Up and coming htpc, few Q's

Discussion in 'PC Gaming & Rigs' started by sykotik, Jun 24, 2015.

  1. sykotik

    sykotik
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    I know this isn't the right place to ask , but seen as there's not much happening in the htpc section on AVF , i thought i'd ask here , as i know you lot have your eye's and ears on everything these days.

    anyways , im thinking about building a htpc , and with the new line of CPU's coming soon , i thought i would start looking and shopping around a little bit ,
    so where to start , would an I3 be enough or should i go for a I5 ( should i be looking at AMD's ) ?

    ( all tho at the moment i don't have anything 4K but the way i go through TV's i'll have one soon enough and poss a 4k PJ < as my current one is starting to get old )
    so i gather i'm going to need something to power the signal 4k, will i need a GPU or is motherboard that has hdmi 2.0 enough ? what boards should i be looking at ?
    if a gpu is needed , will it have to be an expensive one eg: 970/ 980
    im asking about 4k now as i want something that is going to be able to deliver a 4k picture and not have to upgrade sooner then later .

    at the moment there's is no budget , as im just starting to look at things , but any ideas that you may come up with , will then give me an idea on what to spend .

    if there's anything else i should be looking for please say ,
    i have a copy of W7 and also have an spare ssd , and a NAS drive
    i'll look at PSU's later as what mobo and gpu i will need will tell me what psu i will need .
     
    Last edited: Jun 24, 2015
  2. Grangey.

    Grangey.
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    Unless youl be gaming theres no need fo an i5, many if not all of the latest motherboards support 4k nativly. Intels still have the edge over AMD aswell as far as I read.

    As for GPU again I dont think you'll need this for simple 4k playback, and you certainly WONT need a gaming card for this. There are loads of non gaming GPUs far cheaper that will do the job for you. I dont know what the current equivalent is but for example back in the day I was first looking at GPUs there was a £40 Ati5450 card which was more than ample for full 1080p with bitstream HD audio playback which was the latest and greatest back then. Do some research here.. that said, if youve got the budget, get a gaming card- you might get the bug ;)

    As a HTPC enthusiast though I will say, if it werent for gaming my whole setup wouldnt be a HTPC. The only reason I have one is to game on my PC in the comfort of my front room and its too much hastle doing this any other way currently (although the Steam Link looks very interesting).

    For just a HTPC I'd be looking at a Microserver or possibly a NAS, then just a simple client front end which could be as small as a Raspberry PI or could something similar. In any case in todays age you really dont need much for media playback, 4k will be your biggest demand and this takes little to power in PC world so keep your options open. ie is Size and issue, location, are you sure it will only be media etc as these are all decisions that will set the stage for everything else.

    Hope this helps
    Grangey
     
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  3. sykotik

    sykotik
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    thanks and yes it's does help ,
    i have a gaming PC already , so the sole purpose of this would be to watch my "blurays or rips" and any 4k content that may come along in the near future "netflix"
    i wasn't sure if just a mobo would be able to handle the 4k streaming , so that is good news to me , as that will save a few quid when i come to build it ,
    size i would like something small to fit into the AV cabinet , but if needs be a have cupboard right behind the TV/ AV center that i could put the pc case in there and run the wire's to the amp
    i was thinking an I3 would do the job , but i just asked just in case it wouldn't be.

    i did try and turn my my little intel nuc n2820 into a htpc the other day by installing W7 onto a ssd , but for what ever reason it struggled to play any of my rips using VLC player from my NAS , after looking at what was happening in the task manager , i noticed that even at idle it was using 100% of the cpu , so i gathered to my self it wasn't up to the job ,, hence the reason of me ask about building a new htpc

    so back to mobo's what would you recommend? to help me get started .
     
  4. Theydon Bois

    Theydon Bois
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    AMD's are very good for HTPC's as well. I only have an i5 CPU in mine (non K) purely because I got it barely used secondhand, otherwise I would have gone the AMD route.

    For HTPCs now, you have so many choices though on setup for distribution. Is it to be the hub, the place where all your bluray rips will be to share around the house? Or is it a Rasperberry Pi, accessing a hidden NAS somewhere.

    I use the former, and have my iPad set up with Air Video to stream any HTPC content while the TV is in use, so its a bigger case with room for plenty of drives.
     
  5. dieeasysteve

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    I built a gaming HTPC a while back but it is sitting gathering dust as it was not the correct tool for the job.

    I'm now running a plex server on a hp microserver with an amazon fire as the front end. If your stuck on the idea of a HTPC i'd look at using an NUC to keep it low power and low noise.
     
  6. richardb70

    richardb70
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    I love my HTPC and wouldn't do without it :). It's a Celeron CPU and a GT440 and that's pretty much all I need in terms of grunt. I run XBMC, TMT5 for optical media playback (Blu-ray and HD DVD), games emulators, light Steam gaming etc etc. The Silverstone case I chose complements my Denon AVR nicely and it's reduced gizmos so the missus is happy. All the media is on an HP microserver (£100 or so after cashback) which was the bargain of the century.

    That said, we're getting a telly for the spare room and I intend to velcro a Pi Model 2 to the back of it. For £30 you can't really go wrong.

    As mentioned above, I'd go with an AMD APU for 4K playback. You don't need a massive GPU if you don't intend any gaming and the outlay will be very affordable.
     
  7. sykotik

    sykotik
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    I have a 2tb NAS , so i have no need for a larger case , holding loads of drives ( well not at the moment as ways )
    i just need something that is able to play the vid files from the nas to the tv or amp > to the PJ
    I would use the nuc but as i said it wasn't running right , at idle it was using 100% of the cpu ,
    now that i come to think about it , will "trim"which is built into w7 have any thing to do with it ,
    i remember seeing or reading on low end cpu's TRIM on or off can't remember was causing the PC/laptop to run slowly .

    I forgot AMD APU's , i will take a look at them as there would keep cost down too .
    just been looking at the amd boards , with fm2+ and hdmi output's and i see a lot of A68's A88 boards
    what is the latest chip set i should be looking for , i gather it is the A88 ?or is there a newer one .
     
  8. GaryBritton

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    I had an i7 4770k and a z87 motherboard not doing anything so I used that for a HTPC, wildly over what is needed for media playback but it has helped introduce my wife into PC gaming on the TV.
     
  9. GaryBritton

    GaryBritton
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    GPU wise, I used a 7970 which came out of the main rig. I don't have any need for 4k so suits me at 1080p.
     
  10. sykotik

    sykotik
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    Any thoughts on this list ?
    i have gone with AMD all tho im not to sure , but i think all parts will work together , and there's room to OC a bit if i want too , all tho the cooler might not be enough ,bearing in mind this is just for a HTPC
    htpc.jpg

    i all ready have a ssd and W7 .
     
    Last edited: Jun 30, 2015
  11. EndlessWaves

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    Sounds like you got one of the early 2820 NUCs before Intel swapped to the N2830. As well as having a USB bug the N2820 lacks Intel's quicksync video decoding hardware that almost all other chips have.

    Right now the video playback situation is split down the middle. With a few exceptions like the N2820 everyone and his phone has hardware video decoding to playback Blu-ray quality FullHD. If you just want that you spend as little as possible.

    Perfect support for higher resolutions and the next generation of video codecs, HEVC and VP9 most significantly, are currently only available on high end stuff. In particular:

    HDMI 2.0 that's required to output a full colour 60hz signal to most TVs is only available on nVidia's second generation Maxwell cards - GTX 960 and upwards. Most things do now support it via DisplayPort and there are talk of converters coming out later in the year but whether they'll materialise and be well priced remains to be seen.

    Full hardware HEVC decoding, which should offer the lowest power use and CPU requirements is available on AMD's Fury X (and presumably Fury and Nano when they launch) as well as nVidia's second generation maxwell. As there are all expensive and power hungry cards the use is debateable.

    Full hardware VP9 decoding isn't yet available.

    A couple of other things worth pointing out:

    AMD's Carrizo chips won't be launching as socketed desktop chips but the mobile versions may appear in Mini PCs and MicroATX/Mini-ITX motherboards. They support hardware HEVC decoding (but not VP9) so should be rather power efficient. I couldn't see any mention of them supporting VP9 hardware decoding.

    Most of Intel's recent chips with Quicksync support hybrid decoding for HEVC and VP9 which uses the bits of the current codec support in quicksync that are still relevant and the CPU for the rest.


    In short, right now you either spend peanuts for blu-ray quality, H.264, FullHD or you spend a lot more money on completely unnecessary power so you can get the hardware with the future proof standards. Now is a good time to try MadVR if you could never justify it before.

    If you want a compromise then I'd suggest an entry level Haswell desktop chip. Celeron G1820, Pentium G3250, maybe an i3 if you want to splurge. That'll give you a decent chance at playing back all the video files you come across and 4K output via displayport. Adding a video card a couple of years down the line with HDMI 2.0 and full hardware HEVC/VP9 decoding will let you output to a TV and will lower the CPU requirements further allowing it to play any files it struggles with.

    It's all a bit confused at the moment. None of the hardware manufacturers are being very clear on support and there are often wrinkles. For example whether a Haswell chip supports [email protected] SST over Displayport varies depending on whether it's a standard power or lower power chip, or a desktop or mobile chip not just with the CPU and GPU names.
     
  12. sykotik

    sykotik
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    thank you for that write up ,
    funny you had mentioned the G3250 as i have been looking a bit more about what to buy and came across the G3250 along side a itx z87/97 which would work well if not overkill for a htpc
    as i can get the G3250 for about £50 which is a lot cheaper than the apu form AMD
    they both work out the same or there abouts in price for the intel or AMD including the mobo's
    i was thinking about the z87/97 as i know i can oc the g3250 if i wanted too .
    but like you say , spending a bit more now could save me some later on
    hence the reason of spending a good few quid now .

    pleased i haven't bought the AMD cpu and board yet , as i kept on thinking to me self i should go for the intel side of things

    adding a card wouldn't be a problem as i have 970 in a PC now , so i can update the gaming PC and use the 970 in the new htpc

    as for the nuc , i had a bit more play with it the other day , and it was just the same , wouldn't play any of the mkv files or even mp4 files ,
    so yea you could be right about the nuc not been upto the job

    cheers fella :smashin:
     
    Last edited: Jul 2, 2015
  13. EndlessWaves

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    As I said I think it's just that specific revision. Virtually all the others got quicksync, including rival's like Gigabyte's Brix with the slower N2807.

    If you've got an Intel Atom Windows tablet then that's the same CPU core but at a slower clockspeed (the branding is different because it doesn't support stuff like SATA) and if you try VLC with the same content on that it should play.

    No, you'll need the G3258 (Pentium Anniversary Edition) if you want to overclock. Everything else in the range is locked (all Intel chips cheaper than a £175 i5-4690K in fact).

    AMD's desktop chips are pretty much on their last legs. Their cheap/low power designs (Kabini/Beema) that are the equivalent of the Silvermont design behind the N2820 are very competitive and as I said their new Carrizo/Excavator mobile chips may be worth looking at but from a video playback perspective I can't think of anything they have to offer. Slow CPUs and poor format support in UVD (AMD's equivalent of quicksync)

    If you're going to have an external card in from the start the the 860k might be worth considering as it's an A10-7850k with the GPU disabled. It's hard to find benchmarks but the G3258 seems to edge it stock and overclocks better but close enough and priced competitively enough that you wouldn't feel a fool for having bought one.

    Intel are due to release Skylake in a few months, potentially as early as mid-august at Intel Developer Forum, and that may come with better video playback support than Haswell.

    In terms of other components. I'm not a great fan of the Huge Mini-ITX cases like the Coolermaster 130. I'd be inclined to go for a small MicroATX case that's the same size. Perhaps Silverstone's Sugo01/02/11/12 if you like that 'cube' shape. Video playback also isn't particularly heavy on the ram so you might not seen much benefit from 8GB.

    It's a rather a waste of £250 but it'd certainly do the job for HEVC stuff to a 4K TV. nVidia might implement a hybrid decode for VP9 if they haven't already
     
  14. sykotik

    sykotik
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    i did try VLC on the nuc , but again that wouldn't play it was very choppy
    and looking at the task manager it was running at 100% all of the time even at idle
    the nuc is been used for kodi through openelec , which surprisingly works really well , haven't had any problems while using kodi ,
    which im going to just leave as is .


    yes your right it was the G3258 i was looking at , sorry my mistake
    http://www.amazon.co.uk/Intel-Penti...?ie=UTF8&qid=1435876081&sr=8-1&keywords=g3258

    seems like a very good cpu , and after watching a few vidz it can hold it's own even at gaming , which is why i have been looking at it , all tho this is only going to be a htpc , at least i know the g3258 if it's good at gaming then i know it's going to hold up with just playing vid files ,

    wasn't going to bother with a card , as i was just going to let the cpu handle things ,
    but if needs be i could use the 970 and upgrade the pc ( which it will come from) as no doubt i will do in a year or so anyways
    so when 4k become the norm the 970 will not go to waste and come in very handy in the future for this htpc

    in fact im in no rush to buy things just yet , im just piecing things together now so when im ready to buy i know what to look for ,
    and a little wait for skylake to come out wont hurt and see what it has to offer ,
    so would you say 4gb of ram be enough ?
    i haven't looked at that case ( silverstone ) , but all options are open as what to put the parts in.

    thanks :smashin:
     
  15. sykotik

    sykotik
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    32 bit or 64 bit W7 ?
    i have gotten most of my parts now to build this htpc , just waiting for mobo to come ,
    i was thinking what would be the best option , 32 or 64 bit , as i have the option to choose from ,
    i thinking 64 bit as then i could use more than 4gb of ram ,
    i have 2x4 = 8gb sat waiting to go in the case
    but do i need more than 4gb of ram?
    while im here , what do others use to watch there vidz
    i was just going to use VLC but i have read that WMP is an other option .
     
    Last edited: Jul 18, 2015
  16. GaryBritton

    GaryBritton
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    I would go for 64bit for any build these days and you have the RAM to exploit. So go for it. :)
     
  17. EndlessWaves

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    Unless you've got old hardware that only has 32-bit drivers or even older (Win95-era) programs that are 16-bit there's no reason to go for a 32-bit OS.
     
  18. sykotik

    sykotik
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    64 bit it is :smashin:
    cheers boys
     
  19. richardb70

    richardb70
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    Reeling from the horrendous grammar :) but:

    a) you probably only need 4Gb RAM for basic HTPC duties. I've never needed more.
    b) XBMC/Kodi all the way.
     
  20. Cha1ky

    Cha1ky
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    +1 or Plex
     
  21. irgsefton

    irgsefton
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    Another for Plex, you couldn't pull it from my cold, dying hands.
     
  22. dieeasysteve

    dieeasysteve
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    Plex has no live TV!
    but i still prefer it to XBMC
     
  23. irgsefton

    irgsefton
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    I uses Plex with Sickrage.
     
  24. richardb70

    richardb70
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    OK, I'll bite! I started off with MediaPortal but found it unsatisfying due to responsiveness and codec support. Moved to XBMC as it was, and it ticks every box for me. I've got Aeon Nox 5 as a skin and it runs just fine on a pretty low-powered system (Windows 8.1). I've got XBMCLauncher as a shell, Advanced Launcher making my emulated and PC games accessible etc etc. All my media is on a microserver, streamed via homeplugs and cables. My aerial isn't hooked up so anyone who wants to watch live TV is catered for via the FTV add-ons.

    What would Plex offer me? As I understand it, you need to run a server component, and it's good if you need transcoding (I don't), but the screenshots look pretty similar to XBMC.
     
  25. irgsefton

    irgsefton
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    To be honest if you've got either set up and running well I wouldn't change.

    The advantage Plex gives me is because of it's server side I can use the media on all my devices and it all synchronises.
     
  26. dieeasysteve

    dieeasysteve
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    Also it has great options to save content to a phone/tablet for offline viewing.

    You just queue it up, plex server than transcodes it a copies it over to your device.
     
  27. richardb70

    richardb70
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    Ah OK, yeah, the transcoding seems to be the big attraction. My microserver doesn't have much grunt (N40L) and we don't watch stuff on devices anyway but good to know anyway.
     
  28. dieeasysteve

    dieeasysteve
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    I'm running plex server on my HP microserver, its ok for SD and TV recording/streaming but it can not handle any HD stuff!

    Just got sky+ and the bedroom that houses my server is about to become my sons bedroom so server will be turned off for a while to I can find it a new home. Attic, Under-stairs or with the gas boiler?
     
  29. irgsefton

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    I've got the server and a client running on a Mac Mini connected to the main TV in the living room and all the media on two NAS boxes up in the attic.
     
  30. sykotik

    sykotik
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    So finally built it, and all is good and stable , and a little oc'ing is stable too ,
    Going to take a look at plex , will it let me play all of my mp4 and mkv files and HD audio ( DTS HD) ?
    i have never really looked at plex , only with using it with the ps4 but had to pay for it , if i remember right so didn't both looking at it to much.
     

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