cut and dried but...

    A really well setup HTPC with either a Freeview card or an SDI SKY box into SweetSpot SDI and TheaterTek 2 (or a really good ZoomPlayer setup) will give any scaler a run for it's money. The only scaler that can improve on the picture in our opinion is Crystalio. Is Crystalio better in EVERY department? No, but if not better, it's equal.

    As thecrow said an HTPC can be a more versatile solution if you're interested in movie and music jukeboxes, picture viewers, web access, etc.
    But don't underestimate the amount of work needed to get all this running smoothly and suitable for the SO/family to use.

    In the end it comes down to money (the HTPC should be cheaper) and ease of use (once set up, good scalers are pretty transparent).

    Just a quick word about HDMI/HDCP - Crystalio is compliant, but for Standard Definition sources SDI will look better.

    One thing that surprised me after moving from HTPC to Crystalio is that some/most DVD players still suffer from layer change pauses - I couldn't believe it after 3 years of not having a single one with an HTPC!

    Cheers
    Alex
     

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