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New HTPC Build - my experiences.

Discussion in 'Desktop & Laptop Computers Forum' started by Duggy, May 12, 2005.

  1. Duggy

    Duggy
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    After a tantalising, but ultimately disappointing experience with a TranquilPC MCE2005 machine (they've changed the spec since then, so I won't elaborate...) I was hooked on the idea of a media PC, so spent much time lurking on AVForums and other sites considering my options. After toying with the idea of buying a HiGrade DMSII or Elonex Artisan for a while, I decided to build my own for the greater control it would give me.

    Now it's bought and built (see my sig for spec), the first thing I would like to say is a big
    :thumbsup: Thank You :thumbsup:
    to all the AVForum members who've shared their experience and expertise on the forums. Without the knowledge I had built up from reading here, it would not have been nearly such a smooth ride!

    In the same spirit, I thought I would share some of my thoughts about the components I ended up using:

    Silverstone LC11m silver case - Lovely build quality, but not without its flaws. Given that I am probably one of the first people to build a PC using this particular model (it's the new one with the built in VFD and IR receiver - unknowingly, I placed an order with the only UK retailer on the day they received their first stock!) I'll post a review as a separate thread.

    Pentium M 1.6GHz + AOpen 855GMe M/B - Great combination! I use a passive copper "flower" heatsink on the processor (£6ish from ebuyer) and everything stays cool and quiet. Plenty of "grunt" for MCE2005.

    NEC 3520 DVDRW Drive - Runs much quieter than most computer DVD drives, esp when playing DVDs, so I recommend it, but it may be a bit fussy. It has choked on a few CDs that I've given it (music and data), and I've noticed that some DVDs cause the drive to "sing" when playing, a high-pitched whine loud enough to be heard across the room during quiet parts of the soundtrack.

    Graphics - I originally specced an ASUS FX5200 passively cooled AGP card for this, but once installed it got way too hot very quickly so I took it out again. I decided to see how the built-in Intel Extreme Graphics on the motherboard worked with MCE2005, and I haven't been disappointed. While I'm sure that Nvidia users can tweak the picture quality more effectively on Plasmas and projectors, the Intel graphics provides perfectly good PQ on my Philips 26" LCD, and I'm never going to play games on this PC, so I don't need the 3D performance. I haven't suffered any driver instability, and while Digital TV is a little "soft" I've noticed other people say that about other graphics cards, so it may be a general problem with DVB-T.

    MCE2005 - I know it's Micro$oft, and I should hate it for that, but it really is very good. After reading about the various gotchas with CD names on AVForums, the installation went very smoothly and everything just, er, works!

    There's still lots to tweak and play with, but to my surprise, I've managed to put together a system that looks good and works quietly and reliably with relatively little effort. I would encourage any other technically-minded people to have a go too!

    Cheers,

    Duggy
     
  2. lisag

    lisag
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    Thanks for the post, well done :smashin: Out of interest how much did it all cost, and do you fancy posting a pic?

    lisa
     
  3. Duggy

    Duggy
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    I'll tot up the various invoices and see what it comes to. When speccing it, I didn't really have a target price - getting the right components was more important - but I thought it would come out about the same as an unexpanded DMSII, ie about £950. Not cheap, but what price happiness? :rolleyes:

    Unfortunately, I didn't take pictures during the build, and it's all now tucked away nicely in a bookcase, but I've still got a few tweaks to do, so if I crack it open again I'll take a few photos and post them here.

    Duggy
     
  4. bigtim

    bigtim
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    Nice sounding build Duggy! And along similar lines (case, processor etc) to what I'm thinking of.

    Few Qs/Comments:

    Do show us a pic of it in situ, no need to crack the case, I'd like to see what this case looks like in a setup.

    Card overheating - this worries me a bit, I was thinking of going the 9600 passive route in the same case with an eye to building a VGA-SCART lead once I'd got everything working with S-video. Are you using the stock case fans? I was hoping they'd bring enough air over the card.

    Onboard graphics - guess you're not too worried about being restricted to 4:3 resolutions, another reason I'm thinking of VGA-SCART - I'll be able to output a 16:9 res (1024*576).

    Finally- are you using the imon control or an MCE one?

    Phew!

    Tim
     
  5. Skunkpipe

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    My personal HTPC is also based around an LC11 - superb case IMHO
    I have a passive 9600 and connect using DVI->component. Heat is not an issue.
    the silverstone fans have been removed and replaced with slowed down panaflo jobbies, and thermalright SP94/92mm panaflo replaces stock HSF. The silverstone fans even when slowed down were too noisy, the panaflos are quieter and give more airflo...
    Motherboard is an EQSM45P8-MLF, before going with the 9600, I used th eboards built in 9200 with s-Video out (and no 16:9 issues:smashin: ). I have some of the LC11-Ms (and some LC14Ms) on order - hopefully next week I'll have one built up
     
  6. Duggy

    Duggy
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    Bigtim,

    I'll take a piccy tonight.

    The AGP and PCI cards are placed near to the PSU fan, but I found that this simply didn't move enough air to keep the card cool, especially when I had two DVB-T cards in there as well. It would be very hard to generate more airflow in this area unless you fitted a PCI slot blower fan which would sort of defeat the object of a passively cooled graphics card really :suicide:

    You should also be aware that the back of the AGP card lies flush with the "lid" (actually the base) of the case, so you can't have a card with a heatsink on the back. Even the mounting lugs for a front-mounted heatsink can project too far from the back of the card...

    I'm using the onboard graphics for 16:9 (1280x768 the native resolution of my widescreen LCD telly, but I'm using a straight VGA-VGA lead) I'll check to see whether the graphics can do 1024x576 and get back to you.

    I'm using the MS Remote, but this required a mod using a ripped-apart MS receiver so not for the faint-hearted. See my forthcoming (hopefully tonight) review of the LC11m case in this forum for details...

    Duggy
     
  7. Kamakazie

    Kamakazie
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    yeah, according to Silverstone you cant use the MCE remote with the reciever they supply, however the VFD and IR and Remote supplied are FULLY compatible with MCE 2005.

    Im looking at going with the LC14M.... looks just about perfect interms of looks and stuff. No eta on the silver one over here but seems to be about 2 weeks in the US.... so perhaps a month here.
    Here's hoping anyhow!!
     
  8. Mr.D

    Mr.D
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    Try an Arctic cooler for the graphics card. Cheap quiet and good cooling.
     
  9. bigtim

    bigtim
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    Thanks for the info both (Duggy + U-sm)

    Duggy - Doh! Forgot you were using a panel and not a CRT. I'm planning to build up to along the lines of: Svideo, followed by VGA-SCART then at some point an LCD.

    Thinking of trying an ASUS p4p800-vm board with a CT-479 adaptor to allow a Pentium M chip though I'm not sure about the height (also, the board won't allow the chip to speed step - does yours?). Other option might be to wait for the AOPEN 1915GMm-HFS board to be available in UK- an incredibly well spec'd board for a HTPC, but no VGA-SCART shennigans possible with the onboard graphics.

    US-m - good to hear my possible card choice can be cooled. On a side note - Wokingham, I lived there on and off for a few years, nice place. Still miss the rifle volunteer :beer:
     
  10. Skunkpipe

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    Blimey - I'm <1 min from there..although you'll often find me in the Queens Head :devil:

    as for gfx cards the 9600 is realy just about the most powerful passive card you can get in the LC11.(Mine is from Powercolor, but Sapphire do passive ones also)
    I've a passive 9600XT here as well bot this would need some serious heat pipe mods to get it to fit (heatsink on both sides of the card)
     
  11. Werner

    Werner
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    The p4p800-vm fitted with ct479 adapter gives a height which is lower than a normal skt478 cpu+retail heatsink. It's quite a diddly little heatsink. You will need to flash the bios (available on asus website) before it will boot with the pentium-m fitted. The new bios adds an option or two, but no real speedstep. CT479 is a nice piece of kit, the only thing I found was that the heatsink clips were a bit fiddly to get correctly positioned. Also, because the pentium-m has no heatspreader attached, there is the possibility of the heatsink to "rock" over the core, so you have to position it carefully (remember the original socket A athlons and chipped cores? same issues here.)

    The aopen board doesnt allow speedstep either. And it's quite pricey, but does have dual gigabit lan (p4p800vm has 10/100), aopen has firewire headers (p4p800vm has none). If you are feeling rich just buy one http://www.higrade.com/nqcontent.cfm?a_id=3531 which has the aopen board fitted already.
     
  12. Duggy

    Duggy
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    bigtim,

    I've checked, and the built-in graphics doesn't work at the resolution you want. Be careful with the AOpen i915 motherboard - I wondered about the merits of waiting for it to come along, but from pictures it doesn't look like the Silverstone PCI-E riser card will work with it (check out the info on the Silverstone website).

    Kamakazie,

    Yes, the iMON VFD and remote do work with MCE, I just think that the Microsoft remote is nicer and easier to use.

    All,

    Check out my LC11m review on this thread:

    http://www.avforums.com/forums/showthread.php?t=212106

    Cheers,

    Duggy.
     
  13. bigtim

    bigtim
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    Ah now, this is the problem I've considered: If I buy a shiny new board, CT-479 and Chip (OK, buy the chip off e-Bay prob). How in the hell will I boot it to flash the bios without another chip? (my other systems are AMD) Unless the Board's built in AFUDOS will flash the bios with either no CPU or an incompatible one in situ?

    Thanks for the extra info too Duggy - good review of the case - now we're all waiting for those pics :)

    Think a non-m LC11 will prob do for me - extra expense for a VFD (nice but not particularly desperate for) and hidden IR receiver not justifiable.
     
  14. u9dbg

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    Duggy,

    Any chance you could let us know where you managed to source that AOpen board from, I am having great troubles tracking one down.

    Cheers

    David
     
  15. Duggy

    Duggy
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    I got mine from www.pcnextday.co.uk (well named - good service!). It's also shown on www.kustompcs.co.uk, but a bit more expensive. I bought the Pentium M from ebuyer.com, which seemed to have the best prices at the time (strangely they sell Pentium M CPUs but no motherboards to go with them - go figure).

    Cheers,

    Duggy
     
  16. stuartmc

    stuartmc
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    We got our first stock of AOPEN i915GMm-HFS in today and sold out all but one. The board is just as billed, expensive but doesn't need any extras and superb build quality.

    Comes with
    VGA, DVI, S-Video and component on back panel
    S/PDF in and out, both coax and with supplied adapters optical on back panel
    7.1 Azalea high definition audio on autosensing jacks
    SATA and IDE (Raid on SATA)
    Low profile heatsink and fan
    Twin Gigabit networking on back panel
    DDR or DDR2 memory
    Only real complaints are missing Firewire on the back panel, its on the motherboard but needs either back or front panel i/o and won't work with Silverstone LC11 because of PCie positioning. Will work great in Claritas case though.

    Probably others but left the board in the office, any questions let me know and I'll try to help.
     
  17. bigtim

    bigtim
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    Do the other PCI slots line up for an LC11, could a flexi PCi-e be used (does such a thing exist?)

    Oh and what are you doing this board for?

    Cheers
    Tim
     
  18. stuartmc

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