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Last post Author Topic: Help me build my new Home Theater PC  (Read 26683 times)

Josh

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Help me build my new Home Theater PC
« on: November 02, 2008, 10:49:44 AM »
To the community,

I am looking at piecing together an HTPC to use with my existing TV/Media setup I have at home. This system will be designed in a manner so as to replace the need for all of the bulky components such as receivers, amps, optical media players, etc.

Right now, I have a few components selected but I am looking for input to help me select the right components so i don't get either A. Incompatible parts or B. Parts which will quickly outdate themselves.

Here is a list of parts along with what I have selected thus far:

ComponentComponent Info LinkPurchase Site PagePrice (USD)
Motherboard
CPU
Power Supply
Case
OS Hard Drive
Data Drives
Sound Card
Video Card
Memory
TV Tuner/PVR Device
Network Card
Blu-Ray Drive
PVR Software
Remote Control
Media Serving Application
TOTAL COST

I want the hard drives to be setup in a raid 0+1 if possible (if cost effective) with 1TB to 1.5TB of space spread across two drives (2 750GB drives mirrored to two other 750GB drives). Memory I want to be at 4GB but I am unsure which brand to obtain. The big thing is the case/motherboard. I need a motherboard and case which is in as small of a form factor as possible but still allows me to accomplish what I want.

As for the network card, I am thinking that built into the mobo will suffice as I wont need anything spectacular and that will leave me with an open slot for the WiFi Adapter (which can also be USB if the form factor is visually stimulating).

So, with that said, what do you all think? I am open for input on ALL devices, even the ones I've already chosen, so please provide as much or as little feedback as you wish. My price range is negotiable so please, suggest all components. This is something I intend to last me a while so I am willing to spend the money up front. I am shooting for under 2000 but am willing to move higher if quality dictates (rather than cost effectiveness).

Thanks :)
« Last Edit: March 08, 2010, 01:44:20 PM by Josh »

hollowlife1987

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Re: Help me build my new Home Theater PC
« Reply #1 on: November 02, 2008, 11:15:49 AM »
I've never used this case as I've yet to make a HTPC but from the specs and looks of it this case seems very nice, tad on the expensive side though ($500).

http://www.tigerdire...24777&CatId=3429

40hz

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Re: Help me build my new Home Theater PC
« Reply #2 on: November 02, 2008, 12:10:42 PM »
Not too much to suggest other than to get the best quality RAM you can afford. Most of the really oddball problems you will encounter will ultimately be traced back to a bad stick of RAM.

I've had very good luck with the Crucial and Kingston brands. They are what I use in most of the server-build projects I'm involved with. I have never had any problems with either brand.

http://www.crucial.c...tore/drammemory.aspx

http://www.kingston.com/

 :)

4wd

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Re: Help me build my new Home Theater PC
« Reply #3 on: November 02, 2008, 01:02:34 PM »
Not too much to suggest other than to get the best quality RAM you can afford. Most of the really oddball problems you will encounter will ultimately be traced back to a bad stick of RAM.

I've had very good luck with the Crucial and Kingston brands. They are what I use in most of the server-build projects I'm involved with. I have never had any problems with either brand.

Actually, I'd suggest getting RAM that has been tested with the board by the manufacturer and listed in the QVL for that board.

On the subject of motherboard, one that seems popular for HTPC applications is the Gigabyte GA-MA78GM-DS2H.  The integrated ATI HD3200 GPU was the fastest onboard GPU up until the release of the new ATI HD3300, (AMD 790G chipset), and will decode anything you can throw at it.  And it does this without a fan, so it's very quiet.

The updated GA-MA78GPM-DS2H, ($110 @ Newegg), adds 128MB of DDR3 SidePort memory and fixes some HDMI interaction issues with Sony Bravia TVs.

Coupled with an AMD 4850e X2, ($60), or a Phenom 9150e/9350e, ($140/$170), should make a quiet HTPC with plenty of grunt but without having to buy a graphics card.

Integrated Gigabit LAN, 7.1 audio over HDMI until your preferred sound card is available.

A Zalman or Seasonic PSU for quietness and all housed in a Silverstone LC16M case, (that includes VFD and MCE compatible remote - although I'd probably prefer an RF remote).
« Last Edit: November 02, 2008, 01:21:27 PM by 4wd »

Josh

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Re: Help me build my new Home Theater PC
« Reply #4 on: November 03, 2008, 12:11:16 AM »
4wd, after reading up on your board. I decided to go one up and push to the GigaByte GA-MA790GP-DS4H board. For the cost difference, I feel it might be worth it to further invest in a higher capability board. Now, the case is my next big obstacle to tackle along with CPU and RAM. The NIC on this board is integrated and will suite my purposes unless someone can tell me of another card which might yield some sort of performance increase.

Also, the remote control I am learning comes with the FusionHDTV Card. Does anyone have any input on another remote which might function better and provide support for both Windows MCE (Vista) and controlling the Fusion Card?

Thanks everyone for your input thus far, this is an enlightening experience and will be the first time I have built a PC since about 2001. I had almost given up due to my inability to get a working system but I am feeling squirrely and ready to try again. Thanks and keep the input coming.

4wd

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Re: Help me build my new Home Theater PC
« Reply #5 on: November 03, 2008, 06:19:48 AM »
4wd, after reading up on your board. I decided to go one up and push to the GigaByte GA-MA790GP-DS4H board. For the cost difference, I feel it might be worth it to further invest in a higher capability board. Now, the case is my next big obstacle to tackle along with CPU and RAM. The NIC on this board is integrated and will suite my purposes unless someone can tell me of another card which might yield some sort of performance increase.

Not my board :)  I have a GA-MA78G-DS3H - I wanted the extra SATA port and the 790 boards weren't out yet.

For RAM, I'd go with any of the 2GB 800MHz modules they list in the QVL.  I currently use a pair of Apacer 800MHz 2GB DDR2 sticks in mine and while they aren't the fastest they work with no problem.

For CPU, I'd go for the 9150e or 9350e I mentioned earlier, Quad core CPUs at only 65W.  Or get a 4850e X2 now and look to upgrade when the new Phenoms start appearing around January.

The only way you could get a performance increase over the internal Gigabit NIC is to go for one of Gigabyte's DQ6 series, (in Intel or AMD), which add what they call teaming.  Another way to say they gang the NIC ports to effectively double, (or quadruple if it has four ports), the bandwidth making it a fair bit more efficient.

Quote
Also, the remote control I am learning comes with the FusionHDTV Card. Does anyone have any input on another remote which might function better and provide support for both Windows MCE (Vista) and controlling the Fusion Card?

If I had to choose a remote it would probably be along the lines of ATI's Remote Wonder or, (since you're going to use BeyondTV anyway), SnapStream's Firefly.

RF is always preferable to having to use line-of-sight infrared.  This means you can possibly shuffle music from other rooms depending on the range you get due to wall construction, etc.

For the case it comes down to one simple question to start with:
1) Display or no display?

If yes, VFD or the latest touch screen 7" LCDs?

Once you've worked out that, then you can work within the limits set by the case layout.

Josh

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Re: Help me build my new Home Theater PC
« Reply #6 on: November 03, 2008, 07:03:08 AM »
I was looking at 4GB of ram for the system since the mobo supports up to 16GB. As for the remote, the firefly looks promising but I will check out the Remote Wonder.

When it comes to the case, the display really serves no purpose to me unless its maybe a small LED style (like on most DVD players). I dont need an LCD. CPU is another issue I am looking at. What will the new phenoms bring to the table performance-wise?

Also, a question I have been pondering, would it be best to run 64-bit or 32-bit? This will be a specialized PC and won't require any special applications besides snapstream and tversity. Thoughts?

ewemoa

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Re: Help me build my new Home Theater PC
« Reply #7 on: November 03, 2008, 07:07:52 AM »
If I had to choose a remote it would probably be along the lines of ATI's Remote Wonder or, (since you're going to use BeyondTV anyway), SnapStream's Firefly.
A bit of a tangent here -- does anyone have experience w/ EZ Commander?  I'm of the dying breed of trackball users and have been considering whether this remote might be decent.

f0dder

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Re: Help me build my new Home Theater PC
« Reply #8 on: November 03, 2008, 07:16:31 AM »
Why 4 gigabyte RAM in the system? Seems a bit overkill for a home HTPC in my eyes.

Also, why raid-stripe? What's the I/O bandwidth needed if you want to capture HD content? Any reasonable disks today should be able to handle 65mbyte/sec sustained or so :)

I'd definitely go for an intel CPU, and if you want to do capturing/transcoding, a quadcore might not be a bad idea.
- carpe noctem

Josh

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Re: Help me build my new Home Theater PC
« Reply #9 on: November 03, 2008, 07:23:05 AM »
4GB of ram because ram is a cheap component. I really so no need to NOT get that much in there. The raid stripe is something I WANT to do but not something I need to do. I want the extra disk performance as I intend to be able to record two shows at once in HD (h.264 if possible). Right now, my wife records multiple shows and the throughput is a must. I also want backup capability since the amount of disk activity used for a PVR will likely increase the chance of failure of one of the disks. Maybe I am just being paranoid, maybe I should just go with a Raid 0 approach. I dont know.

Why do you say Intel for the CPU?

mahesh2k

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Re: Help me build my new Home Theater PC
« Reply #10 on: November 03, 2008, 07:43:19 AM »
Josh

Intel CPU is fine if you're not going to be in gaming seriously, if going for gaming then i think AMD is better option. What about Graphics Card? You've any option in mind?

Josh

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Re: Help me build my new Home Theater PC
« Reply #11 on: November 03, 2008, 07:47:57 AM »
The graphics card I have in mind is integrated into the motherboard, hence my choice in that model. This is why I am wondering if Intel is being recommended for any compelling reasons. If so, I will consider a switch, if not, the HD 3300 built in board by GigaByte will be what I go with.

f0dder

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Re: Help me build my new Home Theater PC
« Reply #12 on: November 03, 2008, 08:35:02 AM »
Haven't checked RAM prices for a while, but I see your point - I went for 8gig for my workstation even though 4gig would've been quite adequate.

I say intel CPU simply because they have the best performance. AMDs might have better performance/price ratio (haven't checked up on prices lately), but the intels perform better - especially on things like SSE instructions, which video codecs tend to use. Also, last time I checked, intel CPUs didn't lead just wrt. performance, but also had lower power consumption than the AMD offerings.

Also, I prefer intel chipset on the motherboard, for stability reasons. I've had troubles in the past with other brands. Situation is probably better nowadays, but once burned twice shy.

Haven't looked into getting codec acceleration from graphics cards, but afaik both intel and AMD/ATI integrated solutions offer HD acceleration now. Probably worth looking into, even if you go for a quadcore CPU; at least last time I checked, H.264 encoding was pretty expensive CPU-wise, and even with optimized codecs like CoreAVC, decoding full-HD took it's toll as well.
- carpe noctem

Josh

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Re: Help me build my new Home Theater PC
« Reply #13 on: November 03, 2008, 08:44:19 AM »
Do you know of an intel motherboard which has a decent video card incorporated into it for HD Decoding and encoding?

f0dder

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Re: Help me build my new Home Theater PC
« Reply #14 on: November 03, 2008, 08:49:21 AM »
Do you know of an intel motherboard which has a decent video card incorporated into it for HD Decoding and encoding?
Haven't researched video acceleration, so I'm afraid I can't really comment on it. Just keep in mind that "intel chipset" doesn't necessarily mean the board has to be from intel, just that it has intel chipset. Oh, the GMA X4500HD in my laptop seems pretty capable (though probably less beefy than some of the nvidia and AMD/ATI integrated GPUs, but it does handle HalfLife2 in 1280x800@full detail smoothly), and is supposed to do HD decode - just haven't had an opportunity to test it. There's probably some AnandTech or TomsHardware article about it, though?
- carpe noctem

4wd

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Re: Help me build my new Home Theater PC
« Reply #15 on: November 03, 2008, 10:20:35 PM »
I say intel CPU simply because they have the best performance. AMDs might have better performance/price ratio (haven't checked up on prices lately), but the intels perform better - especially on things like SSE instructions, which video codecs tend to use. Also, last time I checked, intel CPUs didn't lead just wrt. performance, but also had lower power consumption than the AMD offerings.

For this application it actually doesn't matter which CPU that much, there's no version of either an Intel or AMD CPU that can record even one video stream encoding h.264 on-the-fly.  If you think decoding h.264 is CPU intensive, you haven't seen anything until you try encoding it especially at HD resolution.

However, recording two normal HD MPEG transport streams will present no problem, RAID isn't required in my experience.

Quote
Also, I prefer intel chipset on the motherboard, for stability reasons. I've had troubles in the past with other brands. Situation is probably better nowadays, but once burned twice shy.

The only chipsets I've ever had a problem with are nVidia, (especially, I'd no longer even consider an nVidia chipset), or VIA - I've found the chipsets made by the respective CPU manufacturers work well.

Quote
Haven't looked into getting codec acceleration from graphics cards, but afaik both intel and AMD/ATI integrated solutions offer HD acceleration now. Probably worth looking into, even if you go for a quadcore CPU; at least last time I checked, H.264 encoding was pretty expensive CPU-wise, and even with optimized codecs like CoreAVC, decoding full-HD took it's toll as well.

As I mentioned above, AMD/ATI current integrated GPU, (especially now as it includes dedicated DDR3 - no UMA), is at the moment the best at decoding pretty much anything you can throw at it.

Also, last time I checked, intel CPUs didn't lead just wrt. performance, but also had lower power consumption than the AMD offerings.

The lowest Intel C2Q is the Q8200 @ 95W, AMD is the 9150e or 9350e @ 65W.  Yes, the Intel is running 300-500MHz faster but since this is a HTPC whose main function is recording/playback, (preferably as quietly as possible), one of which is mainly dependent on the I/O subsystem and the other on the GPU, the extra MHz aren't that much of an issue.  My old Opteron 165, (1.8MHz dual core), had no problems recording two HD broadcasts at the same time and would still play MPEG2 or MPEG4 ASP, (with no hardware acceleration), without causing frame drops.

Josh

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Re: Help me build my new Home Theater PC
« Reply #16 on: November 04, 2008, 01:54:58 AM »
Welp, I have decided on the 600W Zalman ZM600-HP power supply which should suffice for the duration of this system's lifetime. Next thing is the hard drives, memory, case and wifi card and I will call this system complete. Thanks everyone for your input thus far. I appreciate it greatly. Keep it coming and if you suggest a better product, I am always willing to change as this list is by no way set-in-stone.

f0dder

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Re: Help me build my new Home Theater PC
« Reply #17 on: November 04, 2008, 02:27:07 AM »
4wd: ah yes, I had not considered the energy-efficient CPU versions - shame on me. Remember that it's not just about MHz though, the intel CPUs have higher IPC (or lower CPI :)) than the AMDs.

Josh: 600W is probably overkill - I put a 750W in my desktop (core2quad Q6600, 2.4GHz overclocked to 3.0, GeForce8800, two 10k rpm raptor drives, etc). Even when maxing out all four cores and doing 3D, I draw less than 250W.
- carpe noctem

Josh

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Re: Help me build my new Home Theater PC
« Reply #18 on: November 04, 2008, 03:23:33 AM »
Downgraded to a 500W SeaSonic. That is about as low as I want to go in case I decide to throw in an additional video card for future use when I decide to retire this system.

4wd

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Re: Help me build my new Home Theater PC
« Reply #19 on: November 04, 2008, 06:06:36 PM »
4wd: ah yes, I had not considered the energy-efficient CPU versions - shame on me. Remember that it's not just about MHz though, the intel CPUs have higher IPC (or lower CPI :)) than the AMDs.

You are forgiven  :D  Actually, I believe quite a few people use the 4850e X2, (45W), in the GA-MA78G(P)M-DS2H for HTPCs because it's even more frugal and quiet.

I'm actually thinking of just getting the 9350e because I've kind of grown out of the brute force approach.  And this is for my general purpose/video encoding/gaming machine.

Josh, for HDDs I'd recommend either Samsung or the Western Digital Green Power series.  Both are noticeably quieter than anything Seagate produces and use less power.
Just for interest, yesterday I had a play recording various HDTV broadcasts and found you need to store approx. 100-130MB/minute.  That's only 2MB/sec for a single channel recording, well within the capability of even the slowest HDD currently on the market.
What will affect it more is when you're recording two channels at once, then seek times come into play but I would still expect any current HDD to present no problem to that.

Addendum: Just remembered, WD have HDDs specifically designed for use in AV equipment - WD AV and the WD AV-GP.

I know you've said you're not that bothered with a display but you might find it useful when you just want to listen to music.  A VFD display should give you enough info to allow you to navigate directories to get to your MP3/OGG/WMA files, provide info on what is currently playing, indicate whether there's any email waiting, system status, etc, etc without having to turn on a monitor/TV.  They're a lot cheaper than an LCD and don't add that much to the cost of a decent HTPC case.

Silverstone are arguably the most popular when it comes to HTPC enclosures.  But there's also Zalman, ThermalTake, CoolerMaster, etc - the one thing I do recommend though is, unless you have a preference for black, get silver - it will save on an awful lot of dusting  ;)

Also, a question I have been pondering, would it be best to run 64-bit or 32-bit? This will be a specialized PC and won't require any special applications besides snapstream and tversity. Thoughts?

Apart from giving you access to the extra 512MB of RAM you lose using 32bit, (assuming 4GB), AFAICT there's no advantage to using a 64bit system because both TVersity and BeyondTV are only 32bit aren't they?
« Last Edit: November 04, 2008, 07:01:44 PM by 4wd »

Josh

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Re: Help me build my new Home Theater PC
« Reply #20 on: November 05, 2008, 02:43:57 AM »
I've decided to go with 2x 2GB Kingston HyperX 1066 DDR2 Memory Modules which can be seen here.

I am now looking for the case and hard drives and I am set to go!

mouser

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Re: Help me build my new Home Theater PC
« Reply #21 on: November 05, 2008, 02:56:13 AM »
josh,

just a few thoughts:

playing multimedia files is now something that is easy to do with almost any hardware -- if i were building a multimedia PC then there is one thing i would put at the TOP of my list:

#1 by far - getting the QUIETEST components i could.  people always seem to overlook this, but bleeding edge graphics cards and hard drives are LOUD.  power supplies can be too.  For a multimedia pc i think youd be better off with slower cpu and lower powered graphics card that are quiet. just my 2 cents.


Josh

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Re: Help me build my new Home Theater PC
« Reply #22 on: November 05, 2008, 03:40:32 AM »
Mouser,

That is why I went with the SeaSonic PSU and am looking for quiet hard disk drives. Those are the two biggest noise makers. The cases are usually fairly quiet as they are designed to be an HTPC and as such, the fans are usually quiet and low-profile.

4wd,

Can you recommend a good case with a VFD display? What exactly is it?

EDIT:

As can be seen above I have decided on the hard disk drives as well. 1x 10000RPM OS Drive (Western Digital) and 2x Seagate Barracuda's in a RAID 1 config for the data portion.

Thoughts?
« Last Edit: November 05, 2008, 04:39:06 AM by Josh »

Josh

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Re: Help me build my new Home Theater PC
« Reply #23 on: November 05, 2008, 04:40:58 AM »
One thing I forgot about was a good set of speakers for this system. Does anyone have any input on those? Looking for 5.1 initially but if 7.1 presents itself at a decent price, I might go with that to start.

mouser

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Re: Help me build my new Home Theater PC
« Reply #24 on: November 05, 2008, 04:57:30 AM »