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155 posts

Master Geek


Topic # 25391 20-Aug-2008 11:20
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Hi there. I'm a bit of an HTPC noob, but am pretty keen to set my computer up as one.

I built this computer myself late last year, so it is fairly up to date. Here are its current specs (from memory):

AMD Athlon64 (dual core) 4400 (2.2 Ghz)
2 GB Ram
Gigabyte motherboard - don't have specific model number, would have to look that up. Has integrated sound of some variety.
Gigabyte Nvidia 8600 PCI-E video card (silent fan-less model).
WINDOWS VISTA 32bit

I recently noticed that LCD tvs are now good enough to use as computer monitors -1080p resolution is pretty high as far as a computer desktop or pc games go. So I've decided to set up this pc to output to an LCD tv. I live with my girlfriend, and it's rare that we want to have both a game and the TV going at the same time, so it seemed sensible to upgrade the pc to the point where it is both viable for gaming and as an HTPC. Here's what I was thinking of getting:

A new video card. My current one is rather lackluster for games, and the pc would struggle a bit trying to play new games at high settings at 1080p resolution. Therefore, I was thinking of getting an ATI Radeon HD4870 (either 512 mb or 1024). Tom's hardware and other guides highly recommend it for gaming. Will the fact that it is ATI cause problems for HTPC functionality?

A TV. I wanted an LCD TV that supports HDMI and 1080p. Size could be anywhere from 32" to 40". The salesperson at Power Store recommended both a Samsung and Sony 40" model to me, and they were at about the $2000 mark. Is this a reasonable price?

A Freeview receiver card for the PC. I'd like to be able to record/rewind, etc. The freeview website recommended a Hauppauge winTV-HVR4000 model for about $200. Is this much better than the HVR 2200? Which model would you recommend?

Possibly a sound card - I've been considering picking up the creative X-Fi Titanium sound PCI-E sound card. It is supposed to take load off the CPU while gaming, which is a fairly big plus to me. Presumably it may be of help in processing the Freeview HD audio signal?

A digital amp/receiver. I have 5 speakers already and will probably eventually invest in a subwoofer. I believe the speakers are rated at about 100W or so. What is my best option here - I don't particularly want to spend more money than I need to!

Any advice regarding any of these parts?

Other than the actual parts involved, I have a few questions about the wiring.

How do the Haupppauge cards interface with the PC? Obviously they connect to the motherboard through the PCI-E interface, but do they have additional wires that connect directly to the video card? Is there a wire that will carry a digital signal directly to the sound card? Or is this all done through the PCI-E interface without any need for additional connectors?

How does the HTPC connect to the tv and the receiver? I'm imagining that I'd plug the video card directly into the LCD TV by attaching a dongle to the DVI out on the back of the pc and then running a HDMI cable between them. For the sound, I'd presumably run either a coaxial or optical cable from the back of the soundcard directly to the amp/receiver (I guess I'll have to check what kinds of outputs the soundcard actually has). Is there a way of having just one HDMI cable coming out the back of the PC, carrying both audio and video to the receiver (and then from the receiver to the TV) or is this a silly way of doing it?

Am I going to need anything else to get this system up and running?

Lastly, any recommendations for retailers - is there a place that will sell the whole package for a good price? Power store don't specialise in computer parts. They said they'd order them in for me but perhaps I'd do better to go somewhere else?

If you got this far, thanks for reading, and thanks a lot in advance for any advice! I'd hate to put down a few grand for this rig, only to have it not actually work when I try and put it all together.

Cheers, Patrick

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  Reply # 158367 20-Aug-2008 15:19
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psk20: Hi there. I'm a bit of an HTPC noob, but am pretty keen to set my computer up as one.

I built this computer myself late last year, so it is fairly up to date. Here are its current specs (from memory):

AMD Athlon64 (dual core) 4400 (2.2 Ghz)
2 GB Ram
Gigabyte motherboard - don't have specific model number, would have to look that up. Has integrated sound of some variety.
Gigabyte Nvidia 8600 PCI-E video card (silent fan-less model).
WINDOWS VISTA 32bit

>A Freeview receiver card for the PC. I'd like to be able to record/rewind, etc. The freeview website recommended a Hauppauge winTV-HVR4000 model for about $200. Is this much better than the HVR 2200? Which model would you recommend?


first of all, the HVR4000 is a combined "single tuner" DVB-t/DVB-S/DVB-S2/Analog card - dont get this unless you are planning on doing satellite (and S2 satellite at that - the hvr3000 is sufficient here right now for freeview).  by single tuner i mean that you cant record/watch two different DVBT channels at once(*) (same for dvbs) (you could watch 1 dvbt and 1 dvbs at once though)

(*) with the exception of the clever stuff in mediaportal

The 2200 is a *dual tuner* DVB-T card so as long as you have a compatible express slot for it i'd go for that.  With this card you can watch/record two diff DVBT channels at once

Outside of that tuner card purchase I wouldnt recommend that you buy anything else just yet - that should be ample to dip your feet into HTPC'ville.  The onboard audio isnt going to help with decoding freeview audio and your current graphics card is perfectly capable of freeviewHD.

The only additional purchase you might find useful would be a media center remote control but if you decide to buy a specialised HTPC case (zalman, antec fusion, silverstone etc) you might get one included and therefore be wasting your $$ right now.

The only reason to upgrade your motherboard right now might be to get onboard HDMI or SPDIF (or both) and a pci express slot on it if you dont currently have one




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Master Geek
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  Reply # 158379 20-Aug-2008 15:41
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you could watch 1 dvbt and 1 dvbs at once though


Are you sure about this?

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  Reply # 158563 21-Aug-2008 09:56
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Little:
you could watch 1 dvbt and 1 dvbs at once though


Are you sure about this?


it looks like I was mistaken - apparently you can only do one thing at once which makes this card an extremely poor buy given its price!




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Master Geek


  Reply # 158569 21-Aug-2008 10:15
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Thanks a lot for the advice!

I'll order myself the 2200 model before I go any further then.

I just opened up my PC and noticed that most of my expansion slots are regular PCI rather than PCI-E... I've got a 16x with two regular PCI-E slots directly below it. They are both free at the moment. In theory, these should work for the PCI-E sound card and the tuner card. However, the upgraded graphics card that I was thinking of also getting (ATI Radeon HD4870) is a fair bit bigger than my current graphics card... and it looks like it will actually render one of those two PCI-E slots unavailable! Bummer. It looks like I'll have to choose between getting that particular sound card and getting that particular graphics card. Oh well - spending less money will probably make my girlfriend happy!

However, now I'm going to have to check whether my motherboard actually has a digital output on the built-in sound card. I know that it supports multi-channel sound of some kind (probably 5.1 or 7.1) but looking at the outputs on the back/reading the manual will have to wait until I get back from work. If it doesn't have the outputs that I need, I can always get a regular PCI sound card, such as the slightly older creative X-fi (non-titanium) or Audigy models. Alternatively, can you buy the Hauppauge 2200 n regular PCI form?

If anybody else has any words of encouragement or suggestions, I'd love to hear them :P

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Master Geek


  Reply # 158571 21-Aug-2008 10:17
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I have said it before, there is no need to buy the HVR4000 in New Zealand. Now I know part of the problem though, if the Freeview website is recommending it!

psk20: How do the Haupppauge cards interface with the PC? Obviously they connect to the motherboard through the PCI-E interface, but do they have additional wires that connect directly to the video card? Is there a wire that will carry a digital signal directly to the sound card? Or is this all done through the PCI-E interface without any need for additional connectors?

How does the HTPC connect to the tv and the receiver? I'm imagining that I'd plug the video card directly into the LCD TV by attaching a dongle to the DVI out on the back of the pc and then running a HDMI cable between them. For the sound, I'd presumably run either a coaxial or optical cable from the back of the soundcard directly to the amp/receiver (I guess I'll have to check what kinds of outputs the soundcard actually has). Is there a way of having just one HDMI cable coming out the back of the PC, carrying both audio and video to the receiver (and then from the receiver to the TV) or is this a silly way of doing it?



All the connections to the TV card go through the PCI or PCIe bus, no other cables are required.

For other connectionss, I think digital video (HDMI/DVI) straight to the TV and a seperate digital connector to the amp is decent way to go. If your motherboard doesn't have digital outputs then you will have to get a sound card that does. As mentioned this won't help decode the Freeview stream, in fact the digital connection passes the stream directly to the amp without modification for the amp to decode.

Retailers: I personnally use C1 Computer a lot, also Tastech and PBTech. Don't buy from a bix box store, it will cost a lot more!

As Regs said, don't forget the remote.

Finally have you considered what software you want to use?



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Master Geek


  Reply # 158582 21-Aug-2008 10:36
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I'm just about to put an order through PC unlimited in christchurch, as it's nearby and incidentally pricespy.co.nz has it listed as the cheapest place to go for the Hauppauge 2200 currently!

I haven't really put a lot of thought into software. I'm running Vista Home 32 bit at the moment, and was under the impression that Vista has some software that is useful for home theatre? Media Centre or something? Will I need software beyond that, such as codecs? Hmmmmmm.. I guess I was hoping that the relevant software would come bundled with the decoder card!

Oh yeah, another question. Are rabbits-ears fine to pick up the Freeview HD signal? Or do I need a rooftop aerial?

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  Reply # 158586 21-Aug-2008 10:46
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psk20:

I'll order myself the 2200 model before I go any further then.
<snip>
Alternatively, can you buy the Hauppauge 2200 n regular PCI form?


The Nova-t-500 is also a dual tuner dvb-t card and uses a PCI slot rather than PCI-X.  Users in here are using that card successfully but i believe it has no analog tuner capabillity like the HVR does.

psk20:
However, now I'm going to have to check whether my motherboard actually has a digital output on the built-in sound card. I know that it supports multi-channel sound of some kind (probably 5.1 or 7.1) but looking at the outputs on the back/reading the manual will have to wait until I get back from work. If it doesn't have the outputs that I need, I can always get a regular PCI sound card, such as the slightly older creative X-fi (non-titanium) or Audigy models.


Or..... you could buy a new motherboard with onboard sound (and onboard video if you want a second screen and if the gpu in the slot doesnt auto disable it) and transfer your CPU/Ram etc to it.  Might be more cost effective this way and you would keep your slots free which is good for keeping the heat levels, and fan speeds, down.




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  Reply # 158587 21-Aug-2008 10:48
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psk20:

I haven't really put a lot of thought into software. I'm running Vista Home 32 bit at the moment, and was under the impression that Vista has some software that is useful for home theatre? Media Centre or something? Will I need software beyond that, such as codecs? Hmmmmmm.. I guess I was hoping that the relevant software would come bundled with the decoder card!


Vista MCE is not really an option for freeviewHD right now.  free software such as mediaportal and GBPVR will work though.  tons of info in these forums on either of those


Oh yeah, another question. Are rabbits-ears fine to pick up the Freeview HD signal? Or do I need a rooftop aerial?


I wouldnt put money on it.... a rooftop uhf antenna is your best bet.  look in the freeview thread for tons of aerial posts




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155 posts

Master Geek


  Reply # 158591 21-Aug-2008 10:53
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Regs: Or..... you could buy a new motherboard with onboard sound (and onboard video if you want a second screen and if the gpu in the slot doesnt auto disable it) and transfer your CPU/Ram etc to it.  Might be more cost effective this way and you would keep your slots free which is good for keeping the heat levels, and fan speeds, down.


Good point. I'm hoping I won't need to replace the motherboard though. I only bought this one in December and it's served me well thus far!

Another point which makes my project perhaps a bit different to others' is that I'm hoping to use this as a hybrid system. It will definately be our main TV system but it will also be our main gaming system too. That's the main reason that I'm intent on upgrading the graphics. If I wasn't also interested in gaming, I'd wager that the current GPU I have is the perfect choice for a HTPC - an 8600GT with passive cooling! But as it is, I can play graphics-intensive games such as Assassin's Creed, but they just don't run very smoothly. With that in mind, I'm going to have to get a high-end graphics card - which means I'm definately going to be making sacrifices in terms of system noise. Athough I dare say that my current case is fairly quiet - it exclusively uses 120mm fans.

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  Reply # 158594 21-Aug-2008 11:01
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FYI: QMB Computers, in AKL, has the Nova-T-500 which comes with MCE remote control for $129.  (but remember no analog channels - e.g. prime - or radio with this card)

http://qmb.co.nz/p.aspx?107793




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Master Geek


  Reply # 158652 21-Aug-2008 13:26
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Note the PCU's price for the HVR2200 ($179) is very expensive.  If you can wait a couple of days for shipping you can get it for around $134 elsewhere.

Andy



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Master Geek


Reply # 158672 21-Aug-2008 13:56
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andrewdixon1000: Note the PCU's price for the HVR2200 ($179) is very expensive.  If you can wait a couple of days for shipping you can get it for around $134 elsewhere.

Andy


Oh, damn :( I already bought it. I guess pricespy doesn't always work too well...



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Master Geek


  Reply # 158761 21-Aug-2008 17:48
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Right.

I installed the 2200 and its drivers, and downloaded and installed Media Portal.

However, I can't see anywhere where it actually gives me the options to set up channels. Moreover, I can't even find a simple guide to doing this in the Media Portal wiki. Can anyone give me some basic instructions?

All I can find is an option to type in a "server name"...?

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Master Geek


  Reply # 158771 21-Aug-2008 18:13
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http://cranznz.googlepages.com/

This should get you sorted out.

Andy

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  Reply # 158775 21-Aug-2008 18:27
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You must use TV server to configure your cards.

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