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Chucky Cheese
2nd January 2005, 15:59
...okay...here goes..

i have been thinking about building a htpc...i was just stuck on a case. i don't like shuttle cases so those are out. what i found by reading threads in the avsforums online was this enclosure , specifically the D6 Media Center(..in black)...it's just about perfect for me and will match well with my home theater.

i plan on replacing my panasonic dvd-r player with this htpc when it is completed and just want something basically different to record and burn dvds.

what i want is some advice on which video card and tuner combos that work well together and are supported in MCE 2005 and perform well...also, different options for different task related to video editing and watching movies and making dvd projects(..in future). i can afford to go "high-end" on this hardware within reason based on the functionality of the device.

my television is a 60" sony grand wega lcd projector, capable of hd...so the video card needs to be able to output hd(..i have a free port).

questions...questions and more questions

what is the best audio solution?
motherboard cpu combo?(..micro atx)
pci-express?
to raid or not to raid?(..0 for performance only)

TIA

cc

schmosef
2nd January 2005, 23:15
I'm planning on building an htpc soon too. I'm waiting for an ATI card with HDTV output to be available through standard distribution channels (so I don't have to pay retail).

As for hard drive. I wouldn't go with RAID. It's been proven that there's no benefit in single user environments. I would go with Western Digital Raptor hard drives. The speed difference is very noticeable.

As for motherboard, I haven't been researching the latest chipsets so I can't make a recommendation. I like Asus for brand through. You still have to pick a good model with a stable revision. They've produced some lemons, expecially when implementing brand new tech like PCI-Express.

Good luck and lets us know what you settle on for your config and how it works.

Jammrock
3rd January 2005, 06:26
You want to use RAID when: 1) you want fault tolerance, 2) you want to span multiple drives together (though this can be done in Win2k+ via Disk Management without using RAID). But unless you have the real estate for 4 HDDs and a hardware RAID controller (software RAID 5 in Windows in only available in Win2k3 Server) it's not really worth going RAID.

The other option is to build a media server and an HTPC (what I will do someday). In a closet or room you put in a Linux/Samba server (or server OS of choice) with a good Gb NIC and a good Gb switch connecting the server to your PC(s) and HTPC. You then put all your content on the media server, which allows all computers to access the information. And with a Gb pipe you won't run into problems when multiple systems are pulling from the server (and if multiple computers are pulling from the server you actually have a good reason for RAID).

As for audio ... I would not use the on-board sound. Peripheral sound cards typically have better sound reproduction as they have more real estate for better DSPs, DACs and support circuitry. If you grab a PCIe board, Creative is releasing a new, redsigned from the ground up (according to rumor at least) PCIe sound card called the Zenith. Might be an interesting thing to wait for.

ATi does have HDTV output. If you HD monitor supports DVI-I, youy can simply use a DVI cable from any DVI enabled ATi card to the HD monitor. If you prefer to use component video, they have an adapter that works on pretty much any modern ATi card:

http://shop.ati.com/product.asp?sku=2537967

They also have an HDTV tuner that requires a DX9 video card that is available in normal retail outlets:

http://www.ati.com/products/hdtvwonder/index.html

http://www.newegg.com/app/ViewProductDesc.asp?description=15-116-310&depa=0

I would also recommend a DVD-RW that has spin controls for it, like the Plextor line. You will really want to spin down the DVD-RW for the HTPC. 1X-2X for reading, and maybe 4X for writing.

For motherboards, go with any Asus, Gigabyte or MSI. They're all good, you won't go wrong with either. CPU is up to personal choice more than anything. I would wait for the Athlon 64 rev. e's to come out. SSE3, plus SSE bug fixes to make it faster (though probably not on par with Intel's implementation). With fixed and updated SSE, plus the natural speed of the CPU, it would be a fantastic CPU for AV and gaming, and not be a heat monster. If you don't want to wait, go with a P4 (most HTPC enthusiasts would tell you to go with a P4 anyway, as most AV apps are tuned for SSE1/2/3).

If you want your HTPC to be future expandable without buying a new MB, then go PCIe.

Jammrock

Chucky Cheese
3rd January 2005, 15:03
schmosef

i'll probably buy the case later this week and google around for products as they come into view...i guess i'll forget about a raid configuration

Jammrock

Thanks for the links...that HDTV tuner looks good, i currently have the time warner hdtv cable box and can get hd content...

1 question about the audio though...i am planning for the HTPC audio out to be an input to my a/v reciever(..fiber) and was hoping because of heat/ventilation issues with a small box to utilize a built-in audio solution...no? is intels "high definition" audio any good(realtek alc880 5 port)

is gigabit lan fast enough for a "media server"? i ask because i could easilly connect this HTPC to a giga switch and turn my NAS(.5 terabyte) into a "media server"

cc

Jammrock
3rd January 2005, 17:53
If you are doing passthrough (i.e. you just stream the digital information to a AV reciever) then it doesn't matter really. Just make sure the integrated solution has true pass-through ability.

Gb LAN is fast enough for a Media server. However, if the NIC on the Media server/NAS is PCI you won't get full Gb potential. But if you're only using 2-3 connections off the server at home, should be an issue.

Byock
3rd January 2005, 19:40
I have an Radeon 9800 Pro connected to my HDTV at 1080i res. If your tv doesn't have a DVI, you will want an ATI card, as they are the only ones that support HDTV modes.

I would look at the Antec Overture case. It is glossy Piano black, and very nice!

Sasq
3rd January 2005, 19:50
Originally posted by Byock
I have an Radeon 9800 Pro connected to my HDTV at 1080i res. If your tv doesn't have a DVI, you will want an ATI card, as they are the only ones that support HDTV modes.

I would look at the Antec Overture case. It is glossy Piano black, and very nice!

not quite, i have an S3 S8 series card in my htpc that supports HDTV, it works very very nicely on my sony WEGA 28" wide screen tv boxen.

Chucky Cheese
4th January 2005, 01:50
Byock

sadly, my tv has no dvi input...i have just 1 componet input left and was planning on using that. my local microcenter just got that antec case in and i was looking it over...it is nice. did you look at the D6 or the D5 media center chassis from ahanix.com? they look more like a/v equipment.

Jammrock

my nas has a built-in gb lan...it isn't a pc functioning as an nas but is a "true NAS"(9 1/2" H x 11" D x 3" W) it is a EFG250 (http://www.linksys.com/products/product.asp?grid=35&scid=43&prid=656)

how can i tell if a audio solution can do passthrough?

TIA

cc

Jammrock
4th January 2005, 06:13
Ah, you have a stand-alone NAS, not a NAS PC :) Shouldn't be any problems there, as the NIC should be on a dedicated bus, not on a PCI bus.

What mobo do you have?

Chucky Cheese
4th January 2005, 15:02
right now i have an intel 875pbz...very stable...but then i don't do a whole lot in 3d...my world is 2d(office, acad among other stuff)

cc

Byock
4th January 2005, 15:11
Originally posted by Sasq
not quite, i have an S3 S8 series card in my htpc that supports HDTV, it works very very nicely on my sony WEGA 28" wide screen tv boxen.

True, the S3 does indeed, but as the performance on it is below the 9600 Pro, I didn't seriously consider it, as I run games on my box also.

The D5 Media Center is nice, but at $280 seems a bit steep in price.

Sasq
4th January 2005, 15:25
Ahh I only use mine as a media center. and for 2D it's fine, really depends on your needs.

Byock
4th January 2005, 15:49
Exactly. Good to know that is does support HDTV modes. That would be the way to go for a dedicated HTPC.

Marshmallowman
4th January 2005, 17:36
Are those RGB to component convertors any good?

That way you could use almost any video card...but the ati's defintley are very easy to work with in that respect.

dZeus
5th January 2005, 03:58
Originally posted by Byock
True, the S3 does indeed, but as the performance on it is below the 9600 Pro, I didn't seriously consider it, as I run games on my box also.

The D5 Media Center is nice, but at $280 seems a bit steep in price.

not just the S3, so does the Volari line as well as several models in the Geforce 6x00 line (provide component output and HDTV resolutions over it).

Byock
5th January 2005, 10:43
The 6800 Line has the ability, but Leech and I were unable to find any cards, or stores that sold the connectors.

Looks unused at this point.

The converter boxes work very well, but they are pricey at the $200 range.

Paddy
10th January 2005, 23:47
so if you should not use PCI gigabit NICs, what should you use?

Chucky Cheese
11th January 2005, 02:22
paddy

i think what has been suggested is that pci gigabit lan cards do not achieve gigabit speeds because they share the bandwidth of the pci bus.

built in-doesn't suffer this...i read about this somewhere...i just can't find it at the moment.

i like my NAS but it is noisy(PS fan) and i'm sure that the smallnes of it doesn't help either.

VJ
11th January 2005, 02:30
Yep, built in (on the mainboard) GB NICs are put directly on the northbridge (or is it southbridge?). Anyway, they are not on the PCI bus, so they don't suffer the PCI limitations.

Just to be complete: if you have a serverboard with PCI-X slots (up to 133 MHz, 64 bit), you can use GB nics to their full potential. On those boards, the onboard NICs (and SCSI controllers, it is a similar story) are put on the PCI-X bus (or on one of th PCI-X busses if the mainboard has more than one).


Jörg

Paddy
11th January 2005, 07:47
I'm not sure if my proliant server has PCI-X slots... but they are 64bit... not that it really matters as its the only option!

Sorry to hujack the thread! :)

Marshmallowman
11th January 2005, 17:13
A 64bit slot will do the job, either 66mhz pci or 33mhz 64bit should give you enough bandwidth for Gbit networking.

You might even have 66mhz/64bit.

It is *probably* easier/cheaper to find a 66mhz(capable) PCI Gbit card than a 64bit Gbit card.

Might have a look around to see how probable it really is ;)

Well it seem easier to find 64bit ones

http://www.digit-life.com/articles2/gigeth32bit/gig-eth-32bit-2.html