Need advice on building a media center PC

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Gawd
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Hey [H]ardforum, I have no experience in this area and need some help. I would like to build a media center PC for a family member. What would be the bare minimum I could do to accomplish this, I am on a very tight budget. Any advice is appreciated! :)
 

rhouck

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What is "light"?
Do you have any parts (psu, etc) already?
Do you want it to be used for watching tv? (i.e. needs a tv tuner)
Do you want to watch HD content? (HDDVD/Bluray)
What tv are you connecting it to?
What sound system are you connecting it to?
 

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Gawd
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It won't be used for HD, just standard definition. It needs to be able to record/watch TV. Not sure on the TV, I'd have to call and ask, its nothing special. The only sound system is the one built into the TV. I have a spare Nvidia 5200 laying around here, but that's about it
 

Dangman

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Well first find out what exact connections your family member's TV has and get back to us on that. Kind of hard to recommend parts if we don't know if it'll work with the TV or not.

Oh and is OS factored into the price of this HTPC?
 

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Gawd
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Well first find out what exact connections your family member's TV has and get back to us on that. Kind of hard to recommend parts if we don't know if it'll work with the TV or not.

Oh and is OS factored into the price of this HTPC?

I'll call now, and what kind of OS is needed? I have some keys for vista from an old MSDN subscription if the Media Center from Vista will work.


EDIT: Its a Sony KV-27FS120 27-Inch FD Trinitron WEGA Flat Screen TV http://www.sonystyle.com/webapp/wcs...51&storeId=10151&langId=-1&productId=11039851
 
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Dangman

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I'll call now, and what kind of OS is needed? I have some keys for vista from an old MSDN subscription if the Media Center from Vista will work.

Vista Home Premium or Vista Ultimate will do just fine. Also Windows 7 RC is a good you want to go bleeding edge and deal with potential compatibility problems.
 

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Gawd
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Vista Home Premium or Vista Ultimate will do just fine. Also Windows 7 RC is a good you want to go bleeding edge and deal with potential compatibility problems.

I'm worried about the RC and its expiration in May? of next year.

I'm open to a Linux or other open source solution for the OS if that is usable.

EDIT: Another question, say I record some TV, am I able to burn it to a DVD?
 
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Dangman

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I'm worried about the RC and its expiration in May? of next year.

I'm open to a Linux or other open source solution for the OS if that is usable.

EDIT: Another question, say I record some TV, am I able to burn it to a DVD?

Well by then Windows 7 should be released, which IIRC, is during the holiday season of this year. So then you can pay for a copy of an actual retail Windows 7, reinstall, etc. Sitll though if you already have legit keys for Vista Home Premium and Vista Ultimate, you'll be fine.

Yes you'll be able to burn it to a DVD.

Some prelim recommendations:
$25 - Kingston KVR800D2N6/2G 2 x 1GB DDR2 800 RAM
$75 - Western Digital WD6401AALS 640GB 7200RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s Hard Drive
$25 - Samsung SH-222F 22X DVD±R SATA DVD Burner
$116 - Antec NSK2480 mATX case with Antec Earthwatts 380W PSU
---
Total: $241 plus tax and shipping

Still working out the CPU, mobo and possible video card (for the component output)

TV tuner wise, I see these Tuners recommended a lot in this part of the forum:
Hauppauge WinTV-HVR-1600 ATSC/ClearQAM/NTSC PCI TV Tuner Card w/Remote 1178 -$85
Hauppauge WINTVHVR1600 Dual Tuner PCI TV Tuner Card w/MCE Remote - $88
Hauppauge WinTV-HVR 1800 PCI-E x1 TV Tuner Card w/MCE Remote - $95
$150 - Hauppauge WinTV-HVR-2250 1229 PCI-E x1 Dual TV Tuner / Encoder w/MCE Remote
 

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Gawd
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Well by then Windows 7 should be released, which IIRC, is during the holiday season of this year. So then you can pay for a copy of an actual retail Windows 7, reinstall, etc. Sitll though if you already have legit keys for Vista Home Premium and Vista Ultimate, you'll be fine.

Yes you'll be able to burn it to a DVD.

Some prelim recommendations:
$25 - Kingston KVR800D2N6/2G 2 x 1GB DDR2 800 RAM
$75 - Western Digital WD6401AALS 640GB 7200RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s Hard Drive
$25 - Samsung SH-222F 22X DVD±R SATA DVD Burner
$116 - Antec NSK2480 mATX case with Antec Earthwatts 380W PSU
---
Total: $241 plus tax and shipping

Still working out the CPU, mobo and possible video card (for the component output)

TV tuner wise, I see these Tuners recommended a lot in this part of the forum:
Hauppauge WinTV-HVR-1600 ATSC/ClearQAM/NTSC PCI TV Tuner Card w/Remote 1178 -$85
Hauppauge WINTVHVR1600 Dual Tuner PCI TV Tuner Card w/MCE Remote - $88
Hauppauge WinTV-HVR 1800 PCI-E x1 TV Tuner Card w/MCE Remote - $95
$150 - Hauppauge WinTV-HVR-2250 1229 PCI-E x1 Dual TV Tuner / Encoder w/MCE Remote

Wow! Thanks, that's looking great. Whats the difference between the tuners? Like what is worth an extra 10 dollars for the 95 dollar one versus the 85 dollar one?
 
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CrimandEvil

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He doesn't need component out for the video card; the TV is 480i even on the component inputs. His spare 5200 could work just fine since all he needs is decent/solid svideo out at the most.
 

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Gawd
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He doesn't need component out for the video card; the TV is 480i even on the component inputs. His spare 5200 could work just fine since all he needs is decent/solid svideo out at the most.

5200 is VGA only :(
 
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CrimandEvil

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5200 is VGA only :(

So would I need something like this?

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41RG%2BrIoueL._SL500_AA280_.jpg[/QUOTE]

Forget it. Pick up a cheap/decent newer video card that has svideo out on it.

Those cables won't work, read the fine print on it.

And seriously, host your own images. Don't steal bandwidth.
 

rhouck

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Forget it. Pick up a cheap/decent newer video card that has svideo out on it.

Those cables won't work, read the fine print on it.

And seriously, host your own images. Don't steal bandwidth.

Or tell them to buy a better tv ;):D
 

CrimandEvil

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Or tell them to buy a better tv ;):D
Well, your suggestion means something like $500-600 while mine is a $35-40 option.
Honestly though, I don't see the point in doing this from an SDTV. So much so I waited until I bought my first HDTV in order to finally build my own HTPC (waited and played with the stuff on an SDTV but waited two years before I finally took the plunge).

SDTV's just aren't worth building an HTPC for.
 

ShepsCrook

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The other thing is that spare 5200 AGP or PCI? because that would determine what motherboard you would use if you were to keep that card.

What sort of budget are you going with? The above stated parts are great, but you may not need a 640GB Hard Drive for standard tv. Maybe even a 320GB would be just fine.

Processor: AMD Athlon X2 4850e 2.5GHz Socket AM2 45W - $55.99
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16819103255
Motherboard: ASUS M3N78-VM AM2+/AM2 NVIDIA GeForce 8200 HDMI Micro ATX AMD Motherboard - $74.99
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813131318
Hard Drive: Western Digital Caviar SE16 WD3200AAKS 320GB - $54.99
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16822136074
Memory: PNY OPTIMA 2GB (2 x 1GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 800 - $24.99
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820178154
DVDRW: LG 22X DVD±R DVD Burner with LightScribe Black SATA Model GH22LS30 - $23.99
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16827136153
Tuner: Hauppauge HVR-1600 or 1800. Dual tuner. If you don't want to record two things at once or watch one thing while recording another, then I would say a PVR150 would be just fine.

Now, as far as OS goes. Windows Vista Premium with Windows Vista Media Center is the current top pick. Other cheaper options would be Windows XP Professional with Media Portal.

That setup should be able to handle even HD if need be. And yes, a Media Center is great for SDTV. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. I have an LCD but I only have SDTV cable. I use my media center to record TV, hold my music, hold movies, get on the internet.
 

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Gawd
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Forget it. Pick up a cheap/decent newer video card that has svideo out on it.

Those cables won't work, read the fine print on it.

Ok will do, I didn't see any readable print on it.

And seriously, host your own images. Don't steal bandwidth.
Fixed


Tuner: Hauppauge HVR-1600 or 1800. Dual tuner. If you don't want to record two things at once or watch one thing while recording another, then I would say a PVR150 would be just fine.

I think recording 2 things at once will be needed so what is the difference between a HVR-1600 and HVR-1800?


Also the 5200 is AGP, and I didn't see any AGP slots on that motherboard. I have always used Intel, so I'm unsure on another motherboard that would be good for that CPU.
 
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Dangman

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Whats the difference between an analog and digital tuner?

That's the major difference right there: One's Analog, one's digital. Google or wiki it for more info.

Oh and digital is more due to the long overdue DTV transfer here in the U.S in June.
 

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Gawd
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That's the major difference right there: One's Analog, one's digital. Google or wiki it for more info.

Oh and digital is more due to the long overdue DTV transfer here in the U.S in June.

So when the transition happens, the analog tuner becomes useless? Would I still be able to record more than 1 show at a time? Sorry, I am new to video stuff.
 

Dangman

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So when the transition happens, the analog tuner becomes useless? Would I still be able to record more than 1 show at a time? Sorry, I am new to video stuff.

According to my understanding, pretty much that analog becomes useless unless you attach a digital convertor box to that analog tuner. Then the digital convertor box is attached to the TV. So basically you can still record from that analog tuner if you have that digital convertor box attached.

But if you don't have that digital convertor box attached, yeah you can only record one show at a time with the Hauppauge 1600 and 1800 tuners. However the 2250 can record two digital channels at the same time.

I might be wrong about some of this though.
 

ShepsCrook

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You're right about the 2250. Idealy it's the best one out of the bunch. I use it in my media center. I would suggest that but I was thinking more budget options.
 

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Gawd
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I think I will get the 2250. I see 2 connectors on it

hauppaugewintvhvr2250.jpg



Do both of those need something connected to them to record two shows at once?
 

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Gawd
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Yes, TV and FM...

I know 2 people have already said that.

Sorry I'm a bit confused, I've never worked with HTPCs or tuners before.

What would be the minimum CPU for a an HTPC? I now have an extra P4 1.8 Ghz lying around.
 

Dangman

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What would be the minimum CPU for a an HTPC? I now have an extra P4 1.8 Ghz lying around.
If your TV tuner has a hardware encoder (like the HVR-2250) then that P4 1.8Ghz speed wise would probably be enough. However, I'm betting thats a socket 478 P4 1.8Ghz and considering that not many socket 478 mobos had PCI-E. So you're better off buying new.
 

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Gawd
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If your TV tuner has a hardware encoder (like the HVR-2250) then that P4 1.8Ghz speed wise would probably be enough. However, I'm betting thats a socket 478 P4 1.8Ghz and considering that not many socket 478 mobos had PCI-E. So you're better off buying new.

Better off performance wise yeah, but the bank is better off with used parts :( I'll see what I can do.
 

ShepsCrook

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You could easily do an SDTV HTPC. Although if you want to do any HD, you'd have to upgrade. Plus, you may as well buy an Atom processor, it would kick that P4 1.8ghz ass.
 

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Gawd
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You could easily do an SDTV HTPC. Although if you want to do any HD, you'd have to upgrade. Plus, you may as well buy an Atom processor, it would kick that P4 1.8ghz ass.

Ok, maybe a cheap celeron or something like this? It has a real low power usage which is not needed, but a plus. Would this do the trick?
 

visionviper

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I think I will get the 2250. I see 2 connectors on it
Do both of those need something connected to them to record two shows at once?

The HVR-2250 is a dual tuner that uses just the single TV input to get both streams.
 

ShepsCrook

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Ok, maybe a cheap celeron or something like this? It has a real low power usage which is not needed, but a plus. Would this do the trick?


Yes that Celeron could handle SDTV. You wouldn't have a lot of overhead with it though.
 

Dangman

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Say I get
Intel Celeron 440 Conroe-L 2.0GHz $52.99

Hauppauge WinTV-HVR-1600 $84.99(Talked to the family member, they said recording two things at once won't be needed)

Antec New Solution NSK2480 $119.99

Is it possible to keep the build $400 or less? I think I got something it to 425 with out shipping, but I forgot what it was.

No, not really. Not unless you cheap out and get really crappy PSU )that's more than likely to harm the system) and case.

Here's a build I whipped up:
$113 - Intel Pentium E5200 CPU + Gigabyte GA-G31M-ES2L Intel G31 mATX Motherboard
$25 - Kingston KVR800D2N6/2G 2 x 1GB DDR2 800 RAM
$40 - XFX HD-435X-YAH2 Radeon HD 4350 512MB PCI-E Video Card
$60 - Western Digital WD5000AAKS 500GB 7200RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s Hard Drive
$25 - Samsung SH-222F 22X DVD±R SATA DVD Burner
$85 -Hauppauge WinTV-HVR-1600 ATSC/ClearQAM/NTSC PCI TV Tuner Card w/Remote 1178
$116 - Antec NSK2480 mATX case with Antec Earthwatts 380W PSU
---
Total: $464 plus tax and shipping

The video card is neccessary since it has S-video out so it'll be usable with that TV. On a price to performance basis, the E5200 + Gigabyte mobo above is far better than the Celeron plan.

If you don't mind sacrificing the look of the NSK2480, you can use this quality case and PSU combo to save about ~$40:
$80 - Antec 300 + Antec Earthwatts EA380 380W PSU

Same PSU as the NSK2480 but uglier case (IMO)
 
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