Building my first HTPC, Suggestions Appreciated - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 3 Old 05-01-2009, 12:49 PM - Thread Starter
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I am building my first HTPC. I have assembled PCs before but never a HTPC. I live in California and plan to use it for over the air broadcast ATSC both Live and DVR, Ripped and Downloaded Music, Movies, Photos as well as watching Blu-Ray and DVD movies. I would also like to access Netflix and Hulu. I also might want to play a little GTA IV once in a while. I spent some time researching it on the AVS Forum and I saw a gentleman, ZeeBOBNZ, from New Zealand's videos of his Zalman HTPC running MediaPortal on Youtube and decided to go for it. I used the AVS Forum recommendations from Renethx as a guide (Intel/Intel ATX High End). Here is what I ordered:

* 1 x Western Digital WD20EADS 2TB SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" Hard Drive - OEM
* 1 x Intel Core 2 Quad Q8300 2.5GHz LGA 775 95W Quad-Core Processor Model BX80580Q8300 - Retail
* 1 x GIGABYTE GA-EP45-UD3P LGA 775 Intel P45 ATX Intel Motherboard - Retail
* 1 x Hauppauge WinTV-HVR 1800 MCE Kit 1128 PCI-Express x1 Interface - Retail
* 1 x Western Digital Caviar GP WD7500AACS 750GB 5400 to 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" Hard Drive - OEM
* 1 x ZALMAN Black Aluminum HD160XT Plus ATX Media Center / HTPC Case - Retail
* 1 x HIS Hightech H485QT512P Radeon HD 4850 512MB 256-bit GDDR3 PCI Express 2.0 x16 HDCP Ready
CrossFire Supported IceQ4 Turbo Video Card - Retail
* 1 x LG Black 6X Blu-ray Disc Burner & HD DVD-ROM Drive SATA Model GGW-H20L - OEM
* 1 x ASUS Xonar D2 7.1 Channels PCI Interface Ultra Fidelity Sound Card with Complete Dolby/DTS Sound
Technologies - Retail
* 1 x Arctic Silver 5 Thermal Compound - OEM
* 1 x ADATA 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin PC2-6400 DDR2 800MHz Dual Channel Unbuffered-DIMM Non-ECC Memory
* 1 x Zalman CNPS9500A LED CPU Cooling Fan - Socket 478, 775, 754, 939, 940, AM2
* 1 x Logitech diNovo Mini
* 1 x Corsair CMPSU-850TX 850-Watt TX Series 80 Plus Certified Power Supply
* 1 x Windows Vista Ultimate with SP1 64-bit for System Builders

I recently had my circa 1993 Hitachi 55 inch Ultravision SD projection TV die so I just bought a Samsung Luxia 55UNB7000.

I was considering using MCE but now that I found MediaPortal it looks like a better option but i am just not sure if it does everthing I need. I am also not sure if all of my hardware is completely compatible with it. It is also possible I made some mistakes in what I ordered, if so I would appreciate someone pointing that out to me. I bought two hard disks and plan to use one for software (smaller one) and the other one (first of many) for media. Does anyone know if the Tuner card I bought can be used with a single antenna to get two ATSC DT stations at the same time? I would like the ability to record two stations simultaneously. Eventually I will also need to get a receiver and speakers but the piggy bank is a little low for that now...

Again, thank you so much for your input in advance!!!

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post #2 of 3 Old 05-01-2009, 04:02 PM
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For pure HTPC duty, your system is over-specced. If you plan on gaming or encoding, then it looks like a nice rig.

I've been using MediaPortal off and on now for about six months. I've never gotten my analog tuner to work properly (ATI Theater 550), and never gotten wegEPG configured properly. I've used the StreamedMP skin, which has some wonderful functionality and great eye candy, but dealing with the media databases has been a major chore. For instance in the My TV Series plug-in, I've had to manually rename hundreds of files to get it to recognize them properly. I only add TV series after they've been vetted, and I can only do that in my "spare" time, so it's been a slow process, as I have about 2.5 TB of TV files.

A couple of days ago, I had a catastrophic hard drive failure. I was sitting while restoring my last image of the drive, and thought instead of restoring the image, I might as well try the new Windows 7 RC that had hit the net just the previous day. So I burned a DVD of it and gave it a shot.

What a revelation. The entire installation took less than half an hour, and probably would have been less than 15 minutes if I hadn't walked away while it was extracting files. Being used to XP installs, I thought I had awhile to wait, but I walked by ten minutes after it started and it was already done. Wow. Then I went through configuration, and even before I installed ATI's Catalyst Control Center Windows had the ability to get my display to 1080P. Unfortunately it was badly overscanned, but once I installed CCC it was fine. All of my software has run flawlessly, and noticeably faster than in XP. WinRAR in particular seems to blaze. But the most pleasant surprise has been Windows 7 Media Center. It detected and installed my tuner card without a hitch. It then asked me for my zip code and got me the propery guide from my cable operator. I now have seamless live TV and a full guide with zero input.

If you're building a new system, I highly recommend you try it before you spend time on MediaPortal and Vista. The Release Candidate (7100) is due out for official release on May 5th, and from there it will be valid until June of 2010. So you'll have a year to play with it if you like before you make a buying decision. I think that shows extreme confidence on the part of Microsoft, and from my experience it's well earned. I plan on plunking down my money on a copy of Windows 7 premium or ultimate when it's released. I don't even feel like I have to wait for SP1, which traditionally has always been a prudent move on Windows OS releases.

As for your component choices, I have a few other notes:

For the tuner card, I've been looking at a Hauppauge 2250, which has dual hybrid tuners so you can watch either analog or digital and simultaneously record either analog or digital. I've seen mixed reviews though, so I'm continuing to research the issues.

Zalman case: not a big fan of Zalman in general, and this case doesn't get good airflow, according to one of my trusted sources:

Corsair 850: Definitely overkill. The 650 would be more than adequate even if you're going to go Crossfire later. Really you could probably get by with a 450W.

For system drive I'd personally go for either the WD 640GB Caviar Black or the new Seagate single platter 500GB drive. I just got the Seagate, and it's quiet and runs very cool (30C with only the PSU fan to cool it).

For data, you can basically get two WD 1.5TB for the price the 2TB is going for right now. The 1.5TB is down to $140 and the 2TB is still around $300. So you could either go RAID 1 for a bit of data redundancy or get 33% more spaace for the same price or less and very little extra power consumption and noise.
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post #3 of 3 Old 05-01-2009, 04:55 PM
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One more note:
At this point I'd probably opt for the less expensive but just about as powerful Radeon 4770 over the 4850. The 4770's 40nm manufacture means it runs cooler and with less power consumption for essentially the same performance.
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