Allright, walk me through it like I'm 4 years old: I want an HTPC!

Discussion in 'Computers' started by Rolando, Feb 19, 2005.

  1. Rolando

    Rolando Screenwriter

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    Hi,

    Hope someone out there with experience is feeling paternal and will take me under their wing.

    I have had a PC for a while so I am not completely PC illiterate. I have been thinking of upgrading my PC for a while since I still have a P3 500 with a 40Gb HD and 128Mb of RAM.

    My problem is I like having the good stuff. So I keep waiting to inform myself as I have been out of the PC loop pretty much since 2000 when my PC was top of the line :b

    I also read through the Primer and got a basic idea of what to look for but as I like to say: walk me through it like I'm 4 years old.

    First off let's establish: Do I need an HTPC? Now I know I will be going FP in a year or so but for now I just got a 34" direct view. (Toshiba 34HFX84). Will I be able to use an HTPC? I am interested mostly for the ability to play movies from my Hard Drive and being able to set up trailers before hand. Is it worth it?

    Now the next step might me a 51" CRT RPTV. neither of these has DVI. Will this be an obstacle? I guess I will need a HDMI to DVI cable?

    So now th meat of it. What do I get? I mean really, from scratch. Pentium or AMD? I am really lost right now so basicaly I am looking for a shopping list. I want to take a reply and go to the store and say: give me this!

    Now I know I want to eventually get extensive like dual layar DVD burner, 2 Gigs of RAM etc. but for now I want to get the basics to run a good HTPC. Not top of the line but not econo version.

    What I eventually want is a system where I cam back up my DVDs on it play them from the PC. Also back them up on DVD-R so my 7 year old dauther can watch them on her DVD player without me worrying about her scratching them.

    So what do I get? I want to be able to say, watch the T2 HD that came on T2 extreme on my TV or watch a quicktime trailer from Apple.com on my set etc.

    can anyone help? Which processor? which video card?

    oh yeah and do you guys used the HTPC as the sound processor too? like audio out to amp?
     
  2. SethH

    SethH Cinematographer

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    Ok, I can't answer all your questions, but I'll help to start things off.

    AMD v. Intel: It honestly doesn't matter. Right now they are essentially equal. When all things go 64-bit, you might have an edge if you go with AMD now. I went P4 in my most recent build and it's been wonderful.

    Here's what I'd recommend. Get a P4 running at 3.0-3.8GHz. Get 512MB of DDR2 RAM for it. Get a 40-60GB SATA hard drive for your system files and then a 250GB HD for music/videos. Get a motherboard with PCI-e so you can get a killer video card later, but just get a PCI-e video card with 128MB for now until the prices drop some. Also, for HTPC you want to consider a quiet case. Will you build this PC or buy it? If you're building it, take a look at the Antec Sonata case. It's not silent, but it's very quiet.

    As far as burning copies of your DVD's, you're not going to be able to do it. It just won't work without programs which cannot be discussed on this forum and should not be used anyway(IMO). While backing up is a legitimate need and your situation could certainly benefit, there are obvious reasons that this software does not exist (legally exist, at least).
     
  3. Scott L

    Scott L Producer

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    Solid advice above. For the graphics card the nVidia 6600GT is a popular choice and can accelerate mpeg-2 and WMV-HD decoding.

    I just output the sound via the S/PDIF port to use the DACs in the receiver. A popular budget sound card is the Chaintech AV-710.

    Outputting any type of video to a digital display is a breeze while analog via component is trickier and may involve Powerstrip (a free application) to get 1080i out of your video card. If analog is the case I *think* ATi's cards don't have the same EIDE problem that nVidia's drivers have, meaning an x600 would probably be the better choice.

    As for good brands for HTPC users:

    Motherboard: Asus, ABIT, MSI
    Ram: Crucial, Corsair, Kingston
    Hard drive: Seagate, Samsung
    Disc drive: Lite-On, TDK, Pioneer
    PSU: Fortron, Nexus, Antec (at least 400 watts)
    Case: Ahanix, Kanam/Arsitec, Silverstone
    Quieting: Zalman, Thermaltake, Arctic Cooling
    Vendors: Newegg, Digital Connection
     
  4. Mitch Stevens

    Mitch Stevens Supporting Actor

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    I agree. I made the stupid mistake of bulding my computer with a 2.6ghz Intel processor, believing that it would play HD video (Like T2). WRONG! It stutters like you wouldn't believe! It plays 1 second of video, followed by 5 seconds of "pause" then another 1 second of video and pauses for another 5 seconds. It's horrible! It's way too slow. And it's not lack of RAM either. I have 2GB of DDR RAM on this thing, but it certainly doesn't help play T2.

    Go for 3.8ghz or higher even. It can never be too fast, believe me! HD video requires the faster speed.
     
  5. Steve F M

    Steve F M Screenwriter

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    Anyone have experience with Hi-Def playback and say a AMD 64 3200+ or 3400+ will these chips work for playback of say T2? I always see that 2.6 Ghz is required for 720p playbacks and at least a 3.0 for 1080i or p playback. Was wondering what the minimal is for AMD since 3400+ is considered 3.4Ghz in AMD's eyes but really is only 2.4Ghz.

    Looking to dive in on an AMD chip but want to be covered in the HDTV deopartment!!
     
  6. Scott L

    Scott L Producer

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    AMD is fine for HDTV. Only thing you have to worry about is some of the more exotic hardware out there (ATi HDTV Wonder, Fusion HD cards...) have a tendency to like Intel chipsets better.

    The 3400+ is probably the best buy right now for AMD and many FFDSHOW users on AVS say they have power to spare when post-processing DVDs. [​IMG]
     
  7. Steve F M

    Steve F M Screenwriter

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    I'm going to go with the 64 3200+ since I want to stick with the 939 socket. AMD doesn't seem to make a 3400+ chip that has the 939 socket
     
  8. Sami Kallio

    Sami Kallio Screenwriter

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    Please explain. Making backup copies of DVD's is a very simple procedure. Is it only that we are not supposed to talk about it here?
     
  9. Steve F M

    Steve F M Screenwriter

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    Whats up with Monarchcomputer.com. I go to buy my AMD 64 3200+ Socket 939 chip and the price went from $168 to $194 for the OEM CPU overnight.

    The hunt not continues for this chip. Can't believe I didn't buy that processor yesterday.
     
  10. Chris

    Chris Lead Actor

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    Very long post coming Friday which should go through this [​IMG]
     
  11. Steve F M

    Steve F M Screenwriter

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    Chris, I'm not understanding. Did something happen to cause the AMD price's to go up?
     
  12. Chris

    Chris Lead Actor

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    Price did not go up in true; there are two versions of the same chip; one that is .13 micron which is cheaper, and a new 90nm that is more expensive but runs much, much cooler.
     
  13. Steve F M

    Steve F M Screenwriter

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    No that was one they had for $168(Socket 939 90nm version) and now the price is $194 for the OEM version and $190 for the retail version with heatsink an fan. Makes no sense at all and how is the retail cheaper then the OEM. I called them to see if I could still get the $168 price but they said to bad!

    Newegg has for $180 so I guess that will have to do.
     
  14. Steve F M

    Steve F M Screenwriter

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    Back down to $169 today for the AMD 64 3200+ socket 939 90nm version. Prices change on that website more then the stock market. Oh well I bought before it went back up!!
     
  15. Rolando

    Rolando Screenwriter

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    Thanks for all the info guys.

    asking here and other places I have gotten some great ideas.

    I am almost surely getting a P4 3.0 Ghz and the Radeon 9800 pro video card. it's a start... now I am trying to keep this in a certain budget I guess of about $1000 but with the intention of throwing another $1000 slowly over the next 6 months. SO for example will start by getting one HD then get the second. get maybe just 1Gb of RAM and adding later. Get a DVD burner first than a dedicated DVD player etc.

    what are the AMD and pentium equivalencies? I was also recommended AMD Athlon 64 3200 or something like that. is that the equivalent of a P4 3Ghz? more? less?

    thanks again for your help.
     
  16. Sami Kallio

    Sami Kallio Screenwriter

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    I would go with AMD 64, it offers better performance for your money. I personally do have P4 550 3.4GHz but only because I got it cheap. It is a lot faster than 3400+ AMD 64 but it also costs a lot more. Now, if you play games, you might want to go with the P4 for PCI-e support. Also, the 6600GT is a much faster card than the 9800Pro.

    That $1000 is CAD, right? Going from 1GB to 2GB, you might want to save that for last, depending on how you're going to use the computer.

    Right now I have three computer running at my house, one is going to be sold. In order of performance they go as

    P4 550 3.4GHz, 1GB DDR2 533MHz CL4 Dual Channel, 6600GT PCI-e
    A64 3200+, 1GB DDR 400MHz CL2 Dual Channel, 6600GT AGP
    P4 2.66GHz, 512MB DDR CL2 Single Channel, 9800Pro/XT

    That 2.66GHz is my HTPC. It can still play all the newest games and play DVD's without problems. I don't do HD so I don't know how it could handle that but for everything else it has a lot of overhead, something a lot slower would do as well.
     
  17. Chris

    Chris Lead Actor

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    Also, there are plenty of good AMD64 boards with PCI-E that do it better then their intel counterparts, thanks to the Nvidia use of HyperTransport combined with Nvidia cards [​IMG] Including support for things like SLI..
     
  18. Shane Martin

    Shane Martin Producer

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    AMDs will also run alot cooler than the intels. Intels run very hot. My friends p4 3.0 system runs at 140F while mine runs 100. The majority of this is due to the processor. Tom's hardware has plenty of reports detailing this.

    Don't also assume buying online is cheaper. I bought my 3500+ for $75 cheaper than Newegg and Monarch and the others. PCClub which is a national chain is awesome!

    If you plan to go with Nvidia which I'd also recommend(the 6600 or the 6800), then I'd consider a killer power supply. I went with the BFG 6800GTOC and the lifetime warranty is well worth the extra money. Combine that with a 10% Best Buy coupon and I got one for ~$350. Hard to beat that card for that price.

    Scott's list of manufacturers are good.
    The newest Sony 51's should have an HDMI/DVI input on them. IF they do not, avoid them otherwise you will be mighty pissed when HD DVD hits and you can't connect your new player to your TV. All reports are that it will require that to see the Hi Def signal.

    Audio wise, I went with a Creative Audigy 2zs. I'm not sure how that stacks up as a HTPC card but it blows the doors off my existing on board sound on my Asus board.
     
  19. Rolando

    Rolando Screenwriter

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    Thanks again guys.

    I was leaning towards ATI because a few posts here and at AVS mentiong it having trouble with some HD stuff. something about pausing and stuttering etc. Something apparently NOT happening with the ATI cards. any confirmations? I will NOT be gaming. I have not played any PC games since Unreal tournament. granted I might a bit tempted once I get a new PC but that is not my priority.

    I want to get great PQ and be able to watch DVDs, HD samples from the net and some trailers av,mpeg and quicktime.

    I will NOT be grabbing any HD OTA as none is available in Montreal Canada.

    And what do the numbers mean in AMD CPUs? 3200, 3400? is that processing speed in Mhz?
     
  20. Sami Kallio

    Sami Kallio Screenwriter

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    No gaming and little to no HD. I would recommend a lower end PC in that case. Something like the AMD 2600+ with 9600Pro or even SE. 512MB of memory would be fine. No need to waste money on a computer you're not using to its capabilities.

    If you are doing a lot of video editing then a 3GHz and over P4 would help. If you're worrying about doing HD in the future, don't. By the time you're going for that you can build another computer that can handle it and still be under your original budget for high end PC.

    3200+ f.e. means it is supposed to run as fast as P4 3.2GHz. Athlon 64 3200+ is a 2GHz processor.
     

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