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Thread: HTPC Newbie - am I overspeccing?

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    Question HTPC Newbie - am I overspeccing?

    Hi all,

    I'm in the process of putting together a build for my soon to be born HTPC.

    I'm after a PC that will, using my 32" full HD TV:

    Play DVDs and Blu-Ray through a player
    Play DVDs and Blu-Rays that I'm storing on my hard drive
    Record shows off terrestrial TV
    Surf the Net
    Play music
    Store Photos

    I won't need it for:

    Gaming
    Torrenting

    Using the save basket at Scan, I've come up with the following spec:

    Aplus GL2 Silver Aluminium Desktop media Case inc iMON VFD / Audio / IR + Remote w/o PSU
    Hauppauge WinTV HVR-1700 Media Centre Kit PCI-E Digital+Analog+PVR MCE/Vista/XP Ready
    380W Antec EarthWatts PSU 80mm Quiet Fan Green PSU
    LiteOn IHOS104-37 4xBlu-Ray, 8x DVD Reader OEM inc Software
    Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium 64 Bit, Single, - OEM
    Intel Core i3 540 Dual Core Clarkdale 32nm, 3.06GHz, 4MB Cache, 73W, Integrated GPU @ 733MHz, Retail
    Asus P7H55-M PRO, Intel H55, 1156, PCI-E 2.0 (x16), DDR3 2133(OC), SATA 3GB/s, mATX, HDCP 2GB (2x1GB) Hynix, DDR3 PC3-8500 (1066 MHz), 240 Pin, Non-ECC Unbuffered, CAS 7, 1.5V

    I already have 1 x 1TB 3.5" drive and 1 x 2TB 3.5" drive to go into it, on which I've got my media.

    Now this lot comes to about £600. Given what I want to do, and what I don't want to do (gaming especially) have I overspecced this?

    I've seen people doing builds much cheaper, but I got a bit confused about HDMI/HDCP, and this motherboard seems to do HDCP natively, without the extra cost (and noise) of a separate GFX card.

    Any feedback, and suggestions for alternative parts would be much appreciated.

    Thanks

    P.S. Shoutout to Shooty* - thanks for showing me the site - say hi to Mrs. Shooty and Shootykins

    /edit Hmm - not sure if I've put this in the wrong place. Do HTPC count as small form factor? It does to me, as compared to my gaming full tower it's blimming tiny!
    Last edited by Tibbs; 26-04-2010 at 04:16 PM. Reason: Might have posted in the wrong place...

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    Not a good person scaryjim's Avatar
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    Re: HTPC Newbie - am I overspeccing?

    Spec looks about right if you're going for an i3 build. The i3 540 doesn't really offer any worthwhile advantage over the 530 for the extra £20+ though: although I notice that the 530 isn't currently in stock at Scan...

    You can do it cheaper with AMD though: an Athlon II X2 + 785G motherboard should reduce the costs significantly. If Scan's your poison of choice that'd be a Athlon II X2 240 and probably a Asus M4A785TD-M EVO - total cost = £115, the same as your i3 540 on its own!

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    Re: HTPC Newbie - am I overspeccing?

    I would go for amd just for the reduced cost. A 785G motherboard will give you the same performance as an i3. The deinterlacing on both is pretty naff, i think they both do bob and weave, but if that isn't important to you that the amd solution specced by scaryjim will do what you want.
    That tv tuner is a single analog/digital tuner if i'm not mistaken which seems pretty pricey. If i was you I'd be looking for a dual dvb-t tuner. I have this one which has been solid. There is also a dual tuner made by a company named peak which people speak quite highly of (not sure of the model number) which has been listed on amazon a while back for £20-£30.
    Also I don't think they actually make an onboard gpu's or discrete cards which aren't hdcp compliant.

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    Re: HTPC Newbie - am I overspeccing?

    I think the spec is fine!

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    Re: HTPC Newbie - am I overspeccing?

    Your usage for the HTPC is the same as mine. I have an i3 530. The reason i went down the intel route was to allow for bitstreaming of HD audio on my blurays. Even if you don't have an av reciever that can do HD audio currently, it gives you a bit of futureproofing.

    Have a look at my system opposite

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    isn't trying to wind U up Shooty*'s Avatar
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    Re: HTPC Newbie - am I overspeccing?

    *bow*

    Hi, bro.
    My HTPC: Linky

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    Re: HTPC Newbie - am I overspeccing?

    Thanks for the responses, they're much appreciated!

    I'm not wedded to Scan, far from it - I haven't used them since a debacle involving (sh)citylink about 7 years ago. I just like to be able to get all of the bits from one place, and they seem to be the ones doing that case. TBH I'd rather use Novatech, they've not put a foot wrong in the 5 years or so I've been using them, and have really earned my business.

    I normally upgrade my main gaming PC every 18 months or so, when I tend to buy stuff that's one step down from the newest to hit the sweet spot between cost and speed, and to keep up with the new games. Since what I'm asking this HTPC to do won't change (at least until the replacement for Blu-Ray comes out and/or I finally decinde to build a media server) I'm more than happy to build something that I won't look to upgrade and to buy the cheapest products that will do the job flawlessly. With that in mind, I looked at the AMD offering up above, and it looks good, though it seems not to do HDCP. Is that something that can be done either through the hardware or software? Even looking on Wikipedia (which never lies, everyone knows that! ) I still don't really understand what it does and how not having it would stop me from playing Blu-Rays. I play BD disks through my PC onto my monitor, and it doesn't even use HDMI! So in that context, will the AMD do the job? Saving a bit of money is quite appealing.

    I must confess I'm not sure I understand bitstreaming audio - how is that different to using the 3.5mm plug (which I use now) or the S/PDif cable (which I'll use when I have my HTPC)? My TV is the Samsung LE32B550, and as it stands, I'm running my sound through the TV, and won't be getting any kind of external speakers / amps / receiver for the forseeable - mainly because I live in the most miniscule house in the world (1980s Back to back starter home) and the only place I can put speakers is on the wall, which I've learned is rarely a good thing in rented accommodation...

    As ever thanks for the advice, it's much appreciated!

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    Re: HTPC Newbie - am I overspeccing?

    HDCP is used over a digital connection, its a sort of copy protection which you need when watching blu rays. And although it may not state HDCP I am 99% certain anything you buy now will be HDCP compliant.
    Bit streaming is where the audio is sent to any external speakers via an amp/reciever fromt he pc without the pc doing any decoding or encoding. That way the audio you hear is unaltered. But if you are just using the tv speakers like I am then this isn't going to be useful to you.

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    can you find a fatter hazza? fathazza's Avatar
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    Re: HTPC Newbie - am I overspeccing?

    youre definately overspeccing for your uses if you ask me...
    my htpc is over 2 years old and does everything you want yours to do without problems.

    I'd get something like an Athlon II 240e, 785g mobo, and 2gb of generic ram.
    (the only thing that wont do is bitsteam bluray audio to an amp, but that doesnt sound like an issue to you and is an easy fix with a £35 graphics card later down the line)

    ps. why that TV card in particular?

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    Re: HTPC Newbie - am I overspeccing?

    Thanks for the advice - I think I'm going to downgrade and save some cash.

    As for the tuner card - that was the one I saw, I didn't know it from a hole in the ground tbh. From talking to people on another forum, I'm going to swap it out for a dual terrestrial digital one. I'm not worried about a satellite one, as I can't put a dish on my house.

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    Re: HTPC Newbie - am I overspeccing?

    Just to backup fathazza, you're definitely overspeccing.

    I run a shuttle SG33G5M-Deluxe with an E2160 @ stock, which is 1.6ghz, dual core. It's way faster than I need.

    I'm running MediaPortal with 1x DVB-C card, and even recording a HD channel uses hardly any CPU time. Slightly more than a SD channel, but still negligible. Watching X264, or VM's HD channels, uses next to no CPU time as well, since I'm offloading decoding onto the video card, a Geforce 210. It's got HDMI and a built in sound card to pass audio over the HDMI so it's pretty awesome for a HTPC. I'm using CUDA decoding with CoreAVC btw.

    The bluray playback I have to admit I'm unfamiliar with, but it seems that my card does Purevideo HD, so will offload that decoding to the GPU as well.
    Quote Originally Posted by w3bbo View Post
    Scan, like any other busty retailer...

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    Re: HTPC Newbie - am I overspeccing?

    Just to add that yes, £600 sounds like far too much money for your needs.
    Try to get a cheap dvb-t card, as soon dvb-t2 cards will be out (though when I still don't know) that'll allow HD via freeview.
    Also, as you don't need the bitstreaming as mentioned, the AMD chipset will be fine. The main point of a PC is it's modular building, so you can just add either a new graphics card that passes audio hd audio or a dedicated sound card like a xonar or an auzentech card.
    My athlon 240 and nvidia gts250 do a fine job of decoding everything full hd, wether bluray or ts or mkv without running out of grunt, so even if a file doesn't work via cuda or dxva I can still play it in software.
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    Re: HTPC Newbie - am I overspeccing?

    I built my AMD based HTPC with a Pherom X3/2.1GHz and an AMD 780G motherboard about 16 months ago.

    Handles Blu-Ray playback just with ease. And is very quiet thanks to Antec Fusion Case.

    But I would say you always want more power than you originally think you may need.

    Video Encoding comes to mind, but also the temptation to play games on your large screen TV is hard to resist. Always keep some room for expansion, otherwise you had just as well go for a 'games console` which will work as a media-extender and could work out much cheaper.

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