What HTPC parts would you buy today???

Discussion in 'Computers' started by Shawn Keeler, Mar 12, 2004.

  1. Shawn Keeler

    Shawn Keeler Stunt Coordinator

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    I am starting my HTPC project this weekend. I have a good idea of what I am going to purchase, but I want your input. What parts would you build your HTPC out of for a budget of $1000.00 to $1200.00? Case, Motherboard, CPU, Memory, HD, Graphics Card, Software, and Sound Card??? I will be using this with an Integra DV-100 (NEC LT-150z) Projector, and will be using 85% of the time for DVD viewing. My main concern is for the highest quality of DVD Playback. Thanks for the added input,
    Shawn
     
  2. Drew B

    Drew B Auditioning

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    Sound is important, so I would go with a SB Audigy 2. Whether you get the ZS Platinum Pro, it all up to you, but it's pretty much has the same features. No need to skimp out on the audio, but sound cards in PCs don't have the quality that a dedicated DVD player has. There can be a lot of noise and interferance. They are getting better, but still not on par.

    As for CPU, I would go with Intel, only because the bandwidth of the memory is superior to AMD, and P4s tend to decode video much easier/faster than AMDs. Don't get me wrong, AMD is a fine chip too, but for this application I would lean toward a P4 3.2Ghz. I love the Abit IC7 Maxx-3 so much I have built 3 of these systems, and own two. It's very very very important that your HSF is quiet. (You don't want to listen to spinning fans during quiet parts of a movie) Can't beat a Zalman 7000CU. It's a heavy HSF, and once installed, I wouldn't move the PC around too much unless you had to. When and if you do, take it easy. You'll see what I mean when your holding that beast.

    Other than that it's all up to you Shawn. Case size really depends on how much room you have. For a HTPC, my feelings are to get a case that has room for growth, and is quiet. For my HTPC I'm using an Antec Sonata. Buy as much memory as you can (no need to buy over a GB). If you plan to turn your HTPC into a PVR, using software such as Snapstream, make sure you get the biggest HD(s) you can afford (I have over 300GB in my system), along with a good video capture card. I have great luck with my AIW 9000Pro. It has a remote, and does everything i need it to.

    Of course if your a Winblows fan, use any NT based system like XP Pro or Win2k Pro.

    With that said.. Good luck.

    -Drew
     
  3. Joe Szott

    Joe Szott Screenwriter

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    Shawn,

    Great site for all things HTPC, look under forums for sure:

    http://www.htpcnews.com/main.php

    Pretty much I would say there are a few considerations.

    Do you want a component sized HTPC or a small form factor (SFF) one? Shuttle owns in the SFF market, for a full size one maybe a Kanam, D.vine, or Altec case?

    For DVD video it is pretty easy. Any old DVD-ROM will do (as long as it is reasonably quiet) and processor above 1 GHz as upscaling a 480p DVD signal isn't that hard. Sound is more of a stickling point, do you want good sound or great sound? The SPDIF out of a motherboard is good enough for decent sound, but for drop dead quality you will want a dedicated pro-type sound card (~$100-150.)

    And do you want to upgrade your regular TV signal to 1080i(p) and/or do some Tivo recording? If so, you will need a video tuner to capture that signal. An ATi AIW card can do that fine, but again, for a great solution you want a dedicated video capture card (and again that is more expensive [​IMG])

    So my advice before building your HTPC is to figure out exactly what you want before you buy component one, then start putting it together. Gotta figure if you are going to go through all this trouble you better end up with what you want (and something that will last for your needs.)
     
  4. Shawn Keeler

    Shawn Keeler Stunt Coordinator

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    Here is what I need. An a/v audio gear style case. The best DVD video possible and great sound!! So whats the best video card and sound card my application? Also, do the AIW cards support the use of the Power Strip application?
     
  5. Scott L

    Scott L Producer

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    I'd go with:

    - the new Kanam case (full ATX)
    - 64-bit Athlon based setup w/Asus mobo
    - ATi 9800xt (fanless 9600 if you need to save here)
    - M-Audio Revolution 7.1 (no bloatware compared to the Audigy's)
    - Crucial.com ram
    - 2 SATA Seagate HDs
    - WinTV PVR-250 w/SageTV package (350 if you need prefer HW encoding)
    - Any leftoever money towards keeping it quiet
     
  6. Joe Szott

    Joe Szott Screenwriter

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    I'll mostly second what Scott said.

    You want one of the big cases that can house a full board, the Kanam 400 or 200 is a good choice, any one of the D.vine cases is a winner. They look just like another rack component too. I would advise spending a little more money on a silent PSU and case fans as well. Usually, the places that sell these cases will offer silent fans/PSUs as an upgrade. It's worth it, get it as silent as possible.

    Get an ATi AIW card (whichever level fits into your budget), try to get the "Ultimate" version of whatever model you like. The ultimate uses heatpipes instead of a fan, so it is dead silent (perfect for an HTPC.)

    Get the M-Audio Revolution 7.1 for sound card, it's the best yet affordable solution.

    Whatever motherboard and CPU fit your fancy. AMD 64-bit is good, Pentium 4 aove 1.5 GHz is fine. Buy crucial RAM, 512 MB recommended.

    Find a HDD that runs on fluid bearings instead of ball bearings in whatever size you like (Seagate makes some of these drives.) If you are just going to play DVDs, get the cheapest one you can as you don't care about the size, you just want to to be unnoticable (quiet.)

    Forget the PVR-250, you don't need it for your DVD playing.

    Powerstrip will work with all ATi card fine, no worries there.

    Then whatever DVD player software you decide on (this is too subjective for me to give an opinion.) If you don't care and just want a recommendation, get Theater Tek.

    Happy hunting!!!
     
  7. Andrew Pratt

    Andrew Pratt Producer

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    Here's what I just built
    XP Pro OS
    Antec Overture Case
    Seagate 80 gig SATA hard drive for OS, music and games
    Liteon DVD-Rom
    512 dual channel ram
    AMD 2800+ over clocked to 3200+
    Zalman 7000 CPU cooler...this can run near silently
    Asus A7N8X-E Deluxe motherboard. This board has the nForce2 chip on it so it'll encode audio to Doldy Digital on the fly. This is great to get games and the WMP9 HD clips in DD.
    ATI 9600 no pro video card. This is fanless but fast enough to play games at a reasonable rate.

    I'm going to add another one or two hard IDE harddrives for dvd storage etc and a gyration wireless keyboard in a couple of weeks.

    My AMD 3200 can play the WMP9 1080 clips without stuttering esp. with fast writes enabled on the ATI card. The AMD 64 chip is very nice but there isn't an nForce board available for that yet which limits your audio output to an external card.

    For video cards the AIW's are ok but expensive compared to just getting a 9600 non pro and adding a capture/tuner card.
     
  8. Jarvis K

    Jarvis K Auditioning

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    Can't disagree with the M-Audio Rev.

    Killer soundcard if you have decent speakers.
     
  9. Shawn Keeler

    Shawn Keeler Stunt Coordinator

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    Price is not really the issue, I just don't want to make a mistake in the correct equipment. I just don't want to have to upgrade or change equipment later because I wasn't please with the outcome. Thanks for your help, Shawn
     
  10. Brendan Low

    Brendan Low Auditioning

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    You don't need a huge processor for what you are using it for.

    You can save big time in that area, and spend more on the video card and sound card which are the main things.

    Athlon XP 2500+ Barton will do the trick on what you are doing. Might as well get yourself the Asus A7N8X-E Deluxe motherboard. With soundstorm, you can get fantastic audio. Maybe buy the M-Audio Revolution card anyway, and listen to which one produces the best sound.

    As for video, you'll be hooking it up via DVI I assume, so a 9600 fanless non-pro will be excellent.

    Spend some decent money on a really nice D-Vine case, and silent PSU.

    If you go with a larger CPU, you'll need a semi-loud fan to cool it properly. If you go smaller, you can put in a Thermaltake Silent Boost and be quite happy with the noise level (almost non existant) and the cooling. Zalman 7000 CPU cooler is another good choice.

    Get yourself two large HD's assuming you are going to use it for storing media. Try to find a silent version of a Western Digital. Maxtors are quite loud. Seagate makes nice quite HD's as well.

    You've got the money, but you don't need to spend it all. I've recently built mine with almost all of the above (except I have an overture case) for less than 600 Cdn! lol

    Build what you need, no sense in overkill when it's not necessary. Take that extra $$ and upgrade something else [​IMG]
     

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