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Fat Tone
13th May 2005, 11:59
So, I'm finally getting around to replacing the boxen under my TV. I want to replace the ancient DVD player and VHS machine (and possibly cable box) with an HTPC capable of receiving the UK digital Freeview service.

So, I'm thinking:

Shuttle (or simillar) socket-A barebones for ~£125
Socket A xMHz CPU for ~£30
HDD I can find
DVD-RW for ~£35 (can add later, have a combo drive lying around somewhere)
Freeview cards can be had for ~£50+ with remote
Mem: 512MB for ~£25
Wifi card I have already.
OS: Have XP, may be able to get XP MCE too.
So that adds up to ~£265.

What speed CPU can I get away with? I have a Duron 1200 somewhere. Are cheaper Freeview cards any good? Is it better to get MCE than use the supplied PVR apps? What SFF case to get?

I'm a noob at this side of things, so any suggestions welcome please.

Many TIAs

Tony.

Jammrock
13th May 2005, 13:21
So, I'm finally getting around to replacing the boxen under my TV. I want to replace the ancient DVD player and VHS machine (and possibly cable box) with an HTPC capable of receiving the UK digital Freeview service.

So, I'm thinking:

Shuttle (or simillar) socket-A barebones for ~£125
Socket A xMHz CPU for ~£30
HDD I can find
DVD-RW for ~£35 (can add later, have a combo drive lying around somewhere)
Freeview cards can be had for ~£50+ with remote
Mem: 512MB for ~£25
Wifi card I have already.
OS: Have XP, may be able to get XP MCE too.
So that adds up to ~£265.

What speed CPU can I get away with? I have a Duron 1200 somewhere. Are cheaper Freeview cards any good? Is it better to get MCE than use the supplied PVR apps? What SFF case to get?

I'm a noob at this side of things, so any suggestions welcome please.

Many TIAs

Tony.
Although I love my AMD CPUs, I would strongly advise against using an Athlon XP in a HTPC box. It will be good enough for the simple stuff, but when you start ripping content and playing high resolution stuff you will wish you went with something better. If you want to stay AMD, use a Sempron 3100+ (or better, if out), or a low end Athlon 64. For inexpensive on the Intel side, look at the Celeron D's or a lower-end P4.

For a good, very quiet HDD, look at the Samsung SpinPoint P-series. They are extremely quiet and seem to have fairly high QA. If you want something with a better warranty, go Seagate (they are quiet too, just not as quiet as Samsung these days). The 120 GB should only set you back around ~75 pounds.

The rest looks pretty good. ExtremeTech just posted a How To for building a Linux HTPC if you are interested in going away from MS MCE 2005:

http://www.extremetech.com/article2/0,1558,1814924,00.asp

Jammrock

GNEP
13th May 2005, 14:39
I'd be interested in which DVB-T (ie freeview) card/USB thing you choose... have been looking at them myself (probably a PCI card) and it would seem that either you get one that has decent software with it (eg the Nebula DigiTV) or you had damn well better make sure that there are open source drivers or similar + software to use it... heard too many bad things about the Hauppage DVB software/drivers for example to completely trust them...

GNEP
13th May 2005, 14:47
Oh yes - should have added some other comments to be more helpfull :)

I recently put together an athlon64 machine in an Antec Aria case (micro-ATX). To get it quiet, I had to (a) replace the noisy northbridge HSF with something passive (it's a WinFast NF4 S939/PCIe micro-ATX mobo) and (b) take the PSU out and use an Antec Phantom 350W externally - a bit messy, but at least it's passive. Also in there I'm running a passive Gigabyte nV 6600GT card - probably overkill for an HTPC, but mine was a gaming machine...

Anyway, it worked out cheap enough. The case is nice, if a little fiddly to work with.

For this type of machine, as you might've guessed from the above, it really is worth thinking about the noise levels. A Duron 1200 should be good enough - especially as using freeview it's already MPEG-2 so no encoding to worry about, only decoding - if it can play a DVD, that's good enough.

gt40
13th May 2005, 15:07
currently using a celery 2.66 on an asus mobo with a G400 and dvb-s satellite card coupled with an old overhead projector and a freebee projection LCD panel.

I have found the cpu loading to be rather high during satellite mpeg decoding with the on screen display active (about 80%) but I can still surf the net while the kiddies watch the big screen without any freezes or lockups.
regular dvd playback or sat watching without the OSD put the loading at only 35%.
so, if you are at all looking at using it for satellite reception, this would be about the minimum system spec.
I believe I purchased the mobo/case/cpu/256mb memory/dual layer dvd rewriter for about $500 cndn.

Fat Tone
16th May 2005, 05:24
Thanks for all the advice guys.

So, we went shopping, popped into PC World just to see if they do HTPCs based on MCE (which of course they struggled to spell let alone understand), came out empty handed, just 'popped in' to DFS opposite (a furniture store) and spent all my spare cash for the next 2 years on a couple of leather recliner sofas...I'm not sure how to feel really. I'm sure I'll be very comfortable in 12 weeks when it arrives, but I think my HTPC ambitions are back on the slow burner.

Fluff
23rd May 2005, 03:40
Nebula Digi TV is a quality product. It works better than the Aver DVB-T pci I had prior to that. I have the USB version. Bit more expensive though.

Fat Tone
23rd May 2005, 03:45
I'd definitely go for a Nebula given the cash, but they cost about 1 leather seat cushion each ;)

Paddy
23rd May 2005, 10:25
Same here! Iworked a couple of extra weekends to pay for a new comp, and the wife bought a leather sofa instead. I new it was a silly idea to get a joint bank account!

GNEP
23rd May 2005, 10:30
Sometimes being single has its advantages :p

xortam
23rd May 2005, 18:21
Sometimes being single has its advantages :pYep ... you can spend as much time alone as you like.

Belwarrior
23rd May 2005, 18:42
Yep ... you can spend as much time alone as you like.
LOL
anyways, next time must remember to inform the wifey why you need the HTPC.

Paddy
23rd May 2005, 23:33
No matter what my reasons are for wanting to purchase a HTPC, the wife can find 'better' reasons to necessitate the need for new shoes!

Fat Tone
24th May 2005, 00:11
Yep ... you can spend as much time alone as you like.

...Which to a man suffering with wife+kids can be very appealling ;)

Fat Tone
24th May 2005, 00:17
No matter what my reasons are for wanting to purchase a HTPC, the wife can find 'better' reasons to necessitate the need for new shoes!

LOL. Believe it or not, I've been the one nagging about the old sofa for years. What was the word you used to descirbe it Paddy? 'Hideous' I believe :D I agree.

It's just that my sensible head realises its really one or the other at the moment, coupled with the fact that I know prices of the kit I want are falling all the time so waiting until say Christmas will probably save me a fair bit of dosh.

In a couple of years time when I can stop paying £400/month on childcare costs it will be a different matter entirely :)

Paddy
24th May 2005, 09:38
Sorry mate - i didn't want you to go out and buy another one.... I REALLY put my foot in it when i described my mother-in-laws newly painted living room as 'vulval pink' :D

At least you will have something nice and comfortable to sit on whilst dreaming about a HTPC :)

Fat Tone
24th May 2005, 10:45
hehe - if more people were honest about it I might have gotten rid of it sooner :cool: I was encouraging you to agree with me at the time!

I'm now custodian of a rather nice projector, so that will be coming home weekends to make best use of the new settee.

Now, does anyone want to buy a lovely 3-peice suite + foot stool?

Paddy
24th May 2005, 11:57
enough of this who has the nicest suite crap - when are we next gonna meet up for a beer?

xortam
24th May 2005, 14:25
...Which to a man suffering with wife+kids can be very appealling ;)Just a wife here ... no kids ... and no suffering. ;)

Fat Tone
24th May 2005, 14:36
enough of this who has the nicest suite crap - when are we next gonna meet up for a beer?

Let us know when you have a free weekend...I'll bring the photos of the settee too :D

Fat Tone
23rd August 2005, 02:44
I have the settees now - 6 places of glorious black leather comfyness, with 4 recliners that make you never want to get up...and an HTPC :)

Paddy
13th September 2006, 13:10
give me a shout when you have the time matey. I am keen to do this to replace the sky+ box. Cheers

uberlad
21st September 2006, 04:00
I was going to post a comment about MCE boxen, but I fear I have nothing to add to the Sofa debate. :D

I'm going to wait until my extension is done and my kitten stops climbing thigs with her claws (and starts to jump the two ft onto the arm of the sofa) before thinking about such things.

there is a handy kit available on 'the Internet' that converts your legit copy of XP into a legit copy of XP with all the bits of Media Centre. My rebuild of my HTPC used this and it is less hinky about network drives.

I'm happily using a pair of Hauppage WinTV Nova-T PCI's that go very well indeed. They have made it very tight in the Aria, mind.

Although I canot reccommend the ATi X1300 - mine crashes windows during boot if I install the CCC during driver install.

Uberlad