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Ideal HCPC Specification

Discussion in 'Desktop & Laptop Computers Forum' started by Dibble, Jul 13, 2003.

  1. Dibble

    Dibble
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    I am looking to build my first HCPC. As there is quite a bit of cash involved I would like to take some advice from the forum.

    I would like the system to be capable of TV / Video / Music. I would realy like to mount the PC away from the viewing area, with a remote control reciever in the viewing area.

    The output from the system will be to a projector, I don't know which as yet.

    Any way please don't hold back I have little knowledge of HCPC. Any information from motherboard / CPU / DVD etc... etc..

    Thanks in Advance.......
     
  2. Peter Parker

    Peter Parker
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    My htpc is a very cheap affair, but you can spend as much as you like on it. :)

    I'm using an ECS K7S5A mobo which is around £30. The Pro version is even less at www.ebuyer.com (I have one in my main pc). Don't get any older mobos with VIA chipsets.

    Graphics card can be a Radeon VE (with DVI) which can be bought for less than £30. If you want to play games, you'll need a 7500 or better at least.

    A duron 950 is enough for just DVD platback, and 1300s can be bought for around £25. For DScaler 4 you may want something like a 2400+ for £67.

    Cases start from around £15, but you can get something more AV like from around £100: http://www.kustompcs.co.uk/product.php?subcat=1

    Sound cards can be something simple with spdif out to connect straight to your av amp. The Soundblaster 4.1 with 3.5mm to phono mini jack will do just this from around £13 for the oem version. Normaly about £26. There are plenty of others, and the M-Audio range are meant to be great via analogue outputs.

    Hard drives are better if they're quiet, and the Seagate Barracuda range are silent.

    If you want to remot control the pc, then try here: http://www.girder.nl . There are links to making your own IR receivers to be operated by a remote of your choice.

    You can buy something like a remote keyboard with integral mouse for about £17.

    The Lite-On DVD 165H is a very quiet drive when playing DVds, and is around £25.

    Go to www.quietpc.com for a quiet fan for the CPU if you don't like the bormal noisy ones, and replace the fan in the PSU with a 19db Papst one. That will cost £45 or more depending on the cpu you are using and the fans that can be fited to them.

    You can spend a lot more on componenets if you wish, but my HTPC is similar to the components I have mentioned and it works very well. I have found that PowerDVD XP gives the best picture on my system, but there are others to choose from, such as WinDVD, TheaterTec and Zoomplayer, which is a versatile 'shell' which will make your existing player do things you never thought possible. :)

    HTH

    Gary.
     
  3. Dibble

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    Many thanks for your time. Your reply was very usefull. :smashin:

    I think I may have speced a system to high before your comments.

    A few more questions if you don't mind.............:confused:
    1) You mension DScaler 4 ... Is this only used for projected systems???

    2) What are you using and what would you recomend as a display device. I.e. HDTV / Plasma / or projector??? I want an image around the 42" to 50" area?? I beleve I should use an SVidieo or Component output to the display?? I like the idea of a plasma but the price is very heavy at the moment.

    3) I don't know much about the sound side of things, so please correct me where I am wrong...... From your previous comments it sounds like I only need a simple sound card with analogue output to a AV reciever? There are sound cards out there that are 5.1 how do these work as you must need several amps to drive to power???

    Thanks again for your comments,
    All the best, Darren
     
  4. John_N

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    Yeah thanks gary that's interesting. I was wondering whether a duron or celeron would be enough - in my quest for reducing heat, noise and power consumption in my HTPC...
     
  5. Mr. Wilby

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    Great post from Gary. My bit of advice is to think in advance about the sound level that your HTPC will emit.

    I saw that you want to locate your HTPC away from your projector, but assuming you are going to use DVI to hook up to whatever PJ you eventually opt for, this has a maximum specified cable length of 7.5m (although many here, including myself, are using 10m cables just fine). DVI is great if your PJ supports it... I'm not sure whether there are similar restrictions on VGA cable lengths.

    In my case, I have my HTPC mounted below my TV. I have tried to make it as quiet as possible - for the most part I have succeeded.

    One aspect I didn't think through fully was the Hard Disk drives. I opted for Western Digital Caviar SE 7200 HDD because they were on special offer at Komplett several months back. In hindsight, if I was going for the ultimate in quiet PC's I'd have picked the Segate. However, I have to confess that the HDD noise has never bothered me so perhaps I am worrying about nothing.

    http://www.theoverclockingstore.co.uk and
    http://www.kustompcs.co.uk (as already mentioned) have some great bits of kit that you can use to help make your PC silent, including the zalman range.

    Also, http://www.silentpcreview.com/ is worth visiting for the low down on various components' noise output.

    For video, many people are using Nebula Digital TV cards. The quality is basically limited by the quality which the station is broadcast in (assuming you have good reception). What's more, Nebula provide pretty regular software updates and good technical support. I've yet to purchase a card (I live in Finland) but have emailed them on several occasions and they have been very helpful.

    Sound card wise, this depends on your method of amplification. I'm using the optical output from my motherboard straight into my amp. This works fine for DVDs in DTS and DD since its just a pass through to the amp (where the decoding is performed). As Gary said, the mAudio range is held in high regards (you can buy one of their cards in the UK from www.overclockers.co.uk).

    Incidentally, you don't have to buy a really low power machine in order to make it silent.

    I'm using:

    - athlon 2100xp
    - Thermalright SLK-800 heatsink
    - panaflow or pabst fan (can't remember which)
    - ATI 7500 (no fan)
    - those WD Caviar 7200 120gb (x 2) HDD

    and the loudest thing in my pc is actually the northbridge fan on the motherboard. Just need to be brave enough to replace it with a zalman heatsink...

    Have fun deciding on your components... its half of the fun!
     
  6. gab2001uk

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    I use a 42 inch plasma, which has the advantage of accepting the VGA output direct from the PC, and leaves component and s-video inputs free if you need them for other devices. I believe projecters also use VGA.

    I use the optical out on the PC soundcard to a dedicated DD Amp for 5.1 decoding. This output will transmit ordinary stereo from a CD, game, windows itself etc. or 5.1 from a DVD if the software player is configured to send the output direct to the SPDIF without decoding.

    Get a Nebula Free To Air TV card, which gives excellent pictures and recording of TV direct to MPEG2, and time-shifting. You do not need an analogue TV card.

    Your best purchase for remote control is the gyromouse / keyboard from www.quietpc.com. Since purchasing this combo I do not use the IR remotes from Nebula etc, even though I have 2 IR receivers built in.

    If you have Sky, you will need a capture card, ranging from very cheap £30 to full hardware real-time MPEG encoding for recording purposes eg Vidac VMagic. I also have the Sky box into the s-video input on the plasma so the PC can be by-passed for greater wife compatability. You can also use this for other devices such as VHS tape.

    For the ultimate get a multi-format DVD writer so you can convert all your recordings and existing VHS to DVD or (S)VCD. For this you will need a beefier processor than that required for the other functions. Again the hardware MPEG2 encoder is useful here.
     
  7. Peter Parker

    Peter Parker
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    Hi,

    DScaler is used in conjunction with a capture card using a specific Conextant chipset. The Pinacle PCTV Rave is just such a card, and can be bought for around £30- £40. You use the incoming s-video or composit connection for an external device like laser disk player or even a dvd player, and DScaler will scale it and deinterlace it for you using various user selectable methods. It also has an auto setting IIRC.

    I'm using an NEC HT1000 as my display to produce a 7ft wide image. The picture quality is better than any dvd player I have seen, and this is down to PowerDVD XP. WinDVD 4 seemed a lot more grainy IMHO.

    Like Gab2001uk in the post above, you just need an av amp with optical (tos link) or coaxial (spdif) inputs to take the single ouput from the sound card. I'm using the SB 4.1 with 3.5mm adapter and I get full 5.1/6.1 output including all other sounds generated by the pc. I don't need to use the stero analogue connections.

    The M-Audio range will output 5.1 channels which will go into the 6 5.1 inputs on a suitable amp. I prefer the single connection to the multiple simply because it's easier to run a single cable.

    Most common av amps have all the channel amps built in. My amp is the Denon 3802 which is capable of 6.1 and has 7 channels of amplification. There are plenty of amps out there and they can be picked up quite cheaply.

    John, if you want something more powerful, you could try the AMD 2600+ with 333fsb and underclock it by running it at 266fsb instead (equivalent of 2000+ I think). It'll run cooler which will possibly allow an 80mm Papst fan with adapter to cool it.

    My Duron 950 runs around 40 dgrees with its radial cooler when playing a movie IIRC. An underclocked 2600+ will run at a similar temp, so a quieter fan can probably be used without fear of the cpu overheating.

    HTH

    Gary.
     

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