To Buy Or To Build.... That Is The Question.....

Discussion in 'Desktop & Laptop Computers Forum' started by Lester's Cloud, Apr 7, 2002.

  1. Lester's Cloud

    Lester's Cloud
    Guest

    Products Owned:
    0
    Products Wanted:
    0
    Ratings:
    +0
    Newbie to HTPC and I've certainly never built a PC from bits before!

    However very interested with the HTPC set ups mentioned.

    For a well meaning and ambitious beginner should I really attempt to build a PC? Should I perhaps buy a good spec PC and add in the appropriate video & Sound cards + software etc?

    Would a laptop be able to properly handle the audio and video? This would certainly be of use to my business as well as the HTPC:)

    Should I really just buit the bullet and build a dedicated PC or will a laptop for HTPC and business cut the mustard?

    Thanks in advance

    Lester's Cloud
     
  2. Comer

    Comer
    Active Member

    Joined:
    Sep 21, 2001
    Messages:
    1,386
    Products Owned:
    1
    Products Wanted:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    51
    Location:
    Ireland
    Ratings:
    +86
    "If you build it, he will come"


    Sorry, that was absolutely no help what-so-ever. But I just had to get it out of my system:devil:

    Conor
     
  3. Dubbing Mixer

    Dubbing Mixer
    Standard Member

    Joined:
    Jan 27, 2002
    Messages:
    643
    Products Owned:
    0
    Products Wanted:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    21
    Location:
    By, and sometimes in, the sea
    Ratings:
    +2
    I've now 'built' half a dozen PCs and had no more bother with them than the ones I've purchased. If you get stuck, I'm sure many people here will help you out. Go with the recommended configurations and you won't go far wrong.

    Rob
     
  4. Doubledoom

    Doubledoom
    Guest

    Products Owned:
    0
    Products Wanted:
    0
    Ratings:
    +0
    If you build you will save money. Take a look at some of the recent threads to get an idea of what to look for.
     
  5. Peter Parker

    Peter Parker
    Distinguished Member

    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2001
    Messages:
    13,264
    Products Owned:
    1
    Products Wanted:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    166
    Location:
    UK.
    Ratings:
    +2,785
    Here are the main components of my budget htpc:

    ECS K7S5A @ £52
    Duron 950 @ £38
    CPU fan @ £4
    Seagate ST340016A 40g HDD @ £75
    128 meg ram @ £28
    Supergrace radeonAE0304-187 @ £44

    Cheap soundcards: a couple on ebuyer for around £8 but don't know if they are genuine 5.1. Try the Soundblaster 4.1 which will pass 5.1 out to your amp. @ £24

    Try Quietpc.com for an 80mm quiet case fan to replace the PSU fan, and a radial cooler for the CPU if you want to quieten the pc down a bit. Cost is around £43 inc postage.

    With the rest of the components to make a pc (not including software) you should be able to build one for around £350.

    I'm using the above system (except for soundcard) on my projector and the image quality is excellent - much better than the MPact2 mobo setup I had before.

    HTH

    Gary.
     
  6. Lester's Cloud

    Lester's Cloud
    Guest

    Products Owned:
    0
    Products Wanted:
    0
    Ratings:
    +0
    Hmmm - okay - cheaper than I once thought then........

    A couple of more questions:

    I have a very old but still working PC, can I cannibolise anything useful from that to use - case, fan, power unit etc?

    What software & OS would I need - Windows XP, 98, Linux etc (I know these names, but not anything about the difference!) and how much does this cost?

    When assembling all the kit (from motherboard to processor) is it really as easy as say installing a network card - just plug in and that's it connected (i.e. no soldering etc). Once everything is hooked up you hit the power switch and then what, it works?

    And lastly a couple of questions about general use, if I build this it will also include a TV tuner card etc so I can watch TV through it. Basically I would be ditching the TV & DVD and using the HTPC for normal TV viewing - is this a stupid idea? Would this work for all uses?

    And lastly again (!) how easy will this set up be for my girlfriend to use! i.e. will it be a case of just stuffing the DVD in to the computer and watching the film, or pressing BBC 1 on a remote and there is BBC etc.........

    I feel I may be asking too much of the system to do this, i.e. all TV uses - what do you think?

    Many thanks in advance again,

    Lester's Cloud
     
  7. Dubbing Mixer

    Dubbing Mixer
    Standard Member

    Joined:
    Jan 27, 2002
    Messages:
    643
    Products Owned:
    0
    Products Wanted:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    21
    Location:
    By, and sometimes in, the sea
    Ratings:
    +2
    From your starting position this may be asking a lot. Building PCs is easy if you stick to well tried and tested components and, especially tried and tested combinations of components. If you use the cheapest bits you can lay hands on, this is when the troubles usually start.

    In any case you will need to invest good deal of time in the project, finding the latest drivers and configuring software to make it all work together.

    People here will help but there are ways you can make life easier for yourself. Check out the similar forum on AVS as well.

    You might want to consider an 'All in One' graphics card for a start. This will have the TV tuner and analogue video inputs etc. ATI make several and there are a few from other manufacturers.

    Rob
     
  8. Doubledoom

    Doubledoom
    Guest

    Products Owned:
    0
    Products Wanted:
    0
    Ratings:
    +0
    I would also recommend an Epox motherboard, such as the 8KHA+ . This board only has two jumpers on it and this makes it a little easier than some of the other boards, such as Asus, who have tons of jumpers.

    It really depends on how much you want to spend and if you have any other purpose to use it for (office and games for example).

    Personally, i find that picture quality on a monitor is far worse than a television when viewing dvds. I don't have a tv tuner but i would guess that a full screen image would look pixellated. I'm not sure using it for main tv viewing would be a good idea.
     
  9. Lester's Cloud

    Lester's Cloud
    Guest

    Products Owned:
    0
    Products Wanted:
    0
    Ratings:
    +0
    Doubledoom,

    thanks for the reply - what I had hoped to use the machine for in an ideal world would be:-

    Home Cinema use - i.e. DVD playback to projector
    CD Jukebox - load up 200+ CDs onto v. large hard disc
    TV / Video - processing signal and out putting to projector
    Audio Output - Digital output to Yamaha DSP 620 AX amp

    Nothing else, not hard disc video recording or games or more usual computer uses like internet, word processing etc.........

    Is this set up realistic to achieve in a normal day light room, no TV everything going throught comp and projector?

    Thanks in advance and thanks for bearing with my "newbie-ness"

    Lester's Cloud
     
  10. Peter Parker

    Peter Parker
    Distinguished Member

    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2001
    Messages:
    13,264
    Products Owned:
    1
    Products Wanted:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    166
    Location:
    UK.
    Ratings:
    +2,785
    Hi LC,

    Yes, all those things are possible - I use my (spec as above) htpc mostly for DVD viewing on my DLP projector.

    I occasionaly use my Pinnacle PCTV Rave card to watch tv via a video recorder using DScaler (free software) which gives a much better tv image than the inbuilt tv tuner.

    The only bad thing about using your ptrojector for normal tv viewing is the amount of hours it will put on the projectors bulb. That is a very expensive part (usualy), so for normal tv I would watch a tv, but for special programs, resort to the projector.

    I can't see that using something like Winamp for cd playback being a problem either.

    I'm using Windows ME for my computer, and this would cost you around £60 from a computer fair. I'd also reccomend WinDVD as your software player to get you started. I'm using Zoom Player (just a front end) which uses ATI player 5 video combined with WinDVD 2.8 audio. Occasionaly the audio may not work properly, so on those rare occasions, I fall back to WinDVD and use another shareware program: YXY. This will scale the image to fit the screen exactly where you want it.

    Zoom should also be able to handle your CD requirements too, but I've not done that myself.

    It can be very complicated, or very simple, depending on how good you are at messing about with computers in general.

    You could try www.avsforum.com for more info on Zoom player and YXY.

    Oh yes, apart from the case (providing it's ATX) I don't think much of your old computer will be useable, except maybe the floppy drive and the hard drive as a back-up drive for certain files etc. I use a second drive to store a Ghost image of the bare bones setup, so that if anything goes wrong, I can reformat and reload the Ghost image to be up and running again. You'll probably need a new power supply for an AMD or Intel chip, so you may as well buy a case. PSUs start from around £10 I think.

    HTH

    Gary.
     
  11. Bert Coules

    Bert Coules
    Well-known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2002
    Messages:
    3,268
    Products Owned:
    0
    Products Wanted:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    86
    Ratings:
    +158
    I read this thread with interest, as I'm thinking about putting together an entry-level HCPC to feed my newly-acquired Panasonic AE-100 projector.

    One question (well, two, actually) which I haven't seen covered anywhere:

    With the HCPC approach, is it absolutely necessary to use a PC-based DVD drive, or can an external DVD player be used?

    Similarly, is it essential to route sound through the PC (from an external DVD player, digibox, or whatever) or could I continue to use my existing AV amp?

    Many thanks in advance.

    Bert
    http://www.bertcoules.co.uk
     
  12. buns

    buns
    Banned

    Joined:
    Apr 29, 2001
    Messages:
    6,100
    Products Owned:
    0
    Products Wanted:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    58
    Location:
    Belfast
    Ratings:
    +1
    You can use an external dvd player and use a capture card, or there are higher end solutions like sdi, but i dont know anything about that as yet!

    You do not need to route sound through the PC, in fact i would say its normally a pointless exercise since external sound will not be processed.

    ad
     
  13. Bert Coules

    Bert Coules
    Well-known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2002
    Messages:
    3,268
    Products Owned:
    0
    Products Wanted:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    86
    Ratings:
    +158
  14. Peter Parker

    Peter Parker
    Distinguished Member

    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2001
    Messages:
    13,264
    Products Owned:
    1
    Products Wanted:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    166
    Location:
    UK.
    Ratings:
    +2,785
    Hi Bert,

    As buns said, using a capture card such as the Pinnacle PCTV Rave combined with DScaler software (free), you can play your stand alone DVD player through the capture card (using s-video or composite) to get a much better picture than if you ran it directly into the projector.

    The quality of this image will depend on the quality of the card, and some people have claimed images that were 95% as good as a PC DVD derived image. There are other capture cards that you could use such as WinTV, but whichever one you go for, make sure it has the Connextant chipset otherwise DScaler won't work with it.

    This way gives you a more user friendly method of playing back your DVDs using the players remote. There's a lot to be said for that I have to say. :)

    HTH

    Gary.
     
  15. buns

    buns
    Banned

    Joined:
    Apr 29, 2001
    Messages:
    6,100
    Products Owned:
    0
    Products Wanted:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    58
    Location:
    Belfast
    Ratings:
    +1
    I never managed to do a duplicate post before! Does that count as 2 to my tally!? :D

    Using the external dvd player is great for remote as gary says gives the ease of use......but you can do the same thing with a pc dvd if you sit down and learn girder to remote control everything. Besides that point, you will have o play with the pc anyways to sort out the video going through it!

    the falcon capture card seem to be about the best on offer for reasonable money these days.

    ad
     
  16. Peter Parker

    Peter Parker
    Distinguished Member

    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2001
    Messages:
    13,264
    Products Owned:
    1
    Products Wanted:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    166
    Location:
    UK.
    Ratings:
    +2,785
    Hi Buns,

    funny you should mention girder - a mate has just built an infra red reciever for £2.50 (parts from RS and Maplins) for his PC Juke box, so I'm going to do the same thing and see how successful it'll be with my htpc.

    I guess the Pronto is the best remote, but I've an all-for-one 5 that's handy - will that work?

    I've never used Girder so I've lots to learn - any hints or tips? :)

    Gary.
     
  17. Pootle

    Pootle
    Standard Member

    Joined:
    Apr 14, 2002
    Messages:
    149
    Products Owned:
    0
    Products Wanted:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    18
    Location:
    Staffordshire
    Ratings:
    +2
    If you haven't built a PC before, I would not recommend it unless you have a friend who is experienced; but you can have PC's built to order by some companies like scan, this way the system comes prebuilt, and with windoze installed, so while you will have some software messing about to do, you won't have to contend with the deep joy of a totally dead PC with no clue as to what is wrong.

    To answers bert's question, you are better off with an internal DVD drive, as with an external player you are going to analogue, back to digital, and back to analogue again; you will loose defintion, and probably get more noise in the picture, especially in dark areas. You are asking the PC to-recreate a good progressive scan image from an analogue interlaced picture, at relatively low resolution, and there's only so much it can do...
     
  18. Bert Coules

    Bert Coules
    Well-known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2002
    Messages:
    3,268
    Products Owned:
    0
    Products Wanted:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    86
    Ratings:
    +158
    Gary, Buns and Pootle, thanks for the thoughts.

    The business of remote control and ease of use brings up another question: once the PC is set up, is that it? Can it just be turned on and forgotten about? Or is it necessary to use computer software to switch between inputs, for example? What about selecting screen aspect? At present, that's a single button-press on my AE100 - with a PC feeding it, would it mean calling up some sort of control screen, making a selection using mouse or keyboard, exiting the screen and so on?

    I'm interested in getting the best possible image quality, of course, but I don't want sitting down to watch the odd TV programme or movie to become any more complicated than it need be.

    Thanks in advance,

    Bert
    http://www.bertcoules.co.uk
     
  19. buns

    buns
    Banned

    Joined:
    Apr 29, 2001
    Messages:
    6,100
    Products Owned:
    0
    Products Wanted:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    58
    Location:
    Belfast
    Ratings:
    +1
    I havent used girder either actually......irman is on its way so as i can start learning!

    I built my first pc last year totally on my own with no support. It just takes a calm logical head with a bit of knowledge, but i would say that pootle is correct if you have any doubts as to your abilities with this kind of thing!

    As far as the switch on and play aspect, as yet I can not answer that. I am intent on having a system which will be entirely pronto controlled (unless for complicated fiddling in which case a keyboard would be as easy!). There is no reason for the mentioned screen aspect that you cant program a girder IR command to select whichever aspect ratio you wish. Having read a little about girder, I get the impression that almost anything you can achieve with keyboard and mouse is able to be programmed to run off IR. But as yet I know very little!

    Any old remote should work with Girder

    ad
     
  20. Bert Coules

    Bert Coules
    Well-known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2002
    Messages:
    3,268
    Products Owned:
    0
    Products Wanted:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    86
    Ratings:
    +158
    Thanks for the reply. This Girder is new to me; I'll have a search around and see if I can't root out some info.

    Bert
    htt://www.bertcoules.co.uk
     
  21. Peter Parker

    Peter Parker
    Distinguished Member

    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2001
    Messages:
    13,264
    Products Owned:
    1
    Products Wanted:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    166
    Location:
    UK.
    Ratings:
    +2,785
    Hi Bert,

    in theory, once the PC is set up and running, it can be just a case of popping in a DVD and it will auto run.

    In practice, you may find yourself constantly tweaking though!

    I'm currently using Zoom Player with ATI video filters and WinDVD audio filters for best picture and DD/DTS pass through.

    Zoom is configured so that when the pc starts, it starts with Zoom maximised ready to go. I put in a DVD and it will load the correct ratio, screen position and start position (using bookmarks) and play from there.

    It's a very configurable program and free (donations are welcome!). Sometimes you may not be able to get sound working with it (rare, but it does happen with some DVDs), and then I use WinDVD and YXY. YXY is cludgy compared to Zoom, but does a good job at screen positioning/tweaking.

    Gary.
     

Share This Page

Loading...
  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.
    Dismiss Notice