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Thinking of building hcpc ,advice?

Discussion in 'Desktop & Laptop Computers Forum' started by TopMeTom, Sep 16, 2004.

  1. TopMeTom

    TopMeTom
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    Hi ,

    I am thinking of going down the pc route for home cinema ,however,it is so confusing :eek:

    Can anyone recommend a system for me to put together? :lease:

    It would be used for controlling the pana pw6 and Sim2 200dm pj.

    Cheers,

    Phil
     
  2. KraGorn

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    For DVD playback the usual advice is a Radeon 9600 equipped PC running TheaterTek, with Powerstrip for screen resolution management. The CPU isn't really an issue, any entry level processor these days has more than enough power, 256Mb if memory is more than you need though 512Mb may be useful for other activities you may want to use the PC for and memory's pretty cheap these days.

    However, if you start looking at other formats, such as hi-def material encoded with the likes of Windows Media 9 (aka. WMV) you'll need a 3Ghz processor.

    Beyond that then IMHO the disks of choice are now the Samsungs, either ATA or SATA, being quieter and faster than the Seagates which used to be my favourites.

    Can't help for things like TV tuners as I have no experience of them.
     
  3. David PluggedIn

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    Hi Phil

    If you enjoy the experience of building your own and selecting each component, then a DIY HTPC build can be a very satisfying experience, and is of course the 'cheapest' way of getting high end performance as you are providing the labour for free so to speak. If however you want HTPC performance without having to select the components and put them together yourself, then give either Entertainment Pc or Uvem a call, both companies can put together a system tailored to what you require, with everything done for you.

    good luck
     
  4. inzaman

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    What benefit does this give over say Powerdvd. The reason that i ask is that i have recently i.e two weeks or so ago built a HCPC and have a 9600 and am using powerdvd.

    I would recommend building one yourself, i did so the other week for the first time and is was relatively straight forward. It also gives you the knowledge and confidence to then upgrade/change things etc. i.e now i am thinking of adding another very large hardrive to use as a jukebox.
     
  5. KraGorn

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    By common consent I think TheaterTek's MPEG decoder .. the Cinemaster (ex-Ravisent) one .. is the best around, certainly on my 92" screen TT is noticeably sharper and clearer than PDVD.

    TT also has some pretty neat features such as custom Aspect Ratios which is great for expanding non-anamorphic material, even making 2.35:1 into 1.78:1 by expanding/clipping. It also provides control of Brightness, Contrast, Gamma etc. as an option instead of using the display's controls. It also 'knows' about Radeons and has some optimisations for the chip's hardware MPEG support.

    Sadly TT doesn't provide a demo, their license for the codecs don't allow it, however they do provide a 7-day refund before permanent activation and I've never seen anyone complain of a refund being refused: not ideal but worth it to convince yourself.
     
  6. owain_thomas

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    Some people prefer using the excellent decoders from TT (the sonic ones) with Zoomplayer (www.inmatrix.com). This gives excellent quality but with a lot more customisation (for which you could also read "hassle"!). You can buy the decoders on their own for about $15 IIRC.

    Adding ffdshow to the mix can improve PQ to another level, but again adds comlpexity and a bit of tweaking.

    HTH
    Owain
     
  7. KraGorn

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    ZP has some benefits certainly, I use it for DivX etc. but still prefer TT's features for DVD playback .. and ZP can be a real pig to configure for DVD playback IMX, with undecipherable error messages when codecs don't register.

    Are the Sonic decoders @ $15 the same as those used by TT? I read something recently which seemed to imply those used by TT are somehow 'better' but it wasn't clear about this.
     
  8. owain_thomas

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    Hi KraGorn,

    As far as I knew they are the same, if any one knows for definite I'd be interested. I know what you mean about the indecipherable error messages, its all very arcane getting ZP to work, when it does though it's worth the effort.

    TBH I'm really looking forward to TT2, it seems lilke its going to be a killer.

    Owain
     
  9. KraGorn

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    I've been lurking in the TT 2.0 thread on their forums but I'm not too sure just what features it has .. OTOH, it's probably a 'no brainer' upgrade for me. :)

    As for ZP, I'm setting up a new HTPC so I'm going to try fighting ZP+DVD again, just for fun. :)

    As far as the Sonic drivers are concerned, I can't lay my hands on the post now, but I was reading somewhere a guy's detailed analysis of experiences with various DVD software. His summary was that the best was TT followed by nVidia's player, but in his comments about the stand-alone Sonic drivers he definitely inferred they were inferior to those shipped with TT.

    I may try a comparison myself, since I have grabbed a copy of an *cough* evaluation *cough* version of the Cinemaster codecs. ;)
     
  10. inzaman

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    Kragorn thanks a lot for the reply, i might give TT a try is TT2 an upgrade price or a separate package price, i.e should i wait for this or go straight for TT.
     
  11. KraGorn

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    From the first post in the "TT 2.0" thread from one of the developers:

    "As there is now discussion around TheaterTek 2.0 which will be available in the next few weeks, I wanted to make clear that anyone who purchased TheaterTek 1.5 in the last 30 days or anyone who purchases it now will receive a free upgrade to TheaterTek 2.0 standard edition (providing same audio features as TT 1.5). The advanced audio version will still incur an upgrade cost."

    On that basis you've got nothing to lose. :)
     
  12. TopMeTom

    TopMeTom
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    EERRRRRR, How does this help me get started then?
     
  13. owain_thomas

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    I suppose it has got side tracked a bit, what else do you want to know?
     
  14. KraGorn

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    Well, I for one supplied a list of basic equipment, what else do you want to know?

    You don't indicate your level of experience with building PCs from scratch so it's kind of hard to be more specific until you reply to the initial suggestions. :)
     
  15. TopMeTom

    TopMeTom
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    I am a complete beginner!
    Kragorn,thanks for that,will go away see what i come up with.:)
     
  16. KraGorn

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    The first thing I would suggest then as a beginner is to look at getting your equipment from Overclock (note, NOT Overclocker, I've seen several reports of poor customer service from them). The main reason is that for around £9 they'll fit the CPU and cooler to the motherboard for you, and believe me that can be very fiddly depending on what processor you're using and well worth the investment.

    Basic decisions you need to make:

    1) What processor?

    For an HTPC playing DVDs the cheapest Intel or AMD is more than enough, something like an Intel P4 'Northwood' variant is ideal and cooler than the new 'Prescott' version. Looking ahead you may want to go AMD64 or the newer P4s (the 775-pin variants).

    There's a good choice of motherboards, my own personal favourites as Gigabyte and ASUS, my new HTPC uses a P4 Prescott (!) on a Gigabyte board, but largely because they were in stock at the time. That said, ASUS don't put fans on their Northbridge chips, meaning less noise, Gigabyte do and that means replacing it with a decent heatsink.

    2) Memory

    512Mb is more than enough.

    3) Video

    As I said, a Sapphire Radeon 9600 NON-PRO (the Non-Pro won't have a fan, and fans are bad 'cos they make noise) is my choice and that of many HTPC owners, MPEG decoding being the main reason.

    4) Hard disk

    My choice now are Samsungs, they're reportedly quieter than the previous recommendation which was a Seagate Barracuda. The new SATA standard is the one to go for, there's no 'down side' to that choice and is where all development is now being done.


    After that it's whatever else takes your fancy. Building a PC isn't difficult, just a screwdriver is needed, careful handling is important but don't get over-concerned about the dire warnings about static electricity :) .. I just had to take the P4 off one mobo and put it on another, to clean off the thermal paste I handled it pretty much without worrying, they're tougher than you'd think from the warnings of doom on the packaging.

    HTH you get started.
     
  17. inzaman

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    I hope the below helps get you started, the pc parts i got the other week to build a hcpc were as follows;

    1) AMD Athlon xp2500
    2) Crucial 512mb RAM
    3) Sapphire Radeon 9600 - no fan and dvi out
    4) Abit KV7 KT600 motherboard - has optical out therefore no soundcard needed.
    5) Antec Sonata Midi Tower case - very quiet and nice piano black finish
    6) Seagate 120gb sata drive
    7) Artic Silent fan
    8) Floppy drive
    9) DVD Rom drive

    The above cost me £375 delivered from ebuyer, which i didnt think was too bad a price. I also got a DVI cable from lindy to connect straight to the projector. All the above parts went together fine and worked first time, thankfully as this was my first ever pc build.
     
  18. KraGorn

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  19. TopMeTom

    TopMeTom
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    Thanks a lot for all this help :thumbsup:

    You guys are the best have a :beer: :beer:
    will take a look at the sites!

    Cheers

    Phil
     

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