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Thoughts on proposed HTPC setup?


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6 replies to this topic

#1 of 7 RyanJM

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Posted December 18 2007 - 05:14 PM

I already have a pretty fast computer and would like to utilize it for HD movies on my 42" panasonic plasma.

Computer is:

3ghz core 2 duo
2 gig ram
8800GT 512mb video card
250gb hard drive

I want to put quite a bit of video content on hard disk and am considering ordering 2 500gb hard drives and setting them up as a RAID 1 array (mirroring) so that the files can't be lost if one drive dies. Each 720p movie takes up approximately 4-5gb depending on different variables so it should comfortably hold well over 100 movies. My video card has dual DVI outs, so I plan on using a DVI-to-HDMI connector and a 25ft HDMI cable to connect to the plasma in the other room. My motherboard has optical audio out, so I'd like to run a 25ft optical cable to my receiver for sound. Also my motherboard supports raid 0,1 so I don't need a separate controller for raid hard disks.

I think this should work, but I'd like input from anyone who has done this. Should the HD content run smoothly? I know my laptop can't handle it, but my desktop looks great on my 19" lcd when I run HD apple movie trailers, I'm just hoping that the DVI to HDMI connection will produce good results on a plasma. I almost want to get larger hard drives as well. Anyone running terabyte drives? Thanks.

#2 of 7 SethH

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Posted December 18 2007 - 09:41 PM

Just curious if you have considered a media extender-type device such as D-Link DSM-520 Wireless HD Media Player. This would allow you to just run a 25ft Cat5e cable and then use HDMI.

I think your plan as it is should work, but using a media extender would reduce the cables you need to run and provide you with an interface to control your media.

As an FYI, the RAID support that is built into motherboards is not very efficient. You're going to lose part of your CPU to handle the RAID stuff. However, you've got a beast of a processor -- I assume that's the E6850 -- so I think you'll be in pretty good shape with it. Is RAID 1 really what you want though? That seems like a lot of waste to guard against device failure just for movies. If you're really that concerned, I would be tempted to go RAID-5. You could buy 4x 250GB drives and end up with 750GB of total storage. With a decent RAID card this would give you better read/write performance compared to the RAID-1 and also increased protection from data loss.

#3 of 7 Francois Caron

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Posted December 19 2007 - 02:00 AM

RyanJM, carefully check your plasma TV's manual to find out EXACTLY what kind of HD input signals the thing can handle. It may not be designed to properly handle today's common widescreen computer resolutions, even the ones that match HD signals.

As for the RAID set-up, I really don't see the need for such a set-up on a home computer unless you have your own secure data center or your computer must absolutely be up and running at all times. A RAID won't give you that much extra protection especially against fires, floods and theft. In my case, it's much easier to use a second drive as an external backup device which I keep stored off-site in a safety deposit box at the bank.

This way, it doesn't matter what happens to the computer. The data is always safe... in the safe! Posted Image

#4 of 7 RyanJM

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Posted December 19 2007 - 05:19 AM

Thanks for the input guys.
Seth, I had considered Raid 5 because it would be ideal, as you stated. However I was trying to use my motherboard's raid controller which is only 0 or 1. I'll have to check into raid cards and see how much they run. If they're not too expensive then it would probably be the best option since I could double my storage with 1 extra drive as you said. My processor is just an OC'd e6300. The fan/heatsink is about the size of a grapefruit Posted Image
I looked at that Dlink product. It looks pretty sweet. Only thing is that I can get the cables I need for $60 as opposed to that thing which is quite a bit more. I'll have to remember that for future upgrades.

Francois, I'm not worried about fire or flood, I'm worried about a drive physically failing to work. It is fairly common and if I hang on to these drives for a while it will likely happen eventually (I've had a drive fail before). In that case, I'd rather not lose 500GB worth of movies that will take an extremely long time to replace, if I even can. So in that sense, it's worth the $110 to me to make sure that even if one drive breaks I have a duplicate on standby.
As for what resolutions it can handle, I'm not sure. It's a Panasonic TH-42PX6U that I got last year, so I hope it's able to handle whatever.

#5 of 7 Francois Caron

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Posted December 19 2007 - 06:58 AM

RyanJM, no problem. And do check out the Raid-5! It's always fun scaring people out of their minds when you pull out a drive while the computer is still running! Posted Image

One last thing. You can get DVI/HDMI cables. No need for a converter! I have such a 25 foot cable in my front projection set-up and it works perfectly.

#6 of 7 ChrisLazarko

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Posted December 19 2007 - 10:20 AM

Why bother with RAID? You're not going to see any performance extras from movies. If you're worried about back-up then buy an extra drive and copy over the stuff. It's not that tedious. RAID setups suck also because if you lose one drive, you lose both. Happened to me before a couple times actually. Stick with just using two drive without raid, and if you want a back-up drive then put one in.

#7 of 7 RyanJM

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Posted December 19 2007 - 04:42 PM

Chris, there are several different types of RAID. The type you are referring to is called RAID 0 and you're correct that it increases performance, but the risk is losing one drive makes the other useless without reformatting. Raid 1 is what I want. It's not a performance boost, but instead it's a real-time backup of the other drive. There's a bunch of stuff online if you're interested in learning more about it.