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52 posts

Master Geek


Topic # 64402 14-Jul-2010 22:33
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Hey was thinking about building a HTPC, and wanting it to do 1080p playback to start with, then maybe later (when I have more money) adding in a Blu-ray Drive and a Freeview Tuner. It just need to be cheap, do its job, and be reasonably quiet and (maybe) be low on power consumption.

Planning on running Windows 7 on it using MediaPortal

Been doing a bit of research and here is what I think should fit the bill
CPU AMD Athlon II X2 245 (2.9Ghz)
Mobo Gigabyte GA-MA785GM-US2H
Case Antec NSK1480
RAM 2GB generic DDR3

Although something that caught my attention was the Zotac ION ITX D 
http://www.zotac.com/index.php?option=com_wrapper&view=wrapper&Itemid=100033&lang=en
Although I have my doubts about its performance

So what do you think? 

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  Reply # 351653 14-Jul-2010 23:08
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itx with external power supply can be a little quieter as there is no psu fan, but they can cost more than ATX and uATX cases. if you go for ITX then the best option might be an intel i3 rig with integrated graphics.

otherwise what you list is probably going to do the job. I prefer nvidia graphics myself, as i got put off ati by all the early problems getting h.264 gpu acceleration to work. i think those are largely solved now though.




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  Reply # 351662 14-Jul-2010 23:57
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I have a pretty similar rig to what you described (details are in my signature). The nice thing about the low end Athlons is you can get away with not much cooling, for my HTPC I just have the 2 low speed 120mm fans on the side of the case and a Scythe Mini Ninja (without a fan) on the CPU. Even in summer the temperatures are well within safe range. The machine is capable of playing 1080p content without a problem, the graphics card does all the work and the CPU usage hardly gets over 10%.

I'm currently spec'ing up a new HTPC and will probably go i3 next time and try out the built in Intel graphics. As Regs mentioned ATI has been really dropping the ball lately with h264 support, there's a detailed thread about it over on the MediaPortal forums here. If you want to go for a nVidia card there's a couple of passively cooled ones available now, Asus make a GT210 and a GT220 - but I haven't tried either of these yet so I can't say how hot they get.

For software my favourite is MediaPortal, from the bunch that I tried it had the best plugins available (I use the TV Series and Moving Pictures plugins a lot, and Online Videos a bit more now that it supports TVNZ OnDemand). For recording I've replaced the MediaPortal TV Server with 4TheRecord and their recording server Argus. I've found that it's a bit more robust and the scheduling engine is the best that I've found of any HTPC software. There's a MMC style GUI you can run remotely to manage all your recordings, and it has support for both MediaPortal and GB-PVR.

My main reason for upgrading is that I've run out of physical space in my existing HTPC, it only has 4 expansion slots on the back which I filled up quite a while ago. At the moment I'm trying to decide on a case, I was liking the look of the Zalman HD501 but I've been having a lot of trouble finding an entertainment unit that will fit the monster that isn't hideously ugly. I'm also liking the look of some of the Silverstone cases (primarily the LC10 at the moment), but the problem with those is they usually have 80mm fans, they're usually a bit louder than the 120mm (with equivalent air movement), I have a couple of 120mm Scythes in my existing machine which I have to put my ear right up to the case to hear.

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  Reply # 351664 15-Jul-2010 00:21
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meesham: At the moment I'm trying to decide on a case, I was liking the look of the Zalman HD501 but I've been having a lot of trouble finding an entertainment unit that will fit the monster that isn't hideously ugly.


i have an older zalman HD160 - it wasnt as deep as the current ones so it fitted well into an entertainment unit that was only 500mm deep.

i'd recommend going for one with the VFD - not for the VFD itself as they are somewhat redundant, but for the integrated remote control infrared that comes with them..  it seems silly to ruin a nice case with an external infrared detector.




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  Reply # 351665 15-Jul-2010 00:36
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Regs:
i have an older zalman HD160 - it wasnt as deep as the current ones so it fitted well into an entertainment unit that was only 500mm deep.

i'd recommend going for one with the VFD - not for the VFD itself as they are somewhat redundant, but for the integrated remote control infrared that comes with them..  it seems silly to ruin a nice case with an external infrared detector.


I've been having a lot of fun looking for entertainment units, the ones that are deep enough usually aren't tall enough (the HD501 is 18cm tall), or the other way around. (Un)fortunately we've just had the house rewired so no money for me to buy toys for a while, so I've got plenty of time to keep searching and planning out the HTPC.

I agree with you on the built in IR receiver, what would be perfect would be a case that has one of those but no VFD, I want a minimalist look that's not going to distract me while watching stuff (I could of course just not use the VFD). At the moment I have a rebadged Microsoft MC remote receiver hidden behind the TV with a Harmony 785 remote which seems to work OK.

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  Reply # 351759 15-Jul-2010 09:59
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meesham:
I've been having a lot of fun looking for entertainment units, the ones that are deep enough usually aren't tall enough (the HD501 is 18cm tall), or the other way around.


the best current model that would fit my entertainment unit is the Origen ae S16v at 435x175x390mm.  its a little pricy though at $740.




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Master Geek


  Reply # 352019 15-Jul-2010 17:51
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Is the ATI hardware acceleration issue just with watching TV channels? If so, I'll just put in an Nvidia card if I put in the TV tuner.

I thought the 785g chipset was capable of 1080p playback? (1080i on the other hand I believe is a different story)

It is tempting to get a case with an IR receiver built-in, but it costs a fair bit more, and for that much I think I could cope with a IR receiver poking out somewhere.

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  Reply # 352140 15-Jul-2010 22:22
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If you're not gaming then you could consider an intel board with an nVidia 9300/9400 integrated gpu?  I've got an ASUS P5N7A-VM which has been pretty solid with windows7 MCE and any content i've chucked at it.  Mind you haven't tried BluRay yet (or probably ever will) but it puts out pretty smooth HD TV3.  I've got a E5200 in there which is passively cooled - like meesham - with 2 120mm fans on low volts keeping it quiet.

These boards are a bit old - heck I've had mine for close to 9months! So might be either hard to find or very cheap!

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  Reply # 352165 15-Jul-2010 23:32
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nick496: Is the ATI hardware acceleration issue just with watching TV channels? If so, I'll just put in an Nvidia card if I put in the TV tuner.

I thought the 785g chipset was capable of 1080p playback? (1080i on the other hand I believe is a different story)

It is tempting to get a case with an IR receiver built-in, but it costs a fair bit more, and for that much I think I could cope with a IR receiver poking out somewhere.


It's an issue for anything that uses h264, so Freeview (both DVB-T and DVB-S) and Blu-Ray disks. I've also ripped my DVDs (a few hundred of them) to h264/AAC in a Matroska container, so the h264 problem is a real annoyance to me. I never tested the onboard chipset with 1080p, but it seemed fine with 1080i. I'd recommend you go for either an Intel or nVidia GPU, I'd say you'll probably have less problems.



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Master Geek


  Reply # 352266 16-Jul-2010 11:22
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I guess I'll just have to save up a bit more and get a Gigabyte GA-H55M-S2H with an i3. The sad thing being that my HTPC build will be around the same/better spec'd than my current PC. But I guess thats just the way technology goes... Tongue out

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