HTPC Project - My Build Story

Zarch

Well-known Member
UPDATE: (18th May 2008)
The creation of HTPC mk2 starts here:


http://www.avforums.com/forums/showthread.php?p=7089148#post7089148

Built around a Gigabyte GA-MA78GM-S2H 780G Socket AM2+ and a AMD Athlon 64 X2 4050e 2.1GHz with a Hauppauge Nova-S2 satellite card for ITV-HD! (as well as all other Free-to-air satellite channels)




Other threads I started that may be of interest and relevant:

HTPC Sticky - Builds, Hardware, Software, Specs, Performance, Advice, Links & More
http://www.avforums.com/forums/showthread.php?t=705626

HTPC Codecs & Players,Help & Configuration Thread (ffdshow, CoreAVC, MediaPortal etc)
http://www.avforums.com/forums/showthread.php?t=652538

NAS Basics (Data Protection, Performance, Configuration and more)
http://www.avforums.com/forums/showthread.php?t=627725




One more thing, if you post a question up and someone goes to the trouble of answering you, please have the courtesy to use the "thanks" button to show your appreciation.

Rudeness is not a welcome attribute on these forums.







Old Thread: HTPC MK1 starting 4th July 2007...............................


Inspired by Azzin's epic of the last month or so i'm going to go through similar trials and tribulations with my build and try and detail things as i go along so other people can find inspiration and confidence from it to go ahead and build their own HTPC.

Background & Current Kit:
Sony KV32-LS60 100hz TV
Sony DAV-SC5 Surround Kit
SKY+

To be replaced and end up with:
Panasonic TH37-PX70 Plasma
Sony DAV-SC5 Surround Kit (staying!)
SKY HD
Custom HTPC
New TV Stand.

The decision to get the Panasonic LX70 has been a long a winding road, but i'm very happy with the selection after considering various LCD and Plasmas (wont bore you with that saga) :smashin:

SKY HD is a given, especially with new footy season only just over a month away! :clap:

Apologies for the state of the pictures i've taken. My Canon digi-cam has given up the ghost, so i'm having to use my phone for most of them until i can get the Canon back from repair!! :thumbsdow

Current Set-up Picture:


As you can see i'm dealing with a tricky corner situation. No, the chimney breast(to the left) was never an option for the new screen as it would have been too high. So to decide on the size of screen i had to resort to 2 methods.

1) graph paper and 2) lifesize models.

"To Scale" diagram of "the corner" on graph paper


Lifesize model of the 37" PX70.



As you can probably see, i couldn't get anything bigger than a 37" screen in the corner and the graph paper along with a to scale 37" and 42" panny cutouts proved it! LOL.

Okay, so i know what stuff i'm gonna end up with under the tv. So i measured all their dimensions to make sure the stand would take it all. And so there started the search for a corner stand to a)take the telly b) take all the equipment below and c) fit in the damn corner.

As you can see, plenty were considered.


But when it came down to it, there was only one stand that i could find that satisfied all three requirements.

And that was the Stil-Stand STUK-1403.


Proper image of it.


Now after a bit of searching i managed to find the stand at an absolute bargain price of £60. Its usually £100+ everywhere else. I also ordered the cable management for £25.

Both items where ordered from "For Your Home and Life"
http://www.fyhl.co.uk/store/product_info.php/products_id/2012
http://www.fyhl.co.uk/store/product_info.php/manufacturers_id//products_id/127

They also have some of the other STIL-STAND range at rock bottom prices, well worth a look.

So hopefully that will be here Friday. :clap:

On the Plasma front, i've got John Lewis currently pricematching a store for me at the moment on the PED version and then once that is approved(finsger crossed) i will be getting my John Lewis Vouchers through my MBNA credit card at 90% cost to get another 10% off!!! YYYEEEAAAAHHHHH!!

Right, finally onto the HTPC itself.

Its primary role in the first instance will be play back of files i get down from usenet/internet. So .ts files, wmv, h.264 and all other hi def file types.

At the moment i have a PC in the little box room upstairs with a router and cable modem. I do intend to get a NAS box down the line, probably 1 TB, but thats well in the future. (maybe a few months)

For network connectivity i'm gonna connect the HTPC to the router upstairs via a run of CAT5 UTP cable that i'm gonna have run up the side of the house following the coax i've got for my SKY RF feed!

That way i'll be able to transfer stuff from the computer room PC to the HTPC, the HTPC will get internet access and will be able to see the NAS later down the line, all at 100MB (max of the router, hopefully!). Wireless just isn't an option due to speed restrictions.

I've been building a bit of a kit list over the last week or so for the HTPC, its all from ebuyer (my preferred supplier). Take a look, tell me what you think.


  • Motherboard , £35.17, 125831, ECS 945G-M3 V3.0 Socket 775 Core 2 Duo Ready FSB1066 DDR2 Onboard Audio mATX
  • CPU, £85.72, 126904 , Intel Core 2 Duo E6320 (1.86Ghz) Socket 775 FSB1066 4MB Cache Retail Boxed Processor
  • Graphics Card, £72.40, 128084, MSI 8600GT Silent edition 256MB DVI HDTV PCI-E
  • Memory, £38.29 , 91124, Kingston 2GB KIT (2X1GB) DDR2 667MHz/PC2-5300 CL5 Non Ecc 1.8V
  • Hard Disk, £55.99, 124228, Western Digital WD5000AAKS 500GB SATA II 7200RPM 16MB Cache - OEM
  • Case , £93.60 , 129281, Antec Fusion V2 MATX MediaCenter Case - Aluminium Front Bezel with 430W PSU
  • CD/DVD Writer , Got old NEC DVD Writer, will still do a job
  • Keyboard/Mouse, £25.12, 104608, KeySonic 2.4Ghz Wireless Compact Keyboard with Integrated TouchPad
  • DVI/HDMI Cable, £3.63, 88441, Ebuyer Extra Value HDMI to DVI Cable (Black) 2M
  • SATA Power, £2.55, 57666, Belkin Parallel/ Serial HD Power Cable Converter 6"

All prices ex-vat. Total including VAT comes in at bang on £500.

Software wise i haven't decided whether to stick with XP or goto Vista yet for the OS.

For video playback i'm open to suggestions at this stage. I do like the look of MediaPortal as an all in one sort of tool as recommended on ProjectHTPC.
http://www.projecthtpc.co.uk/htpc_software.html

I like that its open source and you can get plugins etc, hopefully one for itunes!!! :clap:

I've got 2 weeks till payday when i'll be able to order the bits for the HTPC and maybe SKY-HD (just buy a box of ebay and self install) plus the Plasma money is already accounted for!! :clap: TV Stand on its way, so its finally all happening.

I think thats enough for the first post. I've got some thoughts and questions about sound connectiivty that'll post in a bit.

Any thoughts, questions, answers or anything would be most welcome. :smashin:
 
Last edited:

Zarch

Well-known Member
Okay, this is the sound query i have.

My Sony Surround Kit only has ONE optical input. (see attachment). But i'll have my SKY HD Box AND my HTPC that i will want 5.1 sound. And as far as i can make out, standard L&R phono cables do not carry 5.1 signals??

So my plan is to buy one of these optical switches. (rather than buy a new surround kit!!)
http://www.tvcables.co.uk/cgi-bin/tvcables/SW001.html?id=6bwInJJh

Now for the HTPC, the ECS motherboard i've suggested doesn't have a direct optical ouput. But it does have a SPDIF header on the motherboard. So will i just need one of these to connect up the header??
http://www.dabs.com/productview.aspx?Quicklinx=3LBM&SearchType=1&SearchTerms=gigabyte+spdif&PageMode=3&SearchKey=All&SearchMode=All&NavigationKey=0
or
http://www.scan.co.uk/Products/ProductInfo.asp?WebProductID=174177

Then just buy a couple of optical cables? (i don't have any at the moment)

Are these the ones?
http://www.tvcables.co.uk/cgi-bin/tvcables/TS001.html


oooooooh, aint it interesting??!?!? LOL.
 

Attachments

yocky

Novice Member
I'm planning a very similar build ATM.

I might be missing something, but why do you need a power lead converter? Surely a new Antec case will have SATA power connectors and anyway I think WD SATA drives can accept both types of power connector.

I'm could speculate wildly on some of your other questions but I'm sure someone will be along with definitive answers soon. Good luck.
 

Zarch

Well-known Member
I'm planning a very similar build ATM.

I might be missing something, but why do you need a power lead converter? Surely a new Antec case will have SATA power connectors and anyway I think WD SATA drives can accept both types of power connector.

I'm could speculate wildly on some of your other questions but I'm sure someone will be along with definitive answers soon. Good luck.
i know, but the last case i bought didn't have one and the hard disk was sata power onyl so i had to run around to maplins etc to get one..... so i'm taking no chances!! :thumbsup:
 

saibot

Novice Member
you'll probably get a lot of "thinking of doing this myself reply's" :) , (which I am) so my questions/suggestions would be.

- why not get a motherboard with a optical out on it ? and do away with the converstion gadgets ? (could also then get a mobo which can take a quad/core cpu later on (if you wanted to upgrade))

- I was thinking of either the E4400 (2.0ghz 2mb cache) cpu or the E6320 (1.8gz 4mb cache) , is worth to give up some ghz in favour of a bigger cache ?

- did you choose the 8600GT over the 8500GT because of running noise or performance ?

thanks..
 

Zarch

Well-known Member
you'll probably get a lot of "thinking of doing this myself reply's" :) , (which I am) so my questions/suggestions would be.

- why not get a motherboard with a optical out on it ? and do away with the converstion gadgets ? (could also then get a mobo which can take a quad/core cpu later on (if you wanted to upgrade))

- I was thinking of either the E4400 (2.0ghz 2mb cache) cpu or the E6320 (1.8gz 4mb cache) , is worth to give up some ghz in favour of a bigger cache ?

- did you choose the 8600GT over the 8500GT because of running noise or performance ?

thanks..
No probs saibot, I like all these questions etc, it helps us all. :smashin:

  • Can anyone recommend a motherboard with optical out down at the cheaper end of the market? I can't see the point of spending nearly double the money on a ABIT Fatal1ty when i can get a spdif bracket for a fiver!!
  • I've gone for the E6420 as its the first of the 1066FSB models, whereas the E440 is 800FSB. I honestly don't know which will perform better with DDR2 5400 667mhz memory..... anyone help us out with that one?? Whats a better combination? FSB & Cache or Ghz?
  • I have no doubts that the 8500 will do all the playback i wanted. But i thought for an extra £30 i'd get it silent(couldn't see a silent 8500), plus futureproofing a little if i fancied playing games at some stage.
 

saibot

Novice Member
would have to agree with your replies :), what your saving on the mobo you can put towards the 8600 and keeps your options open for games.
 

Zarch

Well-known Member
would have to agree with your replies :), what your saving on the mobo you can put towards the 8600 and keeps your options open for games.
Plus the E6420 has Intel® Virtualization Technology which the E4400 doesn't.


So for £72 (inc vat) you get
E4400
2MB Cache
800mhz FSB
2.00 Ghz processor speeds

or for £100 (inc vat) you get
E6420
4MB Cache
1066mhz FSB
1.86 Ghz processor speeds
Intel® Virtualization Technology

With only DDR2 5400 677mhz, which processor is better suited? Are the processor FSB speeds relevant to the memory speed in anyway?

Are you getting 28 quids worth of power with the E6420 over the E4400?
 

Azzin

Banned
Inspired by Azzin's epic of the last month or so i'm going to go through similar trials and tribulations with my build and try and detail things as i go along so other people can find inspiration and confidence from it to go ahead and build their own HTPC.
Do it. :smashin:

Software wise i haven't decided whether to stick with XP or goto Vista yet for the OS.

For video playback i'm open to suggestions at this stage. I do like the look of MediaPortal as an all in one sort of tool as recommended on ProjectHTPC.
http://www.projecthtpc.co.uk/htpc_software.html

I like that its open source and you can get plugins etc, hopefully one for itunes!!! :clap:
I use My Movies via Vista Home Premium's Media Centre, and I am still totally gobsmacked at just how cool it is! :eek:

I haven't gotten around to sorting my music collection yet, but that is next on my list. :smashin:
 

paul_warren

Active Member
I've been using the Vista Media centre with no issues, and it works really nicely, with My Music etc and as Azzin says, you can add on the My Movies application with makes it even better!
 

Zarch

Well-known Member
I've been using the Vista Media centre with no issues, and it works really nicely, with My Music etc and as Azzin says, you can add on the My Movies application with makes it even better!
Cheers.

Have you found anything that hooks into an iTunes database?

Or if not, if you just point the music part of media centre to a directory full of iTunes sorted mp3s what happens?? Is it read only? Will tags etc added by itunes be affected? I definatley dont wanna kill my iTunes collection!! :thumbsdow

I think a lot of these questions will get answered when i finally get the thing built.
 

Zarch

Well-known Member
After spending the afternoon trying to match up a 3rd party spdif bracket for the ECS motherboard i think i might be foiled. Even if i go for other makes of motherboard the lack of spdif brackets is a little worrying.

I might have to go for the Fatal1ty F-I90HD after all with its 100% certain spdif connection.

Its £28 more for the Fatal1ty over the ECS. But the brackets would have been about a tenner!!

Unless someone can recommend another mATX core2duo motherboard with optical SPDIF out for less than £68??
 

Zarch

Well-known Member

Zarch

Well-known Member
Well i'm now considering going for the Fatility motherboard and not bothering the Nvidia 8xxx card at this stage.

My only worry with doing this is not having as much flexibilty around resolution and refresh rates with the onboard graphics card as the 8xxx series nvidia.

Anyone got any thoughts on this please?
 

Zarch

Well-known Member
Well the new stand has arrived.

In Box.


And then half an hour later the finished article. Nice methinks!


With the "mockup" PX70 on the top!


In comparison, the old 32" rig looks tiny compared to how the 37" setup will look. (hopefully not quite as bad as that when shoved into the corner!!)




No luck with John Lewis pricematch, they keep knocking me back. I will persevere. I've just sent off another 5 prices for them to get their teeth into! :clap:
 

Zarch

Well-known Member
Updated Hardware List. (only 10 days until pay day!!!) (oh and this much fabled Intel price reduction!!!) :clap:

3rd column is ebuyer quickfind code.

  • Motherboard, £27.85, 126717, Foxconn P4M9007MB-8RS2H Socket 775 P4M900 onboard VGA DDR2 mATX
  • CPU, £73.24, 127326, Intel E4400 Socket 775 2x2.00GHz 800MHz FSB 2MB Cache Retail Boxed Processor
  • Graphics Card ,£72.40, 128084, MSI 8600GT Silent edition 256MB DVI HDTV PCI-E
  • Memory, £51.11, 116357, Ebuyer 2GB Kit (2x1GB) DDR2 800MHz PC2-6400 240pin Extra Value Ram
  • Hard Disk £56.01 ,124228, Western Digital WD5000AAKS 500GB SATA II 7200RPM 16MB Cache - OEM
  • Case ,£93.60, 129281, Antec Fusion V2 MATX MediaCenter Case - Aluminium Front Bezel with 430W PSU
  • CD/DVD Writer, Got old NEC DVD Writer, will still do a job until hd-dvd/BR etc
  • Keyboard & Mouse, £25.12 ,104608, KeySonic 2.4Ghz Wireless Compact Keyboard with Integrated TouchPad
  • DVI/HDMI Cable ,£3.63, 88441, Ebuyer Extra Value HDMI to DVI Cable (Black) 2M
  • Optical Audio Cable, £8.28, 72811, Belkin PureAV Blue Series Optical Audio Cable 1.8m
  • Optical Audio Cable, £8.28, 72811, Belkin PureAV Blue Series Optical Audio Cable 1.8m

Prices Ex-VAT

Decided on the Foxconn motherboard as its cheap PLUS it has an external optical SPDIF at the back. great find for the money.

After finding out that the fatal1ty motherboards onboard graphics are unlikely to be "tweakable" to the levels i might require i decdied to stick with the 8600GT Silent...... there are some 8500gt silent models that i could get too.

One worry about the MSI 8600gt is that it "only just" squeezes in the Antec Fusion case. :eek:

Dropped down the e4400 core 2 duo as runs virtually on par with the e620 even with the latters extra cache and fsb. plus it saves me 20 quid.

upped the memory to 800mhz stuff with the savings from the cpu change.

That brings the whole lot in on budget at 500 quid.

Any thoughts etc on any of that little lot?? :lease:
 

Coolit

Novice Member

Zarch

Well-known Member

Zarch

Well-known Member
More bad news from John Lewis, they rejected 4 out of the further 5 stores i tried to get them to price match the Panasonic Plasma against!! :-(

Just awaiting on the final one and gonna send them two others...... no one said this was going to be easy!! :rolleyes:
 

Crafty

Well-known Member
After my experiences in the last year I'd run a long, long way from Western Digital hard drives.

I've got a WD2000JS, 250Gb SATA drive.

The first one kept loosing its boot sector repeatedly, more or less every time it tries to boot. To keep the machine "up", I bought another one (stupidly) and then returned the original for a replacement.
The first drive is split into C and D, the second is E.
7 months on and it refuses to boot, even in safe mode.
reinstall the OS and all appears well.. except that all the driver executables on D are corrupt and don't run, no problem, extract them from the zipfiles again and all is well.
It lasts ten days. Wont boot again.
This time I remove the partition, remake it, reformat.
Begin the install, XP copies the required files over and reboot to start the install proper.. except it wont reboot, files on the hard disk are corrupt apparently.
After 5 attempts I get it to go, but the whole system is very slow and any disk access is horrendously slow.

Ditched the drive and replaced it with a seagate, which is quieter and appears to be a bit faster (might just be my imagination tho!).

The WD drive is now in a external USB enclousre, havent used it much but I think I will RMA it and see if they can find the fault.

Other than that good luck with it, the HTPC I have is so far the best thing I've done in ages :smashin:
 

Bretto

Active Member
Pah, took me months to finally order my HTPC, and now the Antec's in black.

Hey ho :D:D:D, not the end of the world.
 

Zarch

Well-known Member
After reading a few articles, i think i'm gonna ditch the nvidia 8500 and go for the ATI 2400. It appears to provide all the HD playback i need, its silent, the drivers appear to be much more flexible for refresh rates etc (may need some clarification on that, but from what i've read about the nvidia at the moment it can't be any worse.) and finally, the best bit is its 55 quid cheaper!!

i think i can use powerstrip with it too! :smashin:

http://www.ebuyer.com/UK/product/128951/rb/0

I have no intention at the moment of playing games on the HTPC, only playback of video material, so why spend that extra on a 8500??
 

Zarch

Well-known Member
I'm also thinking about ditching the single 500gb Seagate and going for 2 x T166 Samsung Spinpoints at 320gb each in raid 0.

The performance increase will be very very impressive, albeit at the expense of a little more noise from 2 drives rather than 1.

But i think i can cope! :clap:

For some bizarre reason, ebuyer don't sell the spinpoints, so will have to go somewhere else for them. Scan have them in stock!!
 

Zarch

Well-known Member
Woohoo, just ordered some of the parts from ebuyer, they'll be here Monday!!! :clap:

1 x Foxconn P4M9007MB-8RS2H Socket 775 P4M900 onboard VGA DDR2 mATX 126717 Not Allocated £27.82
1 x Intel E4400 Socket 775 2x2.00GHz 800MHz FSB 2MB Cache Retail Boxed Processor 127326 Not Allocated £73.52
1 x Corsair 2GB Kit (2x1GB) DDR2 800MHz/PC2-6400 XMS2 Memory Non-ECC Unbuffered CL5(5-5-5-12) Heat Spreader Lifetime Warranty 98710 Not Allocated £58.71
1 x Antec Fusion V2 MATX MediaCenter Case - Aluminium Front Bezel with 430W PSU 129281 Not Allocated £93.60
1 x KeySonic 2.4Ghz Wireless Compact Keyboard with Integrated TouchPad 104608 Not Allocated £25.12

Gonna order the 2 Samsung spinpoints and the ATI 2600 graphics card from Scan in a bit!!!

Wooooooo, we are moving!!

Still no word back from JL on the pricematching of the PX70 though!! :thumbsdow Have chased though!!! Still, can get on a build the HTPC in the meantime!! :clap:
 

dave_s13

Standard Member
Interested to know if you're going to stick with the included CPU cooler. Won't it be a little noisey?

Anyone have any thoughts?
 

Zarch

Well-known Member
Interested to know if you're going to stick with the included CPU cooler. Won't it be a little noisey?

Anyone have any thoughts?
I'd thought about it, but rather than buy something now i might not need i'm gonna hold off and see how it goes. I'm not planning on overclocking etc so functionality wise it will do the job.

Proof will be when i get it under the telly and working for real.

Its an easy swap over if needs be! :smashin:
 

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