Help me build a HTPC

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  1. #1

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    Help me build a HTPC

    I want to build a home theater PC and while I am quite able to assemble it, install the OS and applications etc I am not up-to-date when it comes to the components. I have been looking around Sham Shui Po but the choice of motherboards (and their different chipsets), processors, graphic adapters etc. is just so confusing.
    Will mainly use it for watching DVDs and HD content (Blu-Ray), internet surfing, office applications but also some graphic intensive stuff like GIS and CAD, nothing pro though. Not into gaming either. Monitor is my 42" LCD TV with a native resolution of 1366x768 but may upgrade one day to Full-HD.

    Thus I was wondering if some of you could give some specific advise on the components that are suitable/recommended, or where possibly even name the make and model; price is not much of an issue but while the system should be pretty up-to-date and have a decent performance (like playing a HD movie and running some other aps at the same time without stuttering) it doesn't need to have all the latest and most expensive parts:

    1. Case - settled on a HTPC case like Silverstone GD-01 or the 3R System HT-5000 even. Still considering if the premium for the 7" touchscreen is worth it.
    (Anyone know a shop that sells Zalman cases?)

    2. Power Supply - any specifc type? How many Watt does a PC require nowadays?

    3. Motherboard - can't make any sense of the different chipsets, FSB speeds etc., so I have no clue except that it needs to have an optical audio output, Gigabit Ethernet and at least 4 external USB connectors and a few SATA interfaces (how many are standard or recommended?). On-boards graphics not required I think, see 6.

    4. Processor - want Intel, but dual core or quad core, and what speed? The more expensive the faster I guess, but at some point the gain in performance might be less than the difference in price. So what's processors strikes a good balance between cost and performance?

    5. Memory - 4G. What type is standard nowadays, SO- or FD-DIMM, DDR2? What speed (MHz) and what voltage (I noticed some differences in the specs between different RAM modules)?

    6. Harddisc - 1 for OS & applications 250GB and 1x 320G for media files (music, videos, pictures). Maybe bigger 2nd disc if the price is not much higher. Any particular brands and/or models that are recommended, or should be avoided? What technical specs to look out for? - RPM?

    7. Video card - must have one VGA (or DVI-I) and one DVI (D or I) output, being able to drive two monitors independently with a resolution of up to Full-HD (1920x1080p @ 60Hz).

    8. Operating System - Windows Vista, what edition and 32- or 64-bit? (if the latter is suitable for a PC and backwards compatible)

    9. DVD does-it-all drive with Blu-Ray (not necessarily for writing BR discs though). I saw mentioned that some models have a SATA connection, so what do others use and can they connect to the current motherboards?

    10. Anything missing, perhaps accessories like CPU cooler etc?
    Keyboard and mouse I can handle though.

    Thanks for any suggestion or advise.


  2. #2

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    Try http://www.overclockers.co.uk/showpr...odid=FS-007-OE

    You my not wish to buy this setup but this is a fairly good spec set especially the processor which is a low level quad core but very overclockable and one of the best Intel CORE Cpus for the money.

    Everything in the list can be upped e.g. seasonic/zalman 600w psu or a 4870 radeon but for a htpc that is likely overkill - especially a new shiny core i7 nahalem (drools). Feel free to pm me if you want to go into tech specifics but one recommendation Avoid 64 bit vista - I like it but you lose a lot of software compatibility and you should probably dual boot to linux/ubuntu

    - Intel Core 2 Quad Pro Q6600 "Energy Efficient SLACR 95W Edition" 2.40GHz (1066FSB) Overclocked to 3.00GHz!
    - Asus P5Q Intel P45 (Socket 775) PCI-Express DDR2 Motherboard
    - ATI Radeon HD 4850 512MB GDDR3 TV-Out/Dual DVI/HDMI PCI-Express
    - OCZ 4GB (2x2GB) PC2-6400C5 Dual Channel Vista Gold Series DDR2
    - Seagate Barracuda 7200.11 500GB SATA-II 32MB Cache
    - LG GGC-H20L Blu-Ray Reader & HD-DVD ROM Serial ATA Drive
    - Corsair VX 450W Silent ATX2 Power Supply


  3. #3

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    Raccon:
    Honestly i think you would be better off buying two separate systems, there are many advantages to this, and you would be able to eliminate a few potential hazards that way.
    Cost would not be too much since you could balance it out to what you really need for each system.


    Squid:
    I don't agree at all.
    I think Vista 64 has quiet a solid support for 32bit applications.
    Plus it gives you the added bonus of being "secured" against most of the common Win viruses/trojans/worms etc since they wont be able to execute in a 64bit environment.
    And why even suggest a dual boot to linux?, he might not even know linux.


  4. #4

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    Hi Johan, you're probably right malicious code compiled to run exclusively in a 32 bit environment is likely to have trouble in a 64 bit os - however Windows should always be secured anyway and the number of apps which have trouble with vista 64 bit are quite high (games especially some drivers are v flaky). You'r roght also it was an assumption about linux - my bad

    I did end up buying my own pc from the shelf in HK despite having built myself before, the price premium is very slight in HK but you do iss out on higher end components and the fun of an own build, still the specs given seem about right for a hefty htpc...


  5. #5

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    - You don't need to know linux like the old days to setup an HTPC. Out of the box distros based on MythTv (Mythbuntu) are a breeze to setup. Having said that, if Blueray playback (and HDCP output) are on the charts Linux is out.

    - Requirements for HTPC are unique to each individual. I would likely add HDMI output if the OP has one of the newer displays (or intends to get one)

    - I would highly recommend adding a universal remote. Makes the experience so much better

    - If you have other equipment in your AV setup then it makes sense to have optical out going to a audio processor. If your PC is the only playback device and you dont already have your sound system setup, just decode the audio on the PC and output directly to the speakers/amps. This results in huge savings on a Sony/Onkyo type of home cinema device.

    I think the choice of components depends very much on how the rest of the system is setup. We need more information about that.


  6. #6

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    Ok im going to sound negative again..sorry about that.
    But i think MythTV is a a compiled piece of crap.
    And its so far away from a breeze it can get, maybe it will install fast (if your lucky), but your definitely looking at weeks ahead of tweaking etc. to get everything working ok, but not even close as smooth and solid as MS MCE software sorry to say it but its true.

    All i can say about MythTV is apt-get lost :P
    ha ha ha apt-get it?

    ok that's enough fun for today
    /J


  7. #7

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    Cant argue with opinions
    And its true that your mileage will vary depending on how powerful a user you are.

    But would like to know why you say its crap.. have you tried it? Also, are you factoring in the cost of software?

    PS: The worst kind of joke (or audience ) is one where explanation is needed.

    Last edited by krypton; 10-01-2009 at 03:22 PM.

  8. #8

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    Thanks for the replies and suggestions so far.

    To address some of the comments/questions: my TV has a HDMI/DVI input with HDCP and a VGA input (D-Sub). The mentioned cases come with iMON software and remote (optional in case of the Silverstone case, called GD-01MX then). Optical output is required since I want to connect to my AV pre-amp this way.

    Squid1: Not sure though about overclocking, doesn't this increase the heat dissipation and thus may cause instability and possibly shorten the life time of the CPU?

    JohanSWE, why are you suggesting two systems and what hazzards do you see? Or was this related to installing Linux?


    I do know Linux and I am contemplating if I should install it on a 2nd partition, but then again it might not be that useful to me. Since WindowsXP things are much better IMO and I have some software that works under Windows only, so this will be required in any case and used as the primary OS.

    Last edited by Raccon; 10-01-2009 at 09:58 PM.

  9. #9

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    Raccon:
    Well, for example, if your systems gets bloated, or infected or just for another reason breaks down, it will only affect one of them.
    So lets say your media center PC breaks down, you can still meet potential deadlines, while doing a reset on your media center pc.
    installation would also be faster as you wont be needing to install ALL software again onto one machine etc.
    I can go on, but i think you get the idea.

    Krypton:
    Yes sure have, and i rather fork out for a vista lic than spend 2weeks tweaking mythtv to work so so.
    Granted im not a linux guru, but good enough to handle most issues, but Mythtv was just too much of fixing rather than enjoying.
    just looking through the support forum speaks for itself.

    But if you can get Mythtv to work "out of the box" then great.


  10. #10

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    I would recommend Intel DG45ID. This is a small form factor motheroard with everything on-board. You will not need any slot in cards besides a tv tuner (if you choose to include it).

    The only downside may be that if you intend to play games the Intel video card will not perform as good as your regular NVIDIA or ATI.


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