A couple HTPC questions

Discussion in 'Computers' started by DaveD', Feb 5, 2006.

  1. DaveD'

    DaveD' Stunt Coordinator

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    My goals are to watch tv and dvds on my FP through the htpc.

    So my current pc setup is this:
    Athlon 64 3000+
    Abit KV8 Pro
    eVGA Geforce 6800GT
    Corsair XMS pc3200 1GB(512mbx2)
    Soundblaster Audigy 2
    WD Raptor SATA 36gig
    Seagate SATA 120gig
    NEC 8x dual layer dvd-rw

    I've been thinking of different ways I could go at making a htpc, and what seems the cheapest/easiest way is to just add water cooling(cpu, gpu) to my current setup to quiet it down. This way I still have the power for gaming in one package.

    Questions...
    1. Now what, if any, are the advantages of having a dedicated htpc vs one also used for pc games, surfing the net, etc.?

    2. I'm looking for a new soundcard. I think optical out is a must and for future proofing I'll say it needs to have 7.1. Keep in mind this will be used for pc gaming too, probably both with my HD 580 headphones and my home theater. Would the Chaintech AV-710 be perfect for this or would I be better off with the HDA Digital X-Mystique 7.1 Gold(price not being a factor)? These two I've seemed to run into the most in my search.

    3. I want to beable to watch tv through it also. This is where I'm most clueless. There's a ton of different tv tuners out there. Recording shows isn't really a deal with me but once again for the sake of future proofing let's say it'll need to have that as a feature. Which should I look at?

    4. One more thing. I'm currently using WinXp, would a change over to Win MCE be a good move? Or can I basically do the same things it can by adding software to XP?

    Thanks!
     
  2. Vivek_IVB

    Vivek_IVB Stunt Coordinator

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    0) (your heating question). Take it from me - don't try and put an HTPC in the same room as your A/V equipment - you'll go nuts trying to keep it quiet. Instead, spend your $$ putting into another room, and run wires to your A/V equipment. That's what I did, and I've never been happier.
    2) There's no difference really - just that an HTPC is typically affiliated with a display device like a TV, where you put software on meant to clean up the picture quality. Those display devices are typically farther away, so you'd want to use either a remote or a bluetooth mouse to control. Hence, web surfing at 10' would be tough. Plus, they typically have front-ends [like my pic below], so you can use pretty menu's to control what you want.
    3) Hauppauge is considered one of the best, and the SageTV app is also considered the best.
    4) Stay away from MCE. There's infinitely better solutions that will fit on top of your winXP.

    In the end, the biggest decision you need to make is who will use it, and how much of a tolerance to instability/reliability/usability do they have. For me, I had to have something rock-solid and intuitive. I spent my $$ accordingly. I now have a setup where the HTPC is the only "sure" way to get XM to play in our Zone2. The Denon remote is just too flaky and hard to use.

    See my website for examples of what I set out to do, my technical path, my screenshots, my h/w & s/w config, and how you can do it too. Here's my primary UI, which I auto-load in fullscreen mode so it's "kiosk" like.

    [​IMG]
     
  3. Kimmo Jaskari

    Kimmo Jaskari Screenwriter

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    Actually, it's not that hard to build a quiet-ish computer these days, but that Raptor for instance has got to go.

    Ideally, what you want in a HTPC is the bare minimum of hard drive space. Put the hard drives in a server somewhere and store your data there instead and access it over a network share. Have one and only one harddrive in the HTPC and make sure it's a really silent model with fluid bearings (FDB).

    Cool the case using 12cm silent fans and make sure the CPU has a silent or near-silent cooler, something like a Scythe Ninja with a 12cm slow silent fan on it. Water cooling is an enthusiast option; air is much easier and can be made very quiet with a little work (big slow fans.)

    Windows MCE is an option, but I'd go with Mediaportal on top of plain XP instead. Buy a MCE remote and combine those two, then add a tuner card or two (can't help with make/model as I'm half a world away from where you are) and you're good to go.
     
  4. Vivek_IVB

    Vivek_IVB Stunt Coordinator

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    My issue with MediaPortal (or xLobby or Meedio) is the instability questions I keep seeing popping up on the other a/v forums.

    I needed something that "just worked" as my wife/in-laws are non-techies. I opted for CQC [www.charmedquark.com - and check out the forums too cuz they obviously aren't interested in putting much $$ into designing a flashy website]
     
  5. Kimmo Jaskari

    Kimmo Jaskari Screenwriter

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    Mediaportal is just a program running on top of plain XP, so it probably hinges a lot on how well the computer is set up and how much extra stuff one does with it. It's very easy to set up, though, and definitely worth a spin.
     
  6. Sami Kallio

    Sami Kallio Screenwriter

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    Well, considering how loud a movie can be, I don't see the benefit in this versus the inconvinience of going to another room to put in the DVD you're going to watch.
     
  7. Kimmo Jaskari

    Kimmo Jaskari Screenwriter

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    Not an issue if you take your DVD's, rip them to a harddrive and watch them from there.

    Of course I agree, though; having the HTPC in the AV rack is easier. A nicely built HTPC is no louder than any other hifi component and can look great, too, like this or even like this.
     
  8. DaveD'

    DaveD' Stunt Coordinator

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    I ended up getting the pvr-150 tv tuner, Beyondtv 4, and the HDA Digital X-Mystique 7.1 Gold. I'm not too concerned about my pc noise level at the moment as my projector(4805) is just as loud in it's temporary location.
     
  9. Vivek_IVB

    Vivek_IVB Stunt Coordinator

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    True, and those are certainly nice looking cases.
    However, the other benefit of putting the HTPC in another room is that you can get a cheap but great case [i.e., an Antec Sonata for $95 shipped from amazon], and not care about the looks as no one will ever see it anyway.

    In my entirely personal and may not be anybody else's opinion: I consider the HTPC to be akin to my furnace. I personally don't ever want to see that either, and I'd rather not spend $$ making it look good. It's just a device to do that which I need. If I never had to see it again, I'd be ok.
     
  10. Mike_J_Potter

    Mike_J_Potter Second Unit

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    You can easily make a air cooled system that is silent and still have it run fast. A good water cooling system will run you 200 or more, where as you can spend under 100.00 for a good quiet cpu and gpu cooler. I would look at Zalman, or several other brands of heatsink/fans, providing they will fit your case. Also get a few large slow turning fans for some airflow through the case.
     
  11. Sami Kallio

    Sami Kallio Screenwriter

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    Awfully lot of HD space needed for a big DVD collection, and then there is the occasional rented movie that you want to watch... [​IMG]

    Nah, even though I rip some of the movies to HD I still take the very little noise produced by a PC over the inconvinience. Never noticed it, even when I didn't have low noise components on mine.
     
  12. Vivek_IVB

    Vivek_IVB Stunt Coordinator

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    i have to admit - given the evolution of the space, i wouldn't recreate a mega-file server, but rather go with one of the new Sony 777 DVD megachangers that have serial control and can hence be managed via your HTPC. You can still have a pretty little menu with cover art to select which DVD you want to watch.

    But, that would absolutely have to go in another room - no way I want one of those boxes messing up the clean look of my wallmounted plasma&speakers.
     
  13. Kimmo Jaskari

    Kimmo Jaskari Screenwriter

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    What solution one picks is a personal choice, of course, but storage is definitely easier to manage if one separates it from the actual HTPC into a dedicated fileserver that is stashed away somewhere.

    If you keep the storage elsewhere then having the actual HTPC in the room can be done without a lot of noise and you retain the ease of inserting memory cards, DVD's, usb devices etc into the HTPC as it is in the same room. You can also use IR remotes with no further problems.
     
  14. Diallo B

    Diallo B Screenwriter

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    i'm in the server camp.

    i have a portable htpc. a 15" toshiba laptop that outputs vga and s-video, as well as 5.1. it also has an OEM IR remote and harmon kardon speakers with a 1" subwoofer. (big bass [​IMG] )

    utilizing my wireless 'g' network i can watch dvd's on any monitor/t.v. in the house simply by hooking up my laptop. this has eliminated me having to puchase multiple dvd players. it is also extremely quiet.

    so i can basically take my music and movies anywhere in the house (via the laptop) and hook it up to a receiver in the room. or I can simply watch and/or listen from the laptop direct which i sometimes do in the backyard/garage.
     
  15. Sami Kallio

    Sami Kallio Screenwriter

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    Although DVD max bitrate is ~10Mb/s and wireless G is 55Mb/s in theory, in practice that connection is a bit too unreliable/slow to watch DVD's in my experience. Of course wireless networks vary a lot in actual speed so YMMV.
     
  16. Diallo B

    Diallo B Screenwriter

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    sami,

    i used to get alot of issues when i was trying to watch dvd's over my wireless b networks. even then i would get lucky every now and then but my main thing then was music.


    but when i upgraded to g i have not had any issues with video since the change over. even up to more than 100 ft away in my back yard.
     
  17. Joe D

    Joe D Supporting Actor

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    The Antec Sonata case is a good case, but the components that you put into it will certainly affect the noise level.

    Stock AMD CPU fan is loud.

    Most motherboard fans are loud.

    GeForece 6800 will be loud.

    (Notice the trend).
     
  18. Kimmo Jaskari

    Kimmo Jaskari Screenwriter

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    Most stock parts are overly loud. Replace the CPU fan with a Scythe Ninja or equivalent, the Geforce fan with an Arctic Cooling NV Silencer 5 and you have pretty much silenced those two parts (and the AC NV 5 will blow all the hot air from the GPU straight out of the case.) Whether or not those parts fit in the case one chooses is of course important.

    Most people want their HTPC to look like a hifi component rather than a computer tower, and there are some excellent choices like that to be had these days if you look.

    http://www.silentpcreview.com/ is a great site for figuring out what parts one should get to keep noise at a minimum.
     
  19. Jamie.G

    Jamie.G Auditioning

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    Those Apex kits are meant to be good. My system is getting to hot for comfort with an XP-90c so I'm thinking of getting an apex. THey only problem is I would need to buy a new case since my Praetorian isn't big enough for watercooling (I can't reall justify spending $100-$300 on a case when I just bought this praetorian not long ago)
     

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