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Thread: Building a HTPC - where do I start?

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    Building a HTPC - where do I start?

    Alright, well I said to my mum if she wants I can set her up a HTPC, so she can rip her DVDs to it and watch them from there or whatever, and she would like me to go ahead with it. I've already got a good motherboard (Asus P5W DH Deluxe) with 2gb memory, so for the actual PC would only need:

    - Hard disks
    - Chassis
    - Operating System
    - I/O devices (gyroscopic mouse looks nice, but maybe a wireless keyboard would be good instead?)
    - cpu
    - graphics card with HDMI or something

    Now, I had a look on google, and people building them seem to be massive massive mediaholics. They will have spent the best part of a thousand pounds just on the speakers and a seperate audio box - ideally for our needs the sound would just come from the telly. We already have a sky box so not sure how that fits together, we only really want freeview but we tried cancelling sky and it didn't go so well (we lost all our freeview channels even though we own a sky+ box). We don't have a HD TV yet either, but will get one in time (at the moment there's not much that can take advantage of it!).

    Mainly it's going to be like a media hub that uses the TV as a monitor, that can watch TV and play music and be connected to the internet. Would have it set up on the network so we could have some centralised file storage too!

    Really though I need some tips on how to go about this, we are on a budget and don't want to spend more than is necessary, all the guides I've seen on the internet assume you are really going to town but we don't want a home cinema yet, just a media hub kind of thing. Hope that makes sense

    So any recommendations?
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    SiM
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    Re: Building a HTPC - where do I start?

    CPU: well any from E2100 series up will do the job
    Or you could stick your E6300 in and then upgrade your other machine to quad

    Graphics: well if you choose windows OS then go for a low end ATI 3450 or 3650, they are great for HD playback and most of them come with HDMI and HDCP.

    OS: personal choice really... but windows is probably going to be easier to set up and run

    case: personal choice too, but I would go for something like this if its going in front of your TV...

    hard drives are cheap now, so grab a 1TB drive

    do you already have a PSU... if you have an old 400W PSU it would probably do the job

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    Re: Building a HTPC - where do I start?

    I've got a very old PSU, but it's been sat in a cold and damp garage for about 2 years so I don't know if I'd trust it. Came with my Antec Sonata (when they had just come out, so fairly dated ). I've got lots of spare cases, A sonata, p180, etc. but not terribly photogenic with the TV.

    That case looks awesome though, great find.

    Do you have any idea whether I need a special sound card with component sound or... . I think eventually, a small amp with 2.1 wireless speakers would be nice but until then it will be just the TV's speakers.
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    SiM
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    Re: Building a HTPC - where do I start?

    There is no such thing as component sound
    component is for video only...

    You don't need a special sound card, if you are using an amp with HDMI, you can take sound straight from HDMI... alternatively you can connect digital coaxial or optical sound cable directly from motherboard to amp... the amp does all of the decoding

    regarding the PSU, if its the same 380W on that I have, then if it hasn't been killed by damp it should do the job (I am still using my 4 year old sonata psu!)

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    Re: Building a HTPC - where do I start?

    I think it is 380w yes (truepower or something... maybe) I shall test it. I mean, it's not that it's been in a puddle, just the general nature of garages is that they're dark cold and dingy...

    Well to start with really I would just want to get the digital signal into the PC, which then sends the picture and sound to the TV. My mum is looking at getting a HDTV, do they all have HDMI? Or do I need to instruct her specifically to get one with HDMI? She said she found one at Aldi for ~£500 that's 42", seems a bit optimistic!

    Eventually I think it would be nice to have the upgrade path there for 2.1 speakers. (5.1 in my experience are so much more trouble than they're worth!)
    Dreaming

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    Re: Building a HTPC - where do I start?

    I would think most now would be hdmi........

    I'd make her check first though.

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    Re: Building a HTPC - where do I start?

    Alright thanks Andy, SiM. So is that everything I need? That case takes 6 hard drives so I might just get 750gb ones and slot in more whenever it needs them. So with that PC set up, with a TV card, should that all work together?

    Or am I missing something? :s I still need to work out what the best I/O devices are. Kustompcs have a complete HTPC shop which is fairly useful, but then again worst case you get something and it doesn't do the job!
    Dreaming

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    SiM
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    Re: Building a HTPC - where do I start?

    What are your video sources? Do you still intend to use sky and would like to use this as a PVR too?

    Instead it might be better to get a freeview tuner built into the TV card and then use that to watch and record TV... (You can still use the sky box connected directly to the TV - independent to the HTPC setup)

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    Re: Building a HTPC - where do I start?

    Quote Originally Posted by SiM View Post
    What are your video sources? Do you still intend to use sky and would like to use this as a PVR too?

    Instead it might be better to get a freeview tuner built into the TV card and then use that to watch and record TV... (You can still use the sky box connected directly to the TV - independent to the HTPC setup)
    We don't want Sky, but if you cancel for some reason it cuts off your freeview too so currently we're not tied in to any contract on their cheapest tariff. That's one of the reasons we're going down this route, because we can cast off the evil shackles of Sky oppression. Ahem... The box would be going away.

    Video sources would be an xbox 360 and a coaxial aerial (I think that's what it's called anyway, your basic aerial cable ) that's rerouted from the room it comes in from. It would be convenient if it was very easy to switch between the two, (like a remote button), but we'll have to see!

    I've already got a freeview TV card I can use, unfortunately I think it just tunes into one channel so maybe need to upgrade that (or can you get two PCI cards and set Media Centre up to use both?). I might make a diagram if I can be bothered, explaining the setup
    Dreaming

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    Re: Building a HTPC - where do I start?

    Dreaming

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    Re: Building a HTPC - where do I start?

    heres mine first htpc, certainly not too expensive and runs really well with vista home premium

    http://forums.hexus.net/chassis-syst...etup-pics.html

    cost me about 300 all in, i did have some parts spare e.g. psu from my old pc

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    SiM
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    Re: Building a HTPC - where do I start?

    Quote Originally Posted by Dreaming View Post
    We don't want Sky, but if you cancel for some reason it cuts off your freeview too so currently we're not tied in to any contract on their cheapest tariff. That's one of the reasons we're going down this route, because we can cast off the evil shackles of Sky oppression. Ahem... The box would be going away.

    Video sources would be an xbox 360 and a coaxial aerial (I think that's what it's called anyway, your basic aerial cable ) that's rerouted from the room it comes in from. It would be convenient if it was very easy to switch between the two, (like a remote button), but we'll have to see!

    I've already got a freeview TV card I can use, unfortunately I think it just tunes into one channel so maybe need to upgrade that (or can you get two PCI cards and set Media Centre up to use both?). I might make a diagram if I can be bothered, explaining the setup
    Well the best way then is to do this:
    Freeview inside HTPC -> TV
    Freeview inside HTPC -> Amp
    Xbox 360 -> TV
    Xbox 360 -> Amp

    The 360 and the PC run into the amp/tv independently

    Nice setup frazered

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    Re: Building a HTPC - where do I start?

    So in the short term, just run them both into the TV with HDMI, and when / if an amp comes along (this is subject to my mum's purchasing decisions) set it up like that?

    Sorted

    Is the integrated sound card perfectly capable of all that or is it worth investing in a meaty one for example with DVD playback, or is that money down the drain?
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    SiM
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    Re: Building a HTPC - where do I start?

    That sounds fine...

    Sound card is money down the drain for DVDs... Dolby and DTS streams are sent through HDMI/coax/optical untouched (well it should be, any processing would make sound worse!) it doesn't matter if its sent by a uber expensive sound card or onboard...

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    Re: Building a HTPC - where do I start?

    I've only ever used integrated sound for gaming as it suits my needs fine, but the only reason I thought one might possibly be useful is for sound playback when watching films. If it's uneccessary though I will save the cash

    Now I just need to find the chassis, which may take several years (it took me 12 months to pick the PC-A05B for my current PC, and I'm still not completely satisfied... I think it needs a 200mm fan blowing in..
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    Re: Building a HTPC - where do I start?

    Quote Originally Posted by Dreaming View Post
    I think it is 380w yes (truepower or something... maybe) I shall test it. I mean, it's not that it's been in a puddle, just the general nature of garages is that they're dark cold and dingy...
    I really wouldn't test it. If it's like all the garages I know, then all the capacitor heads and most other metals inside will be rusted to heck. All you're going to do by testing it is damage the kit connected to it.

    It's a shame you're not using a MicroATX board as there's a couple of very good Antec cases available which include good, solid PSUs that are perfect as HTPCs. I'm not aware of a similar ATX set up that's not silly expensive.

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