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2 posts

Wannabe Geek


Topic # 128598 15-Aug-2013 22:24
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Hi all

As the title of the topic suggests, I'm interested in building an HTPC but am a little bit unsure on the parts that I require for a decent system that will last a few years. I have been looking recently on a site called mymediaexperience which has four types of system broken down that I was looking at but I'm a bit concerned that they might be overkill though.

I have previously built my own system however this was several years back when I had the time so a little bit out of touch but see this as an ideal chance to get back into it.

I currently use Sky however with the loss of the the EPL and the general lack of stuff on, I see this as quite expensive as it is and don't really want to pay for mysky when I only really watch the freeview channels anyway.

Ideally, I'm looking at a system that can stream and record hd tv. I'd also like storage to be able to rip my dvd collection on and watch. I have a large dvd collection so this will take some time but think I'd need to be able to add additional storage at some point although from my research I believe I can set up a separate server for this.

The system wouldn't need to play the latest games as I rarely play games anymore but would need a blu-ray drive for ripping of movies. I'm quite interested in putting in a SSD as they get good reviews on bootup times and unless I was setting the system to record something, I would be shutting down.

Thanks for your help in advance all, hopefully I haven't missed any details.

Thanks

Pete

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  Reply # 879205 16-Aug-2013 00:10
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Sounds like you have the right idea, and what you want can be had for a pretty reasonable price these days. Def go with an SSD (128GB) for the OS and software, it really makes a difference. Network storage is definitely a good option and allows you to have a nice small sleek case.

If you do want to do some kind of decent gaming, you'll need a graphics card of course, but otherwise you don't. Choose a decent mobo with HDMI but again, you don't need to spend too much. Basic bluray drive is fine. Keep fans to a bare minimum as a quiet htpc is a good htpc :) i3 core is plenty. Consider an aftermarket CPU cooler too. Go for an x64 OS and 4GB of RAM. HVR-2210 is ideal for Freeview HD.

You'll also need a wireless keyboard and mouse, and probably want a universal remote too. I never shut down my htpc (although I set it to do a restart every night). It just sits in S3 sleep and only takes seconds to fire up. Automatically wakes up to record and then goes back to sleep like clockwork.

Choose a mobo size and model based on what you want your machine to do and then look at cases and read reviews on them. All htpc cases have weaknesses somewhere. some are minor but others aren't.

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  Reply # 879319 16-Aug-2013 09:57
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I started where you are, around 5 years ago, and things have come a long way since then. 

I began with a standalone system under the TV, but I have now moved to a server/client setup. I found that having everything on the same machine meant if I wanted to do maintenance, I had to "schedule" it or risk missing recordings.

My setup now is
Server: (sits quietly in a cupboard)
Core 2 Duo 2.66GHz
Windows Home Server 2011
Trancend SSD OS disk, 6TB of storage disks & 3 x TV tuners
Stablebit DrivePool & Scanner - for pooling storage and keeping data "safe(ish)"
LightsOut - allows the server to sleep when not required and wake on demand.
ARGUS TV - Backend for TV Recording and streaming managment.
ARGUS TV to LightsOut - Pushes scheduled recordings to the LightsOut calander so the server wakes for recordings

Clients: 
2x fairly basic machines with Core 2 Duo 2.6 or 3GHz cpu Samsung SSD and "ASUS GT610 Silent Edition" graphics card each.
MediaPortal, with ARGUS TV, IFC, MP-TVSeries and MovingPictures plugins.



If you intend to watch HDTV, which is 1080i, you do need a semi reasonable graphics card, a lot of the integrated graphics and low end cards just don't cut it. 
1080i requires a lot more more heavy lifting than 1080p and even many/all of the Nvidia ION units aren't up to the task.

The frontend software you use is also a fairly important choice. My preference is MediaPortal, many others choose XBMC.
You could just go with Windows MediaCenter, but it is very limiting in many respects.

TV tuners, there are many choices, and it really depends on whether you'll be receiving a Satellite or Terrestrial signal. I get Terrestrial, and have a Hauppauge 2200 (dual tuner) pcie card and an Avermedia A835 USB stick, both are pretty good. Most TV software (not Windows MediaCenter) allows tuning all channels the same frequency using only one tuner, so 3 TV tuners allows me to watch/record every channel available to me, simultaneously.


I'd also suggest thinking about pooling software for the storage if you're going to have multiple data disks. It allows you pool drives of any size and type creating one large disk, it'll allow duplication of selected data (photos for example) to make data *safer*. My setup will even evacuate a failing disk to help limit/prevent data loss. Also, if my system fails, I can connect a data disk to almost any machine and the data is accessible.
Unless you know a lot about RAID, I'd strongly recommend against it. People love RAID, and it's great... till it fails and eats ALL your data.





Location: Dunedin

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  Reply # 879443 16-Aug-2013 12:08
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Decent onboard graphics should handle 1080 well enough but some won't of course. But if you're going to use a server then get a separate card. I run a passive HD6450 (<$60) which handles any video you can chuck at it but obviously limits your gaming capability

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  Reply # 879480 16-Aug-2013 13:00
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I was trying to refer to both integrated and discrete graphics, but I really didn't make that clear, sorry.

It is important for the OP to know that 1080p and 1080i are very different, 1080i takes about twice the power to process.
I used to use a passive HD4350, it was low end but cheep as chips and it handled everything I could throw at it too.
It just wasn't up to decoding 1080i Freeview HD though.




Location: Dunedin

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  Reply # 879581 16-Aug-2013 14:52
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Good points. The HD6450 I got recently makes short work of TV3 while staying silent and cool (for a graphics card anyway).

Good value :)

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  Reply # 879965 17-Aug-2013 10:39
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I finally looked at the site you mentioned. Here's my thoughts.

Starter - for pure video playback and no TV content, the Pi might just handle it, it absolutely will not handle TV.
Budget - might do it, I'd do some research on that A6 and 1080i, some of those A(x) units do a great job, some don't. Provided the APU is up to the task, and I suspect it is, this would be my choice for my client machines.
Value - is a pretty good system, I'd still chose a passive video card over the Intel HD graphics, it should keep the CPU cooler and therefore the system quieter. 
Performance - is probably overkill, but it depends on what you want it to do. If you have any plans to transcode content to a phone or tablet, you're going to want a capable CPU.

As a first system, you're not going to get it perfect, there will be things you find you want to be able to do, and things you find you don't use it for after all. I'd suggest spending the least possible for a system that does what you want it to do but is easily upgraded should the need arise. Get a system running then go from there. If you buy the biggest and best, you'll likely regret it, and the same will happen if you cheap out too much.

I'd definitely recommend an SSD, it doesn't need to be huge though, it's only an HTPC.


A few more thoughts

1.
HDTV recordings can use a lot of disk space, HD recordings can be as much a 8GB/hr.

2. 
I originally got what I thought was going to be a great HTPC case, the silverstone GD02-MT and it has been my single biggest regret. I thought it would be useful to control music and whatnot without having to turn on the TV, but the software is a dog and will never do what I want.
Aside from the touchscreen letdown, that case did serve it's purpose well when I had a single seat system, now it really is overkill.

The one lesson I learned was that a case only needs a power button maybe an optical drive bay, and perhaps a usb port at the front. VFD's and the like are pretty, but expensive and really pretty useless.

3.
Another challenge is finding a remote that suits your needs. I like that my remote is integrated with the case, but I dislike the remote itself. A harmony remote did sort out most of my issues though.
I recently tried a Streacom internal remote unit, it looked promising, but it's been a letdown, it just will not work with a harmony remote.

Now I've learned more about CIR, I'm on the hunt for a solution based around that. The difficulty is finding a board that has it, they are available, but usually don't seen to advertise the feature.

You could use a keyboard and mouse, but in reality, it's a PITA.

4.
Comskip can be a good application if you get it to work well. It scans for adverts and allows them to be automatically skipped. In NZ, results vary and it works well enough for some people. 
If you plan to try it though, you need a good CPU or it'll take hours to process a half hour HD recording.




Location: Dunedin



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Wannabe Geek


  Reply # 880286 17-Aug-2013 19:52
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Thanks for the feedback guys. My current plan is to set up a basic system based loosely on the value PC on the opening post that I mentioned. As this is a bit of an ongoing project, I'm looking at setting it up as a basic system and adding on as I get the time and money.

So far, I am thinking:

MOBO: AS Rock H77-M Motherboard
CPU: Intel Core i3 3225 - I think as a starting point this looks likely to be suitable until I put a dedicated graphics card in.
RAM: G.SKILL Ripjaws X 8GB(1X8G) Gaming DDR3 1600MHz (PC3 12800) Desktop Memory 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM Model F3-12800CL10S-8GBXL -
SSD: SanDisk SDSSDP-064G-G25 64GB SATA 6GB/s 2.5 Inch Internal SSD
Case: Unsure on as I'd like something that wont look too much like a computer and looks more like a dvd player/siimilar. Any suggestions?
HDD: I will look into putting a HDD drive in: Probably a 3TB one and then move to a separate server when money allows it
I have an old DVD drive lying around that I will install as a temporary measure and replace later
TV Card: HVR-2210

I'd like to get a Harmony One remote for my whole system at some point too.

Any thoughts on the above plans/comments on what Im missing?

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  Reply # 880302 17-Aug-2013 20:44
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If it's only a HTPC, 8GB is overkill for ram, I think mine are 2GB each and it's more than enough (obviously price is going to be a factor). You could go for a RAM disk for timeshifting, in which case it' about right for a single stream.

Other than that, I've got no wisdom




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  Reply # 880323 17-Aug-2013 21:42
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Case: Antec NSK2480 is doing well for ours, though it is quite large. Looks the part though. They do a silver one too.

i3 IMO is overkill for an HTPC, though I guess it depends what you want to do with it. I went with AMD APU and have been very happy with it.

As above, I can't see much need for 8GB.

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Master Geek


  Reply # 880490 18-Aug-2013 11:54
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I am in the process of building an htpc for my parents to replace sky - have ordered all the parts, just waiting for them to arrive now.

I opted for the a6-5400k that is used in that value build. I've seen it recommended on geekzone a few times as being suitable for NZ 1080i freeview. From all my researching it looks the goods for an htpc - amd onboard graphics is definitely better than intels. Processor may not be as grunty as an intel, but that's not required, and I want cool and quiet not powerful.

Got a 120GB SSD for OS etc and separate HDD for recordings and files. I recently upgraded my system to a 120GB SSD, totally worth it. Have about 50GB empty space on my SSD at present.

Opted for 1x4gb ddr3-1600 ram. Could have got 2x2GB RAM for $10-$15 cheaper.

For the case I got a Silverstone Milo Slim ML03B. Low profile, looks quite nice IMO. It is a tight fit with a PSU and optical drive, but I didn't get an optical drive as my parents have a blu ray home theater so don't need one. Other issue is it only fits 80cm fans. The case is quite open at the side, so will see how hot it gets without any fans to begin with. Stock cooler on the CPU until I get an idea of it's noise.

Will let you know how the a6 stacks up once everything is up and running.

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Ultimate Geek


  Reply # 881036 19-Aug-2013 14:53
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Here is another site that has good info on HTPC builds.

One thing regarding RAM: if you intend to use APU for FVHD decoding, I have read it is important to utilise dual channel for your memory.

Definitely go with SSD. Just installed Samsung 840 120GB in my HTPC. Partitioned to 40BG,as I won't be installing too many programmes. Using rest for my music. Was so impressed with the speed -once Mediaportal is loaded (an using XP, so not optimised), I bouhgt & installed one in my desktop rig. Boot up & MP load times are around 20-25% shorter, but are very zippy once loaded. I understand W7 & W8 are lightning-fast.




Silverstone LC14 HTPC Case/Intel E4600 CPU/GA-EP35-DS3 MOBO/Asus EN9500GT graphics/2GB RAM/total 2TB HDD space/HVR-2200 & 2X 150MCE tuner cards/LG GGC-H20L BD Drive/MCE2005/Mediaportal/TVServer 1.1.0Final/LG 55"3D LED-TV/Denon AVR-1803 receiver/X1 projector

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