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HTPC spec question part 1(intel or amd)

Discussion in 'Desktop & Laptop Computers Forum' started by TopMeTom, Jun 27, 2005.

  1. TopMeTom

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    Ok this will be an ongoing series of dumb questions by me.

    In the ridiculous attempt to put together and d.i.y. pc :rolleyes:

    This machine will be as future proof as poss for dvd playback archiving t.v. etc...

    So Question 1:

    what will I need processor and mobo wise?pentium 4 3.0ghz or amd64 3200?????????

    Come on,dive in...... :lease:

    Phil( de div)
     
  2. Skunkpipe

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    IIRC the AMD64 3200 runs cooler (so quieter to cool) than the P4 3.0GHz - other than that for what you've said you want both will do the job just fine.

    What do you need from the motherboard? ATX/uATX? Firewire? TV Out, lots of USB etc.?
     
  3. jon stallard

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    Philb, I think it's a very good question regarding the motherboard and processor combo. When I was speccing my HTPC over Christmas, I could name most of the peripheral hardware I needed but when it came to the motherboard, I hadn't a clue.

    I ended up with a MSI 915 combo board without on board graphics since I knew I was going to use a 6600GT card. Also went for PCI express, for no other reason other than it's meant to be new technology (which translates to faster ..... ?) Also used DDR2 RAM for exactly the same reason. Whether it makes the slightest difference over DDR RAM and AGP I couldn't say. Maybe I'm just a berk who goes for the latest....

    Anyway, those two and going for a 3.0 pentium prescott kind of narrowed my choice of board down a bit. The rest of it such as SATA, hi def sound (whatever that means) with SPDIF out, umpteen USB ports and those two throwbacks the parallel and serial port are pretty widely available on even the cheapest boards it seems to me.

    I'm not sure if that really helps but what I did was decide on the processor (which gave me the cpu socket arrangement) and then it did help to keep the choice down a bit. How did I decide on the processor? I read 3 gig was the minimum for HiDef TV and tossed a coin :)

    Intel or AMD? My intel barely ever goes over high 40 degrees but then I don't play games on it. Does it make that much difference on a HTPC? Personally, I don't think it does. But that's just my opinion.

    Cheers,
    Jon.
     
  4. sainthalo

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    to build a good htpc processor power is not the be all and end all

    p4 2.4 ghz is ideal
    consider aopen ey65 xc-cube
    buy quiet components
    eg radeon 9600 fanless
     
  5. Cable Monkey

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    With high definition content, power is very definately a requirement. If Intel is your prefered choice, try to source Northwood based chips at the 2.8 to 3.0 range. They can still be found. These will run cooler than their Prescott equivalents but of course this ties you in to socket 478 and AGP. Clock for clock they are no slower and some would argue a Northwood chip is faster than its Prescott cousin in many applications (less latency).

    An Intel alternative is socket 479. This brings the power (yes, I said power!) of Centrino to desktops with the cool running ability of a laptop. Their are versions for AGP or PCI express. There is also an Asus adaptor for use with their boards (skt 478). 479 however is expensive.

    Finally of course we would be foolish to ignore AMD 64. Relatively cool running and powerful, available in PCI-Express or AGP and available in the desireble power bracket at very good prices. My only reservation with them is you do have to exercise care choosing motherboard chipsets as is accepted generally with AMD CPU's. Problem is there is a lot less choice in M-ATX boards which is a prefered form factor for many HTPC'ers
     
  6. DEANO-B

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    Having a quiet PC is essential for a HTPC which is why I upgraded my PC to a water cooled shuttle with a fanless GFX card. Even the PSU can be noisy so be carefull. I went for a AMD 64 939 3.0 CPU as a lot of people don't realise that 1080i takes more processing power than displaying 720P. The 64 bit CPU is just started to be supported properly and with the replacement of Windows XP early 2006 I would say is a must (unless you like to upgrade).
     
  7. Welwynnick

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    I tried running some WMV9 clips at 720p on my AMD XP 2200 PC, and it stuttered it's way through that. I plan to get a separate HTPC, but it has to be able to run at least 1080i, and preferably 1080p, so I guess power is important.

    Do 64 CPUs give the advantage I would imagine, either currently now or in the near future?

    regards, Nick
     
  8. DEANO-B

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    The forthcoming replacment for Microsoft Windows XP is due out early 2006 which is 64 bit friendly. Expect to see lots of software support this fully. As far as 1080P goes I find it unlikely you will find anything out there, as everything seems to be 1080i or 720P. Both 1080i and 720P material run fine on my 3.0 939 AMD.
     
  9. sainthalo

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    You are correct CPU power is important but it is not the be all and end all.

    On my hi-def htpc using a P4 2.4Ghz cpu i playback WMV HD clips with ease. I have also played back several HD movies in 1080i and 720p with absolute ease. The trick is to use the right player software for hi-def stuff. For WMV-HD I always use WMP10 with no problems. For Hi-Def avis I sometimes get a stutter in WMP10 (which i believe is a software issue in WMP10) but I find I get smooth perfect playback on VLC player so use that instead.

    In short with my low end £55 (in Japan) CPU i have no problems whatsoever. This is probably because the 2.4 GHz is a fine CPU with good cache which is one of the most overclockable CPUs ever (although I do not overclock).

    By all means get the latest most super duper fast CPU but its not necessary.

    These mobile centrino cpu's seem ideal for a good hi-def htpc since they run so cool but again they are unnecessarily expensive.
     
  10. Steve.J.Davies

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    In all the HTPC spec talk I have not seen much mention of the importance of turning off the uneeded services in Widows. But default there are over 80 of these suckers and you only need less than 10 !. They don't usually use much cpu but thats not the point - you don't want them/some/one to kick in and cause a useage spike to happen when you are processing your video as stutters will occur - especially if the task kicking in serialises or locks a resource you need for video playback.
    Also some comparison with a Linux player on the same box would be useful - if you don't get the stutters on the same video on linux then its a good bet its not lack of raw cpu power (to handle the task) that is causing the stutters on Windows.
    Computer peformance not a straightforward thing - even on PCs.

    That said if you wanna do Hi-def then you will need cpu grunt - exactly how much I couldn't tell you.
    As for 64 bit - little or no advantage there - more chance of meaningful Linux exploitation before Windows as its 64 bit version is already out. My choice - a socket 939 board that will take a 32 bit or (later if I need to, an upgrade to a) 64 bit processor.
    I take people here do have a look at the htpcnews web site. Not too bad a site.
     
  11. Welwynnick

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    With regard to 1080p, it's not entirely clear to me what HTPCs do with HiDef video - I'm more familiar with scalers.

    I wouldn't expect to be able to get any 1080p material - just 1080i from DVHS, Sky HD, BluRay or whatever - but I do want it de-interlaced. I guess that's quite a lot to ask, but don't good video cards do that well anyway?

    BTW, many people mention socket 939 - what does that do for you, and does it put much of a limitation on the choice of motherboards?

    Thanks, Nick
     
  12. Steve.J.Davies

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    939 more uptodate (better chipsets) but still runs 'older' cheaper (32bit )processors. can go 64 bit later with more horsepower when the cpus are cheaper and the 64 bit software is in a condition to do you some good. You can also go with a single SLI graphics card now and boost that up later when needed.
    OTOH cou dould go older cheaper now for everything - for a very reasonable 720p set-up and swap it out later. I like my components like psu and mobo to last a few years and although future proff is a termn with very liitle meaning (if any) in PCs I prefr to have options down the line (other than buy a new box).
    Also will only be running a HTPC config on one partition - other partitions wil be used for more meaty stuff fo for me I need something more than the old stuff.
    As always for PCs the questions are:-
    What will you use it for ?
    How long do you want it to last ?
    How much is your budget ?
    Then the compromises start....(which may or may not be too bad depending on what recycleable bits you have. e.g. I have an Hitachi RPC 1 DVD drive still going strong that has been in several cases..)

    IMV its a mistake to pursue ultimate performance parts as the expense is unjustified.

    In that regard - top of the line PCs cost (for the longest time) about 3.5k - I still have one in use that I built in 96 - but now a top of the line PC costs around 5k - this in a time of falling component prices allegedly.
    PCs like AV - caveat emptor (redoubled in spades) goes for both.
     
  13. MikeTV

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    I'm not sure real-time de-interlacing of high definition material is a practical proposition on a PC at the moment (unless you know of specific hardware components that can do this). Real-time de-interlacing of standard definition material on a PC is a struggle and uses a lot of CPU power (eg. DScaler software). And, believe it or not, real-time playback of progressive material is a struggle too, for all but high-end PC's. Most high def material is distributed in progressive format at the moment (eg. 540p, 720p, 1080p), and so de-interlacing isn't required. Graphics cards usually don't do any de-interlacing at all, but certain capture cards may do (ie. deinterlacing on the input side, rather than the output).
     
  14. Welwynnick

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    Good answers, thanks guys.
    Maybe I'm thinking too far ahead, but I believe that HD media will only be broadcast or distributed in 720p and 1080i, but I will want to watch it in 1080p. That's all I want to do, reliably and cost-effectively. I realise that may be quite a lot to ask at the moment, but my PC has been playing DVDs very nicely for a few years now, and my expectation is that HD de-interlacing will surely follow. I believe the video data rate may be 5 times as high, so is it just a matter of time when the HW is available at a reasonable price (in other words, when it's the commodity, not cutting edge, stuff that can handle it). I was just wondering when that time would be?

    Cheers, Nick
     
  15. Da_Rude_Baboon

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    The new Nvidia cards are being used by TV people to perform real time rendering on film. They can do this through the programmable shaders so real time deinterlacing etc could be closer then you think. Bear in mind that most GPU's are more powerfull then CPU's.

    When choosing a CPU bear in mind that HTPCs tend to be a compromise between power and noise. The AMD 64s run cooler and use less power than the equivalent P4's although P4's are more video optimised. Also when it comes to pure number crunching, which most video operations are, the AMD 64's outperform the P4 which is why they are the gamers choice.

    You dont need to wait for longhorn or use Linux to have a 64bit operating system. I have a volume licensed 64 bit version of XP sitting infront of me now. :hiya:
     
  16. Cable Monkey

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    There is more than one 'equivalent' P4, and while I agree the Prescotts in all their forms are not exactly heat efficient, Northwoods are very cool running and so should not be ignored!

    You do have to wait for all the drivers and optimisations that make 64bit operating systems worthwhile, nevermind programs. Just as XP took time to mature, so will its 64 bit version and until then you will get less trouble and smoother operation from 32 bit xp.
     
  17. Steve.J.Davies

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  18. -Hitman-

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    You can have any CPU you wish, don't be worried about noise as there are many cooling solutions available that will give you no noise, i personally use zalman cooling.

    At the moment i don't and wouldn't use a 64bit cpu for at least another 18 months due to the current level of support/optimised software and compatibility.

    If you want a PC that will give you the performance/posibilities you need without breaking the bank then a P4 3.0 - 3.4 ghz and a radeon 9800 graphics
    will do.

    I use a P4 3.4, 1gb memory, Radeon 9800XT 128mb, 320gb Sata raid and runs everthing flawlessly.

    Dr.
     
  19. Cable Monkey

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    I have to comment on 2 points. Some people are worried (and indeed obssesed) about noise and so some processors are clearly less suitable than others, especially in applications where they need to work hard to produce the desired results.
    Secondly there is nothing wrong with 64bit CPU's, and in some cases performance and other generic non 64 bit related qualities make 64bit an excellent choice. However, 64bit operating systems are still in their infancy, as are the Windows drivers to support them in that environment and that is what I would steer clear of.
     
  20. -Hitman-

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    Hi,

    Thank you for your comments!

    You won't get any noise from the CPU cooler if yo get a low rpm fan cooler (many let you adjust the rpm) or even a fanless cooler of which many are available!

    I didn't say their was anything wrong with the 64bit CPU's they are fine but i recommend the P4 HT as it is optimised for Video processing and is the common HTPC choice!

    Dr.
     
  21. stuartmc

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    Playing devil's advocate for a minute, perhaps an equally valid question is what displays are actually capable of 1:1 pixel mapping at 1080. It is all very well having a PC capable of playing it but if your display is only 480, like most cheaper plasmas, then surely you aren't going to get much benefit anyway. I know plasmas and LCDs are coming down but a decent 1900 by1080 widescreen is still about the cost of half a dozen decent spec PCs.

    BTW we use Celeron 2.8 & 3.0, P4 3.0 & 3.2, AMD64 3000 & 3200 and Pentium M 1.6, all produce excellent HTPCs capable of running WMVHD.
     
  22. Welwynnick

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    I was thinking of using a CRT projector, but Sharp now do a 1920 x 1080 native LCD screen, and others are sure to follow once material is more widely available. I've recently been watching DVHS on a friends projector, and there's no going back now.........

    Dr HTPC, can you run 1080p video on your PC? I suppose that is what I'm most interested in, and that seems quite viable at the moment.

    regards, Nick
     
  23. -Hitman-

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    stuartmc,

    Not many displays are available with 1080 native display but some are coming out soon.

    You will see quite a big difference displaying a high resolution image on a lower resolution display as the image will become a lot more defined in focus and quality but obvisously this will improve even more if the display is also hi resolution.

    welwynnick,

    I have no problems playing 1080p video on my HTPC and you get an impression of 1080p looks like but to see 1080p in all its glory you would need a 1080p native display which is only available in some projectors at the moment and cost some serious money!

    I have looked at the sharp, seems very good but they will cost between £5000 - £9000.

    Maybe a thought for my next TV in a year or so when 1080p sources are more widely available and by this time the prices will be more attractive too.

    Dr.
     
  24. Welwynnick

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    Thank you Doctor!

    When you say 1080p playback, do you mean video that is recorded as 1080p?
    What I want to do is take recorded 1080i video and de-interlace to 1080p.
    Can current PCs do that?

    Cheers, Nick
     
  25. -Hitman-

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    Hi,

    both recorded 1080P and 1080i.

    If you want to deinterlace 1080i there are various softwares/players that will do it!

    Regards
     
  26. Da_Rude_Baboon

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    So you wont buy a better performing, cooler running CPU because it has 64bit in its title?
     
  27. sainthalo

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    I tried running blender on my P4 2.4GHz CPU versus an AMD 64 bit CPU costing 3 times as much and with a better spec motherboard etc.

    The render times were faster by about 10% on the P4.

    Thats my limited experience.
     

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