Please review my HTPC proposed build - thanks.

europbaron

Active Member
Hi,

I'm planning an upgrade and am out of touch with new hardware, so I'd appreciate any comments on this proposed build. I'm particularly concerned about the motherboard and power supply, so any comments from those with experience of the components will be particularly appreciated.

I'm currently sticking to SD, but would like to have the potential to move to Blu Ray in the future. ASIO compatibility is paramount. I'd also like to know if these components will allow the blu ray lossless audio formats - much searching on this subject has left me very confused.

Also does anyone know if this motherboard allows booting from a USB pen drive? I plan to have no HD, but rather access all media from a server. Hence the cheapo DVD drive - it will only be used for ripping and burning.

Proposed spec:

Antec Fusion Remote/Micro ATX Media Center case
Motherboard GA-MA78GM-S2H
2x Memory
Crucial 1GB DDR2 667MHz/PC2-5300 Memory Non-ECC Unbuffered CL5 CT12864AA667
CPU AMD Athlon 64 X2 Dual Core (5050e)
Optical Drive DVD+-R/RW/DL/LF AD-7203S-0B
HD - not using one, 16GB USB Flash Drive instead
Power supply - Corsair CX400 (anyone know if the VX450 is significantly quieter?)
I already have a remote RF keyboard

CPU Cooler - Scythe mini ninja - hopefully passive.
Case fans - yet to decide, but probably Akasa or Sharkoon Golf Balls. Won't be Xilence Reds as the power supply I have of theirs has got significantly noisier with time.

OS - XP Pro - already own license.
Front End - Media portal


All feedback much appreciated. Thanks.


 
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Motherboard wise - I'd recommend the GA-MA78GM-DS2H for about the same price you will get a much better IGP capable of HD.

Also the Corsair VX PSU has some good reviews - and is very quiet.
 

europbaron

Active Member
Thanks, I missed the gfx chipset. It seems worth the extra tenner in case I should go down the blu ray route. Original post changed to reflect this.

This is now starting to look very much like a build from the sticky - anyone have any comments on the not so common aspects - i.e. booting from USB stick, using ASIO with the on board sound or outputting HD audio formats?


edit...

Also, having just noticed there are two very similarly spec'd motherboards, the GA MA78GM-S2H and the GA MA78GM-DS2H, the only difference I can see is support for Dolby Home Theater. The boards have the same audio chipset and as I'll be outputting through the optical out to my receiver this shouldn't be of any benefit to me. Am I missing any other advantage of the DS2H version that could justify it's extra cost?
 
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For installing/booting XP from a USB drive - have a read through this:

SolutionBase: Boot Windows XP from a USB flash drive

Is there a particular reason you dont want a HDD? You can get 1TB drive for £60 now - this should more than exceed your requirements, especially if you want to start recording TV, or ripping your DVDs/downloading movies...

Also you can get a Bluray/DVD player from ebuyer for £50 now - may be worth jumping straight in at the deep end rather than spending money twice...
 

sebna

Member
I would also consider different case - antec Fusion is know of it bad quality LCD screen and very bed RF receiver.
 

europbaron

Active Member
For installing/booting XP from a USB drive - have a read through this:

SolutionBase: Boot Windows XP from a USB flash drive

Is there a particular reason you dont want a HDD? You can get 1TB drive for £60 now - this should more than exceed your requirements, especially if you want to start recording TV, or ripping your DVDs/downloading movies...

Also you can get a Bluray/DVD player from ebuyer for £50 now - may be worth jumping straight in at the deep end rather than spending money twice...

Thanks for the link - that guide looks better on first skim than the one I'd found myself.

I don't want a HDD for a few reasons:

1. I want to have all my files stored on a server for easy backup/RAID. No HDD removes temptation to store them on the HTPC.
2. The above allows me to have a second HTPC in another room with access to the same media.
3. Another noise/heat reduction

I am concerned about the lifespan of a USB drive with regard to the number of read/writes required by an OS, so may yet pop in an 80GB SATA drive instead (for OS use only).

I would also consider different case - antec Fusion is know of it bad quality LCD screen and very bed RF receiver.

WRT the case, this is probably the hardest decision for me. Is the IR/LCD not the standard iMon soundgraph one? Is there any particular reason it is worse in this case than any other?

The reasons for choosing this case were looks, the 120mm well sited fans, and the fact that the IR/LCD are built in. I already have an iMon remote receiver in my current build which will not be needed when it is converted to a server, so could use a normal desktop case, but this would need an external 3.5" slot. These seem to be as rare as hen's teeth on HTPC cases, leaving me with choices such as

Ugly with small fans,
as above,
uATX power supply :(, or my original planned choice
Bach - VB8001BNS.

However, the last of these only has 60mm fans, uses the iMon again and is expensive. Any solutions to this quandry welcomed!
 

jameson_uk

Well-known Member
WRT the case, this is probably the hardest decision for me. Is the IR/LCD not the standard iMon soundgraph one? Is there any particular reason it is worse in this case than any other?
I would be interested in this too. I know Antec do supply drivers (which helps you turn of the IR if you want) but you can replace these with the standard iMon drivers and I am fairly sure this is just a standard OEM LCD which is in most HTPC cases
 

ShabbaRanks

Standard Member
WRT the case, this is probably the hardest decision for me. Is the IR/LCD not the standard iMon soundgraph one? Is there any particular reason it is worse in this case than any other?

All the LCD's I've seen in Antec Fusion and Fusion Max cases lately (pictures and in person) seem to be suffering from a ridiculously bright LCD, which ends up looking pink/purple and can be a distraction from the TV.

I have a Fusion bought at the start of last year, and the LCD on that is considerably better than the later ones (IMV) as it's nowhere near as bright and much better suited for use in a HTPC.

I recently bought a Fusion Max, but found the display was so bright it wasn't really practical for use as a HTPC if you keep it under the TV, the display was so bright it lit the entire room. From the pictures I've seen of later Fusions (non Max), they look like they've switched to the newer LCD aswell.

The newer LCD's don't appear to shutdown correctly when the PC shuts down.. there's quite a few people looking for a solution to this and brightness issues on the soundgraph user forums in the Antec section.. Worth a look.

The LCD is a standard OEM one, apparently a "Negative White OEM type B" on this page:-

http://www.soundgraph.com/Eng_/Products/oem3.aspx?topMenu=2&subMenu=3&leftMenu=43

but mine looked more like the "Positive White", with the background being pink/purple.

I spoke to tech support for my retailer when I returned my Fusion Max for the third time, and he immediately knew the issue before I could fully explain. He said they'd had quite alot of returns due to the LCD but he couldn't say if it was a bad batch or by design until they had investigated it further.

Had a few more goes, no joy in the end though, they were all the same.

Possibly best to see the case in action before purchase?
 
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jameson_uk

Well-known Member
I recently bought a Fusion Max, but found the display was so bright it wasn't really practical for use as a HTPC if you keep it under the TV, the display was so bright it lit the entire room.
You can turn down the contrast and brightness through can't you? (you certainly can via the MP minidisplay plugin). I thought you could do this through the iMon software too?
 

ShabbaRanks

Standard Member
You can turn down the contrast and brightness through can't you? (you certainly can via the MP minidisplay plugin). I thought you could do this through the iMon software too?

Only the contrast, which simply made the text less visible against the pink/purple.

On the minimum setting it was still unbearably bright when watching a movie in low light (other peoples views may differ ofcourse).

There is no adjuster for brightness in iMon.
 

europbaron

Active Member
So is this a fair summary:

1) The remote is no worse than any other iMon
2) The LCD is too bright and this is not software configurable?

Wrt sebna's post, I'm assuming that the receiver is IR and not RF. My current iMon certainly is.

Wrt to point 2 above, I wonder if this could be fixed with a resistor in series with the VFD. Many logic chips can handle a range of voltages so it may well still operate at a lower voltage.


jameson_uk : I've read your post in the sticky, but am still not clear on whether my proposed set up will be capable of HD audio (LPCM to Denon 1909 which can decode the HD formats). My impression is that even if I could play them from Blu-ray discs I'd struggle to achieve the same with rips of these discs. This confuses me. Can you offer any clarification? Thanks.
 

jameson_uk

Well-known Member
The LCD is too bright and this is not software configurable?
I would imagine it is software configurable like the other iMon LCDs but just that the iMon software doesn't allow you to change it :mad: I got fed up with the IR receiver and my MCE remote not playing together on my fusion so just turned off all the iMon stuff and through the MP plugin I have turned down the contrast and brightness

I've read your post in the sticky, but am still not clear on whether my proposed set up will be capable of HD audio (LPCM to Denon 1909 which can decode the HD formats). My impression is that even if I could play them from Blu-ray discs I'd struggle to achieve the same with rips of these discs. This confuses me. Can you offer any clarification? Thanks.

This is taken from Theydons bit which actually makes sense :rolleyes:
The audio on this chipset is limited as it will only pass through DD/DTS via S/PDIF (i.e the same as connecting an amp via an optical or coax cable) or stereo - it will not handle any form of HD audio.
 

ShabbaRanks

Standard Member
I would imagine it is software configurable like the other iMon LCDs but just that the iMon software doesn't allow you to change it :mad: I got fed up with the IR receiver and my MCE remote not playing together on my fusion so just turned off all the iMon stuff and through the MP plugin I have turned down the contrast and brightness

Very interesting.

Rather annoying if it is software settable and Soundgraph have just not bothered to expose the functionality in iMon. Could have saved me loads of hassle.
 

jameson_uk

Well-known Member
Rather annoying if it is software settable and Soundgraph have just not bothered to expose the functionality in iMon. Could have saved me loads of hassle.
The iMon software has annoyed me ever since I got my first HTPC many years ago (had an Accent HT400B which had a VFD where you had to loop the cable out the back of the case to the parallel port :eek: and an inbuilt IR receiver plus an iMon remote)

I ended up using different software for the LCD (tried several over the years) and bought a MS MCE remote with dongle. (Still have this on my PC as it works really well and the MCE keyboard is good too)

I think the main problem here is the IR. I think that you need to iMon software to use the IR. I am not sure if you can use the IR and disable frontview and use something else to control the actual VFD ?

I think LCD smartie probably died a while ago but I assume there are other LCD control software out there? Might even be worth installing MP and setting the brightness there to see if it sticks when you go back to iMon?
 

europbaron

Active Member
Well, it's all bought and built and pretty much configured. Still got a bit of setting up to do regarding integrating S3 standby on my server and utilising sound through HDMI, but I'm fairly happy.

I bought the components as listed earlier except:

MB : ASUS M3N78-EM GeForce 8300 Socket AM2+ VGA DVI HDMI 8-channel Audio MATX Motherboard

CPU 4850e - couldn't locate stock of 5050e at a reasonable price at the time.

Regarding the antec fusion case I'm now very happy with it. I'll probably replace the stock 120mm fans later, but running at low speed they are close to inaudible. With respect to the remote and VFD, (which seem to be the main topic of debate on this thread) they are now working excellently.

I'm using MP and even with the iMon frontview installed (but set to never autostart) the minidisplay plugin does control the brightness and contrast and can switch the display off upon exiting MP.

The remote proved more tricky, even though I've successfully configured and used Soundgraph iMon products before. I got the RM200 new version with my case. The standard software supplied (iMon v7.32.0704 ANTEC) worked perfectly but did not allow starting in keyboard mode as you could in earlier versions. This severly limits the WAF as you have to press a button to go into keyboard mode to stop the cursor flying around the screen with every UP/DOWN/LEFT/RIGHT press. Also the sofware does not uninstall correctly requiring much manual registry cleaning or restoring from an image to get rid of it (XP windows restore doesn't work either).

Having cleaned up the uninstall I tried following the webguide here using the earlier version of the software the article recommends (happened to be the same one I used with earlier iMon products). Unfortunately this only partially works with the RM200. Cursor keys function but many other buttons do not, which may be mistaken for poor reception of the IR signal. (Oddly the IR commands do not seem to have changed, the receiver must decode them differently in the RM200 version compared to the old iPad).

Eventually (after another restore from backup image) I went back to the supplied software and hacked the registry to re-enable mouse mode. The hack is

"MouseMode"=dword:00000000

in

HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\SOUNDGRAPH\iMON

It took several attempts to get this to stick. The iMon software kept changing the value back to 1 instead of zero, but finally it has stuck (image of drive taken!). So now all buttons work, it starts in keyboard mode and I've got my Harmony 525 running MP with excellent reception despite a poor line of sight to my HTPC. The receiver is far more responsive than my old Soundgraph iMon standalone and very reliable.

It was a nightmare to set up and I wish Soundgraph would sort out the iMon software, but I'm delighted with the final results of the VFD and remote combo.

I hope this helps anyone else having problems with the remote on this case (or others using Soundgraph hardware).
 

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