Feedback Req: Ultimate HTPC/Gaming/Desktop System - i4C 2.66, 8GB, 4TB, 4850: $2.1K

Discussion in 'General Hardware' started by JakFrost, Mar 4, 2009.

What is your opinion of this system configuration?

  1. Good as is!

    38.1%
  2. Would be better with video card upgrade.

    19.0%
  3. It sucks!!!

    9.5%
  4. Heat and noise might be an issue.

    19.0%
  5. I have a different suggestion...

    14.3%
  1. JakFrost

    JakFrost Limp Gawd

    Messages:
    239
    Joined:
    Dec 2, 2005
    I've put a some configurations together based on a lot of research for two friends of mine who are looking into upgrading their gaming desktops and are also looking at HTPC systems to connect to their HDTV systems for movie playback and recording. I'm looking for some feedback on these systems and general advice.

    1) What will you be doing with this PC? HTPC/Gaming/Desktop
    2) What's your budget? Are tax and shipping included? ~$2.1K with S&H
    3) Where do you live? US, East Coast
    4) What exact parts do you need for that budget? Everything listed above.
    5) If reusing any parts, what parts will you be reusing? None, all new.
    6) Will you be overclocking? Probably, but only light 10% OC on air.
    7) What size monitor do you have and/or plan to have? Current projector 1024x768, later HDTV projector 1920x1080.
    8) When do you plan on building/buying the PC? Within a few weeks.
    9) What features do you need in a motherboard? PCI-E, Audio
    10) Do you already have a legit and reusable/transferable OS key/license? Will purchase OS and Apps.

    The design for this configuration was based on having a system built on parts that give the most bang for the buck in the price-to-performance ratio for each category so this meant going for the new Intel i7 Socket 1366 with DDR3 memory based system. The emphasis on this design was based for an system that is powerful enough to play video games hence the Intel i7 2.66 processor and 6GB of RAM and a Radeon HD 4870 1GB video card. This system will also be serving as a HTPC systems doing video capture with AverMedia card and having enough storage for (4) 1TB drives along with HDTV component and HDMI video output along with digital audio output. The processor power and memory will also likely be used for some video encoding work to transfer DVD and Blu-ray media onto the hard drives for library storage. Since this system will be housed in the living room it includes a few additional accessories such as the wireless Bluetooth based keyboard & mouse combo, the Blu-ray drive to play back Blu-ray movies, the AverMedia capture card with remote control, the wireless network card to avoid running network cables, and a bunch of cables for any type of video and audio connections.

    The design was also built for being space saving by choosing a desktop HTPC case from Lian-Li along with being thermal and noise conscious that is why the choice of the case is 100% aluminum for better heat dissipation than steel cases. Also the system will be using all 120mm fans for two internal fans, processor fan, and power supply fan for maximum air flow at minimum noise generation. The video card will be the only item housing a smaller fan but this should not cause undue noise while using the system for desktop or media usage since the GPU won't be taxed so there will be minimal heat generation. During gaming sessions the ambient music and effects should be enough to minimize the increased noise from the video card fan, and if the placement of the HTPC is in a corner of the room the noise should be further diminished.



    [size="+2"]HTPC - i7 2.66, X58, 6GB, ATI 4870, ATSC, 2x30GB SS, 4TB, 520W, Blu-ray, WiFi, K+M Bt, ATX, VisPre64[/size]



    Case:
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    LIAN LI Black Aluminum PC-C32B ATX Media Center / HTPC Case - Retail
    $169.99

    Motherboard:
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    ASUS P6T LGA 1366 Intel X58 ATX Intel Motherboard - Retail
    $239.99

    Processor:
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    Intel Core i7 920 Nehalem 2.66GHz LGA 1366 130W Quad-Core Processor Model BX80601920 - Retail
    $279.99

    Memory:
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    G.SKILL 6GB (3 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Triple Channel Kit Desktop Memory Model F3-12800CL8TU-6GBPI - Retail
    $94.99

    Fan & Heatsink:
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    XIGMATEK HDT-SD964 92mm Rifle CPU Cooler - Retail
    $27.99

    Bracket:
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    XIGMATEK ACK-I7363 CPU Cooler - Retail
    $9.99

    Video Card:
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    SAPPHIRE 100259-1GL Radeon HD 4870 1GB 256-bit GDDR5 PCI Express 2.0 x16 HDCP Ready CrossFire Supported Video Card - Retail
    $189.99

    Power Supply:
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    CORSAIR CMPSU-520HX 520W ATX12V v2.2 and EPS12V 2.91 SLI Certified CrossFire Ready 80 PLUS Certified Modular Active PFC Compatible with Core i7 Power Supply - Retail
    $109.99

    Solid Disk:
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    OCZ Vertex Series OCZSSD2-1VTX30G 2.5" 30GB SATA II Internal Solid state disk (SSD) - Retail
    2 x $128.00 = $256.00

    Hard Disk:
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    Western Digital Caviar Green WD10EADS 1TB SATA 3.0Gb/s Hard Drive - OEM
    4 x $104.99 = $399.96

    Capture Card:
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    AVerMedia AVerTV Combo PCIe MCE ATSC/NTSC/QAM Tuner Card w/MCE Remote & L-P Bracket 7 95522 96066 5 PCI-Express x1
    $109.99


    Media Reader:
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    LIAN LI CR-25B 20-in-1 USB 2.0 Black Aluminum Card Reader - Retail
    $22.99

    Keyboard & Mouse:
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    Microsoft Wireless Entertainment Desktop 7000 - Retail
    $115.99

    Optical Drive:
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    LG Black Blu-ray/HD DVD-ROM & 16X DVD±R DVD Burner SATA Model GGC-H20L - Retail
    $109.99

    Network:
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    LINKSYS WMP300N IEEE 802.11b, IEEE 802.11g, Draft IEEE 802.11n 32-bit PCI Interface High-speed Wireless-N Wireless Adapter Up to 256-bit wireless encryption - Retail
    $64.99

    Operating System:
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    Microsoft Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 64-bit for System Builders - OEM
    $99.99

    Subtotal: $2,302.82
    Shipping & Handling: $51.69
    Total: $2,354.51





    [size="+2"]Options[/size]

    Below are some downgrade options from the configuration above. (Originally this post started with the sections below being upgrade options but after some considerations the roles were reversed into downgrade options due to the lower anticipated costs of the higher performing parts.)


    [size="+1"]Video Card Downgrade[/size]

    One possibility is to downgrade the video card from the to the 4870 750/900 MHz to 4850 625/993 MHz for $38 total savings that would save a measly ~1.7% of the total system price for about 20% lower frame rates for games like Bioshock, Call of Duty 4, and Oblivion according to the article AnandTech: The Radeon HD 4850 & 4870 AMD Wins at $199 and $299.

    The thing to consider is the increased Heat & Noise with the current 4870 video card as mentioned in the article but this might not be such a big issue when playing games anyway due to the attention being on the game and the music and effects. So this downgrade is listed here as an example but for the small price difference it might not be worth it, especially consider that buying the higher performing 4870 card you always have the option of down-clocking the card and lowering the fan RPM to minimize the noise produced.

    Video Card:
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    SAPPHIRE 100258-1GL Radeon HD 4850 1GB 256-bit GDDR3 PCI Express 2.0 x16 HDCP Ready CrossFire Supported Video Card - Retail
    $161.99

    Cost Savings: $38.00



    [size="+1"]Intel Core 2 Quad Socket 775 and DDR2 Memory Architecture[/size]

    Another option to downgrade would be to go with the older Intel Core 2 Quad Socket 775 and DDR2 memory architecture. The cost savings will $184.01 at 9% savings but at a performance decrease of 20% in most applications and 20-40% decrease in video encoding and linear calculation processing applications. There is some good information about the how the new Intel i7 architecture compares to the older Core 2 in this article AnandTech: The Nehalem Preview: Intel Does It Again article. (Revised paragraph.)

    Motherboard:
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    ASUS P5Q-E LGA 775 Intel P45 ATX Intel Motherboard - Retail
    $144.99

    Processor:
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    Intel Core2 Quad Q9400 2.66GHz LGA 775 95W Quad-Core Processor Model BX80580Q9400 - Retail
    $229.99

    Memory: (2)
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    G.SKILL 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 1066 (PC2 8500) Desktop Memory - Retail
    $89.98

    Cost Savings: $184.01



    [size="+1"]Logitech Keyboard & Mouse Upgrade[/size]

    Another option is a Logitech Keyboard & Mouse instead of the Microsoft model but there is some mixed feedback on the quality of the mouse that comes with this combo.

    Keyboard & Mouse:
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    Logitech 967562-0403 2-Tone 103 Normal Keys 15 Function Keys USB Bluetooth Wireless Slim diNovo Media Desktop Laser - Retail
    $155.99

    Additional Cost: $40.00



    [size="+2"]Cables[/size]

    Cables - Monoprice.com

    Here are the same cables as in the Newegg config but ordered from Monoprice for roughly 50% less on each cable.

    Cable Video Component:
    [​IMG]
    12Ft 3-RCA Component Video Cable (RG-59/u)
    $4.17

    Cable Video DVI:
    [​IMG]
    DVI Analog Male / VGA(HD15) Male Cable - 15ft (Black)
    $8.27

    Cable Video HDMI:
    [​IMG]
    High Speed HDMI 1.3a Category 2 Certified Cable 28AWG - 10ft w/Ferrite Cores (Gold Plated Connectors) - BLACK
    $4.74

    Cable Audio Toslink:
    [​IMG]
    12FT Optical Toslink Cable
    $2.70

    Cable Audio Coax:
    [​IMG]
    12ft High-quality Coaxial Audio/Video RCA CL2 Rated Cable - RG6/U 75ohm (for S/PDIF, Digital Coax, Subwoofer & Composite Video)
    $4.86

    Cable USB:
    [​IMG]
    6FT USB 2.0 A to A Male/Female Extension Cable (Black)
    $0.88

    Cable USB:
    [​IMG]
    10FT USB 2.0 A to A Male/Female Extension Cable
    $1.27

    Subtotal: $29.12
    Shipping & Handling: $9.59 (5-day) / $18.50 (3-day)
    Total: $38.71 (5-day) / $47.62 (3-day)



    Cables - Newegg.com

    Cable Video Component:
    [​IMG]
    Link Depot LD-HDCPN-12 12 ft. HD Component video cable M-M - Retail
    $7.99

    Cable Video DVI:
    [​IMG]
    Link Depot 10 ft. DVI To VGA Cable Model DVI-10-VGA - Retail
    $5.99

    Cable Video HDMI:
    [​IMG]
    Nippon Labs 10 ft. HDMI TO HDMI A/V Gold Plated Cable Model HDMI1.3-10 - Retail
    $8.99

    Cable Audio Toslink:
    [​IMG]
    CABLES UNLIMITED AUD-9200-12 12 feet Toslink Digital Audio Cable - Retail
    $7.99

    Cable Audio Coax:
    [​IMG]
    CABLES UNLIMITED AUD-1315-10 10 feet Pro A/V Series Digital Coaxial Cable M-M - Retail
    $8.99

    Cable USB:
    [​IMG]
    BYTECC 6 ft. Type A Male to Type A Female USB 2.0 Extension Cable Model USB2-6MF-K - Retail
    $2.49

    Cable USB:
    [​IMG]
    BYTECC 10 ft. Type A Male to Type A Female USB 2.0 Extension Cable Model USB2-10MF-K - Retail
    $2.89

    Subtotal: $45.33
    Shipping & Handling: $31.13 (3-day)
    Total: $76.46 (3-day)



    [size="+2"]Alternative Configurations[/size]

    Here are some alternative configurations based on similar parts as the main system along with the included downgrades that were listed above.

    HTPC - i4 2.66, P45, 8GB, ATI 4850, ATSC, 2x30GB SS, 4TB, 520W, Blu-ray, WiFi, K+M Bt, ATX, VisPre64 - $2,107.82

    HTPC - i4 2.66, P45, 4GB, ATI 4850, ATSC, 2x30GB SS, 1TB, 430W, Blu-ray, WiFi, K+M Bt, ATX, VisPre64 - $1,727.86

    HTPC - i2 3.0, P45, 4GB, ATI 4670, ATSC, 1TB, 380W, Blu-ray, WiFi, K+M Bt, ATX, XpPro32 - $1,198.87

    Shipping & Handling: ~ $60.00




    [size="-2"]

    Updates:

    • Changed fan & heatsink from ThermalTake MaxOrb to Xigmatech HDT-SD964 with socket 1366 bracket.
    • Changed power supply from SeaSonic 500W $92.99 +12V 34A to Corsair 520HX $109.99 +12V 54A. (Thanks lowteckh, Danny Bui)
    • Added the HTPC i7 with 4870 video card configuration wishlist.
    • Changed to larger pictures.
    • Changed wireless card from Linksys WPN100 to Linksys WPN300N for separate antenna.
    • Changed the DDR2 memory from 1066 to 800, back to 1066 for OC capability. (Thanks Danny Bui)
    • Changed Vista Ultimate to Home Premium. (Thanks Danny Bui)
    • Removed cables from wishlists and created separate lists due to shipping overcharges.
    • Added the 2 x OCZ Vertex 30 GB MLC SSD for RAID-0 to top three configs.


    [/size]
     
  2. lowteckh

    lowteckh [H]ardness Supreme

    Messages:
    5,073
    Joined:
    Jul 23, 2008
    1) What do you need 8GB for? Gaming and HTPCing doesn't require 8GB. You want to avoid the i7 "price hike", but yet the ram costs more than 6GB of DDR3, the mobo is within $20-40 bucks of a X58, and the CPU is the same $ as a i7 920 if you're near a MC.
    2) You didn't list your resolution and monitor/TV.
    3) Thermaltakes are loud. And you can probably fit a SD964 in there, or Noctua C12Ps - that case is just a mid tower flipped on its side.
    4) Price of the PSUs is horrendous - Corsair 520HX, 620HX, Silverstone ST60F, ST70F, the BFG 550w Danny will be mentioning.
    5) Ditch the MS keyboard. Non physical feedback touch function keys is annoying. Tiny touchpad is pretty useless as well. I have an 8000 that was intended for HTPCing, but had to keep reaching for the mouse which kind of defeated the purpose of getting the 8000 for using w/o a mouse.
    6) Using a WD green drive as an OS drive is a poor decision. We 24/7 recommend the 6400AAKS and 6401AALS.
    7) Monoprice.com for cables
     
  3. JakFrost

    JakFrost Limp Gawd

    Messages:
    239
    Joined:
    Dec 2, 2005
    1) 8GB DDR2 1066 is cheap at $120 with games already allocating 3 GB of RAM for textures (STALKER SoC with SuperMod Pack 2.83 GB allocated).

    Nice catch, I forgot to include the i7 as an option since I priced it out a few months earlier and didn't include it. The Intel Core 2 Quad 775/DDR2/8GB is $494.96 and Intel i7 1366/DDR3/6GB is $648.97 for a difference of $154.01 so it might be worth it. I'll update the original post with the i7 config options.

    2) Current resolution will be 800x600 or 1024x768 but later 1920x1080.

    3) I would like a larger size heatsink & fan in there but I don't have info about total clearance on this case but once the system is here it could be measured out to purchase the largest size heatsink that would fit in there. The Thernaltake was recommended as a top pick for low-profile at FrostyTech Top 5 Low Profile so I chose it as a blind safe pick. I would rather go with something from the Top 5 Regular list like on of the Xigmatechs instead if it will clear the case. But I can't comment until I have the case to measure out clearance.

    4) The PSU costs from SeaSonic are lower than the Corsair 520HX and 620HX, and Silverstone ST60F and ST70F that you mentioned. This system doesn't need more than 430W with 4850 or 500W with 4870 in any case since it is limited by expansion and the SeaSonic modulars at $74.99 and $92.99 offers lowest price. SeaSonic has a great reputation for their SII and M12 power supplies, even here on HardOCP recommendation thread.

    CORSAIR CMPSU-520HX 520W ATX12V v2.2 and EPS12V 2.91 SLI Certified CrossFire Ready 80 PLUS Certified Modular Active PFC Compatible with Core i7 Power Supply - Retail $109.99

    CORSAIR CMPSU-620HX 620W ATX12V v2.2 and EPS12V 2.91 SLI Certified CrossFire Ready 80 PLUS Certified Modular Active PFC Compatible with Core i7 Power Supply - Retail $149.99

    SILVERSTONE ST60F 600W ATX12V / EPS12V SLI Certified CrossFire Ready 80 PLUS BRONZE Certified Modular Active PFC Power Supply - Retail - $104.98

    SILVERSTONE ST70F 700W ATX12V / EPS12V SLI Ready CrossFire Ready 80 PLUS Certified Modular Active PFC Power Supply - Retail - $129.99

    5) My experience with Microsoft keyboards and mice has been great. Function keys being flat is probably a small issue and how often do you use those keys anyway. The 8000 series is too expensive but the 7000 is priced about right for the features it offers. It's a personal preference thing and there is always a Logitech Mouse & Keyboard as an option in case my friends don't like Microsoft hardware.

    6) The WD Green 1TB drives that I have are great runners from my experience since they are quiet and cool running and that is a big requirement for HTPC. They have great in performance also and I clocked my drives doing steady 48 MB/s on sequential file transfers. For an HTPC with limited expansion to 4 internal drives only doing 4x1TB offers a lot of storage. I have WD Blue AAKS (2) 320 and (4) 500 and they run loud and hot so I would not put these drives on top of each other in a confined HTPC case ever.

    7) Yes, for long distance Monoprice.com is great but there's a benefit to getting all the parts and cables from Newegg when you consider that all those 10-foot cables cost ~$6-9 each. I bought my 60-foot HDMI cable there so I like them also.
     
  4. lowteckh

    lowteckh [H]ardness Supreme

    Messages:
    5,073
    Joined:
    Jul 23, 2008
    1) Don't play that game. Have a hard time believing 8GB is needed for any game; Crysis and FC2 doesn't need that much.
    2) When is later? Like a month, two? more than 2? That determines the video card so specifics.
    3) Hold off on the cooler then. Your case is definitely not low profile - 120mm fans = not low profile.
    4) Brent (PSU editor) mentioned that something like 40%-60% of PSU load is where the "safe" zone is for constant load. You can do the math from there. A Corsair 400CX is only $60 and $50AR so I wouldn't touch a 430w PSU for $75.
    5) You have no idea how annoying it is.. No tactile feedback means I don't know what I'm pressing or if I'm pressing it without looking at the screen. Not to mention I have to look at the keyboard to type/find keys. Dunno how much battery the 7000 drains, but the 8000 (backlit of course) can only run half a day before low battery indicator pops up and I get no backlight. Could be the battery, but it's rechargeable so I don't care. The 7000 is however not rechargeable, so you should look at what other people are getting on battery life.
    6) Dunno what faulty drives you have, but no one has complained about the 6400AAKS and 6401AALS being hot or noisy. You take a bit hit going to a green drive with variable spinners of 5400-7200rpm. Not to mention platter density; I let someone do that.
    7) ? I'm not understanding how Monoprice's cables are more expensive. 12ft of coaxial = $2, $4.86 if you want the "fancy connector". 12ft of toslink at monoprice is $2, 10ft of HDMI w/ ferrite core is $5. I have that Nippon Labs HDMI cable and it's no comparison to the cheaper monoprice cable (nippon labs is thinner, flimsier and no ferrite core)
     
  5. Dangman

    Dangman Ninja Editor SuperMod

    Messages:
    46,670
    Joined:
    Dec 15, 2005
    @ lowteckh
    Brent is the video card editor here. Paul Johnson is the PSU editor here. And the quote is like so:
    @ JakFrost
    The WD 640Gb drives are very quiet in general. The WD AAKS 320GB and 500GB are older 2-3 platter drives whereas the the 640GB drives are newer and two platter designs. Also, Silent PC Review gives the WD6400AAKS a very good review. Considering the name of that website, that should lend some credence to the fact that the WD 640GB drives are pretty quiet.

    PSU wise, the Corsair 520HX is a much better value than the Seasonic 500W PSU since it offers more power on the +12V rail. The Seasonic SS 500W only has 35A on the +12V rail whereas the Corsair 520HX has 40A on the +12V rail. The increase in price is well worth the extra amperage. However, if modular PSUs aren't a requirement, the BFG LS-550 is a significantly better buy than any of the PSUs mentioned so far since it offers 41A on the +12V rail and costs only $80.

    Just an FYI, the Seasonic built Corsair 400CX has 30A on the +12V rail whereas the Seasonic M12II 430W only has 29A on the +12V rail
     
  6. lowteckh

    lowteckh [H]ardness Supreme

    Messages:
    5,073
    Joined:
    Jul 23, 2008
    Brent and Paul, they have similar letters. A is next to a B...
     
  7. JakFrost

    JakFrost Limp Gawd

    Messages:
    239
    Joined:
    Dec 2, 2005
    I read the review you linked to and it is very good and informative. My experience was limited only to the WD Blue 250/320/500 GB drives from a while back and I just skipped the 640 line and went directly to the WD Green 1TB for external storage. When I put the WD Blue 7200 RPM 500 GB drives in external aluminum enclosures and put them on top of my case the drives get hot to the touch within an hour and the heat makes me uncomfortable thinking of how hot it is inside. When I put those drives back and put in the WD Green 1TB 5400RPM drives the drive cases stay absolutely cold to the touch during normal usage. The difference in heat generation was staggering to me when I used the drives. I wasn't sure that the drives were actually working that is how quiet and cold they were.

    One thing that the review didn't directly test is the heat generation of the drive from the WD Blue line and that is a big factor here considering that the case will be filled with 4 drives almost directly stacked on each other and with the air flow hitting the drives but not passing through them since the air vent holes in the Lian-Li case are on the side and not in the front. The review lists the the 640 drive with idle 6.8 W and Seek 9.3 W for power draw and the 1TB drive with idle 3.3~5.9 W and seek 6.7 W. That's a bit of a difference here in power draw but that's not really as much of a factor as the WD Green drive's feature of turning off the motor when idle that really lowers the heat generation.

    Thermal and noise concerns are a big factor in the design since this HTPC gaming system will be housed in the living room for both of my friends and it will be loaded up with four drives. All the drives will be used pretty much for media storage and only one of the drives will do regular OS duties and be used for loading games. The WD Green 5400 RPM drives stop spinning when they are not used and that is a great feature because most of the times these drives will sit idle.

    I think that following Slient PC's advice in the review is a pretty solid recommendation for the WD Green 1 TB drives for this design criteria.

    SilentPC - WD Green Power: A New Benchmark in HDD Acoustics & Power

    "As a general rule, our reviews ignore performance in favor of noise and power. In a world where most drives are just dumping places for data, we believe that noise and power (and reliability) are more important than speed. Our specialty is testing noise, not performance."

    "In real terms, the performance difference is minimal. The vast majority of laptops use 5,400 RPM drives, and few people complain that this isn't fast enough. We've been recommending 5,400 RPM notebook drives as a quiet storage alternative for years now. Besides, the large 250 GB platters in the Green Power go a long way to mitigating the performance penalty of the slower rotation speed."

    "It's the quietest desktop drive we've ever tested. It's the most efficient drive we've ever tested."

    "The only real question mark hanging over the Green Power is how much the rotation speed affects performance. And, while no reports show it leading the pack, it doesn't seem to be far enough back to worry about. Its high capacity 250 GB platters help mitigate the lower spindle speed."
     
  8. Master Bob

    Master Bob Limp Gawd

    Messages:
    379
    Joined:
    Sep 8, 2005
    Are you near a microcenter? They have the Core i7 920 for $230 at store pickup + tax. Some of their other prices are the same or better compared to Newegg's, just look at the tax replacing the S&H costs of Newegg.

    EDIT: Have you thought about going with a front-end/back-end HTPC setup similar to the one in this ars technica Guide?
     
  9. lowteckh

    lowteckh [H]ardness Supreme

    Messages:
    5,073
    Joined:
    Jul 23, 2008
    Suit yourself, giving up trying to convince you otherwise.

    My WHS runs 3 drives, 1 1.5TB, 1 Hitachi 1TB, 1 320AAJS(?) at the moment with no intake fan, only 1 800rpm exhaust fan and the drives are 35c. Room temp is hot enough to sweat in. Your LL case has 2 120mm fans exhausting air from the HDs so without doubt it'll fare better than what I have, and 35c is pretty normal already.
     
  10. enginurd

    enginurd Pick your own.....you deserve it.

    Messages:
    21,825
    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2006
    I agree with low and danny.

    The caviars run warm... not too hot.
     
  11. JakFrost

    JakFrost Limp Gawd

    Messages:
    239
    Joined:
    Dec 2, 2005
    Thanks for the Microcenter info and I'll let my friends know if I find any much lower prices for the parts. The CPU is a nice discount of $50 though.

    I read the article and their suggestion for Front/Back-end system but I don't think that it's going to apply to either of setups for my friends due to their house setup. One has a bedroom that is two floors above the living room with a system in there already for work so two more systems seems like one too many. Also the back-end system that would be on 24/7 should not be located in the bedroom since the constant ambient noise would create problem for sleeping in the same room. It's easier to keep a work system in the bedroom and a main HTPC in the living room 24/7.

    The other uses this living room as his workspace so his main system is there so he doesn't need a front-end since his main computer is already in the living room and this HTPC setup would be a replacement for his old main system.

    I myself have my main system in a spare bedroom and instead of a front-end system I just bought a 60-foot HDMI cable and ran it to my living room. I don't have to deal with the complexity of another system at the price of not having a remote control to control my current system. Although, I might just use a USB active extender and an IR Sensor with MCE remote to get the same job done.

    I hear your suggestions and I do appreciate the info about the fan & heatsink and the power supply so I made changes to the configs. I appreciate your feedback very much and this is exactly what I was looking for when I made this post.

    However, I just feel that the efficiency of the WD Green 1TB with the extra capacity offsets any performance benefits of the WD Blue 640 GB drives for this HTPC configuration. It's not a choice made by personal preference since I have (6) WD Blue drives and I like the performance of these drives very much so don't take it personally.
     
  12. Dangman

    Dangman Ninja Editor SuperMod

    Messages:
    46,670
    Joined:
    Dec 15, 2005
    For the Core 2 Duo setup, you don't need DDR2 1066 RAM even if you're planning on overclocking the Q9400 to 4Ghz. All you need is DDR2 1000 RAM which is $10 cheaper and would increase the savings up to $174.01:
    G.Skill F2-8000CL5D-4GBPQ 2 x 2GB DDR2 1000 RAM - $50

    Also why Vista Ultimate? Do you really need the "extras", security, and backup features? Is it worth the extra $80 or so?

    Oh just realized that you're planning on using a 64bit OS. That may not be a good idea judging from the last several posts of this excellent guide:
    http://hardforum.com/forumdisplay.php?f=103

    Seems like a 64bit OS is not a good idea for a HTPC.
     
  13. JakFrost

    JakFrost Limp Gawd

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    Yes, you are right and I could also use even less expensive DDR2 800 chips and save some more money while still getting the heatsink like heat spreaders. I'll update the lower configs.

    I remember reading a few articles a while back when these higher clocked DDR and DDR2 memory was hitting the market and the general consensus from the review sites was that the extra money spent was not worth the single lower digit 1-5% real world performance improvement from higher clocked memory. Should have remembered that earlier.

    G.SKILL PI Black 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 800 (PC2 6400) Dual Channel Kit Desktop Memory Model F2-6400CL4D-4GBPI-B - Retail $44.99
    [​IMG]


    I just chucked the Vista Ultimate for the uber configured 8GB RAM systems but Vista Premium seems like a better choice since the additional features are not required.

    Microsoft Vista - Compare Editions

    Vista Ultimate - Additional Features not in Vista Home Premium

    • Protect against hardware failure with Windows Complete PC Backup and Restore (Any backup software these days.)
    • Scan, fax, and receive documents and images with Windows Fax and Scan (Who still has a home phone for faxing?)
    • Remotely access your business resources and applications with Remote Desktop Connection (RDP can be done with RealVNC)
    • Better protect your data against loss with Windows BitLocker Drive Encryption (TrueCrypt full system encryption)
    • Add to your Windows experience with Windows Ultimate Extras (Screw the extras!)

    None of the features listed here sound all that important to have anyway and there are other applications that can do the work just fine. Thanks for the suggestion Danny Bui.

    64-bit Operating System

    As for the choice of 64-bit OS instead of 32-bit. I just finished a whole write-up of a Virtual Memory allocation problem for STALKER: Shadow of Chernobyl - Supermod Pack 2.2.5. I found that this game with this mod allocates upwards of 2.83 GB of RAM and my 32-bit XP needed the /3GB and /USERVA boot.ini switches to let the game allocate up to 3 GB of RAM while cutting the OS down to only 1 GB, letting the game actually play but at the expense of taking resources away from the OS and causing resource starvation errors.

    This happened with a 3-year old game! What is going to happen this year or next year when new titles come up requiring more than 3 GB of RAM? No 32-bit OS will be able to cope! The only real solution is 64-bit OS and I already checked that the devices in this configuration have Vista Certified 64-bit drivers. I also checked and there are 64-bit versions of FFDshow codec, Media Player Classic Homecinema, and other applications.

    At this point in time there is no choice since 64-bit is the future with a 8 TB virtual memory allocation space for 64-bit applications getting rid of this 3GB permanent barrier on 32-bit OSes by opening up 32-bit applications with full 4 GB of virtual allocation space.

    The i7 config has 6 GB (3 x 2GB) with space for another set for a total of 12 GB of RAM, and the other i4C config has 8 GB of RAM. There is no reason not to buy this much RAM since it will be used by the operating system as cache or by applications and games now and in the future. There is no reason to start these systems out gimped with a bottleneck by loading them with 32-bit operating systems at the get go.

    Microsoft - Memory Limits for Windows Releases



    Virtual Memory Allocation Limit 2GB or 3GB on 32-bit OS

    Below are the details of the problem that I found with 32-bit OSes and the user/kernel memory space 2GB/2GB split that can be pushed to a 3GB/1GB hard limit but not any further without going to 64-bit.

    STALKER: Shadow of Chernobyl - Oblivion Lost 2.2 complete by Wolfehunter - Crash To Desktop Due To Out Of Virtual Memory Issue Solution

    "The cause of some of the Crash To Desktop (CTD)s problems for the game Stalker are caused by a out-of-memory error when the game tries to allocate more than 2 GB of memory when running this mod while having the Texture Detail setting at a high value such as at 3/4 or Maximum and when entering certain complex maps such as the Bar. These crashes happen when you enter a new map, when you try to save your game on the current map, when you try to load a previously saved game, when moving around a map and you hit one of the prefetch load zones such as the one where you walk to the Bar across the ditch in the road where there is a hanging corpse and there are always dogs, or at other times where the game might try to load more information into memory.

    The reason for this crash is not related to how much physical RAM you have in your computer but to the design of the Windows NT/2000/XP 32-bit kernel, which divides the 4 GB of memory address space into 2 GB for user mode processes such as applications and games, and the remaining 2 GB for the kernel and system cache. Basically no application or game can allocate more than 2 GB of memory all at the same time because of this design decision. There is a special /3GB switch that you can put into the %SystemDrive%\boot.ini file that will change the memory split so that the user mode processes get up to 3 GB of the memory address space and the kernel will only get the remaining 1 GB. This will allow the game to allocate more than the previous 2 GB limit, up to 3 GB of memory, for itself. The memory values that I am referring to here are for the virtual memory address space and not actually physical RAM that is in your system since the limits mentioned above affect all computers no matter if they have 1 GB, 2 GB, or 4 GB or RAM. Also the limits here are for each process individually since every process gets a new private virtual memory address space that is independent of any other processes and not shared between them."
     
  14. Master Bob

    Master Bob Limp Gawd

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    You really can't make the claim that games are going to require more than 3GB of RAM due to a 3rd-party mod.

    Concerning RAM: The thing with Core 2 systems is that you want to run the ram at the same frequency as the FSB, so getting faster RAM doesn't necessarily help unless you are overclocking your Core 2. So for that Q9400 with a FSB of 1333MHz you only need DDR2 667.

    Since the Core 2s quad pump their FSB you can divide the 1333MHz by 4 to get 333.25, then you can take this and multiply by 2 to get 666.5 MHz (or the frequency required by the RAM). My explanation may be wrong here, but in the end the right answer is found.
     
  15. JakFrost

    JakFrost Limp Gawd

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    I already switched the config to the Corsair 520HX supply instead of the SeaSonic M12II 430W/500W choices and now I came across this review by AnandTech.

    Anandtech.com - 500W to 550W: 12 Power Supplies Compared

    Comparison: Acoustic Noise
    Comparison: Cooling Performance
    Comparison: Efficiency

    Except for the SeaSonic getting very loud at 100% load the Corsair is pretty close to it, the BFG LS-550 is one loud beast though. Efficiency wise they are pretty close also. Overall I think that you're right that the Corsair 520HX is a bit of a better choice. Good call on that one.
     
  16. enginurd

    enginurd Pick your own.....you deserve it.

    Messages:
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    1.8v RAM from G.Skill doesn't get hot enough to even need those extra fins on the ramsinks. ;)

    Re: Stalker... TLDR, sorry. However, it seems the Crysis question can also be applied here... Do you really want to spend that much more for only 1 game? And if a game is using that much RAM, its poorly coded, IMO, lol.

    Are you sure those ATI cards will fit in that case? It looks like the internal fans may get in the way.

    Also, all those cables you chose added $27 worth of shipping charges for me, when I added all your stuff to my cart. You might want to see how much they add for you. For that much, I'd highly suggest checking out monoprice again, lol.
     
  17. Dangman

    Dangman Ninja Editor SuperMod

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    While I have a few issues with Anandtech reviews, nothing that needs to be said, the Corsair 520HX is definitely a good choice.

    Oh and I just realized that I linked to the wrong page. This is what I meant to link to:
    http://hardforum.com/showthread.php?t=1276654

    If you look through that guide, there are a few issues with using a 64bit OS for their HTPC setups. In fact, in the HTPC subforum, the general consensus is that a 64bit OS is not a good choice for a HTPC. Just a heads up.
     
  18. JakFrost

    JakFrost Limp Gawd

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    I read that whole thread and I saw a lot of complaints about 64-bit but no actual substantial issues being pointed at as the source of the issue. There is a lot of suggestions to install all kinds of codecs, programs and packs but no substantial information as to the reasons for doing so.

    Also nobody even brought out the idea of checking the Filter Graph for codec usage and using filter merit to resolve conflicts with competing codecs.

    I think that I'm going to have to write up a nice little guide on how to configure a computer for HDTV playback and how to diagnose codec issues with Graph Edit and GSpot.

    While there might be some genuine issues with HTPC systems and 64-bit OS I'm leaning towards user confusion right now as the major problem because there is nothing substantial that anyone said was the source of the issue.
     
  19. JakFrost

    JakFrost Limp Gawd

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    Memory and 64-bit

    The price of the RAM with or without the heatsinks is the same, plus they look cool.

    I understand what you're saying about the Crysis issue and I also stayed with Windows XP 32-bit since I found no reason to go to Vista and DirectX 10 just because Crysis required it. This issue with the mod and Stalker is similar, it is just one game and without the mod the game stays under the 2 GB virtual memory allocation limit like all the other games also. The thing that nags me is that this is just a first and I'm thinking that in the next few years the demand for 64-bit OSes will grow.

    I'm just thinking ahead about the 64-bit OS issue since there will be other games and applications coming up that are going to benefit a lot from having a lot more memory available. On top of this, getting a video card with huge 1 GB or larger RAM sizes that allocate memory mapped areas and eat up the precious 4 GB allocation space in 32-bit OSes. My 896 MB video card eats up over 300 MB and my own 4 GB system only has 3.25 GB available to the OS. Now that memory is at rock bottom prices and 4/6/8/12 GB RAM prices are not astronomical, it makes sense to buy a lot of memory.

    I originally built my system with 2 GB only and then upgraded to 4 GB only to find out that DDR memory was now rare and expensive to find the memory that matched my timings. I would have saved a lot of money just getting 4 GB maxed out from the start.

    In this configuration I'll likely be the one helping my friends build the systems and I'll be recommending the pieces and software to install and configure. From the general feedback that I've heard about 64-bit OS it has been quite positive for some people while a few others complain about it. The HTPC issue comes up also as a possible problem with 64-bit OS. However, when I read the feedback that people had I didn't find any substantial problems that they pointed at and instead I just read complaints and grumbles. There might be actual issues there but then again these folks might be the chronic complainers that would still have issues with 16-bit Windows.

    I'm stalking my money on the future and it looks like 64-bit is it. I'm going to setup these systems the best way that I can with all 64-bit compatible hardware, drivers, and applications. If I come across any issues I'll diagnose and resolve them and if they are unresolvable then 32-bit will be the temporary fallback position until the issues with 64-bit are fixed. I can always turn around and throw my custom Windows XP 32-bit SP3 nLite autoinstall on the systems in 30-minutes flat.

    These friends don't really have any preference as to one version of the OS or another, they just want a kick ass HTPC/Gaming/Desktop system that will knock their socks off and leave them speechless for the next month as they discover its true capabilities. I'm planning to deliver that, one way or another, no holds barred!

    Yes, I looked at the length of the 4870 and it is long but if you compare it's length after the end of the connector to the amount of space on the motherboard it seems to match closely in size.

    SAPPHIRE 100259-1GL Radeon HD 4870 1GB 256-bit GDDR5 PCI Express 2.0 x16 HDCP Ready CrossFire Supported Video Card - Retail

    ASUS P6T LGA 1366 Intel X58 ATX Intel Motherboard - Retail

    Also the middle 120mm fans seem to be mounted on a slideable mount and it appears as if the right side fan can be moved all the way to the wall and open up the space from the first slot cover all the way into the middle of the case.


    LIAN LI Black Aluminum PC-C32B ATX Media Center / HTPC Case - Retail


    I measured out the ratios on the video card and the motherboard pictures of the length of the PCI connector (115px, 82px) to the length of space behind the connector (147px, 110px). So the video card requires 128% of space behind the PCI connector relative to the length of the connector and the motherboard has 134% (147/115) to spare. It appears to me that the video card would fit just fine unless my logic and math are completely off.

    Cables and Shipping Overcharges on Newegg

    Good catch on this one. I went back to check and I noticed that Newegg is not properly combining the price of the shipping for all the cables but instead aggregating the shipping costs and overcharging for the shipping. It's a bit obscene for Newegg to charge $45 for 7 cables and then $31.13 in shipping charges for a total of $76. Monoprice charges $29.12 for the same cables and offers a much more agreable $9.59 (5-day) or $18.50 (3-day) shipping charges for total of $38.71 (5-day) or $47.62 (3-day).

    I took the cables out of all the configurations and lowered the price.

    Hard Drive Price Fluctuations on Newgg

    Another thing that I noticed once again today is another price fluctuation in the cost of the WD Green 1TB drive. When I setup this config the price was $104.99, then yesterday it fell to $89.99 lowering the cost of the system by a nice $60 and now today it is back to $104.99.

    Hard Disk: Western Digital Caviar Green WD10EADS 1TB SATA 3.0Gb/s Hard Drive - OEM $104.99 (or $89.99 when price fluctuates)
    [​IMG]

    (RETRACTED MY CONSPIRACY THEORY.)
     
  20. Master Bob

    Master Bob Limp Gawd

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    There was a sale on the Green drives yesterday. They had a postin on the front page that said so.
     
  21. JakFrost

    JakFrost Limp Gawd

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    Damn, so much for my conspiracy theories!
     
  22. Dangman

    Dangman Ninja Editor SuperMod

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    Ok, any more standing issues or questions?
     
  23. JakFrost

    JakFrost Limp Gawd

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    I'm wondering the same thing also expecting someone to point out any other remaining issues.

    Operating System 64-bit Possible Issues

    The 64-bit OS is still outstanding as a source of possible problems but I'm waiting to set it up to see if that will be the case.

    Keyboard and Mouse Choice

    The Microsoft Wireless 7000 keyboard and the touch sensitive function keys are also another possible issue. I have to compare it to the Logitch DiNovo or the Microsoft 8000 for issues. Also rechargeable batteries for the keyboard or built in recharger for the 7000. If the 7000 requires batteries I already know about MaHa PowerEx Imedieon 2000mHa NiMH ones and the smart charger.

    Updated: I read the user reviews on Newegg for the Microsoft 7000, 8000, and Logitech. It sounds like while the 7000 has some issues with the touch-sensitive keys, dongle not supporting A2DP, and mouse not working if wireless N router. The 8000 model has rechargeable batteries for the keyboard and a dock but the paint has a tendency to flake off the keys and the backlight will shine through the holes. The cost of the 8000 is much higher also making it too expensive for the extra features you get. The Logitech DiNovo has issues many with dongle and software but better function keys. Overall the 7000 gets the most praises and the issues are not too drastic.

    Video Card Noise versus Performance

    The sound signature of the video cards 4850 and 4870 is another potential issue. I don't have a frame of reference except for my nVidia GTX 260.

    Update: The choice of the video card will have to be decided by my friends after they weight if the possible extra noise under game load is worth 20% performance improvement.



    I've taken all the suggestions already posted and adjusted the configs approprietely. I'm glad for the issues that folks pointed out, this has been a productive thread.
     
  24. Dangman

    Dangman Ninja Editor SuperMod

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    Should be able to find something about the sound levels of those cards here:
    http://www.silentpcreview.com/section15.html
     
  25. JakFrost

    JakFrost Limp Gawd

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    I changed the memory configs from DDR2 1066 to 800 to drop the prices but now I don't know if I went too low on the memory instead of going with the 1000 like you mentioned. I don't remember the FSB timings and memory divisors for P45 and that Q9400 so I don't know what would be the optimal settings and what memory to get. The last config also has a dual core 3.0 chip so I don't remember the splits for that one also.

    Any recommendations there? Just in case the choice will be Core 2 instead of i7.
     
  26. Dangman

    Dangman Ninja Editor SuperMod

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    Stated FSB/4 = Actual FSB
    Actual FSB x 4 = Stated FSB
    Multiplier x Actual FSB = CPU Speed
    1:1 Ratio: 2 x Actual FSB = RAM Speed
    1:1 Ratio: FSB = 1/2 RAM speed
    Note that C2D systems don't see a performance increase or decrease with any ratio higher than 1:1

    Q9400:
    Multi x Actual FSB, Stated FSB, RAM Speed = Clock Speed
    8 × 333Mhz, 1333Mhz, DDR2-667 = 2.66Ghz <<== Stock speeds
    8 × 400Mhz, 1600Mhz, DDR2-800 = 3.2Ghz <<== Easy OC
    8 × 450Mhz, 1800Mhz, DDR2-900 = 3.6Ghz <<== Good OC
    8 × 500Mhz, 2000Mhz, DDR2-1000 = 4.0Ghz <<== Excellent OC

    3.2Ghz to 3.6Ghz seems to be the more common OCs with the Q9400 IIRC. If you want the highest OC possible, go with this RAM:
    G.SKILL 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 1066 (PC2 8500) Dual Channel Kit Desktop Memory - $41
     
  27. lowteckh

    lowteckh [H]ardness Supreme

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    Do you guys turn off sound and listen intently to your fans when you game?
     
  28. JakFrost

    JakFrost Limp Gawd

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    :D No, but but having the system spike up to 100% fan RPM during gaming scenes would scare all the cats and dogs in my friend's neighborhood!

    My friend's living room is small, I think it's 12x12 with large opening into the kitchen. I don't know his tolerance for fan noise either or how loud the ATI 4850 or 4870 fan gets compared to the nVidia GTX 260 fan. The choice of video card will be up to him, his budget, and his requirement for 3D gaming. I explained to him about the noise versus performance issue and pointed out that this noise will only be a problem if he plays 3D games, otherwise the card will be quiet. It's all up to him frankly. I think that either choice 4850 or 4870 is fine, and it all depends on how much he will be playing and if he's willing to trade 20% performance for a little less noise. That article that I linked to and quoted above regarding the video card is pretty descriptive of what to expect.

    Like I mentioned above my only experience is with nVidia video cards since I've been using theirs since they came out. I'm recommending an ATI video card for him now since it's a better choice for an HTPC since it allows LPMC 8ch output directly over DVI->HDMI, unlike the nVidia that only does S/PDIF 5.1ch max.

    My own experience with this current nVidia GTX 260 is that at the default 40% (1,320 RPM) fan speed it is inaudible when my Zalman 9500 (92mm) is running at ~2,000 RPM with CPU at 30C idle. When I set the nVidia to 50% (1,674 RPM) it is about even with the Zalman, 60% (1,975) it is slightly louder, 70% (2,275 RPM) it is like being outside on the street, 80% (2,550 RPM) is on the highway, 90% (2,820 RPM) is racing, and 100% (3,100 RPM) approaching the airport. I can tolerate the fan up to about 70-75% before it becomes annoying to sit next to but the card never hits these RPMs in my case even after multi-hour gaming sessions. (Then again, I'm describing my experience with an nVidia card so it is not entirely relevant to ATI Radeon cards.)

    It's all subjective and relative. I proposed the choices, explained them to him, and let him make an educated decision knowing what to expect in terms of noise when playing games and at other times.

    If it becomes difficult to make the choice and money doesn't factor into the equation then it is wiser to buy the better card and then having the option of down-clocking it and lowering the default fan RPM to desirable noise levels.
     
  29. JakFrost

    JakFrost Limp Gawd

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    Thanks for the info. I changed the two i4C configs from the DDR2 800 cost saving chips to use the DDR2 1000 instead. I went ahead and put in the more expensive $54.99 chips instead of the $41 chips in the configuration because I'm partial towards the heat spreaders and also because of the CAS 5 instead of 6 timings. I think that in the grand scheme of things a $14 difference in price is small price to pay for possibly better chance at stability for overclocking.

    G.SKILL 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 1000 (PC2 8000) Dual Channel Kit Desktop Memory - Retail - $54.99
    [​IMG]

    The other possible choices are below, just in case there is a need to match colors, black case to black memory.

    G.SKILL 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 1066 (PC2 8500) Dual Channel Kit Desktop Memory - Retail - $59.99
    [​IMG]

    G.SKILL 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 1066 (PC2 8500) Dual Channel Kit Desktop Memory - Retail
    - $59.99
    [​IMG]
     
  30. Dangman

    Dangman Ninja Editor SuperMod

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    The price difference is actually $17 once you factor in shipping. Since you're not overclocking the RAM at all, there's very very little reason for those heat spreaders besides looks. The two G.Skill sets will allow for the same exact overclocks if you stick to a 1:1 ratio. So that extra $17 really doesn't help in the grand scheme of things. Just a waste of $17. Actually more like a waste of $34 since you're planning on upping the RAM to 8GB.

    As a compromise I recommend this set:
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820231241

    $10 cheaper than the set you chose but about the middle ground between the RAM sets we chose in terms of timings. I highly doubt you'll notice the difference between the 5-6-6-18 timings of the above set and the 5-5-5-18 timings of the set you chose. The fancy heatsinks of the set you chose are a just a gimmick to get people like you to buy them even though there is little or no reason for them. Still $10 more than the set I recommended once you factor in shipping though but not as much as the $17 more.
     
  31. JakFrost

    JakFrost Limp Gawd

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    I changed the two i4C configurations to use the set you recommended.

    Those heatsinks do look cool though but you are right, they are overpriced. I like the CAS 5 timing better than CAS 6 just for the sake of stability even though overall the performance difference is negligible anyway. It just seems like the CAS 6 chips are the bottom-of-the-barrel ones from the CAS 5 line that down-clocked to get them stable.

    Funny thing is that those heat sinks do not add to the price of the chips since when looking at G.Skill DDR3 6GB sets the price of the DDR3 1600 chips with the heatsinks is lower than the price without. So it is a gimmick but there's something to be said about style. :cool:
     
  32. enginurd

    enginurd Pick your own.....you deserve it.

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    But you typically see them from a top view anyhow, so you don't really notice the extra high fins. :p
     
  33. JakFrost

    JakFrost Limp Gawd

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    I've been looking over the Capture Card tuners for system and came across the cards listed below. The requirement for these cards was PCI-E interface instead of PCI and also to be supported by the media capture software.

    I came up with this list below, which includes the AverMedia Model M780 kit dual digital/analog tuner card that was included in the original configuration since the beginning and alternatives by Hauppauge.



    Software

    While the regular Vista Media Center comes with the operating system I also wanted to choose cards that are supported by the most popular Windows based media capture software out there. I came up with these two options.



    SageTV Media Center for Windows Version 6.5 - System Requirements (Supported Tuners) - $79.99
    [​IMG]

    While SageTV is a 32-bit application but according to the users in the forums as long as the Sun Java JRE 32-bit is installed on the system then this application will work just fine on Vista 64-bit, just like any other 32-bit application will work on Vista 64-bit.



    BeyondTV - System Requirements - $99.00
    [​IMG]

    The same thing for BeyondTV, which is a competitor to SageTV, supports the same AverMedia and Hauppauge tuners it lists that "(6) Beyond TV does not support Windows Vista 64 bit, only x86 32 bit.", however the users in the forum report that it works just fine also in Vista 64-bit.




    MediaPortal - (Free, Open Source)
    [​IMG]

    MediaPortal is a free and open source application that is very popular among the do-it-yourself crowd because it is very customizable and includes support for many plug-ins. There is even a good post on how to set it up. It is supported in Vista 64-bit also.

    AVS Forum > Video Components > Home Theater Computers - MediaPortal Install Guide



    AverMedia - Home > Product > PCI-E > ATSC

    I think that given the price, support, drivers, and recommendations by users this is the best card to pick.

    Single Digital & Single Analog Tuner:
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    AVerMedia AVerTV Combo PCIe MCE ATSC/NTSC/QAM Tuner Card w/MCE Remote & L-P Bracket 7 95522 96066 5 PCI-Express x1 Interface - Retail
    (Model: M780 R)- $109.99

    Driver: AverMedia - Home > Product > PCI-E > ATSC > AVerTV Combo PCI-E (For US market only) - Drivers - Vista 32-bit / 64-bit




    Hauppauge - WinTV-HVR Combination Analog/Digital TV tuners Internal


    An alternative chould would be these two capture card made by Hauppauge. The include the same popularity, support, and drivers but the price. The single digital tuner is the same price as a dual AverMedia M780, and the dual digital tuner card kit is over 50% more.

    Single Digital Tuner:
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    Hauppauge WinTV-HVR 1800 MCE Kit 1128 PCI-Express x1 Interface - Retail
    - $99.99

    Driver: Hauppauge - Support: Software for WinTV-HVR-1800 - Vista 32-bit / 64-bit

    Dual Digital Tuner:
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    Hauppauge WinTV-HVR-2250 Media Center Kit Dual TV Tuner 1213 PCI-Express x1 Interface - Retail
    - $149.99

    Driver: Hauppauge - Support: WinTV-HVR-2250 - Drivers - Vista 32-bit / 64-bit



    SiliconDust

    Here is an external dual tuner box that connects to the network and it lets the computer access it for watching or recording. It is more liked and recommended than AverMedia or Hauppauge tuners because of the easy of configuration and setup. It is also compatible with pretty much all 32 or 64-bit operating systems and also with most of the PVR software such as SageTV, BeyondTV, MediaPortal, etc.

    Dual Tuner:
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    SiliconDust HDHomeRun Network-based Dual Digital HDTV Tuner Ethernet Interface - Retail
    - $159.99



    Coax Splitter - Dual Tuner Input

    Here's the splitter and cables to turn a single coax cable from CableTV to connect to the dual tuners for the cards for simultaneous two channel recording / watching.

    Monoprice.com - PREMIUM 2 way Splitter F type Screw - 5~2400 MHz (for Video VCR Cable TV antenna) - $2.66
    [​IMG]

    RG6 F Type Quad Shielded Coaxial 18AWG CL2 Rated 75Ohm Cable - 1.5ft - $1.12
    [​IMG]


    Forums and Posts

    A few links to forums regarding HTPC and TV Capture hardware and software.

    AVS Forum > Video Components > Home Theater Computers

    AVS Forum > Video Components > Home Theater Computers - Guide to Building a HD HTPC (Aged: Posted November 2007, Updated May & June 2008)
     
    Last edited: May 18, 2009
  34. Dangman

    Dangman Ninja Editor SuperMod

    Messages:
    46,670
    Joined:
    Dec 15, 2005
    I see the HVR-2250 recommended often in the HTPC subforum.
     
  35. enginurd

    enginurd Pick your own.....you deserve it.

    Messages:
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    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2006
    My apologies if this was mentioned earlier, but what signal will you/they be tuning? OTA? ClearQAM?

    Personally, I use the HD HomeRun, and it works GREAT!
     
  36. JakFrost

    JakFrost Limp Gawd

    Messages:
    239
    Joined:
    Dec 2, 2005
    Yes, I see a lot of mentions for the Hauppauge WinTV-HVR-2250 while others recommend the AverMedia M780. I really don't know the difference between either one since they are both supported equally by the two commercial products, SageTV and BeyondTV. I'm doing research right now as to which is the better choice but I'm coming across people liking them both or either one because it was their choice. There doesn't appear to be a clear and defined winner.

    I think that the preference will be ClearQAM and possibly OTA since the effort to connect one analog antenna is pretty low. The other option is to split the coax cable from the Cable TV to feed to inputs into the dual tuners for ability to record two shows at once or record/watch on different channels. I'm just not sure about splitting the Coax cable into two outputs but it seems like a logical thing.

    I saw the recommendations for HD HomeRun in quite a lot of guides but it is an external solution and priced at 75% more than the AverMedia M780 Dual Digital Tuner option. There's just something about an internal PCI-E based solution that strikes me as better, more compact, less complex, and more efficient than an external tuner.
     
  37. enginurd

    enginurd Pick your own.....you deserve it.

    Messages:
    21,825
    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2006
    Yah, just grab a $5 coax splitter from the local hardware shop.

    Heh, the HD HomeRun was a lot easier to setup than any Hauppauge or other internal card that I've used (FusionHDTV, AverMedia, etc)... the best part is being able to access it from any computer on the network. I leave mine where my cable modem and switches are located, keeping it out of the way.

    Honestly, I haven't tried the newer cards since I got my HDHR (got mine used for $100), and I got it because it was the best at tuning ClearQAM at the time. Though, my coworker tried the Hauppauge HVR 1250 and said it works just as good as his HDHR.
     
  38. JakFrost

    JakFrost Limp Gawd

    Messages:
    239
    Joined:
    Dec 2, 2005
    One other part that would be good for this system setup is a UPS. I personally have this 750VA model for my media center in the living room and I'm running my Pioneer A/V Receiver and Samsung 50" Plasma on it along with my Linksys router. It has been working great for months without a problem.

    Previously I had the same model but lower power 350VA model when I had my 27" CRT a while back a but that model's battery died twice within just a few short months of usage and it turns out that many people experienced the same exact failure of the batteries which are too weak or any normal usage.

    I also have a APC 1500 VA model that I use in my computer room to run all my other equipment for it. This is a much more expensive model with a USB connection for monitoring from the computer. The power here is very dependable where I live but when I look at the APC PowerChute software it reports that in the last 24-weeks there have been 30-blackouts with 0 undervoltage, overvoltage, electrical noise issues and the system spent a total of 6-minutes 25-seconds running on battery power.

    I like that model because it is a compact and thin stand-up version with a built in fan, it has well spaced plugs, and the design lets it cool itself very well so that the fan doesn't even spin up unless it gets really hot in the room. The previous brick-like UPS that I had usually made me put computers on top of them to save space and they heated up like crazy so the tower versions are better.

    I've had the UPS kick-in a few times for a split second also during normal usage usually once every few weeks and those times are not even recorded in the log because they are probably too short.

    I've also had a lightning storm take out my cable model a while back and on a separate occasion the network port on my neighbor's computer which was connected to a DSL modem.

    Overall, I think an investment in a UPS is pretty good since it keeps your equipment running and safe from electrical problems. If you haven't had equipment damaged by an electrical storm consider yourself lucky up to now because sooner or later something will get hit. Take this as a warning from me and others who lost small equipment (usually cable/DSL models) or had to fix other people's broken equipment (motherboard, power supply, internal components) after an electrical storm.



    Wattage Meter (Use To Measure Load Before Buying a UPS!)

    Below is a pretty good wattage meter that should be used before buying any UPS system. Use it on all the equipment that you are planning on plugging into the UPS and calculate the total wattage and VA (Volt-Amp) load so that you can correctly determine size of the UPS you require. Too many people have no idea how much load their equipment generates so they buy either too little or way too much UPS. For $15 they can buy a meter that will tell them exactly how much load their equipment generates so they can buy the proper size UPS. You can also use this meter to determine the Power Factor (VA to Watt Ratio) of your load to determine the efficiency of your equipment, especially the power supply from your computer. Many cheap power supplies from offbrand names or one that are bundled with cases have a low Power Factor and waste much of the electricity that's why I only recommended 80% power factor power supplies for this configuration.


    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    P3 Kill A Watt Electricity Load Meter and Monitor
    - $14.99

    I've used this on my system and my 19" CRT (Yes, I still use a CRT because it still works fine) generates 100-140 wattage load depending on how white the screen is. My system generates a load of 240 watts during 2D usage and 290 during 3D usage and gaming. My other equipment like printer, scanner, speakers, router, switch, external hard drives generate very little load 10-20 watts. Overall my APC 1500 VA UPS reports 432 watt load with 865 total capacity, so I'm at 50% load with enough capacity to connect another computer system that I used to use before decommissioning it.



    Power Supply Tester

    Another thing that I recently came across is this power supply tester that might be beneficial to have for folks that build a lot of systems. It is a cheap part to have that will diagnose faulty or dead power supply and it will save you the trouble of having to find the schematic for the ATX power connectors and from pulling out the digital multi-meter for voltage testing. There is even a review of it available at Legit Reviews.


    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    Rexus PST-3 Digital Power Supply Tester with LCD - Retail
    - $20.99



    Uninterruptable Power Supply (UPS) - American Power Conversions

    This is the model that I use in my living room because it is compact, has a coax and phone spike filter and it has enough capacity for my receiver, TV, wireless router, and other entertainment components.


    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    APC BE750G 750 VA 450 Watts 10 Outlets Power Saving Back-UPS ES - Retail
    - $91.99 (Free 3-day Shipping)

    This is the model that I use in my computer room because I require longer battery life and also enough capacity to run 2 or 3 systems at the same time when I'm building or working on multiple computers.


    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    APC Back-UPS BR1500 1500VA 865W 8 Outlets UPS - Retail
    - $224.99



    Uninterruptable Power Supply (UPS) - Tripp Lite


    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    TRIPP LITE AVR750U 750 VA 450 Watts 12 Outlets AVR Series Line-Interactive UPS System - Retail
    - $79.99


    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    TRIPP LITE SMART1500LCD 1500 VA 900 Watts 6 Outlets SmartPro Digital UPS - Retail




    These model lines come in different capacities so you can choose the right one for your load. You might also get a better deal on a UPS from a local retailer like Staples, Best Buy, Microcenter, Fry's, since sometimes they over order UPS systems and then try to sell them at huge discounts. (I got my 1500 VA for 50% of the price locally.)



    Power Extension

    One other thing that is very useful is this power extension cable for connecting those power bricks from switches, routers, modems, and speakers to the UPS since usually there is not enough space between the power connectors.

    CABLES UNLIMITED 1 ft. Outlet Xtender Power Cord Model PWR-PSLIB - Retail - $12.99 (Hugely Overpriced!)
    [​IMG]

    Power Extension 1ft - Black - $1.98
    [​IMG]



    Updated:

    • Added Tripp Lite models.
    • Added Rexus Power Supply Tester.

     
  39. The_Engineer

    The_Engineer Gawd

    Messages:
    665
    Joined:
    Mar 20, 2005
    With all that storage onboard A gigabit network link should be considered unless the files are never going to move off the system except by USB or firewire. It'll take a long time to xfer 4TB of data.... even over wireless N. Wireless is fine for streaming and net usage. Not for heavy data xfer though.

    Video card is fine, but not 'ultimate'

    in my own experience with this same UPS A 750VA UPS is not powerful enough for this rig. Plasma and other components that are not on 24/7 and still don't suck as much juice as this thing will under full load.


    Good luck in your build.
     
  40. The_Engineer

    The_Engineer Gawd

    Messages:
    665
    Joined:
    Mar 20, 2005