HTPC for awesome PQ - help me out

Discussion in 'Computers' started by Shane Morales, Jun 7, 2004.

  1. Shane Morales

    Shane Morales Second Unit

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    I've been debating buying an uppity expensive DVD player to get really good PQ, but then realized I could build an HTPC for much less, especially considering I already have most of the parts needed.

    Here's what I have:

    AMD 1700+ & Motherboard
    512 MB RAM
    250 GB HD
    Audigy2 sound card
    Sony DVD drive
    A case & KB/Mouse

    I guess all I really need is an appropriate video card, some software, and maybe some other hardware I don't know about.

    So what else do I need to get a kick ass HTPC DVD player?

    My TV, BTW, is a Samsung 56" DLP (2003 model).

    Thanks.
     
  2. Rob Gardiner

    Rob Gardiner Cinematographer

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    Key points: stability and silence.

    Most important for stability:

    1. Chipset on your motherboard. Intel = best. Nvidia = very good. VIA = you're taking your chances.

    2. High quality, name brand RAM. Not the cheapest, generic RAM you can buy. Doesn't have to be expensive. KINGSTON ValueRAM is a good, inexpensive choice.

    3. Good power supply. Most power supplies don't output their rated power, or provide inconsistent power that causes crashes or freezes on your computer. I got a Fortron and have been very happy with it.

    On the issue of silence (or near-silence)

    1. CPU heatsink & fan. Cooler Master models are very quiet.

    2. VGA card heatsink & fan. Get a Radeon 9500 (+/-) and replace the heatsink & fan with a Zalman Heatpipe Cooler. No moving parts, absolutely silent. I had my dealer install it for $20 because I didn't trust myself to do it properly and I didn't want to toast my card.

    3. Quiet DVD drive. I forget the model number of the one I have at home. Toshiba S-1006 perhaps? In any case, when playing a DVD-Video, it automatically slows down to 2x and is nearly inaudible.

    4. Quiet hard drive. Seagate Barracudas are the best in this regard. The old 5400 rpm models are quieter, but even the new 7200 rpm ones are pretty good. You can get rubber grommets to mount your drive with that will further reduce sound.

    5. Again, power supply. My Fortron has a feature called "noise killer" but it works only intermittently. [​IMG] This is currently the only major source of noise in my machine.

    SOFTWARE

    Your DVD drive should come with either Power DVD or Win DVD. I can vouch for Power DVD.

    Region-free

    Go to www.dvd-idle.com and invest $40 in "DVD Region Free". This marvelous little program not only makes your system region free without requiring you to flash your DVD-ROM's firmware (only region free software with this capability that I know of), but it also removes USER PROHIBITION. i.e. you can change soundtracks on the fly, even if this feature is locked out. You can SKIP FORCED TRAILERS.

    Best of luck to you!!! [​IMG]

    EDIT: I also recommend all BLACK components. (Case, monitor, keyboard & mouse, etc.) When you dim the lights, you don't want to see that ugly beige equipment.
     
  3. Jesse Blacklow

    Jesse Blacklow Cinematographer

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    Time and a willingness to muck about with the hardware and software is also a big consideration. HTPCs aren't just set-and-forget machines, even with the uber-expensive Windows Media Center Edition.
     
  4. Rob Gardiner

    Rob Gardiner Cinematographer

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    I've been happy with Windows 2000. Does the Media Center Edition have any features that I should know about?
     
  5. Shane Morales

    Shane Morales Second Unit

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    Probably not since you can only get it preinstalled on an HTPC from big boys like Gateway, etc. Not available to the unwashed masses.
     
  6. Rob Gardiner

    Rob Gardiner Cinematographer

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    Again, Microsoft demonstrates it's vision and foresight. Considering the HTPC's history as a DIY affair, that decision stinks.

    Assuming I take a shower (so I'm no longer unwashed) and buy an HTPC from Gateway, what will Windows MCE do for me that 2000 doesn't?
     
  7. Garrett Lundy

    Garrett Lundy Producer

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    52% more efficient system crashes! [​IMG]


    Edit: I just remembered that a few months ago PC magazine had a coverstory and several pages of articles on silencing your PC. I believe the consensus was to get a quiet PC you needed quiet parts. Such as a Sonata case, special harddrive buffers, liquid cooling (instead of fans), and apply a resonant-dampening material such as automotive Dynamat to the inside of the case for extra quiet.
     
  8. SethH

    SethH Cinematographer

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    I second the mention above of liquid cooling. That and a quiet HD will take out the majority of the noise . . . plus it's pretty cool to have a liquid-cooled PC. Look into a Koolance case (because most people don't have the gonads to DIY a liquid-cooled PC).
     

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