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Author Topic: HTPC - Revisited - Input requested  (Read 2038 times)
Josh
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« on: February 26, 2012, 07:41:43 AM »

To the doco community,

Here is a task that I visited about 4 years ago. Since that time, the home theater PC I built has been repurposed and I need to build a new one.

Here are the core requirements for this PC and some details on what I would like to achieve.

  • Purpose: I am looking for a system dedicated to decoding media and serving it up to various devices throughout my home.
  • Price: My price point is around 500 dollars (without hard drives).
  • Motherboard/CPU requirements: Since this system will not be used for gaming, I would prefer to use integrated graphics. I expect the CPU to carry much of the load for decoding media or performing BRD playback. While BRD will not be in the initial system (I have a PS3 for that), I would like to ensure that the on-board video is capable of performing this decoding. Please note, decoding of BRD media, when that time comes, will occur at a point where only one other potential decode is taking place. USB 3.0 is a must. If it is advised to go with integrated graphics (as I hope to), the motherboard must have HDMI output. Audio on-board will be fine as I can always expand to a different sound card later if I decide to dedicate this system to 5.1/7.1.
  • Memory: I will be placing 8GB of memory in the system but would like room for expansion if I need to do so later on.
  • Sound: As I said above, on-board audio is fine unless there is a reason for discrete audio
  • Wireless: I would like a PCI, or PCIe depending on motherboard capability, 802.11n card since wireless streaming will be a key function of this device
  • RAID: I am currently debating between using a dedicated RAID card or just relying on Windows to perform this function with the drives I add to the system.
  • TV Tuner: I would like a TV tuner that I can use to perform DVR functions. Also, a good software package would be nice too smiley
  • Case: I would prefer to keep this as small as possible while allowing for 2-3 drives to be incorporated into the setup. I do not need any fancy LEDs or knobs/controls.

I think that is it. Well, what do you think? Am I missing anything? Thoughts?
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Ath
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« Reply #1 on: February 26, 2012, 07:57:19 AM »

Question:
Are you going to control the system by keyboard/mouse, or is there some kind of TV remote-control device planned?

Doubt:
When adding RAID functionality, staying around the $500 mark will be quite tricky undecided
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Josh
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« Reply #2 on: February 26, 2012, 08:13:21 AM »

The system will be headless and managed via RDP and KVMoIP. Also, I will connect the computer directly to the TV as one thing I want to attempt, at some point, is to setup an XMBC style solution. My big hang up with those style solutions is that they all require a lot of configuration and there is always one or two things I find I cannot do. For example, Windows Media Center would be beautiful if I could remove the option to DELETE media after playback has completed. Why Microsoft made this a default is beyond me! (*#&%!(*&@$(*&!@$!!!!!!!

I was thinking of just using Windows for RAID. The issue with hardware RAID controllers is that if they fail, you have to get that EXACT model as a replacement, and even then with different firmwares it can be tricky.
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JavaJones
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« Reply #3 on: February 27, 2012, 05:40:58 PM »

Why RAID? Why, god, why?

- Oshyan
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4wd
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« Reply #4 on: March 05, 2012, 06:46:02 PM »

I'll put forward a setup, maybe it can get you started tweaking it or discussion.  I'll point out now that I've used AMD APUs mainly because there is nothing that can compete with them for video decoding on a price/performance scale but I'm sure you can use an i5-2500 or higher to get the same performance.

For a Mini-ITX build:
$109 - LIAN LI PC-Q08B Black Aluminum Mini-ITX Tower Computer Case - Doesn't have the, (IMHO), ugly 5.25" bays on the side like their other small cases but does have an annoying blue LED in the fan - which I'm quite sure could be introduced to Mr Cutter or replaced entirely.  USB 3.0 ports, six 3.5" HDD bays, one 2.5" bay, takes a standard PSU,
$139 - ASUS F1A75-I Deluxe FM1 AMD A75 (Hudson D3) HDMI SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 Mini ITX AMD Motherboard - WiFi 802.11b/g/n, HDMI, 7.1 audio, USB3, QWERTY remote, BlueTooth, up to 32GB of DDR3 - this covers most of the list of requirements.
$139 - AMD A8-3870K Unlocked Llano 3.0GHz Socket FM1 100W Quad-Core Desktop APU (CPU + GPU) with DirectX 11 Graphic AMD Radeon HD 6550D - The locked A3850 is $10 cheaper but why bother?
$39 - Kingston HyperX 8GB (2 x 4GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) - You can get cheaper RAM but Kingston is well known and reliable.
$69 - PC Power and Cooling Silencer MK III 400W Modular 80PLUS Bronze Power Supply - Again, you can get a cheaper PSU, (and 400W is overkill for this build), but PPC make good quality PSUs.
$57 - ASUS Black 12X BD-ROM 16X DVD-ROM 48X CD-ROM SATA Internal Blu-ray Drive Model BC-12B1ST/BLK/B/AS - Supposedly one of, if not, the quietest BluRay combo drives around.

So that's $552 of your hard-earned money spent.

You could save money by using the following:
$99 - Fractal Design Arc Mini Black High Performance PC Computer Case w/ USB 3.0 - I have to say that I particular like Fractal Designs cases.
$64 - ASRock A75M-HVS FM1 AMD A75 (Hudson D3) HDMI SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 Micro ATX - After Gigabyte, ASRock would be my personal second choice even though they are a division of ASUS they seem to make boards that are more reliable than their parent company, at least in my experience.

Total now: $467

But you need to add a WiFi dongle/card - $15-$30 depending on brand.

I haven't mentioned TV Tuner cards because you didn't mention single/dual tuner, just DVB-T or Hybrid or DVB-T/Ananlog/Cable.  Also the US standard is different from here so I can't recommend anything specific but Hauppauge and AverMedia are usually reliable, (although even they have put out some dogs).

But I will say you don't need it to be a PCI(e) card, USB 2.0 is fine for Dual channel HD DVB-t reception.  I use a TinyTwin together with DNTV Scheduler Pro which is a commercial fork of TV Scheduler Pro, (now open source).  I'm not sure whether TVSP will work in an ATSC situation, (you may need to make your own stations xml file up), but I can say that DNTV SP will happily capture two HD DVB-T broadcasts over USB 2.0 without a problem, (more programs if they happen to be on the same stream - I've had five programs from two streams recording simultaneously).
CPU load is approximately 15% while capturing, (Athlon II 235e @800Mhz), and I've used it on my Atom 270 netbook without any frame drops - the reason is, it's actually two programs: a java frontend running the web server/EPG etc, and a dedicated executable to do the capture.

PM me and I'll send you the IP so you can wander around in it, (change anything and I will kill you)  Angry

Anyway, something to think about/discuss/ignore.

Addendum: Here's a program that's almost identical that will work in the USA: DV Scheduler

For a Micro-ATX build:
$99 - LIAN LI PC-A04B Black Aluminum MicroATX Mini Tower
 or
$109 - Fractal Design Define Mini Black Micro ATX Silent PC Computer Case w/ USB 3.0

$84 - ASUS F1A75-M LE FM1 AMD A75 (Hudson D3) SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 Micro ATX

CPU, PSU, RAM & Combo drive as above plus you need a WiFI dongle/card.


Or maybe you'd like to go a little retro Wink
« Last Edit: March 06, 2012, 11:58:22 PM by 4wd » Logged

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awraynor
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« Reply #5 on: April 03, 2012, 08:40:44 PM »

I was using a Dell Zino with Win7 and my WHS for storage across my homes ethernet.  Now setting up a jailbroken Apple TV2 and XBMC to stream media from my WHS.
It is quite full featured for such a small box, instant on doesn't hurt either.
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Innuendo
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« Reply #6 on: April 04, 2012, 03:38:37 PM »

I was using a Dell Zino with Win7 and my WHS for storage across my homes ethernet.  Now setting up a jailbroken Apple TV2 and XBMC to stream media from my WHS.
It is quite full featured for such a small box, instant on doesn't hurt either.

The problem with an Apple TV2, at least a stock one anyway, is that it isn't capable of 1080p.
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