Upgrading my HTPC, A few parts questions...

Discussion in 'Home Theater PCs & Equipment' started by Ripskin, Sep 4, 2008.

  1. Ripskin

    Ripskin 2[H]4U

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    Well the format war is essentially is over and it is time to upgrade my poor single core HTPC to something modern and usable for anything above SD content.

    I have the majority of my build done (will post it below) but am having some issues selecting a motherboard.

    I currently run digital coax from my motherboard into my receiver for SPDIF pass through.
    I would like to keep Nvidia as the chipset but am not find a single motherboard with SPDIF as the SPDIF output over optical. I have nothing against optical but since its only going 3 feet converting the audio to light and back when I already have a straight pass through cable is annoying.

    I dont need to have HDMI out of the board but it would be a plus. I do plan to do a little bit of gaming so I am looking at some medium range video cards to run my DVI cable to my tv through.

    Any suggestions as to a motherboard that matches those needs? I know you need the rest of the specs and those are posted below:

    CPU : Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 Kentsfield 2.4GHz LGA 775 Quad-Core Processor-----I am an AMD man personally but am not as pleased with their quad offerings at the moment. I also do not plan to OC this sucker unless I get a new TV stand (Doubt my wife would go for that :p)

    Current motherboard idea : EVGA 132-CK-NF78-A1 LGA 775 NVIDIA nForce 780i SLI ATX Intel Motherboard - Retail

    Any other suggestions for a good motherboard? I noticed some 790i out there but wasnt sure if it mattered. DDR2 vs DDR3 doesn't matter aside from costing more. (would prefer DDR2 for that reason this is already pretty pricey :p) I also am not very familier with this brand... Its rated well but how have you guys found them?

    I saw that a lot of the Intel chipsets have the HDMI and such out (not much with Digital Coax) but I have not been a fan of their chip sets of old, how are they now? I have no aversion to buying another optical cable but for such a short distance I know its not going to benefit me anymore than Digital Coax which I already have.

    The ram will be 4 gigs of DDR2 (most likely) corsair XMS etc etc...

    Video card option : I am not final about this, I know I said light gaming but I might enjoy TF2 or Crysis / whatever on the TV once in a while for giggles. Adventure and RTS games I know I will enjoy on it. For basic use I am looking at : BFG Tech BFGE88512GTSE GeForce 8800GTS (G92) 512MB 256-bit GDDR3------If I go higher end for it I might just upgrade my main rig's card and put my 8800GTX OC into the HTPC.

    Power Supply: CORSAIR CMPSU-520HX 520W ATX12V v2.2 and EPS12V 2.91 SLI Certified CrossFire Ready 80 PLUS-------I have never been a huge lover of Modular stuff due to older issues with them but have heard good things about modern ones. I am banking towards modular at this point do keep airflow inside the HTPC case good and clean.

    Optical ROM (unless something better and comparable price wise comes out) : LITE-ON Black 4X Blu-ray DVD ROM SATA

    Case : Antec Aluminum Veris Fusion Black 430 Micro ATX Media Center / HTPC Case with IR receiver-----------Will be interesting to see how the IR setup works and I have never tinkered with the LCD display stuff so it should be fun.

    As far as hard drives go I am debating quite what I will do, once I finalize the HTPC more I might have enough to rebuild the current one as a mini server with a bunch of hard drives. So most likely just a 2 - 400 gig hd for this system.

    Overall I know the build is a little over kill for just an HTPC with basic / higher gaming use. But I do plan to keep this one for a good ammount of time, ontop of using it for some network rendering and such. I dont plan to do any DVR or tuning inside the HTPC at this point. Eventually maybe but that probably will not happen until after I build the server for main storage and such.

    I might be missing something but I am at work and typing this up between calls lol so let me know if you need more info :eek:

    Thanks for any feedback or suggestions!

    (Edit crappy work monitor really hosed how that ended up displaying I will try to clean it up lol.)
     
  2. TroubleMagnet

    TroubleMagnet Gawd

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    First off the motherboard you picked will not fit in that case, you need a micro-ATX form factor to fit in that case. You will most likely have to give up SLI for this form factor, were you planning on going SLI? Since you are planning on a decent video card ignore HDMI and other video features on the MB, they will be disabled anyhow. The newer intel chipsets are fine, you can probably find one with digital out fairly easily. Go with DDR2 for sure.

    For the video card you should take a look at an AMD 4850 card unless you already have the 8800GTS, they are only about $20 more for a significant performance boost and are one of the few ways to get the HD audio over HDMI, at least until the HDMI audio cards come out. It sounds like your receiver doesn't support it so this is just future-proofing for now though, so it's not that big of a deal.

    Case/PSU look good, you will love the modular cables.

    This LG bluray drive will do 6x read vs. the lite-on which only does 4x and they are the same price on newegg.
     
  3. StorageJoe

    StorageJoe Limp Gawd

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    Which card are you referring to? All the 4850's I see are dual DVI and HDMI only though an adapter. It would have to be native HDMI to pass audio.
     
  4. CrimandEvil

    CrimandEvil Dick with a heart of gold

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    Nope. They're specially wired to pass audio along but you need a special "ATI" adapter to do it; Intel G45 and NV's 8000 series boards can do it too but they don't need a special adapter for it.
     
  5. StorageJoe

    StorageJoe Limp Gawd

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    So any of the 4850s will do this? That is good to know. I just ordered all the rest of the components for my HTPC build the other day only to find that the 780G chipset (on my ASUS M3A78 Pro), will not pass 6 or 8 channel LPCM, only two channel. Kinda kills my plans dead in he water, guess I should have down a little more research, but that seems like a horrible implementation.
     
  6. CrimandEvil

    CrimandEvil Dick with a heart of gold

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    Yeah, it's kind of broken but thats why, if you had done any research, the Gigabyte 780G is suggested and considered the "only" 780G board worth a damn. The Gigabyte version supports DTS live which takes the audio track (TrueHD decoded in software) and then downmixes it into DTS and sends it to your receiver. It's not perfect but it is the best solution available to the 780G.
     
  7. Ripskin

    Ripskin 2[H]4U

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    Ugh I new I would botch something up, I posted the wrong board but yeah. As I said I didn't care for older Intel chip sets but if people think that they are more quality these days. ( I am an AMD processor fan primarily and use Nvidia chip sets more frequently) I'll take a look into them. Any recommendations for a quality board? This is the one I had intended to post : DFI LP JR P45-T2RS LGA 775 Intel P45 Micro ATX Intel Motherboard its got the Digital Coax I wanted and Optical.... Thoughts? (I am a fan of DFI, my last 3 boards have been DFI)

    I was tinkering with the idea of the new All in Wonder card from ATI. I have not bought anything yet. I had not taken too much time to sift through the cards yet since I am not sure if I will be going for having good gaming on it or just mediocre. Either way I suppose I could give ATI a whirl. My receiver does not have any HDMI on it so having audio pass through is something I don't care about right now :) Although having that functionality will be nice since I do want to upgrade the receiver eventually... Thanks for the tip. I'll take a look into it. I have recommended a few people take a look at their line due to price vs output even though I predominantly am an Nvidia fan... Shoulda though about that sooner ;) I dont plan to run it in SLI or Crossfire either way so...

    My main reason for banking towards Nvidia is due to my love of BFG and their warranty. Is there a comparable manufacturer of ATI cards with a similar warranty I should look at?

    I'll look into the Blu Ray drive, I didnt take a lot of time to search around for those just yet. I am hoping their price will fall a little closer to the holiday's.
     
  8. Ripskin

    Ripskin 2[H]4U

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    Thanks all for the replies by the way, I do appreciate your input and feedback!
     
  9. CrimandEvil

    CrimandEvil Dick with a heart of gold

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    No ATI board maker has anything close to the warrenties that most NV card makers have; it's terribly sad in this day and age of "lifetime warrenties" that a company like Sapphire, etc can't stand behind their products like that.

    Anyways, in order to really make any sort of suggestions you need to figure out how much you want to game on this, how far you want to take it (like whats the native res of your TV is a good place to start) and if you'll be happy without it too.
     
  10. Ripskin

    Ripskin 2[H]4U

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    Gaming will be medium, RTS's and Adventures for sure, FPS's more to enjoy them in 1080p (Native res of TV.) I wouldnt want to go below that GTS I posted earlier for that type of use, and since ATI doesnt have the warranty backup I think I will stick with Nvidia.

    I am currently debating how far to take it. If I upgrade it I will probably just put my GTX from my main rig into it and upgrade my main rig. However that card idle's pretty hot so I might just have to buy a bigger desktop screen to keep the temps as balanced as possible due to where the HTPC will live :) Choices choices.
     
  11. Dangman

    Dangman Ninja Editor SuperMod

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    Well, Visiontek does have a lifetime warranty on their cards.
     
  12. Ripskin

    Ripskin 2[H]4U

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    Okay, I have been at this for weeks now trying to decide which direction to go with parts and build style.

    I have backed down on the quad core because I dont think I would use its potential that much and dont want the added heat generation. I want to try and keep the proc's in the 65w range. I balanced out my GPU requirements and as stated previously am willing to dump Digital Coax for Optical.

    So I am left with two builds, one for AMD and one for Intel. I am much more familier and comfortable with AMD dual cores. However the Intel build has some benefits as well.

    I'll start with the AMD build;

    The case
    The Motherboard
    The CPU
    The RAM
    The PSU
    The Main HDD
    The Storage HDD

    Now that setup has a little bit of on on board memory to help with video stuff, I know it will suffice for HD playback on Blu Ray or media files. I know it will be fine for light gaming. As I do zero gaming (aside from old You Dont Know JACK games) on the HTPC I dont know yet if I will be going with a video card. I wouldnt mind doing some RTS's and stuff on there but with how busy I am I dont for see that happening anytime soon. So for this build I will cut the video card as I wont really need it. I wont be using this for a DVR until I get a server built so thats not an issue right now.

    Here's the Intel build. The case, ram, HDD's and PSU will all be the same as the AMD setup.

    The Motherboard
    The CPU
    The GPU

    The Intel build would require a video card and that one is fairly cheap and powerful to handle whatever I put at it video wise, gaming wise it can handle anything out there on medium to low settings. If I go by my current HTPC gaming needs that is more than enough.

    Optical drives I have not decided, but at the moment I would say its between these two:

    Choice 1
    This one has some reviews but is somewhat slower on Blu Ray than choice two.
    Choice 2
    This one has no reviews but is faster. Since I have no experience with any Blu Ray drive I am a little torn. I have no use for HD DVD support, but the faster Blu Ray speed and lower price is nice.

    The AMD build keeps me with familier parts and ground and is a fair amount cheaper.

    The Intel build has a more gung ho proc that I would probably not fully utilize, I know the DFI boards fairly well and would keep my digital coax cable. However I would need to get a video card that I probably wouldnt use to its potential until I get out of school....

    Choices choices. Right now I am banking towards the AMD build, I can always add a video card to it later if I end up really wanting to do more gaming on it. But honestly racing games and RTS stuff (beyond adventure and gameshow junk that I do now) would be all I would want to do on it. Some Trackmania would be fun in 1080p but that on board card pobably wouldnt cut it at full settings.

    The added power from the Intel build sounds appealing but I dont think I will really need 3 ghz out of an HTPC. I honestly doubt I'll need 2.8 out of the AMD build but I shouldnt have to replace either very soon.

    Thoughts?
     
  13. CrimandEvil

    CrimandEvil Dick with a heart of gold

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  14. PurpleDiamond

    PurpleDiamond [H]Lite

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    IMHO the Lite-On optical drives are very noisy. I wouldn't get them for a HTPC.

    I think I have on older LG in my HTPC and it's pretty quiet, and another LG in my main rig which isn't too bad. I just got a Samsung for my daughter's system and it is OK too.
     
  15. TroubleMagnet

    TroubleMagnet Gawd

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    I've got the LG drive and it is quieter than the Sony DVD writer it replaced. I got it for the 6x bluray performance, I very much doubt I'll ever use the HD-DVD feature.

    I don't understand why you are going for the 320 GB drive for the main drive. I would think this 640 GB would be a LOT better since it's the same price and should be 2x the performance.
     
  16. Ripskin

    Ripskin 2[H]4U

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    I do plan to game on it, but nothing heavily as I do on my current HTPC. Eventually I might add the GPU to the AMD build if I go that route to allow for better gaming.

    The reason I am putting in slightly more powerful CPU's and more RAM than really needed for just HTPC is for network rendering and the future use of DVR / encoding. The AMD build is pretty cheap overall vs the Intel one which really does have too much of a CPU for what I plan to use it for.

    Eventually I probably will want to enjoy Crysis on it and other demanding games, but for now basic HTPC use until I can add those other parts to it. Since I am only free to watch an hour of TV a day this semester its pointless to go beyond that just yet.

    That cooler looks rather large :eek:

    I have never used a Liton drive so that is good information. I will stick with the cheaper and faster LG one :)

    Thanks for the feedback!
     
  17. Dangman

    Dangman Ninja Editor SuperMod

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  18. Ripskin

    Ripskin 2[H]4U

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    Ah, must have just been the angle of the shot :eek:

    Good deal.
     
  19. Ripskin

    Ripskin 2[H]4U

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    Oof I somehow overlooked your post until now,

    I dont want to put too much storage into the HTPC for now, I have a 640 in my build list while I decide. Depending on the final specs I will not have too much left over for file server where I would prefer my files to go. DVR and some media backups can go on the 750gb one I listed, and just put window's and programs on the 320. I had honestly not looked at the pricing on the 640 or anything yet I just added both to my build lists to review later.

    If its the same price I would be stupid not to buy it and deal with it :) Thanks for pointing that out!
     
  20. Ripskin

    Ripskin 2[H]4U

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    Okay, so I got my build done (pictures to follow eventually) and for the most part everything is running great.

    Took a while to get 5.1 to pass through properly, for some reason in 5.1 mode it gave me 3.1.....

    However I do now have a question,
    The BIOS defaulted my HDD to IDE emulation mode. When I went in after setting things up and was bumping up the onboard video buffer and noticed this, I changed it into AHCI Sata mode window's would not post. The early loading screen that says please wait with the green (home premium) bar at the bottom would load, as soon as the bar was about a fourth across the system would reboot. Put it back in IDE emulation and it boots without issue.

    I Was playing a backup of my friends Blu Ray Cars to test video and audio quality in 1080p, and I noticed a tiny bit of studdering, which now that I notice it is quite annoying. The CPU usage is not pegged at full but both core's are close for this file. I am curious to know if its possible if the backup was causing this studder, or could the HDD bein in IDE mode be causing this bug? I tested it out on my desktop and the studder while still there was not quite so noticeable.

    I hope to pick up a Blu Ray disk myself this weekend and test out playback off the disc itself and make my own backup and see what happens.

    So far this HTPC is a whole lot better than the one it replaced, just hope to get these bugs sorted. Still a lot to set up, never had an LCD on a case before so it will be interesting trying to figure that out.

    Thanks again for the help and input during the conceptualizing phase :) And for continued suggestions...
     
  21. Dangman

    Dangman Ninja Editor SuperMod

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    It would help if you told us what's the final specs of the HTPC you bought.

    Anyway if you want to use AHCI, then you'll have to reinstall the OS with it enabled. No, you won't get a performance boost from switching from AHCI but you do get hot-swap capability if thats what you want for your boot drive.

    The IDE mode of the hard drive is not the cause of your blu-ray problems. Update your codecs, make sure that they're there and the same or newer versions of the ones installed on your desktop rig.
     
  22. Ripskin

    Ripskin 2[H]4U

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    I ended up with the AMD build mentioned earlier, but the specs are:

    Antec Aluminum Veris Fusion Black 430 (canceled the Corsair PSU due to the LCD needs)
    GIGABYTE GA-MA78GPM-DS2H AM2+/AM2 AMD 780G
    AMD Athlon 64 X2 5400+ Brisbane 2.8GHz Socket AM2 65W
    CORSAIR 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 800
    Western Digital Caviar SE16 WD6400AAKS 640GB
    LG HD DVD / Blu Ray combo drive 6x Blu Ray

    Window's Vista Home Premium 32bit (for now, not sure if I want to get 64 for it yet)
    Using the on board HDMI for video, and optical for SPDIF pass through.

    Main video player is Zoom Player 6cr3
    Installed Power DVD (7 or 8) that came with the drive.
    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    I am going to borrow his Planet earth discs and some others to check on. His other backed up Blu Ray seemed to play just fine without any visual / audio lag.

    One of the first things I did was update all drivers due to some audio problems (mentioned 3.1 spdif issue earlier) My biggest guess at the problem is that the HTPC is ATI and desktop is Nvidia which I am very familiar with, never used ATI before. I will double check on some of the updated files to make sure I grabbed the latest drivers for everything.

    Ah, I had read somewhere that it was possible to update and run AHCI after an install but that was on an Intel chipset. If the performance is not that worth it I will not bother.

    Thanks for the info.
     
  23. TroubleMagnet

    TroubleMagnet Gawd

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    Have you updated your version of Power DVD? I had problems with stuttering with one of the early versions that an update fixed. There is a good chance the version included with the drive is old.
     
  24. CrimandEvil

    CrimandEvil Dick with a heart of gold

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    Totally. Upgrade PDVD.
     
  25. Ripskin

    Ripskin 2[H]4U

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    I'll take a look at upgrading it tonight when I get off work, have not played anything through it yet though, the files were run through ZP.