Minimum spec for HTPC

chalkstorm

Active Member
Hi all :hiya:

I've just finished building my home cinema (http://thehawthornes.fotopic.net/c652609.html) - and am looking now to add a HTPC. I've considered various options (ready built, self build, laptop) - and I have a fair bit of experience building PCs - but was really after someone who would be brave enough to guess at a fairly 'future proof' Hi-def spec.

So - it would be used for:

MP3 playback (so decent sound output needed)
Hi def movie playback (assuming downloaded films)
Photos etc
A couple of freeview tuners (a DVD writer would be added)
I would need a DVI output

What is the 'minimum' CPU speed and memory I should be looking at? I can then build the system up around that.

Thanks in advance

Simon
(PS - apologies if this has been asked before..... directions to other threads would be gratefully received!)
 
D

Deleted member 27989

Guest
When building it new, I wouldn't go anything less than Intel D820 or AMD x2 3800....
 

richjthorpe

Active Member
Hi Chalkstorm,

Nice Cinema room by the way !

The most CPU intensive thing you've listed is Hi Def playback. It has been said that the minimum CPU needed is a 3.0Ghz to manage it but obviously the faster the CPU the better.

CPU: Personally I would go AMD (And will be after Christmas) so will be looking at a socket 939 Athlon 3000+ as I need to to keep costs at a minimum. The 939's have Cool and Quiet which dynamically alters the voltage across the CPU depending on how much work it's doing at the time. This means that it runs cooler because of the voltage drops and quieter because the CPU fan wont need to spin so quickly.

Motherboard: Asus have a motherboard out (A8N-VM CSM) that has an nvidia graphics chipset which can be used for Hi Def and also has DVI out too. The graphics set means you can load nvidia's Pure Video which helps with post processing and upscaling. The board will be good for video but doubt games would impress though. Look at a fanless nvidia 6600GT if you want games.

Sound: The motherboard mentioned above has an SPDIF header, but there isn't a socket on the back meaning you need a bracket (About £10) which gives you Digital Coax and Optical outputs.

Hard Disks: Samsung Spinpoints are impressing people with their quietness. Be wary though as some were quite noisey. Take a look at Seagates too.

Memory: About 1-1.5Gig I would say, PC3200.

TV Card: Terratec are coming out with a Dual Tuner PCI-e card meaning you can record 2 and watch another at the same time.

DVD Writer: I have an LG writer which burns everything and dual layer too. Not sure how it's going to stand up in a quiet system though. Cost £30 from ebuyer.

Software: Windows Media Centre Edition is popular but others are Meedio and SageTV.

Hope this helps.

Richie.
 

shodan

Distinguished Member
Rich, cracking post mate! I keep thinking about building a HTPC so your post may prove to be VERY helpfull. What sort of cost's would you imagine those componants to have?
 

Mr.D

Distinguished Member
Really depends on how much you want to spend. I had hidef playback on a 2.4 pentium 4 northwood (533fsb) no problems , no overclock.

its almost more interesting to see how little you can build an HTPC for. Its comparatively easy to knock out a killer htpc for over 500quid . I've been trying to get it down below 200quid but to be honest the operating system ends up being the biggest single expenditure and sours the deal.

Some of my rules of thumb:

I have had far less hassle with Intel cpus than AMD.
Crucial is great for memory.
1Gb minimum these days.
Asus make great motherboards.
ATI still seem to handle custom resolutions better than Nvidia.
Via chipsets always cause me problems in any PC I've ever built that uses them anywhere!
Seagate barracudas still seem to me to be the quietest most reliable harddrives.
Even Pentium 3s are plenty fast for most things ( hidef being about the only exception).
If you are only ever going to use a digital output from the PC then you can most likley skip a seperate soundcard.
Always use a legit OS.
Pay for powerstrip if you use it.
Donate some cash to Dscaler if you use it.
Just buy Theatertek.
I've bought a lot of stuff from Scan over the years and NEVER had a problem with them or the returns procedure.
Use a drive imaging software ( truemage is my recommendation)
Always have a minimum of 2 seperate hard drives in a machine and create a backup image of the C drive on the other harddrive.
SilenX quiet products are generally not as good as Zalman and Nexus. ( fans , psus)
Put an extra blowhole in your case ( nothing I like better than hacking a dirty great hole in an expensive bit of aluminium.
The Zalman reserator is quiet and cools brilliantly.
Floppy drives are for amigas.
Arctic Silencers are a must have on any graphics card.
The elan greenerger PSU is the best I've ever had ...and I've had lots.

Having tried a few frontends I actually prefer the standard windows enviroment and a wireless mouse ( gyration).
 

chalkstorm

Active Member
Richie, Keith - many thanks for your detailed replies. I will give it some thought based on your recommendations - and no doubt come back for more. I've looked at Moore Medio and Uvem kit - and while good it seems a tad overpriced.

Thanks again

Si
 

dan1979

Member
Even more fun when something random goes wrong.

14 hours I spent working on mine, lost a 160GB hard drive in the process :mad:
 

chalkstorm

Active Member
Well, I think I've decided which route to take ..... my current PC spec is:>>

Gigabyte SINXP | Intel P4 2.8B with Thermaltake Volcano 7+ | 2 x256Mb Corsair TwinX DDR400 | Sapphire Radeon 9800Pro | 2xSeagate Barracuda 120 GB drives (RAID 0) | Seagate Barracuda 80 GB Boot drive | Samsung SM-348B DVD/CD-RW | Sony DRU-500AX | Imation LS120 | Logitech MX700 | Enermax 450W PSU | Thermaltake Xaser II A6000A | Logitech Pro 4000 webcam |

My plan is to use the mobo, CPU, memory (maybe increase to 1Gb) and 9800 (it has DVI) - and buy a new case, some silent cooling equipment and two bigger 'quieter' hard drives (RAID 0 again). I only ever use the PC for email and t'internet - so will buy a cheap laptop to do that job. Should be more than adequate I hope. I really want to wait for Sky Hi-def - so probably won't even bother adding a tuner card -

Thanks again

Si
 

tk2001

Active Member
chalkstorm said:
Hi all :hiya:

I've just finished building my home cinema (http://thehawthornes.fotopic.net/c652609.html) - and am looking now to add a HTPC. I've considered various options (ready built, self build, laptop) - and I have a fair bit of experience building PCs - but was really after someone who would be brave enough to guess at a fairly 'future proof' Hi-def spec.

So - it would be used for:

MP3 playback (so decent sound output needed)
Hi def movie playback (assuming downloaded films)
Photos etc
A couple of freeview tuners (a DVD writer would be added)
I would need a DVI output

What is the 'minimum' CPU speed and memory I should be looking at? I can then build the system up around that.

Thanks in advance

Simon
(PS - apologies if this has been asked before..... directions to other threads would be gratefully received!)

Simon,

My HTPC consists of the following components:

Claritas 390M HTPC Case
P4 3Ghz Northwood 800FSB
Zalman CNPS7000B CPU Cooler
Asus P4800-VM with onboard SPDIF out
ATI 9600XT Passive gfx card
2x 512mb 400mhz Crucial DDR
Samsung Spinpoint 2x 250GB SATA HDD
Seasonic 350 PSU
MCE 2005 SP2
MCE Catalyst 5.4 video driver

I have been running my HTPC for over a year now and it is rock solid in terms of stability. It idles at around 38 degrees C and peaks at around 50 when under heavy load i.e. watching dvds via Theatertek along with ffdshow.

Using Theatertek with ffdshow (which is probably the most cpu intensive operation you can perform uses around 50-60% of my CPU using 1280 x 720 resize, Lanczos2, Luma Sharpen .60 and denoise3d (CPU shoots up to 70-80 if I resize to 1920 x1080)

Watching WMV-HD 720p material uses also around 50% of the CPU and playback of HD 1920 x 1088i movies uses up only around 30%.

I personally feel a system based around 3ghz should be good enough for HD material based on my own experience.
 

chalkstorm

Active Member
Guys

While I've got your interest (sorry!), can you tell me if an S-video output from a laptop would allow me display it's desktop as well as movies via a projector? I've been told that I could only show movies - the desktop wouldn't work.....

Thanks again

Si
 

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