Can I convert this old rig to an HTPC?

Alienraptor

Weaksauce
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Dec 2, 2004
Messages
117
The relevant specs (same as sig):

MSI K8N Neo4 Platinum SLI
AMD Athlon64 3500+
1GB OCZ EL PC3200 Platinum
XFX GeForce 6600GT
320GB Seagate 7200.10 (or .9?) SATA HDD
An old Audigy card, I think the 1st-gen Gamer one
Some DVD burner; can you tell I hardly use this anymore?

I'd need a new case and such, as well as a tuner and possibly a Blu-ray drive; this much is obvious. I'm really more curious as to whether the rest of the computer would be up to the task.

I'm looking to convert this computer because (1) it's old and doesn't really do much of anything very well anymore, and while it would be a decent general-use computer, there is a bit of a problem in that (2) the old CRT that it is on is fading away, and I really don't think this craptastic rig justifies buying a new monitor.

If it could make an acceptable HTPC for my parents' living room, then I think that would be a good future home for it. The setup isn't all that magnificent anyway, so this rig doesn't have to be an amazing performer:

50" Samsung 1080i/720p DLP
An old Yamaha 5.1 receiver
An old old Sony DVD player
Some other old stuff, including a VCR and a Laserdisc player :cool:

I've had basically no experience with HTPCs, so if anyone has some ideas as to whether this would be worth the time and effort, that would be greatly appreciated. And if so, some suggestions as to a good tuner that supports QAM, as well as what to do about audio output, whether I should get Blu-ray, etc. would be awesome. Thanks.

UPDATE: I have some audio issues, scroll down about two dozen posts to see.
UPDATE 2: Audio issues fixed. Wireless networking question.
 

Vader

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1. If you're going Vista Media Center, you'll need at least 2GB's memory.

2. Blue Ray, you'll need a dual core. like an x2 3600 at least with a Nvidia 8500GT. This will take care of Blue Ray.

3. This setup will be fine for DVD's, SD playback..etc.

4. You also say it's going in your parents living room. I'm a stickler for noise so you'll i'd go with a passively cooled 8500GT or comparable ATI, and maybe a scythe ninja mini for the x2.

All of these upgrades you can find cheap @ For Sale/Trade forums.
 

Toytown

Gawd
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2. Blue Ray, you'll need a dual core. like an x2 3600 at least with a Nvidia 8500GT. This will take care of Blue Ray

Not true, the single core chip above will easily run bluray on a card such as the 8500 which supports offloading of almost all the work. Ive watched a blueray on a 3000+ sempron no problems.
 

Zero82z

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Like Vader said, upgrade to 2GB of RAM if you plan on using Vista MCE. Also, you should look into buying a cheap video card that can offload HD decoding functions onto the GPU, like a 3450 or 3650. Aside from those two things, your system should be capable of handling any media functions.
 

Alienraptor

Weaksauce
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Messages
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Like Vader said, upgrade to 2GB of RAM if you plan on using Vista MCE. Also, you should look into buying a cheap video card that can offload HD decoding functions onto the GPU, like a 3450 or 3650. Aside from those two things, your system should be capable of handling any media functions.

This sounds somewhat promising. I never paid much attention to HD decoding functions; do nVidia and AMD have silly trademarked names for their respective systems, by which I can identify cards that would be adequate?
 

CrimandEvil

Dick with a heart of gold
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Messages
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Not true, the single core chip above will easily run bluray on a card such as the 8500 which supports offloading of almost all the work. Ive watched a blueray on a 3000+ sempron no problems.

While true he'll have problems playing back regular 1080/H264 material without a dual core. I watch lots of anime and they're all moving to H264; in order to continue watching them I had to upgrade to a X2 3600 from my 3500 single core just to get smooth playback and no dropped frames. Even for Quicktime 1080p/i trailers the 3500 wasn't enough.
 

Zero82z

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This sounds somewhat promising. I never paid much attention to HD decoding functions; do nVidia and AMD have silly trademarked names for their respective systems, by which I can identify cards that would be adequate?

ATI's version is called AVIVO, and nVidia's version is called PureVideo HD. Any Radeon HD3xxx and nVidia 8xxx cards or higher support their respective technologies. I would suggest an ATI card though, because they have onboard HDMI audio passthrough. It doesn't really matter much either way though.
 

Alienraptor

Weaksauce
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Messages
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So in theory, I should have a decent HD-capable HTPC where my CPU should be doing next to none of the HD decoding work if I perform the following edits:

Lite-On SATA Blu-ray Drive
ATi Radeon HD 3450
Add 1GB DDR400

And I'm thinking of dropping it into a Silverstone LC-17. My options are kind of limited on the case front, because it's not mATX and I can't stand cases that look bad.
 

Zero82z

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So in theory, I should have a decent HD-capable HTPC where my CPU should be doing next to none of the HD decoding work if I perform the following edits:

Lite-On SATA Blu-ray Drive
ATi Radeon HD 3450
Add 1GB DDR400

Yeah, pretty much. You might want to go up to a 3650 though, as I'm not sure if the 3450 will be able to handle full 1080p decoding (it'll definitely do 720p though).
 

Alienraptor

Weaksauce
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Messages
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Yeah, pretty much. You might want to go up to a 3650 though, as I'm not sure if the 3450 will be able to handle full 1080p decoding (it'll definitely do 720p though).

But the 3450 is so cheap. And in theory I don't even need 1080p, because the display only goes up to 720p. And the 3450 is so cheap.
 

H-street

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Feb 25, 2005
Messages
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The relevant specs (same as sig):

MSI K8N Neo4 Platinum SLI
AMD Athlon64 3500+
1GB OCZ EL PC3200 Platinum
XFX GeForce 6600GT
320GB Seagate 7200.10 (or .9?) SATA HDD
An old Audigy card, I think the 1st-gen Gamer one
Some DVD burner; can you tell I hardly use this anymore?

Easily,

my main HTPC is an Vista Media Center, AMD X2 3800, with 1Gb DDR1 and an Nvidia Silent 8400GS, + Xbox HDDVD Drive.

as a media center PC you won't need too much memory (i've ran VMC on 1Gb with no problems or slowdowns for a year now)..

the biggest thing is the video card with bluray, my 8400GS does fine on HD-DVDs (i'm assuming blu ray is similar?) with very low CPU usage..

if you don't go bluray then the video card is fine.. infact, in my experience, i would recommend getting a big HDD and doing a dvd storage server instead.. I get much more use out of my stored DVD's (instant movie access) rather than my hi-def player. (even my Bluray PS3 drive gets very little use)..
 

Alienraptor

Weaksauce
Joined
Dec 2, 2004
Messages
117
Easily,

my main HTPC is an Vista Media Center, AMD X2 3800, with 1Gb DDR1 and an Nvidia Silent 8400GS, + Xbox HDDVD Drive.

as a media center PC you won't need too much memory (i've ran VMC on 1Gb with no problems or slowdowns for a year now)..

the biggest thing is the video card with bluray, my 8400GS does fine on HD-DVDs (i'm assuming blu ray is similar?) with very low CPU usage..

if you don't go bluray then the video card is fine.. infact, in my experience, i would recommend getting a big HDD and doing a dvd storage server instead.. I get much more use out of my stored DVD's (instant movie access) rather than my hi-def player. (even my Bluray PS3 drive gets very little use)..

What happens if you play, say, ripped HD content? I'd guess the CPU would be under pretty significant load. Particularly in that case, my single-core might suffer pretty substantially compared to your dual-core.

The info on RAM is interesting, though maybe you're just lucky. I wonder if anyone else has experience with this?
 

Zero82z

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Messages
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What happens if you play, say, ripped HD content? I'd guess the CPU would be under pretty significant load. Particularly in that case, my single-core might suffer pretty substantially compared to your dual-core.

That's the type of thing that would be offloaded onto the video card.
 

Alienraptor

Weaksauce
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Dec 2, 2004
Messages
117
That's the type of thing that would be offloaded onto the video card.

So all video decoding would be offloaded to the video card? For some reason I was under the impression that certain formats would still go through the CPU. Is any media processing handled by the CPU at all?

Also, is there a good case out there that supports full ATX? I'm considering the Silverstone LC17 right now but I haven't seen many other good and inexpensive ones that are bigger than mATX.
 

aingeal

Weaksauce
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Messages
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All the video decoding should be handled by the GPU as long as it can be hardware accelerated through a program like PowerDVD or something along those lines. If your using a program that doesn't allow for hardware acceleration to play your files then that is where you will see the CPU strain.
 

Alienraptor

Weaksauce
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Messages
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I've been checking out the computer's performance as it currently is, and I discovered that I can't seem to get the onboard S/PDIF-out to work quite as I want it to. By which I mean, at all.

When I enable and select the onboard audio and then connect via S/PDIF to my external receiver, I don't get any normal sounds. I am able to hear the test tones for DTS and DD (via the device properties in Vista), and I am also able to hear the test tones in the Vista Media Center setup wizard. All of those tones play back normally and correctly. Nothing else is audible (not even the "Test" in the right-click menu in the audio device listing).

Does anyone have an idea as to why this is the case? Does it have to do with the audio sources that I'm attempting to feed over the S/PDIF? I need to be able to play audio content encoded in a variety of ways, and that obviously includes many sounds other than test tones.
 

SC385

[H]ard|Gawd
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Messages
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do you have ac3filter installed? that is most likely the audio codec you are trying to listen to. install ac3filter and make sure you select "use spdif"
 

Alienraptor

Weaksauce
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do you have ac3filter installed? that is most likely the audio codec you are trying to listen to. install ac3filter and make sure you select "use spdif"

I'll try that, but the reason I doubt it's a codec issue is that no sounds are produced - no standard Windows sounds, no songs, none of the videos I have, and not even the standard test tone. Only three specific test tones work, and nothing else.

But I'll give it a shot just to see if that's the problem.
 

Toytown

Gawd
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Messages
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So all video decoding would be offloaded to the video card? For some reason I was under the impression that certain formats would still go through the CPU. Is any media processing handled by the CPU at all?

No not all video decoding will be offloaded. If you create your own rips from bluray/HDTV then you can encode them so they will.....if you get some rips from the internet/friends then there is a good chance that they cannot be offloaded to the GPU at all and you will have to rely on the CPU in your system to decode them. However as there has been a DXVA profile in most x264 GUI encoders for a few months, expect any new rips to be OK.
 

Archer75

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I'll try that, but the reason I doubt it's a codec issue is that no sounds are produced - no standard Windows sounds, no songs, none of the videos I have, and not even the standard test tone. Only three specific test tones work, and nothing else.

But I'll give it a shot just to see if that's the problem.

Perhaps the wrong thing is set as default under sound in the control panel.
 

Alienraptor

Weaksauce
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Perhaps the wrong thing is set as default under sound in the control panel.

The device set that is set as default (I can't remember the name; I don't have access to the computer at this moment) is the one for which the volume bar rises and falls when I play audio. The other one never indicates any non-zero output level, and I disabled it through the same configuration screen.
 

Archer75

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The device set that is set as default (I can't remember the name; I don't have access to the computer at this moment) is the one for which the volume bar rises and falls when I play audio. The other one never indicates any non-zero output level, and I disabled it through the same configuration screen.

Anything that is default will cause that volume bar to rise and fall, even if you hear no sound. I just went through this configuring my new HTPC just the other day.
 

FragMan

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could my old socket 754, amd 3700, 2gb ram, with a 512 xt1900 handle it?
check the love your socket 754 siggy.
 

Zero82z

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could my old socket 754, amd 3700, 2gb ram, with a 512 xt1900 handle it?
check the love your socket 754 siggy.

I don't believe the X1000 series is capable of decoding HD content. A 3450 would do it.
 

Alienraptor

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Anything that is default will cause that volume bar to rise and fall, even if you hear no sound. I just went through this configuring my new HTPC just the other day.

So this actually turned out to be the case with my config, too. Sound works perfectly now, thanks!

My new question is, I need to get a wireless network set up because my computer used to be right next to the router and is now very far away from it. What should I use on the computer end (to pick up the signal)? I'm expecting that it will get some pretty heavy internet usage, so it needs to be able to sustain decent bandwidth. Looking at some of the USB-based adapters, they tend to look pretty sketchy. I'm not sure what approach to take.
 

Zero82z

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Go with a MIMO-supporting wireless-N setup. That'll give you the best range and throughput. Pair it with a good router from the Router Recommendations thread in the Networking forum and you'll be good to go.
 

Alienraptor

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Go with a MIMO-supporting wireless-N setup. That'll give you the best range and throughput. Pair it with a good router from the Router Recommendations thread in the Networking forum and you'll be good to go.

The Router Recommendations thread is great, but unfortunately it's a lot harder to find Wireless Adapter recommendations. How do I evaluate which wireless adapters will be good? Are there any popular ones that are known to be reliable?

I wish I could keep the computer on the wired network but it's really probably more trouble than it's worth.
 

Zero82z

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The Router Recommendations thread is great, but unfortunately it's a lot harder to find Wireless Adapter recommendations. How do I evaluate which wireless adapters will be good? Are there any popular ones that are known to be reliable?

I wish I could keep the computer on the wired network but it's really probably more trouble than it's worth.

I'm not too up to date with wireless cards, but Linksys is generally a good bet. Post a thread asking for recommendations if you're not sure.
 

Alienraptor

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I recently hooked up my 6600GT via DVI-HDMI to my HDTV. But the image is slightly off-center, and the nVidia Control Panel resizing options can only scale; they can't reposition or re-center the screen. So I either cut off two sides, or I am left with two sides that are cropped and very slightly pincushioned. Any ideas? Was this fixed in a newer driver? A quick Google search yielded no love.

EDIT: I'm on Vista, which seems to be the problem. I guess nVidia hasn't fixed this issue for the past year-ish.
 
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