I am looking at improving this build:Hardware:
- Case: Zalman HD160XT +
- PSU: Seasonic M12II -500
- Motherboard: Asus P5K Premium
- CPU: Intel Core 2 Duo, E8400, Wolfdale Core
- CPU cooler: Scythe mini ninja
- Memory: 2 x Corsair TWIN2X2048-6400C4DHX (4 gig total)
- A few Nexus Real Silent 80mm Fans
- Graphics card: Palit 9600GT PCI-E
- Hard Drive: Corsair M4 256GB SSD and some storage drives
- Soundcard: Asus Xonar HDAV 1.3 Slim
- Media Drive: LG GGC-H20L Blu-Ray / HD-DVD drive
- Tuner card: Blackgold BGT3620
- Keyboard and mouse: Logitech DiNovo Edge and Logitech MX Air
- Windows 7 64bit
- Metabrowser v2
- Media Center Studio
- Arcsoft TotalMediaTheatre 3
- Shark codecs
- Gefen DVI Detective: Gefen, LLC - DVI Detective Plus
- Onkyo TX-SR605
- Sony KDL40W3000 TV
- QNAP TS-412 NAS
- Logitech Harmony 1000
I store Blu-Ray structure rips, DVD rips, and a large assortment of other video and music files on the NAS and this is connected to the HTPC by a gigabit network. I stream HD Audio like DTS-HD from the Asus HDAV slim to my Onkyo amp. From there it goes out to the 5.1 speakers. I only rarely play games with this setup, its just too awkward from the sofa, so that requirement has faded into history really.
I have annoying problems with the Asus Xonar HDAV Slim card
; it often locks up one of the CPU cores and runs it at 100% CPU, this seems to be driver related, but Asus have never fixed it. This problem means that sometimes my HTPC never sleeps.
I started looking into a new graphics card as I am aware that one can get protected audio path (PAP) from graphics cards too now. It is really important for me to keep HD audio bit streaming and for it to be reliable.
So it looked like I should get a graphics card to replace my aging Palit 9600GT PCI-E and Asus Xonar HDAV 1.3 Slim in one go. Great, reduce power draw, one less card and less heat all round. Should make the PC quieter. I could even get a passively cooled graphics card and try to go really quiet. I'd need one of these grahics cards as far as I can work out:
- nVidia GeForce 4** series: GT 420, GT 430, GT 440, GTS 450, GTX 460
- nVidia GeForce 5** series: GT 520, GTX 550Ti, GTX 560, GTX 560Ti.
- (I fell out with AMD cards a long time ago so I am not considering any, but ATI Radeon 5*** series: HD 5450, HD 5550, HD 5570, HD 5670 HD 5750, HD 5770, HD 5830, HD 5870, HD 5970 or ATI Radeon 6*** series: 6750, 6770, 6790, 6850, 6870, 6950, 6970, 6990 or ATI Radeon 7*** series: 7970, 7750 would work too)
Then I realised that by upgrading the motherboard I could use integrated grpahics in the CPU and not even need a separate graphics card or audio card. To do this I would need:
- INTEL Platform Clarkdale: H55, H57.
- INTEL Platform Sandybridge: H67, Z68. (Upcoming Ivybridge CPUs will be supported on H67 and Z68.)
- INTEL upcoming Platform Ivy Bridge : H77, Z77.
But hang on! Really?
I can get a low power i3 for a Ivy Bridge motherboard using a H77 chipset, maybe some new RAM and get rid of my graphics card, audio card and still get HD audio bit streamed and a cooler, quieter HTPC? Really? Without spending half my weekend on forums trying to work out the issues? Really?
Does an H77 chipset really replace the hell of discrete Auzentech / Xonar sound cards and hand picked video cards, their drivers and all the rest of that mess? Really?
It sounds too good to be true. Who has experience of setting up an HTPC with an H77 chipset, mediabrowser, TMT and the usual suspects?
The only down side is that I should say goodbye to playing games, but I never really got comfortable doing that from my sofa anyway...