Please critique my HTPC plan

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Please critique my HTPC plan

Post by jmcorro » Mon Apr 07, 2008 9:03 pm

I'm currently in the process of building an HTPC and am at the point where I'm trying to do research on which CPU/mobo I want to get. I've built several computers in the past, but it's been 4-5 years since I've built my last one. As a result, I'm pretty out of the loop on hardware.

So far I've gotten a Samsung 750 GB Spinpoint HD and Thermaltake DH101 case. I'm most likely going to go w/ MythTV even though I'm a Linux newbie. I'm pretty sure I want to go w/ a Hauppauge PVR 150 tuner card and I *think* I'll be getting some sort of nVidia AGP video card (as advocated by the MythTV wiki), but this is where my ignorance really starts kicking in. I do know that you can do video decoding using the main CPU so I'm not sure which direction is better to go...get a graphics card and lower end CPU or just get a higher end CPU and forgo the graphics card.

My usage scenarios are as follows:
  • Primary usage will be to schedule shows to record and playback in std definition (nothing more exciting than Grey's Anatomy for my wife and Spongebob for my daughter).
  • Another possible primary usage scenario is to backup DVDs of home movies (and absolutely no other copy written material :) ). We would then either burn copies of those home movies to DVD (say for my daughter to watch on her little DVD player while we're on a long drive) or just watch playback directly from the HTPC itself. My limited research has me worried getting this to work on Linux can be more hassle than its worth (especially for a Linux newbie) so this may not come into fruition.
  • Tentatively, no expectations that this HTPC will replace our current DVD player. Thought here is that since we're only watching material in std def there's no need to get a high end sound card...I'll probably just look to use the mobo onboard audio.
  • No expectations to record/watch HD content.
  • No expectations to watch live TV using the HTPC (just playback of already recorded shows while possibly simultaneously recording another show). This is mostly because there's a several second delay when switching channels and I find that so annoying.
  • Secondary usages include streaming music (again non-copy written) to receiver, looking at family photos, possibly playing old NES games, and possibly browsing the internet.
So finally on to my questions:
  • Am I being short sighted by having no expectations for HD? When it comes to A/V, I'm definitely a late adopter. I'm not up to speed on the landscape of HD TV network adoption, but I just saw a commercial that stated networks will broadcast completely in HD by 2009. I thought this was supposed to be the case several years ago and it got pushed I'm expecting us std def watchers to have several more years.
  • Is there a preferred direction as far as my "graphics card + low end CPU" vs "moderate to high-end CPU only" dilemma?
  • What CPU/mobo combination should I look at? I'd REALLY like to keep it to the $150 or under range (emphasis on "under"). I'm willing to go higher if there's nothing viable in that price range, but I'd really prefer not to.
  • I believe I read that its better to have 2 sticks of memory than 1 equivalent sized stick (e.g. (2) 512mb sticks vs (1) 1gb stick). Is this true?
  • Will 1 gb be sufficient or should I be looking higher?
Thanks in advance for any help I can get!

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Re: Please critique my HTPC plan

Post by jessekopelman » Mon Apr 07, 2008 11:52 pm

jmcorro wrote:I just saw a commercial that stated networks will broadcast completely in HD by 2009.
Completely in digital by 2009. All HD is digital, but not all digital is HD. Remember, all those Seinfeld and Mash reruns they will be showing well into the 22nd Century were recorded in SD. Still, if you watch new and/or live network programming, you want the ability to handle HD.

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Post by jmcorro » Tue Apr 08, 2008 6:41 am

Thanks for the clarification. It sounds like I'll want to get a TV tuner card that has both digital and analog capabilities (I believe the Hauppauge HVR-1800 does). I understand you can do direct Firewire connection from the HTPC to your STB, but since I still have to do analog for another year'ish I'll need an analog encoder in the interim.

I neglected to mention in my list of questions if I should be favoring a microatx mobo for low power consumption reasons since I expect this box to be on 24x7. My case can take an ATX and micro-atx...I don't have a huge preference either way. I'm mostly focused on price first and low-power usage second.

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Post by nitram_tpr » Tue Apr 08, 2008 7:03 am

The new HTPC biased chipsets from AMD/ATI and Nvidia will handle the decoding on HD content on-board without the use of an add-in graphics card.
You don't even have to use a high end CPU.

There are numerous reviews of the 780G chipset from AMD/ATI. I have recently built one and it's very good. I used a low end BE-2350 AMD CPU and a Gigabyte GA-MA78GM-S2H mATX motherboard. the cost for both of those is about $200.
The gigabyte board has loads of connections, including a fully HD compliant HDMI port (audio included).

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