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Last post Author Topic: Help me build my new Home Theater PC  (Read 26712 times)

Josh

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Re: Help me build my new Home Theater PC
« Reply #50 on: November 08, 2008, 01:01:16 PM »
4wd, thank you for the informative reply. That is what I meant was the standard PC Speaker connection, for some reason RCA came to mind but that was because I was working with RCA cables earlier.

Anyways, I will look through diff speaker configs but I am having the hardest time picking out a case. Does anyone have any further recommendations?

4wd

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Re: Help me build my new Home Theater PC
« Reply #51 on: November 08, 2008, 07:13:17 PM »
Anyways, I will look through diff speaker configs but I am having the hardest time picking out a case. Does anyone have any further recommendations?

A few questions:

1) Optimally, how many internal 3.5" bays do you require, (including any future HDD expansion) ?

2) You picked out the Silverstone CW02S-MXR which is probably one of the biggest HTPC cases dimension wise.
    Does that mean that external case dimensions are not a constraint, (ie. size doesn't matter :) ) ?

3) Is a LCD/VFD still just an option or have you decided ?

4) Do you intend to control the HTPC purely from the remote or will the addition of manual controls, (eg. volume knob/buttons, input select, etc), be of benefit ?
    eg. While I tend to use the remote for most things here, (TV, stereo, etc), I always find that sometimes it's more practical to sit right in front of the thing and use the controls on the front.

5) Colour, (black shows dust and fingerprints like you wouldn't believe - matt silver is a better choice) ?

6) Do you want an integrated card reader or provision for one, (externally accessible 3.5" bay) ?

7) a) What front accessible ports do you require, (eg. USB, FireWire, Audio out, Mic, etc), and how many ?
    b) If you want front ports, hidden behind a panel or always visible ?

Probably a few more questions that are relevant but I'll stop there :)

Also, wrt VFD/LCD it might pay to check up on what the software is like and search for any problems people have been having.

The dominant software/display combination seems to be iMON, (used by Zalman, Silverstone, Thermaltake, Antec and others), but there's also IRTrans, M-Play and probably others.

Case suggestion: Zalman HD160 Plus - plenty of drive bays, cooling layout seems to be very good, front controls/ports, front accessible 3.5" bay if you want to add a card reader later.

NCIX shows it for $261 but no stock, (maybe order in).

mahesh2k

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Re: Help me build my new Home Theater PC
« Reply #52 on: November 14, 2008, 04:32:01 AM »
So what you've picked so far Josh  :huh:

Carol Haynes

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Re: Help me build my new Home Theater PC
« Reply #53 on: November 14, 2008, 06:43:02 AM »
Those Zalman cases look really nice ... but $261 seems a high price to pay for a box!

4wd

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Re: Help me build my new Home Theater PC
« Reply #54 on: November 14, 2008, 06:50:56 PM »
Those Zalman cases look really nice ... but $261 seems a high price to pay for a box!

Still $140 less than the case Josh has in his list atm.......and consider this is going to actually be on display as a lounge room fixture, (so at least needs to be aesthetically pleasing, very quiet and possibly greater cooling requirements due to confined space installations), rather than just a fancy pc case ala Lian Li and some of the more OTT cases from ThermalTake, Coolermaster, ASUS, etc.

Carol Haynes

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Re: Help me build my new Home Theater PC
« Reply #55 on: November 15, 2008, 03:59:21 AM »
I agree - I am drooling!  :-* :-* :-*

A while ago I would have thought $140 was a good price (when £1 = $2) but with the death of the pound it seems quite expensive.

4wd

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Re: Help me build my new Home Theater PC
« Reply #56 on: November 15, 2008, 04:29:49 AM »
A while ago I would have thought $140 was a good price (when £1 = $2) but with the death of the pound it seems quite expensive.

It ain't nuffin' compared to how the Aussie dollar dropped from near parity, (US$0.97), to it's current US$0.65   :(
« Last Edit: November 15, 2008, 04:32:01 AM by 4wd »

Josh

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Re: Help me build my new Home Theater PC
« Reply #57 on: November 16, 2008, 01:34:30 PM »
I am not ignoring everyone, I just haven't had time to look at more cases. I will respond when I am in a better situation to do so.

Josh

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Re: Help me build my new Home Theater PC
« Reply #58 on: March 08, 2010, 01:53:11 PM »
Alright folks,

Sorry to resurrect such an old thread, but rather than start a new one, I wanted to keep this one and restart it with some new thoughts and get the freshest ideas for components. I have been saving and am ready to do this now so I want to get the parts lined up once and for all and commit to the project.

My needs for this system are going to be the following:

Memory: At least 4GB for ample processing and power for future video decoding/media center software

Hard Drives: 7200RPM Drives setup in a raid 1 configuration (high speed is not a very high necessity as no more than 2 users in the household will be accessing this at any given time). The OS drive should be high speed to allow for rapid boot and quick operating system control.

CPU: This is up in the air right now. I want something that can handle the load of decoding or transcoding media on the fly (through use of a media server over the network to other receivers in the house). So, is Intel better or is AMD?

Case: This does not have to be a fancy case. I would prefer a low profile case but will go with a larger case, similar in size to a standard audio receiver, if the benefits of the larger form factor outweight the smaller form factors costs.

Video Card: The only real demand for this is going to be that it is capable of processing, without stuttering, 1080P raw video (or compressed). I will be using this system as a blu-ray setup and will also be decoding multiple files being ripped from BRD to HD MKV files. HDMI output on the card is a MUST.

Audio Card: I am fairly set on the Auzentech X-Fi HomeTheater HD but am open to ideas. I want something that can process the most common and somewhat newer audio technologies (7.1, DTS NEO, etc).

BRD: I would prefer a burner but that is not a necessity as I do not see it occurring all that often.

Media Center Software: OK, This is a big one. I am willing to pay for a good application that provides a nice user interface that is easy to configure, does not do something stupid like allowing the user to delete media from the interface like Windows Media Center, and can be skinned fairly quickly. Also, I would like a program which can also be setup to stream via DLNA to a media center extender that I would like to place elsewhere in the house.

That said, the PSU must be able to handle the load of at least 5-6 drives and the case must have room for an ample amount of hard drives. Ventilation is a big key factor here as I know these drives will generate quite a bit of heat. Aluminum casing, as such, is preferred.

Any thoughts? Comments? Concerns? Mouser-like inquiries?
« Last Edit: March 08, 2010, 01:55:22 PM by Josh »

f0dder

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Re: Help me build my new Home Theater PC
« Reply #59 on: March 08, 2010, 02:03:24 PM »
You can go with Windows built-in support for RAID-1 on dynamic volumes - should work pretty well. Caveat is that it's only available in server editions unless you patch system files, desktop windows only offers striping >_<. Basically any drive you can get today is going to be pretty crazy fast compared to what was available a few years ago... I'd probably go for one of the WesterDigital 'green' series, and probably 5400rpm... going to be PLENTY fast for media use, uses less power, and afaik is also pretty silent.

Fast OS boots? Sure, a velociraptor or a SSD buys you a bit there, but imho the BIOS screens etc. take just as much time as the actual windows loading, so meh. Where a SSD really wins is on application startup time, but if you're mostly going to run media player, don't bother. Really, don't bother. You could even go for a non-mirrored partition on the data drives.

If you go for non-windows RAID, I've got good experience with Intel's RAID Matrix onboard stuff - it even does striping of reads on mirror volumes, giving very fast read speeds. Remember to always (re)enable RAID after flashing bios, though, or you can get some fscked up system state... especially if your system partition is also mirrored :)

Dunno about CPUs, but AMDs are cheaper - haven't looked at charts for a while, though, so I dunno if they're cheaper-per-performance as well, and you have to factor in the cost of motherboards as well. If you're going to do transcoding, you probably do want a quadcore chip.
- carpe noctem

JavaJones

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Re: Help me build my new Home Theater PC
« Reply #60 on: March 08, 2010, 07:34:31 PM »
Hard Drive is going to contribute minimally to power use (~10-20w when in use vs. ~80-120+ for CPU), so I'd go for a decently fast, but standard drive. 7200RPM should be fine. WD's Green Drive series I think do run at 7200, at least some (recent ones are variable, but should max out at 7200), but are slightly less performant than a standard drive due to power saving techniques. Still worth it for lower power and heat output though I think.

The CPU and graphics card are going to be the heart of performance *and* heat in your system, so those are what you should choose most carefully. Intel is generally the leader here in terms of performance-per-watt which should probably be your main criteria, followed closely by performance-per-dollar (where AMD will lead).

I don't know your budget, haven't read the rest of this thread, but personally I'd be inclined to go for the best performance with reasonable heat envelope and get an Intel Core i7 860. Reasonable price (less than $300, say $280 US), comparatively good (i.e. low) power consumption for the performance (95w), and great performance. That'll  be your best price/performance ratio in the i7 series. The one caveat to this is the actual per-core clock is not super high, so single-threaded work loads won't be as fast as they might be with a CPU at a higher clock speed, with fewer cores. That being said an increasing number of HD video codec playback systems are becoming multithreaded, as are many other applications. If price or heat are a bigger issue, consider an i5 650 (3.2Ghz, 73W, $185) which also has the advantage of a higher per-core clock speed (but only 2 cores).

As I said I'd go for the i7 860. As codecs get more complicated, the decoding computational demand rises, even at equivalent resolution (e.g. 1080p), and CPU decoding is likely to come before GPU accelerated decoding for any new codecs (e.g. VP8, next-gen MPEG, etc.). Due to the increasing ubiquity of multiple cores, most future apps, especially computationally demanding ones, will be multithreaded.

As for the graphics card, surprisingly almost any modern (current generation) card, even a low-end one, will accelerate HD content decoding pretty well. I would get something fairly middle-of-the-road. I don't think it even matters too much ATI vs. Nvidia, though I'll say I generally like Nvidia's drivers better, and they seem to have a slight edge in industry support. ATI has historically had better *DVD* decoding, and may also have a slight lead in Blu-ray as a perhaps natural consequence (the lead was mostly in interlaced video decoding), but you'd have to read some current reviews on that for the latest info as I'm really unsure.

As for the audio card, your choice is fine I guess, but I don't think you need a dedicated card to just HDMI your digital sources out to separate decoding hardware, which is what I assume you're doing. A good video player, codec, and graphics card will give you everything you need, HDMI'd out to your system and decoded there with better signal to noise, etc. I have a fairly low-end graphics card in my media PC from a couple years back and it HDMIs audio out just fine.

For the media center, honestly I think the open source/free solutions are largely ahead of the commercial ones (of which I'm not even aware of any major ones). The available free options are pretty robust and impressive IMO. Lots of threads on DC about 'em.

- Oshyan
« Last Edit: March 08, 2010, 10:17:18 PM by JavaJones »

Shades

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Re: Help me build my new Home Theater PC
« Reply #61 on: March 08, 2010, 09:16:25 PM »
Would an i5 not suffice?

I read on Tom's Hardware that the performance of some i5 processors rival with the i7 while costing a lot less. In that way you more money to spend on Netflix (or whichever online/offline distribution system you prefer).

If you plan to use this system for not only for decoding video but also for a lot of encoding video, get an Intel. My daily PC is an AMD and I am fond of using it. Until I want to encode some video, there is where Intel always had the upper hand in my experience. However if encoding is not a primary concern, get AMD...which leaves you again with more money to spend on content to watch.

Onboard audio quality from motherboards nowadays is fine enough by my standards. Besides that, spend money on a decent amplifier (Revox) and good speakers (Wharfedale is my brand of choice), those pack a whole lot of "punch" in small boxes. Not only your ears will love you for it, your better half will too. Again from personal experience, I have to meet the first woman that likes to have big speakers in any room.

JavaJones is absolutely right about video cards and media center software.

EDIT: Added link
« Last Edit: March 09, 2010, 01:24:44 AM by Shades »

JavaJones

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Re: Help me build my new Home Theater PC
« Reply #62 on: March 08, 2010, 10:19:35 PM »
An i5 would be fine for now, yes, but I think it makes sense to build for the future and with decoders becoming increasingly multithreaded, and newer codecs also becoming increasingly CPU-intensive, it makes sense to spend the extra $100 for the i7 IMO.

Onboard audio should never become a factor since you ought to be just using the digital audio output and decoding in dedicated hardware outside the PC. If you *are* using analog audio, then getting a dedicated sound card is a good idea though. Motherboard audio is fine for most normal uses, but for home theater purposes it'll be noisier than you'd want.

- Oshyan

Josh

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Re: Help me build my new Home Theater PC
« Reply #63 on: March 09, 2010, 01:51:01 AM »
First, thanks to all so far for the replies.

Here is my question. After reading the comments here thus far, I am beginning to wonder if that HomeTheater audio card is worthwhile. Would doing what is suggested above, going with a digital output to a receiver, be more beneficial than using this sound card? I am trying to cut down on cost here but am willing to spend money where I need to so it is almost a double edged sword.

That said, do any sound cards offer optical out? Is the standard RCA style digital out jack preferred?

Thoughts?

JavaJones

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Re: Help me build my new Home Theater PC
« Reply #64 on: March 09, 2010, 12:42:44 PM »
If you already have a decent home theater "receiver"/amp with digital inputs and surround sound decoding, then you definitely want to do your decoding there and just output digital from the computer. The sound card you linked to appears to be mainly useful for taking existing analog sources in a system and outputting them to digital for external decoding and playback and for passthrough of existing digital blu-ray source data (which should be a function of your player and work with other HDMI output ports anyway, and also assumes you will be buying a blu-ray drive). However if you get the right other components in your system they ought to pass through digital audio with no intermediate analog step, thus maintaining max quality and avoiding the need for a separate sound card. That has at least been my experience. You will want to verify all that of course. If you do decide to go with a separate sound card, the Auzentech options seem well regarded, though I can't find a review for that particular model.

Whatever solution you go with, you'd want to use digital out, whether optical or HDMI. I'd recommend HDMI if you can do it, just for ease of cabling and modern spec compliance. RCA out is analog and definitely not preferred. With HDMI, even if your amp doesn't support it, you should be able to go to your TV with HDMI, then output to your amp from there with some other digital connection (e.g. optical - hopefully your TV supports it). Finding a common digital connector for all your components is obviously a must.

Finally, the nice thing about a separate audio card is you can always purchase and install it later. So I would recommend against springing for it now, just plan against it for the initial build and you can get it out of consideration and out of the budget. Then build your system on the assumption that you'll pump everything through your graphic's card's HDMI and/or through a motherboard optical out (most have them these days, but verify on the model you choose). Then if you get it and it doesn't all play nice, you can always fall back to analog audio and then upgrade to the separate audio card as soon as you're ready. Motherboards come with audio whether you want it or not, so it's not like the decision against the separate card will affect anything else at this point, and it can easily be decided on later.

- Oshyan
« Last Edit: March 09, 2010, 12:45:59 PM by JavaJones »

4wd

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Re: Help me build my new Home Theater PC
« Reply #65 on: March 11, 2010, 04:15:24 PM »
I actually just put together a build to replace my EPIA system and it would be quite capable of functioning as a HTPC.

Silverstone SUGO SG05 Mini-ITX case (it'll take a dual slot gfx card if necessary): AU$115
ZOTAC GeForce 8200 ITX WiFi: AU$163
Coolermaster GeminiII CPU Cooler (no fans): AU$59
Thermaltake 12cm ISGC fan (replaced the SG05 case fan): AU$20

I got the AMD based board because I already had a CPU & RAM lying around from my main machine rebuild: Athlon 7750 BE + 4GB DDR2.

The only reason it's running the 7750, (95W) is because the Athlon II 235e, (45W), hadn't hit the shelf by the time I left Australia in February.

The machine is used for usenet downloading, bittorrent and DVB-T recording.

HDD: WD750GB GP 3.5" for OS + downloads and a WD160GB Scorpio 2.5" for TV programs, (I don't record much and all recordings are transferred to my main machine for editing/writing etc).
ODD: Optiarc 7540A DVD Writer.

It's ended up as a nice, small, quiet and fast machine, the board I have doesn't have a PCIe x16 slot which is fine, the onboard graphics are good for my use and I'll be installing a twin DVB-T tuner card in the PCIe x1 slot so I can use the USB twin tuner with my laptop.

You can get an idea of what it looks like here, (with the exception of the gfx card of course).

Next build I think I'll use the same case but go for the i3/i5 version of the motherboard and a Radeon gfx card for a lightweight LAN gaming machine.