New HTPC Build - Comments Please

Discussion in 'Home Entertainment Computers' started by admay, Jun 10, 2015.

  1. admay

    admay
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    I am about to build my firs HTPC so would welcome any comments that anyone might be prepared to make. The aim is a single box that will do everything, media playing, live and recorded TV and DVD or BluRay playback. It is likely that ripping DVDs will be done on another, faster machine so no need to be able to do it on this. The general aim is to produce something that does not scream PC.

    Case is going to be the Streacom FC5-OD EVO, it needs to be something that will blend in with the HiFi stack and not look like a computer. Likewise I will be using the Streacom ST-ZF240 ZeroFlex PSU so that there is no power block laying around on the floor.

    Processor will be the AMD A10 7800 which seems to give a reasonable CPU power with only a 65W TDP. It also has a better built in graphics than the Intel equivalent which is important since there is no opportunity to add a graphics card. The case only allows a single PCIe card and that will be taken by a TV tuner card. I appreciate that I could probably go for a lower spec processor but for future proofing I would like the best on-board graphics that I can get.

    SP/DIF optical-out on a mATX motherboard is a requirement to feed a DSP/preamp so choice of motherboard is limited. I am going for the ASRock FM2A88M EXTREME4+.

    8Gb of RAM should be enough for HTPC use and leave a bit for a RAM Disk for buffering TV so as to reduce wear on the SSD. I am not planning on anything super fast.

    I have a 64Gb SSD at hand so will use that for system use. Media storage will be on a Synology NAS connected over gigabit Ethernet.

    I also have a Blackgold dual DVB-T2 TV tuner card for Freeview / Freeview HD use so that will occupy the only available PCIe slot.

    DVD/BluRay playback requires a slot loading drive to fit in the case so I will go for the Panasonic UJ-265BluRay writer.

    That is it for the hardware. Software is a little bit more open-ended. Since I want BluRay playback and TV that probably means that I am leaning towards a Windows based system although I would be equally happy with Linux if it would do all that I wanted.

    So, something like Windows 7 with the Argus TV back-end and Media Portal front-end all in the same box. Media storage will be on the NAS. BluRay playback is not a requirement from the outset so will probably add that later provided I have the hardware for it. Any recommendations for a BluRay playback solution that will integrate is most welcome.

    I think that covers everything. Is this a good design? Is there anything that I have forgotten? As I said, all comments appreciated.

    Andrew
     
  2. Jolltax

    Jolltax
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    Hi,

    A few personal observations :

    1. Streacom FC5-OD EVO. Love your choice of case and the passive cooling is awesome provided it works :)
    2. I have a lot of the same hardware as you and have been running a Win 7 based HTPC with a Blackgold dual tuner DVB-T2 card for the last few years using MCE as the software, I also use a Synology NAS although switched to local storage for 'easiness'. I am just in the process of changing to a MP backend / frontend solution and am currently experimenting with a backend server (running MP server). MediaPortal is really nice, the front end / backend seems to introduce a little lag in the system which takes a bit of getting used to (and annoyed the wife) but MP has so many more customisation options and plugins its very cool. In the end though, under WIndows 7 you always have MCE as a backup, its still very functional and super-easy to set up.
    3. Nice thing about having a backend server is you can have a big ugly, noisy, fast, easily cooled box with loads of storage somewhere you never see, you won't need a tuner card in your frontend box at all .....
    4. I bought the full Cyberlink Bluray package and have never yet been able to get it to run reliably on my hardware (might just be me!). Before splashing out it might be worth trying MP as it is supposed to support bluray natively, I have not yet tried this myself yet. Bluray on Linux is a bit of a lottery so I think WIndows is a safer bet currently.
    5. I have a couple of PC's running Windows 7 from 64 Gb SSD's and although it works I find it a real pain as after a while 64 Gb gets a bit tight .. suspect you know this :)
    6. I use a Yamaha DSP-2200 sound system and was not able to get full surround sound, dolby and all the audio bells and whistles working until I switched from SPDIF to using HDMI connection to passthrough. I am not knowledgeable at all about this but might be worth checking this if you have the option to go either way, is SPDIF limited in what it communicates?.
    Chunks
     
  3. admay

    admay
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    Thank you for your response. It is good to know that I am at least on the right track.

    I have tried to spec everything to be within the power requirements for the case so hope it will all work. One of the rationale behind a faster processor is that it will spend most of its time underused and will dissipate less heat than a lower spec processor with the same TDP. The case will also be in open air rather than in a cupboard so that should help.

    If it wasn’t clear, both backend and frontend will be on this machine. I am not yet considering a separate server, although might in the future. In the meantime since the NAS is just online storage and not a DNLA server I guess if I want to stream to another machine it will have to be via the HTPC.

    Good news about MP and BluRay playback although I notice that it still requires something to decrypt the disk. AnyDVD HD is mentioned. This probably be second phase project though since at the moment I have no other HD equipment.

    I am going to have to experiment with the SP/DIF. It is feeding a Roxsan DSP and five channel amp so there is no HDMI as an alternative. The Screen is a Standard Resolution Panasonic Plasma so no HDMI there either. The screen is ten years old and still gives a superb picture and I am hoping it will last long enough for 4K OLEDs to come down a bit. I tend to buy things for the long term rather than upgrading at regular intervals. For audio I could always fall back to the analogue outputs. Since this box is going to replace everything else I might even be able to bypass the DSP and go straight into the Power Amp.

    Agree, the 64Gb SSD might be a bit small but I have it and it will not be too difficult if I have to upgrade if I need to. However since this is a dedicated machine I don’t intend installing anything else on it. But as always these projects tend to be subject to specification creep.

    Andrew
     

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