New HTPC - Reality Check

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Peter Jessee, Jun 22, 2002.

  1. Peter Jessee

    Peter Jessee Stunt Coordinator

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    I have to buy the ingredients for my new HTPC this week, and I would appreciate feedback on the quality of my choices.

    Background - This computer will be used for DVD playback, as a music server, and will be connected to a cable modem through a router for casual web browsing and driver updates. The computer will be on the floor beside and behind the TV (a Sony KP53HS10), so appearance isn't that important to me. The rest of my system is a Denon AVR3300, NHT SupeOnes/Adire Rava, a Sony 560D DVD player, and a Panasonic SVHS VCR. I do not play PC games, and am not interested in overclocking, maximum 3D performance, etc. I want this machine to be as bullet-proof reliable as possible. I'm buying this with part of my bonus, so everything has to be purchased from a local store with one company check. I have already purchased a Seagate 80MB hard drive, and plan to buy a Crucial 256MB DDR.

    CPU/Motherboard - Intel P4 1.6A Northwood and Intel D845EBG2L. The 1.6A is more than fast enough for what I'm doing, and has the lowest power consumption and heat generation of the P4 chips. I picked this MB because of Intel's reputation for reliability, and the fast-boot BIOS, a feature my impatient wife will appreciate. I will use the on-board audio until I can spring for an M-Audio card.

    Video - ATI All-in-Wonder Radeon 7500. I picked a Radeon for best DVD playback, the remote control, and the S/PDIF output to connect to my Denon AVR3300. I may use the tuner/video capture features, but probably not right away. Questions: Is the 8500 AIW worth the price difference? Would buying a Radeon 7500 now, and a TV wonder in the future be a better way to go? Pricing - AMD's website says ATI will drop prices next week - anyone know how much? This is the item I have the most confusion about, and would like any opinions you may offer.

    Case/PS - Enlight 7237 mid-tower, Antec True-Power 330. I like the looks of the Antec 660B case with it's side mount cooling fan, but it's $30 more than this combo, and the black components to match cost more, too. The Antec power supply really impresses me with both it's performance and quiet operation. I will eventually add a wireless keyboard/mouse combo, so I hope to not need to touch or even see the computer except to turn it on.

    DVD - Toshiba SD-M1612 OEM beige - from my lurking here, this seems to be the best choice I have to pick from. The store also carries Lite-On, Samsung, Sony and LG models, all beige as well.

    OS - I have both WIN98SE and Win2000 available. I will not use WinXP. Which of my two choices will a) be most reliable, b) most compatible with the components I've selected, and c) offer the most features/fun stuff/ease of use. I've never used a Win2000 machine for more than a minute or two, so I really don't know how much it differs from the Win9x world.

    Thanks for any help you can offer. I have to deliver my list of stuff on Monday and pick it up by Friday, so this weekend is my final decision time.

    Peter
     
  2. Max Leung

    Max Leung Producer

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    Looks good so far, although I question the use of Win98SE. Windows 9x is just plain unreliable! XP is the best for reliability and robustness I found. The only time I crash is when I play computer games, needlessly overclock my PC, and use beta drivers. [​IMG]
    You'll find that, over time, Win9x operating systems tend to self-corrupt themselves. The rule-of-thumb is to reinstall windows every 6 months if your PC is under heavy usage (video editing, gaming, heavy office app use, watching too many Flash/shockwave presentations from the net, etc).
    Good choice on the P4 for reliability...you can actually run those puppies without a heatsink. It'll be slow, but it won't burn the house down. [​IMG]
    You can also safely overclock the P4 1.6Ghz to 2 Ghz safely, but I know you won't do that. [​IMG]
    The Toshiba M1612 DVD-ROM is one of the best CD/DVD reader drives on the market, according to the audio encoding and CD backup enthusiasts, so that's another no-brainer!
    You may want 512mb of RAM though, especially if you upgrade to XP. It'll give you lots of headroom, and apps will run very fast with it. But, it isn't too important if you never do any multimedia work. If you're going to use Photoshop though, you can never have enough RAM!
    As for the video card...that depends. Gaming isn't a factor you say, so it doesn't matter if you use the 7500 or the 8500. I am not certain if they resolved the gamma-correction issue for DVD playback on the 8500 cards. ATI drivers have been reviled by users as "poor quality" for years, but DVD playback should be fine.
     
  3. Vince Maskeeper

    Vince Maskeeper Producer

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    XP doesn't allow hardware acceleration for video (last time I checked)-- so if you're looking for best video 98 is the only way to go. In addition- I find 98 to be a billion times more stable than XP- I ran XP, 2000 and 98 on my HTPC, and ended with 98- which is the only one that has worked strongly.

    While I agree a desktop machine will be best reinstalling every 6 months- running simple apps on a HTPC which really sees very little file deleting and installing - it's fine.

    -Vince
     
  4. Max Leung

    Max Leung Producer

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    Hmm, I was able to use hardware acceleration with DVD playback no problem on my HTPC.
    Could be a driver issue of some sort.
    Everyone I know who had problems with XP found that a hardware issue or outdated drivers were the actual culprit. XP pushes PCs very hard, and is also less forgiving of hardware problems (an OS that supports protected memory will necessarily blue-screen if an errant driver writes to unauthorized locations in RAM...windows 98 only partially implements this). If you have bad RAM, for example, win98 will let it go, causing strange things to happen over time (and you won't know you bought a bad stick of RAM! Too late to take it back to the store now!), while XP will automatically flag it down, and tell you that something went wrong (BSOD!).
    Running windows 98 is akin to turning off the pain-centers of the brain. You'll feel fine, but then you look down and realize that gangrene has suddenly infested your legs and is eating your way up, because you didn't notice it for weeks! You'll die a slow but painless death. With XP, you'll feel an instantaneous flash of pain and pull your leg away from the hot coals that fell off the barbeque grill. It hurt like hell, and you were careful to favor that leg for weeks, but you'll eventually recover! To further this crazy analogy: You burn your leg, so you chop it off and replace it with a new one (akin to replacing the faulty hardware component in the PC). [​IMG]
     
  5. Max Leung

    Max Leung Producer

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    Vince, is that hardware acceleration problem only evident on that Theatertek player you haven't yet posted the review on? [​IMG]
    I can enable hardware acceleration in both PowerDVD and WinDVD, with no problems.
     
  6. Peter Jessee

    Peter Jessee Stunt Coordinator

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  7. gregstaten

    gregstaten Supporting Actor

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    Actually, you can get video hardware accelleration with TheaterTek. I'm doing it on my HTPC. There's an issue with some of the ATI drivers and non-DXVA mode (the Raviscent DXVA drivers have other issues that prevent them from running). Aparently both ATI and Raviscent are working on a fix.

    -greg
     
  8. Vince Maskeeper

    Vince Maskeeper Producer

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    I promise it's coming. the problem is, the review is on the Hard drive for my machine which melted back in March. I expected to have the new mobo up and running last week- but UPS delayed shipping, and now I have to round up a power supply (made the mistake of "loaning it" for testing purposes to a friend who I can't get ahold of).

    If the gods smile upon me, then I will have my PC alive again today- and have the review posted tonight/tomorrow.

    -Vince
     
  9. AllenD

    AllenD Second Unit

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    Read this THREAD at TheaterTek to see what OS people use for HTPC. I use ME myself. It's necessary to hit Ctrl-Alt-Del sometimes but that's due to MyHD or TheaterTek. Not the OS.
     
  10. Max Leung

    Max Leung Producer

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    Here is a review of the ATI AIW 7500 card:
    http://www.burnoutpc.com/modules.php...ticle&artid=65
    Good luck with the data recovery, Vince!
    Looks like most people run win98, with an even mix of w2k and xp. Seems like you just need to find the right driver for the NT systems. 98SE is a lot cheaper, and people are comfortable with it, so I would expect it to be popular.
    My HTPC doubles as a Visual C++ and .NET development machine, hard-core gaming machine, and the occasional DVD playback, so I need XP for the stability for this wide range of apps. [​IMG]
    I have a Geforce 4 Ti4400...I hope the Theatertek player has very good video quality on this card, as I am disappointed with the WinDVD and PowerDVD quality.
     
  11. Merconium

    Merconium Agent

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    Run W2K over 9x any day of the week. Fast, stable, long uptime, and hibernation support.
    8500 AIW is the same functionality if you don't play games. If you do, there is a world of difference in favor of the 8500.
    I've heard mediocre things about the new MS wireless keyboard and mouse combo. The wireless explorer is great. I'd stick with a Logitech setup if you want a combo.

    You didn't mention sound....
     
  12. Brad_V

    Brad_V Second Unit

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  13. Peter Jessee

    Peter Jessee Stunt Coordinator

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    Thanks, everyone, for all the help. I have all the components I listed in a box in my living room, waiting for a little time to put things together. One of my other PCs had a bad SIMM, and I had to do a complete reload once I diagnosed the problem. BTW, don't mix up ends on a new 80-wire IDE cable - wierd problems if you do that!

    I plan to build the new system with Win 2000 and see if I can get that to work with everything. One question, though, before I start: The Intel HSF seems to have an adhesive pad where it connects with the CPU. I'm concerned that I may find the stock HSF is too noisy and want to use an aftermarket one, but have trouble getting the original one off the CPU. Any advice? Is the Intel part reasonably quiet? Should I scrape off the adhesive and use heat transfer compound instead? What's your experience?

    Thanks!

    Peter
     

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