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Reader Advised HTPC Buyers Blog, Oct 09 #1

Posted on 27th Oct 2009 at 11:28 by Richard Swinburne with 38 comments

Richard Swinburne
Yep, you read that right, I want your help in designing a Home Theatre PC reference guide to go on the site and in the mag.

I get constantly asked for one, but we simply don't test enough HTPC hardware to be as widely knowledgeable as I'd like in order to recommend a setup with 100 percent confidence.

The difficulty is that HTPCs vary by country; in the UK we don't have analogue HDTV (cable) access like the US, not to mention other issues, like varied internet TV services and user need - does it need terrabytes of storage or is gaming compatibility a priority, for example?

With that in mind we want your advice; what have you seen that works? What would you recommend to others that fits the spec below?

Firstly though, I'm going to set some ground rules, to make things a little easier:
  • The predominant aim is silence so we'll keep it simple.
  • If you want to add features like extra storage or TV cards, these will be on the "additional recommendations" list
  • There will be two PCs: a "fast enough" PC concentrating on lowest power consumption, and, a more capable, but still low power "all bells and whistles" PC.
  • I will lead the PCs setup - and my choice is final, although the idea is that I'll keep revising the HTPC Buyers Blog on an ad-hoc basis as new stuff gets released, so if you spot something new - let me know!
  • Finally: I need two names for these systems - suggest something cool that identifies each exactly!
Here's my first go...

#1: Low Power / Fast Enough System


Reader Advised HTPC Buyers Blog, Oct 09 #1 Reader Advised HTPC Buyers Guide, Oct 09 #1

CPU: I thought about the AMD Athlon II X4 620 originally, but decided against it because it's still a 95W chip with a huge 1.4V core voltage. Also, it's still easier to use a faster MHz CPU, than a highly threaded one because most decoders are still lightly threaded. Only CoreAVC scales across many cores, but that costs money, when FFDshow is free.

With that in mind I settled on the Athlon II X2 250. 3GHz from two cores is plenty even for HD decoding. It's 45nm, and while not "45W" (AMD rates its TDP different to Intel, so it's not directly comparable) it is certainly a "low power" chip.

Motherboard: There's no reason not to go with a DDR3 motherboard now, especially since running it at 1.5V will save you a few watts at the wall socket too. We've tested the Gigabyte GA-MA785GMT-UD2H in-house, and I've personally been using the older 780G version for the last two years and will absolutely recommend Gigabyte-AMD boards to anyone!

The onboard Realtek ALC889a is generally very high quality, and features Dolby Home Theatre modes if you want them, and the AMD IGP features UVD2 for offloading the CPU with video decoding assistance, although the chipset still lacks true audio passthrough for the HD modes of Dolby and DTS. If you're not into Blu-ray movies or haven't shelled out for a compatible decoder though, don't worry.

Memory: To be honest, we could live with just 2GB of DDR3 memory if it's just a simple playback machine, even if we're sticking Windows 7 on it - so if you want to drop a few quid, that's an option! We don't need fast memory either, so grab 1,333MHz or 1,600MHz, just make sure it can run at 1.5V to drop that CPU memory controller power consumption just a touch.

I've dropped in 4GB of 1,600MHz G.Skill Ripjaw simply because it's actually cheaper than most 1,333MHz modules! If you find an alternative though (they don't need to be flashy), let me know.

Fans: The Sharkoon Silent Eagle 1000 won our recent fan roundup, and at 20dB is pretty damn quiet, although if you want to fork out more for less air and noise the Noctua S-series are worth keeping in mind.

Storage: Get an SSD. End of.

Even if it's just a small one, the design of this system is to pull media from another mass storage device, preferably in another room, that can power down when not in use. This keeps the PC silent. Hard drives rattle cases and potentially stutter playback if Windows decides to be smart-arsed and assumes your PC is idle, when instead you're watching BattleStar Galactica re-runs. Indexing your drive or scanning it with Windows Defender causes noise and potential playback issues. Small SSDs are reasonably cheap, and generate zero heat or noise: perfect!

I'm dropping in the Corsair P64 drive for now because it's fast andnot that expensive. The Samsung controller is a known quantity and 64GB is plenty, although this can change if we find something cheaper.

What I need your recommendations for:


Case: Something small, MicroATX and not too expensive. What looks stunning, has great features and packs just enough space for the above setup?

Cooling: CPU cooling depends on the size of the case we'll be recommending, and we don't want to spend over the odds on a super-sized CPU cooler when the CPU needs very little metal to keep cool. What AMD coolers fit with what cases? Even if they aren't silent out the box - they've got to be mod-able with replacement fans to make them inaudible.

Power Supply: It needs to be about 300-350W tops and obviously MUST be silent.

Why? Because bolting in a super sized PSU to a system that sips power is completely inefficient. Power supplies have an efficiency threshold and work best between 40-70 percent load. Since very low power cheap PSUs are often, well, a tin can filled with crap and you'd be better off with a gerbil, wheel and dynamo, tell me what you've used that works and fits the bill (I'm not referring to animals there). Remember it also has to fit into the case recommended above too.

Optical: It has to be a Blu-Ray drive, and these can be had for about £50 these days. However, has anyone had experience with them? Especially if any have specific silent modes for movie playback: the last thing we want is a constant whirring noise as we're watching our HD version of 300.

SPAAAAARRRRRRRRTAAANNsWsWsWsIsIIIIIIIIIIIIIRRRRRrrrrrr.....

Just, no.

Additional Storage: Green 5,400RPM drives or full fat 7,200s drives? Does slow arse copy speeds make up for being quieter? Have your say.

TV Cards: What have you used that works in your region?

Software: Linux? Windows 7 MCE? AMD's UVD lacks the drivers for Linux though (still) so maybe we'll just say Windows and let the Linux guys remain smug in their own technical (and free) superiority while we shell out another buck to Microsoft.

What about particular Home Theatre software too? Remember our aim is something simple, not spending six consecutive weekends editing config files and arranging EPG guides.

That's it for now, drop your comments in the forum and I'll keep updating this blog with amendments as we go!

38 Comments

Discuss in the forums Reply
badders 27th October 2009, 12:25 Quote
PSU has to be a Be Quiet 350W Pure Power PSU - Very quiet, and at under £30, I'm very impressed.
Bought 2 of these recently for builds and can't recommend them highly enough.
davefelcher 27th October 2009, 12:36 Quote
Surely recording and watching TV is a big reason to build a media center PC rather than just using one of those media hard disks that plugs into a TV. For that reason a 64GB SSD sounds useless.
Thoroughly recommend an Antec Fusion case.
Scythe Mini Ninja heatsink fits in nicely and doesn't require a fan.
BLC 27th October 2009, 12:37 Quote
I can probably only comment on software, as I've never actually built a full HTPC rig (although I am now :) ).

If your setup involves some kind of remote storage device, why not make this a low-power Linux file server and stick the TV decoder in there? That way you can run a MythTV server on the fileserver and a client on the HTPC. My reasoning for this is as follows: XBMC is quite possibly the best media centre playback software that I have ever used - it's intuitive, simple to navigate, clearly laid out and displays even low-quality videos brilliantly. I've been using it on my modified xbox for years and only recently am I planning to replace it (this is because the xbox can't handle any hi-def codecs - the software supports it, but the piddly 733MHz hardware is nowhere near fast enough). There are versions of XBMC available for Linux, Windows and even a Live CD version, if you only want to test it.

The only HTPC functions XBMC does not support are TV tuners and PVR functions. The developers are considering adding a MythTV client to the software - so you can have the MythTV server stream the TV content to the XBMC client. Hence the suggestion for a separate MythTV server box.

I've also been trying out Windows Media Centre recently. It handles everything very capably, and is quite easy to use, but it was let down by codec problems and EPG data issues. It doesn't natively support some of the more exotic video codecs I use, or even some pretty standard encoding formats - XBMC has handled everything I've ever thrown at it (aside from the aforementioned HD codecs on the xbox hardware). I had to get third party tools/plugins to add support for these codecs, and the postprocessing/filtering looks nowhere near as good as XBMC does. It also did have some issues getting the EPG data for some of the freeview TV channels. Where I live, there are two transmitters in range - Mendip (Bristol) and Wenvoe (just outside of Cardiff). Wenvoe is geographically closer, but Mendip has the stronger signal. Therefore some channels are picked up on the Wenvoe transmitter and some on Mendip (for example, I get BBC West instead of Wales, but can also pick up S4C). However Windows Media Centre asked me to select EPG data from one transmitter only - Wenvoe *or* Mendip. I chose Mendip as I know it has the stronger signal, but it meant that some channels constantly showed "NO DATA AVAILABLE" in the guide.

EDIT: I should mention that my purpose-built freeview PVR has no problems with EPG data - it takes it's data from the TV signal, rather than using files downloaded over the Internet (like Media Centre does - for me, at least)

Overall I found Media Centre surprisingly capable, but the codec problems and EPG data issues really lets it down. I can't recommend XBMC enough, but it has no support for TV & PVR functions...unless you wait for the MythTV client to be developed and set up a separate machine to host a MythTV server.

Of course you can use MythTV on one box, as a complete standalone HTPC solution. However I have no experience in setting it up or using it, so I can't really comment on it. Plus, the official builds are, as far as I know, Linux-only - you either have to compile it for Windows from source code or get a third-party build.
davefelcher 27th October 2009, 12:47 Quote
To make all Windows codec issues go away: http://shark007.net/
Which version of Windows were you using? I think you can tell 7 to use broadcast EPG info on a per channel basis.
BLC 27th October 2009, 12:57 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by davefelcher
To make all Windows codec issues go away: http://shark007.net/
Which version of Windows were you using? I think you can tell 7 to use broadcast EPG info on a per channel basis.

I usually use the Combined Community Codec Pack for everything else, but Shark007 was one of the third party tools I found to fix Media Centre ;). I have Vista x64 installed at the moment, so was using the built-in version of Media Centre. There may well be an option to get this version to use broadcast EPG data, but the thought didn't occur to me at the time - I simply made the assumption that it downloaded EPG data over the web and that was the end of it.

Either way, the "out of the box" experience isn't very good for a new/first-time user. I realise that the majority of the Bit-Tech audience can be classed as neither, but I don't think it would look too good in a buyer's guide. When you compare it to a Freeview PVR, they just...work. Plug it in, connect the cables and you're away - no messy config needed. In my opinion, an HTPC should mirror this experience as much as possible.

I realise that an HTPC is somewhat more complex than a bog-standard Freeview PVR, but that doesn't mean it needs to be somewhat more complex to set up and use. In fact, I personally think that the hardware is the easy part to sort out! You could have the best and most silent hardware in the world, but if the software is a pig to use, you're not going to enjoy the experience.
yakyb 27th October 2009, 13:00 Quote
i wuold agree that shark 007 saves alot of hassle

also as far as software goes i would look into Media browser as a plugin to WMC and META browser as a metadata grabber (this is the best beleive me i have searched far and wide)

also one peice of software no media centre should be without is tunerfreeMCE as it allows Iplayer / Itv / 4OD through WMC
BLC 27th October 2009, 13:09 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by yakyb
i wuold agree that shark 007 saves alot of hassle

also as far as software goes i would look into Media browser as a plugin to WMC and META browser as a metadata grabber (this is the best beleive me i have searched far and wide)

also one peice of software no media centre should be without is tunerfreeMCE as it allows Iplayer / Itv / 4OD through WMC

I'll have a look at those later... Just looked at some screenshots of Media Browser, and it looks rather pretty...
davefelcher 27th October 2009, 13:09 Quote
Get Windows 7. Media Center is much better than the Vista version.
There seem to be more channel and guide related options too.
It's odd that you value the out of the box experience so highly yet use Linux ;-)
Personally I find 7MC much easier to setup and use than my parents' Freeview recorder set top box.
Including a clean Windows install I was watching TV within an hour.
amdavies 27th October 2009, 13:13 Quote
With all of the dedicated media players available now, it just doesn't seem as though having one huge box sitting under the TV doing everything is the best solution. Reducing noise with SSDs, quiet PSUs and other expensive solutions is unnecessary when you can have a near-silent media player front-end and a regular back-end hidden away in another room.

Tying in a dedicated front-end to a MythTV system isn't diffcult, there's even a UPnP server built in to allow those media players that are capable to tie in directly. There is an added step of having to access the MythTV back-end through a regular computer to set-up recordings and so-forth but you gain a more flexible approach to everything.

I have a PS3 front-end with an Athlon X2 5200 back-end running MythTV and Mediatomb (transcoder) as I wanted the simplest solution to allow my parents to watch recorded TV.
BLC 27th October 2009, 13:23 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by davefelcher
It's odd that you value the out of the box experience so highly yet use Linux ;-)

The difference is that I don't mind faffing around with manually editing/typing config files, installing, uninstalling, re-installing, text-only commands, tweaking, optimising etc. I'll quite happily forgo the out of box experience to get the best out of something, but it wouldn't make very interesting or appealing reading for someone who's never set up an HTPC before! :)

Soon as I get my grubby hands on Win7, I'll try out vanilla MCE again - sounds like it's much better. I still think that XBMC is the best software for media playback - no shadow of a doubt - but if only they would include native support for TV!
sandys 27th October 2009, 13:27 Quote
I'll be looking forward to this article

the HTPC lives in my front room therefore it has to look good and fit in with other devices and be quiet, it was these reason alone that meant my Sky Plus box and 360 had to leave the front room, don't like whiny hardware.-

A HTPC should not look like a PC IMO, it needs to blend in nicely with other AV equipment, for this reason I set mine up in one of these

http://www.silverstonetek.com/products/p_contents.php?pno=lc19&area=

this also comes with its own 120W fanless PSU which is plenty of juice, but this all depends on what you want your HTPC for, HT implies Home Theatre, some people want to game on it too, I don't I just want web, media playback and PVR duties.

Problem with my case is you are restricted to what components you can use, I was happy to pay extra for using a mixture of notebook and desktop hardware as the notebook drives are often quieter and less power.

Storage you need a lot and SSD is prohibitively expensive in this case, basically the MediaPC has become the central repository for media and a place to back up the family laptops, rather than use something else, as well as recording Freeview, programs for me, the missus and sprog etc take room, as an example a 1 hour recording from a good bandwidth freeview channel with consume 2Gb, I can be recording on some days 6 things in parallel each taking from 600Mb-2Gb say, sometimes more if its a film, after a month or so if you've been busy there will be things sat there taking up room, SSD probably not ideal.

Due to case choice tuners are handled via USB so you need a board with a lot of USB ports on the rear, as you'll need to add IR and probably bluetooth. MY tuners are USB and I am using the flaky software that comes with them for recording as you can record anything off one mux on the transport stream via one tuner, other software typically limits you to one tuner, one channel, be interested to hear of other tuners that have this ability as the company has gone bust and there are no drivers for Win7/Vista so I'm on XP :(

I have used GB-PVR and mediaportal they seem promising amongst others but the moment I use them my cards becomes one tuner one channel which is a limitation for us particularly when you have tuners network stream live TV to other machines in the house.

I have a riser card in the case to run a PCI or PCIe tuner card but I have not yet settled on a twin tuner DVB S2 card to fit.

Due to case choice my CPU cooler had to be small, very low profile, this means it can't deal with a lot of heat, particularly when I 7v its fan and run at 800rpm, so my X2 1.9Ghz (3600+ is it?) is under volted to 0.85v using CrystalCPUID to ramp it up to 1.05v under full load. I also underclock and undervolt RAM, you really don't need a lot of power for my functions, don't even need dual core, I could probably do all my stuff off of a crappy Atom.

ATI UVD from my HD3200 mobo handles Bluray and MPeG decoding at less than 30% CPU usage, I've not experienced issues playing back other HD files with my setup.

My optical playback seems to be quiet (apart from initial seek) as I use a notebook drive I guess, it certainly doesn't annoy me, not even thought about it, not watched a DVD in a while these days though, solely Bluray which I think runs slower? in past iterations I have used either a custom firmware or software to control drivespeed.
sandys 27th October 2009, 13:28 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by amdavies
I have a PS3 front-end with an Athlon X2 5200 back-end running MythTV and Mediatomb (transcoder) as I wanted the simplest solution to allow my parents to watch recorded TV.

I was doing this for a while but my lauch 60Gb has started to get noisy so I just use it for games now, it worked really well though.
davefelcher 27th October 2009, 13:42 Quote
CampGareth 27th October 2009, 13:47 Quote
I'm somewhat surprised that the beagleboard hasn't come up yet, sure it's linux only and sure it's ARM however it's very low power at 2.5W and it'll play 720p videos with no problems. It's also silent and is basically perfect for the low power media PC job:

http://beagleboard.org/hardware
sandys 27th October 2009, 13:49 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by davefelcher
Almost forgot.
Best accessory you can get:
http://www.logitech.com/index.cfm/keyboards/keyboard/devices/3848&cl=gb,en

I use one of these, bit bigger, but also very useful

http://www.scan.co.uk/Products/Keysonic-KB-ACK-540BT-Bluetooth-Wireless-mini-keyboard-with-built-in-touchpad
sandys 27th October 2009, 13:52 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by CampGareth
I'm somewhat surprised that the beagleboard hasn't come up yet, sure it's linux only and sure it's ARM however it's very low power at 2.5W and it'll play 720p videos with no problems. It's also silent and is basically perfect for the low power media PC job:

http://beagleboard.org/hardware

No mention of HDCP might be a blocker for bluray
Mister_Tad 27th October 2009, 14:40 Quote
Antec fusion (or NSK2480 to save some pennies) + Scythe mini ninja are a match made in heaven for a cool and quiet HTPC.

A single quiet 120mm can be used as an exhaust fan and sufficiently cool the whole lot provided a low-ish power CPU is used.
Chris P 27th October 2009, 15:18 Quote
I'm still waiting for more information on this case:

http://www.halcyonworks.com/

Both models look stunning (they are more or less the same, just different dimensions)!

Also have had very good experience with BlackGold TV cards up in the north west (I do have a strong signal anyway where I am). With the 6in1 model (which seems to be unavailable now) you can set up WMC (only in windows 7 I believe) to use both Freeview and Freesat simultaneously if set up correctly - I have a link to a tutorial somewhere but I can't find it atm.
I have only used the 4in1 model which is excellent, the website states it also supports HD streams, don't know if it supports FreeviewHD (I did ask BlackGold but they never replied) when it goes live in my area in December - guess I'll find out!

The biggest advantage for me when it comes to the BlackGold cards with HTPCs is that they come with low-profile brackets, so they'll fit in smaller cases! I certainly don't want a massive PC sat under my TV!!
CampGareth 27th October 2009, 23:39 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by sandys
No mention of HDCP might be a blocker for bluray

it's a 600Mhz ARM processor, that should have been the first tip off that it isn't suitable for bluray. Anyway, since when do we rely on DVDs and such? rip a copy and shove it on a fileserver! solves most problems!
Ross1 28th October 2009, 00:01 Quote
pointless to get an SSD, htpc is about having a small form factor case with lots of storage for your videos + recorded tv, and obviously a tv tuner. in terms of performance, an SSD is simply not needed. the 'hard drives make lots of noise' does not have to apply anymore. decent case mounting and generally quieter drives make them inaudible.

the last 3 or so years ive been recommending the hauppauge nova-t 500. However, given the switch to dvb-t2 isnt so far away, it seems difficult to justify the ~£50 (it hasnt dropped in price for years) for a dual tv tuner than may well be redundant soon.

the cpu + mobo makes sense.

the case is difficult. i ended up cheaping out and going for a Jou-Jye Nu-1290 (was only £30 inc a 300W psu). Obviously there are much better options, but i cant complain considering the price.
davefelcher 28th October 2009, 09:21 Quote
Freeview HD is years away in some areas. Nova-T 500 is certainly worth the money if you are in one..
Are there any dual tuner DVB-T2 cards around?
Are there any DVB-T cards with 3 or 4 tuners?
dolphin-promotions 28th October 2009, 09:26 Quote
I agree with Mr Tad I have read from many sources that the Antec NSK2480 + Scythe Mini Ninja are ideal choices.

The case also 380W Earthwatts 80%+ Eff PSU. Granted it probably isn't as quite as other PSUs but it will help keep the price down

I believe the NSK2400 was developed with help from silentpcreview to buid the best possible HTPC case.
BLC 28th October 2009, 11:10 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris P
I'm still waiting for more information on this case:

http://www.halcyonworks.com/

Both models look stunning (they are more or less the same, just different dimensions)!

They do look rather nice indeed, especially in black - I never fell for the "I must have all my A/V equipment in silver!" style. Though I'll bet they will come with a pretty stiff price tag!
Paddy 28th October 2009, 12:49 Quote
I've been reading this quite closely as I am currently looking to upgrade my HTPC. I have to agree with quite a few of the posts especially regarding XBMC and HD size. After trying a large selection of media front ends I found that XBMC is the most compatible (plays most media types) and easiest to operate of the lot. Running a stripped down version of Linux with XBMC works like a dream.

As most people suggested your media will probably be stored externally, so i wouldn't recomend a SSD due to price. Most recent hard drives are silent enough to not be heard above the fan noise. Personally I've not had much luck with networking (wireless always a bit flaky) so I would recomend a good external hard disk to enable easy connection to multiple pc's for transfering/backup and sharing that way.

No one has yet mentioned a Shuttle PC, does anyone still use these or are they not as popular anymore?

The best item to purchase for any media centre has to be a good remote control for your pc. ATI remote wonders can be had from ebay for only a couple of quid and work perfectly. Radio based rather than IR makes them work even without direct sight!

I'd also recomend getting a gfx card with s-video/composite out for those who haven't upgraded to a HD TV!
Chris P 28th October 2009, 12:51 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ross1
pointless to get an SSD, htpc is about having a small form factor case with lots of storage for your videos + recorded tv, and obviously a tv tuner. in terms of performance, an SSD is simply not needed. the 'hard drives make lots of noise' does not have to apply anymore. decent case mounting and generally quieter drives make them inaudible.

You don't need a massive disk in your HTPC, just something like a NAS or windows home server - like Paddy said though, it's has to be on a wired network! Having an SSD in your htpc will also make it snappier on boot (nobody wants to sit around waiting for their TV to load...), and snappier in your chosen interface.
davefelcher 28th October 2009, 13:04 Quote
"I'd also recomend getting a gfx card with s-video/composite out for those who haven't upgraded to a HD TV!" - If you have a CRT TV I'd knock the media centre idea on the head. It looks awful and the text isn't readable. It does make for a good 'new TV' excuse though.

"You don't need a massive disk in your HTPC, just something like a NAS or windows home server. Having an SSD in your htpc will also make it snappier on boot (nobody wants to sit around waiting for their TV to load...), and snappier in your chosen interface." - Why turn it off? Use sleep mode. It'll wake up to record TV still and go back to sleep when finished. Or you could leave it awake and use it as a media server so you don't need a separate server or NAS box.
sandys 28th October 2009, 13:11 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris P
You don't need a massive disk in your HTPC, just something like a NAS or windows home server - like Paddy said though, it's has to be on a wired network! Having an SSD in your htpc will also make it snappier on boot (nobody wants to sit around waiting for their TV to load...), and snappier in your chosen interface.

Don't quite understand why people want to rely on a NAS, the mediaPC can be your NAS, webserver, whatever, blimey a loaded up 2 disk synology takes 30w, my HTPC not doing a great deal (bit of recording) sits at 45-50w, why would I want to have both running when one machine can do the whole job and cut my daily power consumption.

Never had disk performance issues, no interference with recordings etc, this HTPC could be the central hub. Ok I might not see full network interface performance, but never felt the need for a NAS, I've toyed with the idea as a gadget, Perhaps your doing it for noise or something but I never hear disc thrashing, I'm running XP though which I guess doesn't do any fancy indexing etc.
Chris P 28th October 2009, 13:31 Quote
Wow, that was more controversial than I thought it would be :D

I suppose it all depends on the the uses of your HTPC and other devices around the house. If your simply watching, recording tv, storing music, etc - then the most logical solution is to whack a 2TB drive in to your media box and, if required create shares, or in the case of win7 attach it to your homegroup.

I jumped to a NAS / WHS really because I use it for many more purposes than for the media centre PC - I also store a lot of films (totalling approx 1.5TB now and still growing), I don't really want to end up with 2 or more HDDs in a small enclosure in my living room.
sandys 28th October 2009, 13:44 Quote
fair enough, I've only got 1TB which I only half fill but then as I've bought DVD/Bluray and have the discs which need to be stored in the house there is not much point in my mind in having them on a fileserver, course it does mean I have to get off my arse and put in disc in when I want to watch one, sure i'm a fat git but even I'm not that lazy to got to the effort of transferring them all, Bluray are a bit big too.
Da_Rude_Baboon 28th October 2009, 16:34 Quote
Good looking and cheap don't really seem to go together with HTPC cases so i will be interested in the recommendations.

Can i make a small request that you measure how much power the systems use in standby please? I have requested this for motherboard reviews before but you have always been strangely reluctant to do so. If all your doing is playback then how does an ION based system compare?
adrock 29th October 2009, 17:15 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by davefelcher

Thoroughly recommend an Antec Fusion case.
Scythe Mini Ninja heatsink fits in nicely and doesn't require a fan.

I have that exact case and heatsink and can confirm the machine is completely silent even with a normal HD in there (i'm using an old 120GB samsung drive). I have the two case fans on the lowest speed as exhausts and no other cooling, and my athlon 5400 x2 (i think, it runs at 2.8GHz anyway) never has any complaints. The case includes a PSU that should be more than enough and is quiet to boot. You also get a built in (though not great) IR port, display, and a shiny volume control knob for those inexplicable times you feel like crossing the room to turn something up.
BLC 29th October 2009, 19:10 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by davefelcher
If you have a CRT TV I'd knock the media centre idea on the head. It looks awful and the text isn't readable. It does make for a good 'new TV' excuse though.

Not necessarily - I just bought one of these (ATI All In Wonder X800 GT) second-hand for my media centre build, primarily as it has a SCART output (as well as composite video in and a TV Tuner - TV tuner doesn't work under Vista, but it isn't DVB-T anyway, so I've got a separate card). I've tested it out on my main rig and it works brilliantly - normal desktop resolution is a bit hard to read on the TV, but when using a "10-foot interface" media centre software package, it looks fine.

It may be tricky to find the hardware you need (such as a card with SCART output, or a TV with S-Video in - forget about composite, as it really sucks), but it's not impossible.

EDIT: Apparently, I lie - the AIW X800 does have a DVB-T tuner, but it still doesn't work in Vista...
sandys 29th October 2009, 19:19 Quote
I used to run my mediaPC on a 28" crt years ago, around the time freeview was launched, it was fine, fonts and icons aren't an issue particularly if you are using one of the many software front ends, even using straight up windows was fine with some tweak of fonts and menus.
littlexanth 31st October 2009, 17:44 Quote
When I had a stab at building a media pc a couple of years ago there was no linux support for playing back blu-ray discs. There were a few guides to play it in linux after ripping and messing around, which did not sound as convenient as poping the disc in and pressing play. So I went down the Windows XP route with the playback software that came bundled with the drive.

Has linux support for blu-ray caught up yet? Can you rent a film and pop it in the drive and play it immediately in linux? Windows 7 does not come with native blu-ray playback to keep the cost down, so you still need a third party player installed to manage this. And that will cost if you dont use or have one that comes with the drive.

What do you all think?
davefelcher 31st October 2009, 23:06 Quote
PowerDVD 9 integrates into media center on Win7 so you don't have to launch a separate program. Works well in my experience.
ArcSoft TotalMedia Theatre 3 also integrates but I've not used it so can't comment.
fathazza 7th November 2009, 22:42 Quote
If i was building a new HCPC today id go for :-

AMD Athlon II X2 240E - 45w goodness

785G AM3 or nvidia 8300 Mobo AM2+ ( as then could do 7.1 lpcm and use old ddr2 ram)

2gb ram

Be quiet 350W jobby, or the OCZ ModXstream if space was tight and a modular psu was needed.

BlackGold BGT3540 - uber versatile tuner

Hdd - Samsung F2

OS - Windows 7

Software - GBPVR

TMT3 has to be recomended over pdvd as cyberlink are just money gouging gits!


My current HCPC if anyone cares...:-
Amd BE-2350 cpu
stock cooler
Gigabyte 690g mobo
2gb crucial 10th anniversary ram
Ati 2600xt passive graphics card
Hauppauge nova 500 dvb-t dual tuner
2x samsung 1tb drives
LG Bluray/Hd-dvd drive
400w OCZ Modxstream PSU
thermaltake (i know i know) lanbox lite case
keysonic wireless keyboard/trackpad

running Win7 HP, GBPVR, Squeeze Server,squeezeplay, powerdvd 7.3, VLC
Connected to optoma 720p projector, and pioneer reciever.
tukom 5th June 2010, 08:56 Quote
In search for the <a href="http://mymediaexperience.com/guide-to-build-optimal-htpc-in-2010/">best HTPC</a>, my setup has been as follows:
- Antec Fusion HTPC Case (looks like a receiver)
- Asus P7H55 Intel H55 LGA1156 motherboard
- Corsair cx400w power
- Intel Core i3-530 2.93GHz processor
- Kingstom 4GB RAM 1333MHz DDR3
- Samsung Spinpoint F3 1TB hard drive
- Samsung SH-B083L/RSBP Blu-Ray

I have been really happy with this HTPC setup and plays nicely full HD and some games as well.
tukom 5th June 2010, 09:03 Quote
Sorry here was the link to the best HTPC for HD video usage I was referring to.
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