Windows Media Center 2005 Software

Chris

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I'll post up some better ones, including the inside of the box and screen shots on a seperate webpage later tonight.
 

Steve F M

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Well I start my HTPC this week based on WMCE 2005. Right now I have WMCE 2005 on my Desktop which I haved played around with for the last 3 weeks without activating and feel that going the HTPC route with the Media Center software is the way to go for me. Since I haven't activated WMCE 2005 on my desktop I should be able to take it off and activate on my HTPC when built, correct?

Here's is what I'm starting with my HTPC. What do you guys think?

http://www.newegg.com/app/ViewProduc...163-033&depa=0


http://www.newegg.com/app/viewProduc...factory=BROWSE

http://www.newegg.com/app/viewProduc...factory=BROWSE

http://www.newegg.com/app/viewProduc...factory=BROWSE

2 - http://www.circuitcity.com/ssm/Kings...oductDetail.do

http://www.newegg.com/app/ViewProduc...130-151&depa=1

A will be adding 2 - 200GB Maxtor Hard Drives also.

Any Thoughts? Anything I should change? I'm ordering everything on Wed.




I need a DVD Drive and a Sound Card with Digital out to hook upto my Pioneer Elite VSX-49TX Receiver, I will be using my LCD HDTV Projector with this PC projecting onto a home made 106" Blackout Screen.

Any rec's on a sound card and DVD drive. I don't need a burner as I have on on my other desktop.
 

Bob_C

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That case is pretty sweet looking, Steve. I think that should work great for you. But, I think that RAM is SODIMM Ram for notebook PCs. You probably want this one instead.
 

Chris

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Good case. Good use of video card (5200 has a DVI out with Nvidia's MCE drivers that will auto-correct for most sets).

But the processor is going to be a trick. Yes, I know there are tons of Intel fans, and there are intel solutions out there, but you'd be better off with a 3.0C then a 3.0E if you have to go the Intel route. The 3.0E (Prescott) cores are -very- hot in comparison to other processors out there, and your noise level will go up considerably on all fans.

Your power supply is also not a very quiet one. If you're looking for a quite PS (which you'll want) you might look for a Seasonic S12 series, or a Zalman True Quiet series PS. The Antec is a good power supply, but it's noise ramp is high (about 45db) which makes for a racketty HTPC, especially combined with that fan.. in other words, using that processor and that power supply, you're heat concerns will be high and your volume will be too. The goal of an HTPC is generally as quiet as you can get it..

If you are committed to stick with the 3.0E, find a Zalman 120mil cooler fan to replace the loud and not very reliable retail box fan. Then, change out the back fan in the case to get a higher flow, lower volume panaflo fan. Finally, you might want to drill out the top bevel of the case above the processor and buy a CPU shield.

No, not joking.. flat out, the 3.0E is going to put out that much heat.

Examples:

http://forums.majorgeeks.com/showthread.php?t=43997


In other words, you are dissipating a crap load of heat.. be prepared. In comparison with AMD64 90nm CPUs (which are about 1/2 the heat output to less) and even some of Intel's other cores (Celeron-D is a decent HTPC platform) it's enough heat that while it can be done, it's going to make you life in keeping the damn thing cool a hell of a lot more difficult..

If you use enclosed cabinents (like I do) then count on never being able to close the doors on them and constantly dealing with the "bzzzz" of a crap load of fans.. also, don't stack anything near it
 

Steve F M

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What about going with an AMD XP 3000+ Chip. My only concern is HDTV. Microsoft rec's a 3.0 or higher chip on Hi-Def playback.
 

Dave_Olds

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The 3.0e isnt *that* bad....Yes, its hot BUT it designed to run hot and it does handle the heat....About 10deg is the difference....Not really *that* significant....

Zalman's CPU 7000B cooler works well to keep it in line and is silent....I used their heatsink and PS and I have to stick my head in the rack to even hear things running...My DVD player is more noisy at this point...

Heat is relative.....If a CPU likes to run hot what difference does it make? My case temp is still well within reasonable limits....If you feel a need to run a prescott at the same temp as an Athlon then you have other issues that need to be attended too...LOL

That said - it just depends on the price you can score your CPU...I happened to get a sweetheart deal on a Precott 3.0ghz with a Abit mbd....I would argue against anyone getting a 939 socket Athlon 64...I am not on either side of that AMD/Intel argument (I think they are both good) but mits pretty obvious from my research Intel does have the edge in Media processing....
 

Chris

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While a CPU can be designed to stand an upper limit of heat values, that doesn't necessarily make for a good environment for the rest of the parts inside of your HTPC. Because most HTPCs are designed in a desktop case format, convection within them bundles up that heat in a corner, which for many power supplies causes them to sense a greater heat output and turn up their own fan. Even Intel's newer prescott fans all use the RPM method, which creates additional noise.

The Zalman does do a good job effectively cooling the processor, and I'd recommend it no matter what platform.. (AMD, Intel, etc.) However, the additional heat of the Intel makes life more difficult and definitely increases fan noise.. moreover, if you're trying to run either PureVision or ATI's upcoming HD enhancements with a 6600GT or a X800 or higher, you're bundling up enough heat in a corner that system stability goes -way- down.

As one of the larger distributors for both AMD/Intel, there are tons of perks to both. But here, we're discussing primarily media center. In current 32 bit benchmarks, Intel's prescott does hold an advantage in DiVX compression and certain other benchmarks, primarily due to SSE. This is -somewhat- rectified in the 90nm AMD64, which now also features SSE3. However, not entirely, and thus, DiVX and a few other encoding technologies are faster on the Intel, by about 10% in similar processors (3000+ vs. 3Ghz).

However, one of the primary requirements of MCE is that all encoding be done in a hardware encoder (this is the reason why not every off the shelf TV Tuner will work). Because of this, in every load test we've ever done, regardless of wether you were using a Celeron D 2.6Ghz or a AMD4000+ (or even the Epia M1000), the results were the same in regards to capture, including HDTV & regular over the air, almost identical CPU usage, etc.

The difference is in playback. And in those areas, processors that handled it were the 3Ghz and up, and both did so at nearly identical (less then 1% difference, and rotated between which one lagged) CPU timings.

I think this is one of the misunderstandings of putting together an MCE box. Unlike building a box where you are doing video editing (like say, a box to do Aavid or Adobe Premier) in this case, you're working on a box in which encoding is all done through hardware with minimal exteranl options.

Note: if you're using a micro PC design (like a Shuttle Cube, etc.) then some of the ideas in regards to heat change because of the technologies used within them. Here, I'm trying to look at a case in which you'll probably have at least two tuners (one for analog, one HDTV) a video card that does DX8.1 to get full usage of MCE2005.

Realistically, the two processors to consider highest interest would be 90nm AMD64s or Intel-M processors, which you can also desktop... both have very low heat output, and perform well. I would consider an XP 3000+ at the very bottom; AMD's Barton line, and Sempron line are not hugely effective for HTPC usage, put out more heat then their AMD64 cousins, and don't provide as much "oomph"

Dave, I'm interested in what you are using for a video card/drives/case.
 

Dave_Olds

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Hi...

An Aristec HT400 with 9600XT.

Likely you are referring to a much more involved system and I would agree with your assesment. I really think the AMD64 939 CPUs are the future, at the same time I wouldnt advise a 754pin AMD64. I am not really arguing the point - but I do completely believe it is entirely overblown out of proportion. The life expectancy of ANY HTPC component is closing in on two years max before becoming obsolete. I know this is my second HTPC in two years and I dont see that changing for ANY application.....The one I just replaced was state of the art in 2002 and would be laughed at by anyone here or AVS....

That said, many others have used these processors (see AVS forums) with much success as well. My case temps are never out of line and although my CPU temps ARE higher than normal they run only at 43C (edit: under full load) which in my research is acceptable. Noise is absolutely not an issue and I will admit freely that I dont understand issue whatsoever. maybe having a projector & kids has something to do with that - or being used to the old computers that sounded like "aircraft carriers".....The new technology is amazing compared to what we dealt with just two years ago...!!!!

I will restate I am not a Intel purist - in fact, this is the only intel system I own at work or at home (out of 6 computers).....AMD64 939 CPUS are preferred - but I wasnt prepared to pay the price at this point - next year, very likely.....

This system I built has a express purpose - play DVDs & act as a jukebox for my gameroom/theater....

As for your system and inquires to mine - I use Directv for my HDTV and dont see *any* benefits from using a computer based tuning card but I would love to hear some input on that front - until I can find a way to incorporate HD-Directv into the system - its pointless IMO....pay for hardware to record network HDTV or *any* SDTV? Your kidding right?
 

Chris

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Ah! And here we go, the rub
Some people will never see a super reason for PVR, etc. Using a remote blaster, yes, you can capture all of your normal digital cable signals, but not HD. And yes, HD is limited to "Over the Air".

But, I think that's worth covering. When you watch your "HDTV" over Dish, DirectTV, Voom, Digital Cable, you are not getting in many cases the best product. (example: http://www.terk.com/HDTVi.html) Many television shows do broadcast in 1080i... and not a signal carrier in the US carries programming at 1080i natively. The upscale is then handled by your box, etc.

So, why have a PVR in your PC? For some, it's about easy capture with output to DVD. For others, it's about greater ability to archive programming.. the MCE PVR is far more functional then either TiVO or other products in that it's system quickly adapts to odd show timings, resets often if programmed to to make sure that you get the program your after (program delayed by a football game? It figures it out) and so on.

I've got an HDTV PVR from Time Warner here in my area, and yes, I make use of it for HBO PVR'ing, but if I take a look at Desperate Housewives captured over the air in HDTV on my HTPC vs. how it looks on my Time Warner box? It's night and day. Because I'm capturing a completely uncompressed, unmarked product on my PC I can easily export or store. Sometimes an advantage


For a good number of people, the greatest reason for a PVR is for the basic cable programming.. CBS, ABC, NBC, FOX, UPN, WB, etc. These are available over the air in many markets (example: I can get UPN HD over the air with my HTPC, but not via TimeWarner).

I think for those who think that it's a silly thing, why bother if you can't get HBO, etc. in HD, it will miss the point, but for many of us, complete control over the content we capture, and the ability to archive it, is a gigantic benefit..
 

Dave_Olds

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Yes, all those things do make sense....Although as a HDTV convert - I have a snobbish appeal to it right now....

Nice to see the benefits to a MCE2005 PVR - I got to admit no one has ever pointed them out....When I build a MCE box for the living room - all your recommendations would be incorporated - including the PVR and of course AMD64 has already been targeted as the CPU....Watching SDTV recorded on a projector doesnt make fiscal nor reasonable sense - hence my reasoning against it in this unit....

I happened to pay the same price for both my MDB/CPU combo as a prescott retails for alone....And my early point was that shouldnt be ruled as an option (they are being used) but I do agree they are not the preferred CPU for what we have discussed as obvious reasons....

Finally - thanks for the very frank, enlightening and respectable discussion on the entire matter....
 

Chris

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Always get an Nvidia NF3/4 board. Many of the better ones have optical/coax out on the board, which will handle your DTS/DD streams; however, you can get a cheap one (like a Gigabyte at about $89) which will be fine and add a Envy24 Audio card with optical out for $12, and you're set.

A big part of it depends, also, on what you want to spend. Going super high end on a board for HTPC is kind of ridiculous..
 

Steve F M

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Alright here's what I'm going to order for my Processor and MB. I figuring at least a week or 2 to get everything I need and have it built.

http://www.newegg.com/app/viewproduc...103-501&DEPA=1

http://www.newegg.com/app/ViewProduc...128-274&depa=1

http://www.newegg.com/app/ViewProduc...151-016&depa=1

Do you think I need to change out the processor Heatsink and fan that comes with it or will I be alright. This HTPC will be put in a large A/V Rack that will have about a foot of space on both sides and above it and also has an open back. So its not that confined.

Thanks
 

Dave_Olds

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Steve,

ALWAYS replace the stock Heatsink/Fan combination. It is the greatest source of noise period - I have never found for ANY CPU that was acceptable....They are AWFUL - any/all of them....The after market ones are very reasonable and astonishingly quiet....They will cool better regardless of the CPU but be miles quieter....

I am sure anyone/everyone who has built a HTPC will agree....
 

Dave_Olds

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That would be fine - I understand the budget....I used this was really, really impressed with it

Zalman Cooler

This is about the same price and includes a fan controller. It is proven HTPC quality by many site reviews.
 

Chris

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The fan you have pictured will cool, but won't solve your issue of quiet.

Look at something more like:

http://heatsinkfactory.com/cgi-bin/H...talogno=HS-004

With a panaflo 120mil

or

http://heatsinkfactory.com/cgi-bin/H...lman%20Coolers

Both get the job done and are quiet.

You are dead right on the power supply; go with Seasonic, Zalman, etc. for sheer quiet.. hard to go wrong.
The board & CPU solutions are fine. If you get a XP120 above, and a 90nm CPU, as you note, you can turn the 120mil fan down to about 1200rpm or slightly less for almost dead quiet, and still keep temperature nice and cool..
 

Chris

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Whew! I had an ISF tech over last night, just to give it some play and try something. After fiddling with NV-DVD and PureVideo settings in the new drivers, I wanted to really give the thing a workout to see how well it worked in comparison.

My configuration is a Sony KP57WV700 set, so a slightly older 57" HDTV, but it's served me very well. We had two DVD players on hand to test (I know my HTPC smokes my lite-on 5005, so it isn't much of a contest there).. I had him bring a player he considered good for upscaling, a LG-DV7832 player. We went A-B between both.

100%, without a doubt, 1080i via the HTPC over DVI was incredibly better. Night-and-Day better. Color accuracy was better, richness, etc. We tried several discs (Treasure Planet; Spiderman 2; SW:AOTC; LOTR:ROTK).

What we noticed most was within "Treasure Planet" in that small line refinements (ie, like pencil lines) were striking and rich in a deep black color. In comparison, these same fine lines took on a blended look on the LG-DV7832, where they didn't seem to inherit a full black look to them.

Now, this isn't saying anything bad about the LG-DV7832, which is by far one of the best looking DVD players I think I've seen, but it brought up some of the perks as to HTPC.

The largest perk for DVD viewers is one that he noticed right away: layer changes are non-existant.. because of the larger buffer for DVD-ROM drives and their ability to read faster, layer changes are often buffered, so they are invisible to the end user.. I tried to pick one of the layer changes I always found jartling (Contact) which still generated a slight pause on the LG-DV7832, but was seemless in the HTPC environment.

So, was the HTPC design perfect? No, not quite. Because of issues with some discs having things like Interactual, and sometimes forced on your (LOTR: EE) I've found tha without registry edits to disable those functions, the discs become virtually unplayable. One of the other issues with HTPC is one that DVD player will never run into, and some HTPC users won't.. I have an external modem off of mine to handle CallerID.. while it's a great idea, I'm thinking about changing that.. nothing more disrupting then watching a movie to have the CallerID of your mother-in-law appear in the bottom corner of the screen
 

Steve F M

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Chris. When purchasing a DVD Drive for a HTPC is there anything particular to look for. I don't need a DVD Burner just a DVD drive since my burner is on my desktop. One thing though is it looks like my burner is a Lite-On DVD+RW so I'm assuming I would need a DVD Drive that can play DVD+R's correct?

Any Rec's?
 

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