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HTPC Virgin Build

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webego

Guest
I am no stranger to building PCs and have a reasonable experience of AV although a little outdated. I have recently immersed myself in all things HD in order to build an HTPC for my Dad who has just purchased a new 40in LED LCD HD TV (Sharp LC40LE700E). This was the second cheapest 40in LED LCD I could find at about £750 in the Jan sales (The cheapest was the LC40LE600E for about £600 but is only 50Hz compared to the 100Hz of the more expensive model).

I have researched the components for a mid priced (not bare bones but not getting carried away with myself) spec and wondered if anyone might offer their advice as to whether it will be up to the task of handling Freesat HD, Blue-Ray / HD movie playback (inc HD Audio), PVR, and Music.

So far this is what I have come up with:

CPU - AMD Phenom II X2 550 Black Edition (3.1)
Mobo - Asus M4A79XTD EVO, AMD 790X, AM3, PCI-E 2.0(x16), DDR3 1333/1600/1800, SATA 3Gb/s, ATX
(The idea of coupling these two is that you can apparently, if you are lucky, unlock the X2 to an X4 with mobos including SB750 southbridge)
Memory - 4GB (2x2GB) Corsair Dominator DDR3, PC3-12800 (1600), 240 Pin, Non-ECC Unbuffered, CAS 9, DHX
GPU - Sapphire Radeon HD 4670 Ultimate
HDD - 2 x (RAID 1 Mirror) 1TB Samsung HD103SJ Spinpoint F3, SATA 3Gb/s, 7200rpm, 32MB Cache, 8.9 ms, NCQ, OEM
TV1 - Hauppauge HVR 4000 (Can switch between Freesat and Freeview if any probs with sat)
TV2 - Hauppauge Nova HD S2 (For recording whilst watching TV1)
BD/HD DVD - LG GGCH20L (To hopefully take advantage of any cheap HD DVDs out there if that boat hasn't sailed completely yet)
PSU - NQ-4350GP-FL - 500W NorthQ Pacific II Fanless PSU, ATX 2.2 +80%+ Efficiency - 0Db
OS - Windows 7 Home Premium
Remote - Logitech diNovo Mini Bluetooth Handheld Keyboard (Get MC style remotes included with TV Cards but for keyboard & remote in 1, these look pretty special)

Okay, I have a couple of questions about this setup which hopefully some of you may be able to advise me on.

  • You may have noticed that there is no case here. That's because my Dad doesn't want a typical HTPC case as they are too deep to fit on their shelves/cabinets (TV stand only 33cm deep) so he has asked for a tower. Anyone advice on a decent looking Midi Tower with an emphasis on quiet i.e included fans, ventilation, rubber mounts etc?
  • I have researched the PSU but the spec says it only has 2 SATA connections. Can this be right or do they mean 2 cables with several actual SATA power connector on them?
  • If I succeed in unlocking the other 2 cores on the CPU then I will need a decent and quiet HSF that doesn't break the bank. I have used Zalman in the past but wondered what the current thinking is on effective and quite HSFs?
  • I have also not included an A/V receiver as I am a bit lost here. I have read Jameson_UK's thread on HD audio and think I have gotten my head around the basics but I get lost with how the GPU can pass the sound (I think in LPCM format) along with the video via HDMI to the receiver. Does this mean that the mobo audio chipset is not used at all? Also does this mean that the A/V receiver does not need to be able to decode TrueHD / DTS-HD MA as the GPU sends LPCM? i.e. is the GPU decoding the TrueHD / DTS-HD MA signal from the source and sending LPCM? This has confused my choice of A/V receiver as I am not sure if it must have TrueHD / DTS-HD MA decoding to ensure I have HD audio. Any suggestions for sub £200-250 A/V receivers with at least 2 HDMI inputs and the necessary technology for HD audio?
Any answers to the above questions and any general advice regarding the proposed spec would be much appreciated.

My family reputation depends on it! ;)

Geoff
 

Mike_P15

Established Member
[*]You may have noticed that there is no case here. That's because my Dad doesn't want a typical HTPC case as they are too deep to fit on their shelves/cabinets (TV stand only 33cm deep) so he has asked for a tower. Anyone advice on a decent looking Midi Tower with an emphasis on quiet i.e included fans, ventilation, rubber mounts etc?
[*]I have researched the PSU but the spec says it only has 2 SATA connections. Can this be right or do they mean 2 cables with several actual SATA power connector on them?

Geoff

I've got a similar depth constraint - have a look at the Silverstone Grandia GD04 case.
(Enhanced reputation potential if you can get a HTPC case that fits rather than a bog standard tower methinks. :) )


Also have a look at Quiet PC if quiet is a key driver, especially for the low profile fans if you do use that case. (Also fit the PSU fan before you fit the mobo.)


The spec of the PSU says:
4 x S-ATA plug on 2 cable
4 x Molex plug on 2 cables (2 on each cable)

You can always get dual power cables that converts one of the molex to 2 sata.

Mike
 

ham_mcfist

Established Member
Good luck finding the BD/HD drive in stock at a sensible price. They're like rocking horse poo....

I second the advice on the GD04, assuming the cabinet is open-backed and has room for cable relief. It's roomy, the cooling is phenomenal and it'll always look better than any tower case.
 
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webego

Guest
Thanks for the info guys. I think I will be going with the GD05. The case has really shaken things up as need to change the mobo to mATX. I have found what appears to be the only mATX mobo for AM3 and also includes the SB750 southbridge (to unlock the other two cores on the X2 CPU) and lots of other nice features. I think I can also stick with the same PSU as this case can fit a regular ATX PSU, although the mobo mentions it has 4 pin and 8 pin power connectors and the PSU only has the 4 pin ATX 12v plug so not sure if I need a 8 pin plug too?

It also looks a bit tight fitting in the GPU as it is a little taller (129mm) than usual due to the heatsink that wraps over the top. But I think I might just scrape it.

The other issue I now have is that the mobo only has 1 PCI slot and both of the TV cards I have on my list are PCI. I would still like to get the HV4000 so would appreciate any suggestions for a PCI-E DVB-S2 & DVB-S TV card for my backup/recording card.

I am also looking at the a watercooler as there isn't much room for a standard shaped/sized HSF due to the optical driver sitting partially over the top of the CPU and the proximity of the northbrige heatsink on this new mobo.

I also wondered if anyone can shed some light on how the included IR remote (with the HV4000) works as I don't see any mention of an IR receiver in the spec. Having said that the mobo states it has an internal IrDA connection. Does this mean that I just need to buy an IR receiver of sorts that cables out through the back of the case and sits on top?

Still clueless on the A/V receiver too :suicide:

Thanks again

Geoff
 

Embarker

Established Member
Don't under estimate the onboard gpu option. Most recent onboard gfx cards with a nvidia chipset will have Cuda support, this allows the video duties to be off loaded from the CPU. It works fine on my cinema pc's with a mobo 8300 gpu, 4gb ddr2 6400 and a dual core 2.4ghz. not sure if the "unlock" trick would work, but then again if GPU is doing all the video decoding, do you still need quad core. All AMD2+ boards support the AMD3 chip, so it maybe cheaper to stay amd2 and DDR2 for now.

Do you need raid too? You could use external back up for files and the windows back up for the OS.

In my server (lounge PC) I run a nova dual and single dvb-t and a dvb-s2 - four tuners intotal and that works a dream, granted this PC is quad core 9850 with 4gb ddr2 1066, a SSD boot drive and 3tb storage, but this does the "server" duties and all the d/l;)

I found it best using a keysonic rf mini keyboard with mouse track pad for £30 and a standard MCE remote is easier as far less confusing for wife and kids, however, i dont do bluray- more an MKV fan.

Saying all that i'm considering jumping to the new gigabyte usb3 mobo with 4gb of ddr3 and o/c a AMD3 955 to 3.8ghz............:facepalm:
 
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webego

Guest
Okay, just got finished ordering most of the components minus a couple as dabs showed them in stock until after I placed the order then showed them as 'awaiting stock'....most annoying :nono: Obviously cancelled that order!

So this is the final selection (with a few changes due to the case and mobo form factor change):

CPU - AMD Phenom II X2 550 Black Edition (3.1)
Mobo -
DFI LanParty JR 790GX-M3H5, AMD 790GX, AM3, PCI-E 2.0, DDR3 1600, SATA RAID, mATX, On Board Graphics
(The idea of coupling these two is that you can apparently, if you are lucky, unlock the X2 to an X4 with mobos including SB750 southbridge)
CPU Cooling - CWCH50-1 - Corsair H50-1 Hydro Series High-performance CPU Watercooler, LGA775/1156/1366, AM2/2+/AM3 *NEW V2* coupled with Thermalright Chill Factor 2 thermal paste.
Memory - 4GB (2x2GB) Corsair Dominator DDR3, PC3-12800 (1600), 240 Pin, Non-ECC Unbuffered, CAS 9, DHX
GPU - Sapphire Radeon HD 4670 Ultimate (Fanless)
HDD - 2 x (RAID 1 Mirror) 1TB Samsung HD103SJ Spinpoint F3, SATA 3Gb/s, 7200rpm, 32MB Cache, 8.9 ms, NCQ, OEM
TV - Mystique SaTiX-S2 Dual, 2xDVB-S2 HDTV/MPEG4/H.264 (This is a dual tuner and PCI-E x1 so sorts out the PCI/PCI-E slot issues on the new mobo)
PSU - NQ-4350GP-FL - 500W NorthQ Pacific II Fanless PSU, ATX 2.2 +80%+ Efficiency - 0Db
BD/HD DVD - LG GGCH20L Super Multi Blue Internal Blu-ray & HD DVD
Case - Silverstone SST-GD05B Grandia HTPC, Micro ATX, black with a couple of 80mm Sharkoon 1000 "Golf Ball" Ultra Quiet 8.9 dB(A) Case Fan - 11.4 CFM for the back out-take
OS - Windows 7 Home Premium


Still on the hunt for the following (just too tired to keep looking tonight):

Remote - Logitech diNovo Mini Bluetooth Handheld Keyboard
Wireless - Edimax 802.11n draft 2.0 PCI wireless card

Most of the ordered bits are from scan so should be able to crack on with the build in a few days. The TV card is coming from Germany so might have to wait a few more days for that.

I will take some pics of the build to post up later.

I would still appreciate any pointers on my A/V receiver issues shown in the original post if anyone can help.

Thanks

Geoff
 
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webego

Guest
Still stuck on which A/V Receiver I should get. If you don't mind I will repost the question from my first post in the hope someone may be able to explain to me how this works. :)

I have read Jameson_UK's thread on HD audio and think I have gotten my head around the basics but I get lost with how the GPU (Sapphire Radeon HD4670 Ultimate) can pass the sound (I think in LPCM format) along with the video via HDMI to the receiver. Does this mean that the mobo audio chipset is not used at all? Also does this mean that the A/V receiver does not need to be able to decode TrueHD / DTS-HD MA as the GPU sends LPCM? i.e. is the GPU decoding the TrueHD / DTS-HD MA signal from the source and sending LPCM? This has confused my choice of A/V receiver as I am not sure if it must have TrueHD / DTS-HD MA decoding to ensure I have HD audio. Any suggestions for around £200-250 A/V receivers with at least 2 HDMI inputs and the necessary technology for HD audio?

Also if anyone has experience of the German TV card I have ordered (Mystique SaTiX-S2 Dual, 2xDVB-S2 HDTV/MPEG4/H.264 also know as Digital Devices CineS2 DVB-S2) I would love to hear how things went / are going.

Thanks again,

Geoff
 
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Deleted member 315537

Guest
Hello webego,

How much is this ending up in costs?? as I am thinking about building one of these bad boys since they still yet to release a good media streamer :devil:

Thanks mate

Nick
 
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webego

Guest
Hi Nick,

It is so far costing around £1000, maybe a little more. I know you can save money on several items such as smaller HDDs and just one of them, less memory, onboard GPU, PSU with fan etc but I wanted something that will handle pretty much anything I throw at it, run as silently as possible and be future proof (to some degree).

Mind, I still have to source an A/V receiver and speakers that handles HD audio. I am still hopefull of finding this for around £250 (£300 inc speakers).

Geoff
 
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Deleted member 315537

Guest
Blimey thats quiet a steep bracket. But i do agree with you that semi future proofing something is a good way to go. Hope you find some good quaslity speakers for 300 quid maybe ebay is the way to go there?

I really want to build one of these HTPC's as I am sick of the lack of compatability when it comes to streaming through Xbox 360. Need to free up a grand :p.

I want to see pics of this set up mate sounds interesting like the case choice wont look out of place with all the other kit on the TV shelf.

Nick
 
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webego

Guest
Well my choice of case (Silverstone SST-GD05B Grandia HTPC suggested by Mike) was due to the need to fit on a 33cm shelf. This also meant I had to change motherboard to mATX and change a few other things due to the PCI/PCI-E limitations of a smaller board. There is a lot more case choice if depth isn't an issue for you as most cases are around 45cm deep. You can even spend £1k or over just on this!! If I had more space and a bit more to spend I would have opted for something like the Origen S16V. Although this build is actually for my Dad but when I get around to sorting my own out, I may be tempted.:cool:

Geoff
 

Oarsman

Standard Member
I'm in a similar position to you regarding an A/V receiver and I was waiting on a response to your posts. However, I've looked around and the only one I came up with was the Sony STRDH800 at £260 (without speakers) from Amazon. Check out the "whathifi.com" site for a review and other possible contenders, but this is the only one that gets 5 stars in the upto £350 price. (Also check Sony's site for the appropriate manual.)

I started planning to use the i5 route but got delayed for various reasons, then the i3 was announced so I'm now trying to decided on which motherboard to use then I'll be off!
 

Crowley69

Established Member
Hi, yet another chip in from someone considering a very similar thing!

Maybe I am missing something, but why have you dismissed either the Asus M4A785TD-M EVO or the Gigabyte MA785GMT-UD2H boards? Both get excellent reviews for HTPC building, the only real difference between them being the sound chips. Both have a SB710 but I have read this is also fine for unlocking Phenom cores (see here).

I'm more than happy to be corrected if I am wrong, it would save me some stress myself!

Cheers

Pat
 
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webego

Guest
Oarsman - Thanks for the heads up on the Sony STRDH800, I shall check that out now.

Crowley69 - To be honest I hadn't looked at any 785 mATX boards as I didn't realise that SB710 also had ACC to unlock the other CPU cores. I have looked at the boards you suggested and they both look pretty good. I will however stick with the 790gx as its carries two PCI-E 2.0 (16x) slots (the other boards have just one) and a 6 x Fan Header (which will come in handy for the 3 integrated case fans and the additional 2 rear fans I will be adding). Also I believe the 785 boards don't support RAID 5 although I will just be using RAID 1 Mirroring for now (personal preference and the case can only fit 2 disks anyway). Thanks for the link to the unlocking guide BTW, added to my bookmarks.

Edit: If you plan to get the Asus M4A785TD-M EVO and use the on-board graphics you better check if it's HDCP. According to scan.co.uk it isn't but then again it says the same for my GPU when many other sites state as having HDCP.
 
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webego

Guest
Okay, I have done a bit of research on the Sony STRDH800 and it appears to be a very decent receiver, especially for the price. I've found one for £241 + free delivery + free 1.8m gold plated hdmi cable :thumbsup:

Now I am down to just sourcing the speakers for a complete setup! However I can't spend too much on these. What sort of
realistic price I am looking at for a set of speakers (5.1 will do, doesn't have to be 7.1)? They don't have to be fantastic, just not pants.

Geoff


 
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Deleted member 315537

Guest
Hey Geoff,

Just been looking about for some speakers my self remember i found these, they are not the bottom end nor top end speakers but for the money they seem to be getting some good reviews.

Harman Kardon HKTS11 £310 on ebay delivered which is pretty reasonable

Reviews


Nick

 
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webego

Guest
Thanks Nick.

I am also looking at a budget option of an all in one 7.1 cinema sound system like the Philips HTR5224. As player software can decode TrueHD or DTS HD MA to LPCM and the GPU can pass LPCM along with the video over hdmi, I think I can opt for pretty much any receiver as long as it can accept LPCM i.e. uncompressed HD audio......I think! :)

Boy does my head hurt from the last week of the steep HD learning curve :facepalm:

Geoff
 
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Deleted member 315537

Guest
Ye I know what you're saying ha,

Its always a steep learning curve with this stuff as technology moves soo quick :). That package looks good but don't forget with them all in one systems that the cables are a set length and normally you cannot extend them your self due to the stupid connectors they use on the back of the amp :nono:

Nick
 

Oarsman

Standard Member
Geoff,

Before I buy anything I always check the manufacturer's website for support documentation such as operating instructions, etc. When I did a search for the Philips HTR5524 I couldn't find anything! The Sony site has full owners manual detail in pdf format. As Nick warns, you might come unstuck.

I haven't checked for the Philips or the Harmon Kardon on the avforums site but I know there are several pages of posts for the Sony. Check them out.

John
 
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webego

Guest
John,

Yep I did have a good scout about. I found the full manual and have downloaded but can't remember where from for a link. But I have also got the marketing pdf which does list the details on the last page. There is also an owners thread here on AVForums.

Geoff
 
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longplay

Standard Member
What the hell is your dad going to be using it for, LAN parties? This spec is way over what you need for simple HD playback and video recording.

My thoughts:

* The Phenom is overpowered as it is, it doesn't need overclocking. Underclock it reduce power consumption (and therefore heat). An Atom with the right GPU will playback HD, even Flash with 10.1 beta.

* SPCR suggests the board is more power hungry than necessary, so a different board would be better.

* Graphics - onboard will be fine for anything but mid-high level gaming.

* Cooling - you've spec'd a couple of decent case fans so the stock cooler will do the job fine (may need a fan controller so slow it down to silent/quiet) - no need for water cooling.

* HDD - Do you really need mirroring, this is just an HTPC, given current fail rates I'd think one would be fine, a 5400 is fine for this, you don't need 7200 and the Samsung's have a bad rep for reliability, so possibly switch to WD.

* While the Sharkoons are great, the Silverstone case fans with some fan controllers should be more than adequate. The case comes with 120mm fans, yet you've put 80mm replacements, bigger is better with case fans, means they can run slower.

You could probably knock £300 off the build cost (why spend money when you don't have to).

Anyway, just my 2p.
 
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webego

Guest
longplay

This spec is way over what you need for simple HD playback and video recording.

You are right it is, but I never said I was building a 'simple' HTPC ;). I want to make sure the system is able to handle blue-ray/HD-DVD playback without issue and be able to also record HD at the same time as either viewing TV or HD movies. This system will also become the media server for the rest of the house to share TV, movies, music, photos, etc with other PCs and laptops.

The Phenom is overpowered as it is, it doesn't need overclocking

I am not looking to overclock the CPU, just unlock the other 2 cores of what is in reality a quad processor (obv. this is a lottery as you don't know if one or both of the locked cores are faulty or if it is just a dumbed down CPU to fill the demand).

Graphics - onboard will be fine for anything but mid-high level gaming.

I have read on many HTPC sites/forums that onboard GPUs can struggle with the likes of blue-ray playback so I would rather not take the risk. Also with the onboard GPU disabled (won't bother with hybrid crossfire as not needed) that's one less fan to make noise as my chosen GPU is fanless.

Cooling - you've spec'd a couple of decent case fans so the stock cooler will do the job fine (may need a fan controller so slow it down to silent/quiet) - no need for water cooling.

Actually my choice of cooling was partly to do with the fact that I have gone for fanless GPU and PSU so expect the temps to be a bit above normal. But mainly because of space. The case it very tight (due to the 32.5cm depth) and the optical drive actually sits over the top of about half of the CPU limiting my choices of cooling. I could have opted for a low profile HSF but with a hopefully quad core CPU and the increase in general temp as mentioned earlier, the watercooler with radiator and 120mm fan (which I will position in place of one of the case 120mm fans) ticked all the boxes.

HDD - Do you really need mirroring, this is just an HTPC, given current fail rates I'd think one would be fine

Famous last words? I would rather not risk losing hours and hours spent burning CDs/DVDs/BDs etc for the sake of buying another disk. Plus mirroring improves read time slightly too.

Samsung's have a bad rep for reliability

I wasn't aware of that. But they do have a good rep for being quiet drives here on AVForums and other sites.

While the Sharkoons are great, the Silverstone case fans with some fan controllers should be more than adequate. The case comes with 120mm fans, yet you've put 80mm replacements, bigger is better with case fans, means they can run slower.

As mentioned in an earlier post the Sharkoons are additional fans for the back out take of the case, they are not going to replace any of the existing fans. Also the mobo has a 6 x fan header (that's in addition to the usual CPU and system fan connections) and three of these can be controlled via the BIOS.

Hope that clears up some of my choices.

Geoff
 

longplay

Standard Member
Obviously up to you.

I've seen reports of an atom with ION happily running HD while recording two TV channels. In the UK we transmit in MPEG2 anyway, which needs very little processing before being recorded straight to disk, all of which is done by the TV tuner card.

Playing back, most of the work is being done by the GPU, the CPU does very little on an HTPC system. The only time you'll need it is when you're ripping disks or trying to playback HD Flash (and they're fixing that).

Assuming it'll be a server as well means it'll be on 24/7 (so it's available for the other machines) eating power it simply won't use 98% of the time. It'll be burning way more power (and therefore money) than you need.

Also with the onboard GPU disabled (won't bother with hybrid crossfire as not needed) that's one less fan to make noise as my chosen GPU is fanless.
Why would the onboard GPU have a fan? None of the ones I've ever seen do and from the picks of the board you've selected it doesn't either.

I have an HD 3200 on my board and it plays 1080p no problem.

The WD drives are considered equally as quiet and I have had two 1Tbs running for 12 months so I can vouch for them. I've been building PCs for nearly 15 years and never had a HDD fail (as you say, famous last words).

I think you may be going OTT on the cooling, water and four case fans! I run two 80mm case fans with RPMs dialled right down and a passive CPU cooler (and a fanless PSU) without any heat problems.

As you said, your decision, just pointing out for anyone else building a system that I would focus on noise and power consumption, they're the biggest hurdles, practically any modern system will playback HD.
 
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webego

Guest
For sure Longplay, and I appreciate you taking the time to comment. Reducing the noise levels is my intent with this system thus the passive/fanless cooling options for GPU and PSU. I do also intend to dial down the fans to lower both noise and power consumption. The additional fans are to draw the air that is pulled in from the standard intake fans on either side of the case and then heated by all the passive cooling (GPU, PSU, NB and SB) out of the back of the case. Also bear in mind the size of my case, it's going to be pretty compact in there.

Not sure about your maths on power usage though i.e 98%. I am pretty confident the system will be used for more than 2% of any 24 hour period (that's less than half an hour!). Although I appreciate you are probably including power being drawn by the system when not performing an intensive task. Power can of course be saved through putting the system on standby when not in use during parts of the day and shutting down automatically in the early hours i.e 2am. Lan users can always get access when required via Wake on Lan to startup or recover the HTPC from standby.

Out of curiosity, what CPU cooling and PSU did you opt for?
 
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longplay

Standard Member
Out of curiosity, what CPU cooling and PSU did you opt for?

I run an Athlon X2 5050e (one of the 45w, dual-core 2.6Ghz I think) which means I can get away with a fanless Scythe Mini Ninja (complete build details here). As you mentioned, height restrictions mean you couldn't get away with that thing (there's nothing 'mini' about it, it's huge). Having said that, I used the stock AMD cooler on another build and was surprised how quiet it was (again, low power means less cooling which means less noise).

The two case fans sit directly behind it, sucking air out, and are the only active cooling in the case.

The PSU is a Silverstone ST30NF (and was hard to find last Jan/Feb so might be hard to track down).

The good news is there's no right or wrong way to build it and it's not set in stone, you can always go back and change it. Took me several iterations to get mine right for me.
 

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