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Looking for advice on a HTPC system in progress (1 Viewer)


Oct 31, 2000
Currently, here are the specs (nothing fancy, since all I want to use it for is taping/capture/encoding, no gaming, that's what the other 7 systems in the house are for ;-):
Celeron 550
128 PC133 RAM
ABIT BE6 (the one with 4 IDE channels rather than 2, which means up to 8 devices if you have the power supply that can handle it)
Vortex 2 sound card (old MX300)
Netgear 312TX (for moving of files to and from other systems)
60GB Maxtor 7200rpm HD
Afreey 8x DVD player
Plextor 8x4x32 CDRW
And now here's where I need assistance. I need to get a video card for it. I want to use it for recording, preferably at a quality that is at LEAST as good as VHS in SP mode (2 hours per tape), playing DVD's (rarely, since I've got a Sony 200x changer), playing movie files (i.e. AVI's, MPG's, MOV's, etc.), and definitely playing VCD's. I would like to keep it under $150 if possible. I can either go with an all-in-one solution like the Radeon all-in-wonder (though I have no idea if that's a good one or not for what I want to do), or I can get a separate in/out daughter card, and plug in an old S3 virge and spend all the money on the daughter card if it will offer better quality on both recording, capturing, and output to the TV. If possible, I'd like to get rid of the VCR entirely and use this for all my recording needs, as well as VCD and media viewing.
Also, I know a cpu/mainboard upgrade would make avi->mpg encoding faster (any idea how much faster, if I was to go to, let's say, a P3 700, or P3 933?), but does this system need more RAM? Again, its not being used for anything else like gaming or anything. Also, will more ram/cpu upgrade help with anything other than encoding? Or will basic recording, capture and playback all be fine on the system as it is, once I get a video card into it? It will be outputting to a Sony STR-DB940 for the sound and a JVC D-series 32" TV (don't remember the model number off the top o' my noggin).
Finally, any suggestions on a keyboard/mouse for this? I remember about a year ago people were really keen on, if I remember it correctly, an "Airtouch" keyboard, which I believe was selling for about $99. Has there been any improvements over that model, or ones that offer the same functionality for less money? I believe what everyone liked about that one was the fact it could learn all the commands from all the remotes, and you could control all your devices with it that were based on infra-red.
Thanks a bundle! I tried a few searches, and couldn't seem to find any definite advice on the video stuff within my pricerange on the forums, other than that the Radeon was better than the GF3's available. Hopefully I'm not repeating a question that is asked (and answered already) often.

Steve Kramzer

Stunt Coordinator
Sep 2, 2001
In regards to a video card, the ATI all in wonder radeon is a good choice. It can easily handle all the tasks that you listed. I got mine online for $180 a few months ago, so it may be cheaper now. And your right, you probably could use more memory, win2k uses alot of memory, plus with ram so cheap right now, why not put more in. In terms of encoding, I went from a celeron 500, 128megs ram, voodoo 3 card to a 1.2 ghz Athlon, 512 megs DDR ram, and ATI AIW radeon and the encoding time is vastly improved. It used to take me 2+ hours to encode a 50meg avi file to mpeg, now it takes about half hour.

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