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  • HTPC Help Needed

    So I have finally grown completely tired of my current media setup and know it needs major changes. Currently all my media is on my laptop (an Asus G73JW), and my laptop sits at the opposite side of the room from my stereo and tv. Since it's a laptop I can "just" move it to hook it up to either (HDMI to the TV, 3.5mm to stereo for the receiver), but the process is tedious.

    I've come up with two potential solutions, one, to get some crazy long cables and wire around the edge of my room, or two, to setup a HTPC with my media and whatnot permanently connected. Given that I like the ancillary benefits of a dedicated media machine I think that's the root I will go down. I currently have two leftover PC cases (a full tower, and micro atx very similar to this: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...82E16883107389), and some assorted leftover parts from those two very old machines (the motherboards both blew around the same time. I also have a 3tb WD drive ready to hold my data.

    What I want:
    Needs to manage my audio and video, I'm assuming a soundcard is required, I've heard nothing good about integrated quality, gfx card needs to handle pushing HD

    Not sure if I need a tuner/smartcard setup, right now I have fios and the settop box is doing all that

    Needs to support a 3tb HDD

    I would really like to use it as a media server, streaming at least in the house, and optimally to my laptop on the go

    I don't think it needs the capability to play any games, at least nothing intense, maybe minecraft/emulators?


    What I've scavenged from the two dead PCs:
    nVidia Rivatnt2 64
    nVidia GeForce FX5200 AGP 128mb
    512mb PNY DDR433
    256mb Infineon DDR 400 cl3
    WD Caviar 160g
    Seagate Barracuda 100g
    TV Wonder Pro tuner
    Linksys Wireless G adapter with "SpeedBooster"
    And for a real boost of retro, a card that I can't find any useful stickers on, and phone line in/out ports.
    If it weren't clear, everything except the GeForce is pci, the WD is SATA, the Seagate is not.


    From my guess, the HDDs, and maybe the tuner might actually be useful? Is there anything else salvageable?

    I think my primary question boils down to "What is the best way to achieve what I want". Beyond that, what kind of system requirements am I looking at? I usually deal with the high end of the spectrum, not the low :D

  • #2
    Re: HTPC Help Needed

    Originally posted by Adiventure
    I'm assuming a soundcard is required, I've heard nothing good about integrated quality
    There's nothing really wrong with integrated sound chipsets. In fact, they are far better than chipsets of the past. I use integrated sound in a settop sized HTPC in the living room. It keeps costs down and most people don't have any fancy sound system setup to take advantage of a fancy sound card. So, there's no point in investing in something you won't ever make good use of.

    Now if you do happen to have some fancy speaker setup, then by all means, invest in a nice sound card.

    WD Caviar 160g (SATA)
    Seagate Barracuda 100g (EIDE)
    TV Wonder Pro tuner
    Linksys Wireless G adapter with "SpeedBooster" (PCI)
    The above list of parts could be useful. I don't know if you watch any OTA TV anymore, but if you do, that Wonder Pro would be perfect. If you don't, might as well throw it into storage (or attempt to sell it).

    From the looks of things, you're looking at a brand new build basically from scratch. With that said, here's a list of parts for a nice cheapy HTPC that will let you handle whatever videos or photos you might throw at it.

    http://imageshack.us/f/153/htpcbuild.png/

    Total: ~$425 after shipping.

    Just configured it on NewEgg. Now just install Windows and throw on XBMC. I'm assuming you have a spare copy of Windows XP or newer lying around. If you don't, then just grab a copy of XBMC Live and install it by following these helpful instructions. It's free and easy to use. (XBMC is also what I use on my own HTPC at home.)

    Here's some of the reasoning behind the part choices:

    1. Silverstone HTPC Case
    - You have a large space requirement and thus the typical slim desktop cases won't due because you can't fit more than 1 HDD in them. Here, we can fit 2 drives and have plenty of room for the rig to breathe. Cooler rig, better case to work in.

    2. WD Green HDDs (2 x 2TB)
    - You're not gaming with this build, so you don't need the speedier and hotter 7,200 RPM drives. Here the 5,900 RPM Greens are more than fast enough to play back HD videos and run a nice HTPC interface (whatever software you choose). They average out to about 30-33 C running which is cool in comparison to the typical 42-50 C running temps of most 7,200 RPM drives. Plenty of storage space giving you more than 3 TBs worth of room.

    3. Foxconn Mobo
    - Not a gaming build, why spend loads of money on a expensive board?

    4. Sapphire HD5450 Passive Cooled
    - Doesn't produce noise and can handle all your favorite videos even in full HD with all the little extras. Has a HDMI out so you can hook it up to your favorite HDTV.

    5. ASUS DVD-ROM
    - In case you ever want to play a DVD. Cheaper DVD-ROM since you don't need to burn any DVDs on the HTPC.

    6. Kingston RAM (2 x 1 GB)
    - 2 GBs of RAM is more than enough for any HTPC. Here, we're going with a matched pair since dual-channel motherboards don't play very well with unmatched pairs or sometimes even single sticks of RAM (usually seen in some mysterious problem that doesn't seem to go away).

    7. AMD Sempron 140 CPU
    - This little baby handles all your magical videos better than any Atom or even Brazos APU can. Don't need any extras cores since you don't run anything more demanding than HD videos.
    |TG-18th| Acreo Aeneas
    TG World of Tanks Clan Executive Officer
    Former 9th & 13th

    Pronounciation: Eh-Cree-Oh Ah-Nay-Ess
    Still can't say it? Call me Acorn then. -.-





    SSDs I Own: Kingston HyperX 3K (240 GB), Samsung 840 Pro (256 GB), Samsung 840 EVO (250 GB), Samsung 840 x 2 (120 GB), Plextor M5S (120 GB), OCZ Vertex (30 GB)

    TG Primer and Rules

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: HTPC Help Needed

      Wow, TNT2, that brings back memories. Anyways, you pretty much need new everything minus the hard drive. I would go for an AMD E-350 cpu/motherboard combo for the base of the htpc. That bundle will handle the cpu, motherboard and gpu for the build and it is only slightly slower than the sempron 140, but uses half the power. After that, you just need a micro atx case, psu, dvdrw and ram. All told, could cost you less than $300 since you don't need the hard drives.
      "Looking for brahs to come fight crime with me" - Unload



      Comment


      • #4
        Re: HTPC Help Needed

        Originally posted by Acreo Aeneas View Post
        There's nothing really wrong with integrated sound chipsets. In fact, they are far better than chipsets of the past. I use integrated sound in a settop sized HTPC in the living room. It keeps costs down and most people don't have any fancy sound system setup to take advantage of a fancy sound card. So, there's no point in investing in something you won't ever make good use of.

        Now if you do happen to have some fancy speaker setup, then by all means, invest in a nice sound card.
        This piece is a bit funky for me, I had explained it in a nice long post, but lost it before it submitted. Basically I've got a really nice sound system being bottlenecked by a ****e receiver at the moment (also nearly all the pieces need some TLC). Will integrated sound be a bigger hangup than the nothing special receiver (it's an old Scott I found in the attic) and the 3.5mm to rca adapter I'm using? It might make sense to just stick with integrated until I get around to fixing up the rest of the audio stuff.

        The above list of parts could be useful. I don't know if you watch any OTA TV anymore, but if you do, that Wonder Pro would be perfect. If you don't, might as well throw it into storage (or attempt to sell it).
        I don't have any suitable antenna, but I may try to get ahold of one sometime down the line.
        From the looks of things, you're looking at a brand new build basically from scratch. With that said, here's a list of parts for a nice cheapy HTPC that will let you handle whatever videos or photos you might throw at it.

        --Snip--
        Case
        I couldn't quite tell, is the issue with the Compaq case that it's not fit for PCIe? I couldn't quite tell from looking, it has cutouts long enough for a card, but no place for screws. It does have a decent number of bays though, two 5.25, and 4 3.5

        Disc Drive
        Didn't think to mention those, I've actually got three, I think two of the writers too. Now it wouldn't be a problem if I wanted to get one of those fancy newfangled bluray things, now would it? Also, speaking of newfangled, and getting into the kind of tech I currently have no practical interest in, what about those fancy three-dee things? I don't forsee buying a TV that can do it anytime in the near future, if I wanted they HTPC to do it then would it just be a matter of an expensive gfx card?

        HDD
        I think I'm set on those, either the 100 or 160 to boot, and the 3tb for storage.

        CPU
        Would that one handle streaming content?
        Wow, TNT2, that brings back memories.
        This isn't even my "old" stuff, I've gotta see what I still have lying around, there should be a complete ridiculously old box somewhere but I haven't seen it in years.

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: HTPC Help Needed

          After looking into the fancy 3d stuff, and doing some reading about 3tb drives I've got a few more questions. Do I need UEFI to read the drive even if I am not booting off it? If I want 3d capability down the line, specifically 3d bluray, nvidia is claiming I need "Intel® Core™2 Duo or AMD Athlon™ X2 CPU or higher", I had wanted to stick with AMD, but I am not seeing boards labeled as supporting UEFI that also take the low end cpus we're talking about. With Intel there seem to be more options, but they are also more expensive. What I've come up with for the cheapest intel option is: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...82E16813131724 or http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...82E16813131710 and http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...82E16819116399. I don't like that the second mobo is twice the price, but sinceIs that the only option that will support 3d dvd playback? The ATI site says that the 5450 in the linked bundle works for 3d bluray in their chart, but then in the footnote says it doesn't... It also does not specify processor reqs.

          As I said before, I have no pressing need for 3d, I just figure since this machine is already at the bottom of the spectrum (so I won't be passing it's components onto another machine when it gets old), it would be sensible to proof it from what looks to be a blooming technology.

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: HTPC Help Needed

            Originally posted by Adiventure View Post
            This piece is a bit funky for me, I had explained it in a nice long post, but lost it before it submitted. Basically I've got a really nice sound system being bottlenecked by a ****e receiver at the moment (also nearly all the pieces need some TLC). Will integrated sound be a bigger hangup than the nothing special receiver (it's an old Scott I found in the attic) and the 3.5mm to rca adapter I'm using? It might make sense to just stick with integrated until I get around to fixing up the rest of the audio stuff.
            Nope, shouldn't slow down at all or bottleneck. Today's processors are very capable.

            Case
            I couldn't quite tell, is the issue with the Compaq case that it's not fit for PCIe? I couldn't quite tell from looking, it has cutouts long enough for a card, but no place for screws. It does have a decent number of bays though, two 5.25, and 4 3.5
            Ah, I figured if you're building a new rig, might as well going with a nice new case. If you want, you can reuse that old Compaq case. It's only a microATX board so it'll fit inside just fine.

            Disc Drive
            Didn't think to mention those, I've actually got three, I think two of the writers too. Now it wouldn't be a problem if I wanted to get one of those fancy newfangled bluray things, now would it? Also, speaking of newfangled, and getting into the kind of tech I currently have no practical interest in, what about those fancy three-dee things? I don't forsee buying a TV that can do it anytime in the near future, if I wanted they HTPC to do it then would it just be a matter of an expensive gfx card?
            Check if your current 2 writer drives are SATA or not. If they aren't, then you won't be able to use them in the HTPC simply because the board no longer has a 40-pin IDE slot.

            As for Blu-Ray, get a SATA version reader and you're good. It'll cost around $40-$50 for one and you don't need a writer since you're not burning any BD disks.

            As for 3D, it's not true 3D. Most of the 3D TVs still need you to get those red-blue glasses. The few that don't are very expensive. And yes, you'd need a better graphics card to do it. Hence why I picked out the mATX board above: expansion ability for later. You will need to upgrade to a dual-core though if you plan on playing 3D videos (since most are Blu-Ray high bitrate -- and there's extra processing that needs to be done). You'd need to carefully pick out a card that supports 3D (nvidia or AMD has cards that do this for fairly inexpensive prices).

            HDD
            I think I'm set on those, either the 100 or 160 to boot, and the 3tb for storage.
            Ah, you said 3 TB support is a must and I took that to mean that you still needed the HDDs. Just scratch those HDDs above off my list.

            CPU
            Would that one handle streaming content?
            Yes and even 1080p streaming if you have any high-bitrate (15 mbit or higher) videos. The AMD E350 is a okay choice if you don't plan on streaming high-bitrate videos.

            and doing some reading about 3tb drives I've got a few more questions. Do I need UEFI to read the drive even if I am not booting off it?
            No, you do not need UEFI if you're not booting off of the 3 TB disk. However, you when you format that HDD, you will have to make two partitions, neither of which can be larger than 2.2 TBs. Meaning, you'd have to partition the 3 TB into 2 partitions, each 1/2 usable space. (Actual usable space does not equal 3 TB.)

            (See the above explanation for 3D.)

            In all, you just saved another $240 re-using the case and your 3TB HDD. You could spend that money on getting a Athlon II X2 processor and a 3D capable graphics card so you'd be set CPU-wise for 3D later.
            |TG-18th| Acreo Aeneas
            TG World of Tanks Clan Executive Officer
            Former 9th & 13th

            Pronounciation: Eh-Cree-Oh Ah-Nay-Ess
            Still can't say it? Call me Acorn then. -.-





            SSDs I Own: Kingston HyperX 3K (240 GB), Samsung 840 Pro (256 GB), Samsung 840 EVO (250 GB), Samsung 840 x 2 (120 GB), Plextor M5S (120 GB), OCZ Vertex (30 GB)

            TG Primer and Rules

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: HTPC Help Needed

              It's not that I actually want to re-use the case, I think the one you linked would look great, but I am broke, and need to be saving for important things (like food, a car, all that good stuff) so any money I can shave off at least in the short term is good.

              I still can't figure 3tb drives compatibility. IF I did get UEFI I wouldn't have an issue with formatting it, right? Why is it that I am unable to get it into partitions bigger than 750 (ie one platter) in the external case it's in now?

              If I decided to go UEFI and definite 3d compatibility what would you suggest?
              Sorry if I'm being slow :D

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: HTPC Help Needed

                Addition to the Above List

                I left out the PSU for the above list: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...82E16817341016



                All right, here's the UEFI re-explained hopefully with this example you understand clearly:

                If you have the 3 TB drive in the HTPC and you plan on installing the OS to that same drive, you can not create a partition that is larger than 2.2 TBs with non-UEFI BIOS-based boards. So then your 3 TB drive would have one 2.2 TB partition and another 0.8 TB partition (totaling 3 TBs). With UEFI, you could create a partition the entire size of the hard drive. Then install your OS to the drive.

                As for the 750+ GB partition on the drive externally, perhaps the file system is corrupted thus when your system tries to read into that partition, it hangs. You may also have large corrupted files that the computer hangs trying to read.


                If you're going with UEFI and 3D capable video, then a few parts would have to be swapped out:

                Case

                nMediaPC Steel HTPC Case - $70

                We'd have to go with this case because the above Silverstone only supports up to microATX boards. All the UEFI based boards I've seen for AM3 socket are only available as full size ATX. Thus this case will be needed to fit that board.

                Motherboard

                ASRock 880G Pro 3 - $99

                Seeing how all the UEFI AM3 boards are full ATX, this is the cheapest I could find. You have a huge plus side with this board (other than the UEFI BIOS): SATA revision 3 ports (SATA 6/Gbs). So, if and when you decide to get new SATA 6 hard drives, you can just plug them in without worrying about any loss in performance.

                Video Card

                Zotac GT440 1 GB - $80

                Here we're going with a slightly more powerful card (gaming wise, it performs 1.5x to 2.5x better than the HD5450 from above). With GeForce 260.xx drivers and beyond, you have Blu-Ray 3D capable playback via HDMI as well as 3D Vision playback assuming you have a 3D HDTV and a HDMI cable.

                I chose this card because of the better 2 slot cooler than comparable counterparts. It has a larger fan so it's quieter. So we're not compromising in the realm of light gaming as compared to the newer GT520. Not that you'd be gaming on it, but it just means it's more capable 3D wise and should offer smooth playback of any high-bitrate HD video file.

                Power Supply

                OCZ ModXStream Pro 500W Modular PSU - $65

                The same PSU I linked to earlier in the post. Modular because of the smaller environment you're working in. Not much room after everything's in so to maximize airflow, we minimize and eliminate unused cables, hence the modular PSU. It costs more, but the benefits outweigh the extra cost.

                Cable Ties

                Velcro 1/2" x 8" - ~$8 shipped

                I use these extra same ties to organize the cabling in rigs and around my desk. I've almost run through a pack of these already after about 2 years. Very useful, so I highly recommend them to anything building. :)
                |TG-18th| Acreo Aeneas
                TG World of Tanks Clan Executive Officer
                Former 9th & 13th

                Pronounciation: Eh-Cree-Oh Ah-Nay-Ess
                Still can't say it? Call me Acorn then. -.-





                SSDs I Own: Kingston HyperX 3K (240 GB), Samsung 840 Pro (256 GB), Samsung 840 EVO (250 GB), Samsung 840 x 2 (120 GB), Plextor M5S (120 GB), OCZ Vertex (30 GB)

                TG Primer and Rules

                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: HTPC Help Needed

                  Yeah, I've not been able to figure out what the actual drive issue is. It came out of an external drive where it worked fine, but going into another external case I haven't been able to get past that limit with formatting. We'll see how it fares internally.

                  Thanks for all the advice, I think I'll go with what you've recommended, and throw this http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...82E16819103903 in there. Hopefully I'll get this all setup as soon as I get paid. Can't wait to have a decent solution.

                  As a more or less hypothetical, I won't actually have to deal with it for a while and will probably ask again then kind of question, when I replace my current cruddy receiver should I go all out on some fancy a/v receiver, or dumb it down and get a nice amp/pre amp? I get the impression that most of the modern receivers are duplicating features that this should have, so would much be lost by just getting an amp and routing all the video components through the HTPC?

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: HTPC Help Needed

                    SO everything should be arriving on my doorstep sometime in the next few hours. I plan on doing a double install with a Win 7 upgrade, since I forgot to bring one of my many old windows disks with me out of town. I also failed to bring a CD drive, but I've been told I should be able to get a bot off an external drive, and I've got plenty of those. Assuming I've succeeded in not messing anything big up I should be up and running tonight. One last question (hopefully :D), where do you all stand on HTPC remotes? I've seen some pretty funky ones (revue?), and some wicked pricey ones (harmony 1100 anyone?). Is that the way to go? Or should I be looking at something cheap, or an ipod/ipad/android app to do the same thing?

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Re: HTPC Help Needed

                      I actually ordered this rather cheap remote from Amazon. It works, though button placement is odd and I basically have to point it directly at the IR receiver or else it won't do anything.

                      There are some nicer and much more expensive remotes out there. The better ones use RF frequency to capture signals from the remote, but they typically cost $30-$50 or more.

                      I was rather hoping to find a cheap alternative to the Boxee remote, but alas, I could find no imitations of it. That would probably be my ideal HTPC remote given on the flip side it has a QWERTY thumboard and all the basic controls for TV watching on the first side.


                      The thing with the Android and iOS apps is that you either link your phone up with your network (and through the network communicated with your HTPC assuming it's hooked up to your router via cable or wifi) OR you need to get some fancy IR/RF setup going so your HTPC can directly capture the signals coming from your phone.

                      If you have lots of time to tinker around with that stuff, it would be a great experience and something cool to show off next tiime you have guests over. Otherwise, a basic remote with a USB IR receiver works just fine.
                      |TG-18th| Acreo Aeneas
                      TG World of Tanks Clan Executive Officer
                      Former 9th & 13th

                      Pronounciation: Eh-Cree-Oh Ah-Nay-Ess
                      Still can't say it? Call me Acorn then. -.-





                      SSDs I Own: Kingston HyperX 3K (240 GB), Samsung 840 Pro (256 GB), Samsung 840 EVO (250 GB), Samsung 840 x 2 (120 GB), Plextor M5S (120 GB), OCZ Vertex (30 GB)

                      TG Primer and Rules

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