Covert 5-yo Desktop to an HTPC, or Get a New One? - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 21 Old 05-24-2012, 05:55 PM - Thread Starter
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I think I have a couple options as to how I want to upgrade this year, and it depends on whether or not my current desktop is still up to snuff.

My original plan was to get a new desktop and set it up as an HTPC for videos and gaming, and then somewhere down the line get a new laptop (preferably a MacBook) for work. I currently use one desktop for both.

I just found out however that I can already connect my current desktop to my TV and pretty much convert it into an HTPC if I can just get my hands on a wireless USB mouse and keyboard (the system doesn't have bluetooth).

It's a five-year-old system with the following specs:
Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 3.2GHz
3GB RAM
HD6840 1GB VRAM (I added this a year ago)
Vista 32bit

I just tried it out a bit on the TV and it seems to be powerful enough to run almost all PC games in 1080p. The sole exception is The Witcher 2 on which it can still maintain 30 frames per second in 1080p (and probably Crysis). I just tried running RAGE and Skyrim and they book look and run fantastically. Are those specs gonna be enough though when Next gen console games start raising the bar?

So:

Option 1: Keep my current desktop as an HTPC and compliment it with a MacBook Pro this year.

Option 2: Get a new desktop as an HTPC for next gen gaming, keep the old desktop as a work system, and get the MacBook Pro much later down the line.

Also, I'd like some suggestions for a wireless USB mouse and keyboard regardless.
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post #2 of 21 Old 05-24-2012, 07:04 PM
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Your pc is overkill for an HTPC, it will work just fine and can actually decode everything in software with plenty of cpu headroom (I have the same cpu).

But you want a gaming HTPC which is a different story, you might end up being cpu bound.
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post #3 of 21 Old 05-25-2012, 08:00 AM
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That's 5 years old? Oh my..

My htpc (used only for video) is
AMD X2 5600
GT430 w/ 1GB ram (some hardware decoding)
Hauppage HVR-2250 (hardware encoding)
2GB RAM
500GB sata2 (though i think mobo only supports 1)

As you can see, this is a modest rig at best however w/ the GT430 I can play 1080p x264 no issues with LAV filters. I usually just have 720p xvid/264 but it is flawless. The Hauppage w/ its hardware encoding allows me to record 2 HD streams at once with cpu usage < 10%.

Do you plan on changing OS?
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post #4 of 21 Old 05-25-2012, 09:13 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Defcon View Post

Your pc is overkill for an HTPC, it will work just fine and can actually decode everything in software with plenty of cpu headroom (I have the same cpu).

But you want a gaming HTPC which is a different story, you might end up being cpu bound.

It's not as "overkill" as you might think. I have a Q6600 (actually retired now and sitting in the basement) but the Passmark score of a lowly i3-2100 is actually about 30% higher than this old C2Q (3853 to 2970). We all tend to think of those old Core 2 Quads as being really dynamite processors, and they were when they were released 5 years ago, but that architecture is pretty far behind Sandy and Ivy Bridge (not to mention that you could heat the house with them).

So I wouldn't call it "overkill", but it's still plenty of processor for an HTPC. It's stronger than a Pentium or Celeron that many people use. So it falls within the range of performance of common HTPC cpus today, between a G620 and an i3. With the GT430, it should work fine for a long time to come.

I'm not a gamer, but I suspect it's days as a gaming cpu for high end games is probably passed. I don't know if you can make up for that with a really high end graphics card or not.
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post #5 of 21 Old 05-25-2012, 10:55 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Zon2020 View Post

It's not as "overkill" as you might think. I have a Q6600 (actually retired now and sitting in the basement) but the Passmark score of a lowly i3-2100 is actually about 30% higher than this old C2Q (3853 to 2970). We all tend to think of those old Core 2 Quads as being really dynamite processors, and they were when they were released 5 years ago, but that architecture is pretty far behind Sandy and Ivy Bridge (not to mention that you could heat the house with them).

So I wouldn't call it "overkill", but it's still plenty of processor for an HTPC. It's stronger than a Pentium or Celeron that many people use. So it falls within the range of performance of common HTPC cpus today, between a G620 and an i3. With the GT430, it should work fine for a long time to come.

I'm not a gamer, but I suspect it's days as a gaming cpu for high end games is probably passed. I don't know if you can make up for that with a really high end graphics card or not.

It is still overkill for an HTPC. Where it stands in relation to today's processors is completely irrelevant. Yes, the computer itself is no where near overkill compared to what is available today, but as far as processing power needed for HTPC use, it still far surpasses what is needed, especially with the more current vid card that allows for significant hardware accel vs doing it software.




Anyhow, I was sort of in the same boat with my similar aged machine...E8400 + 8800GTS....I opted not to repurpose it. To me, it was worth a couple hundred bucks for a new low end machine that was smaller, quieter, cooler, and handles htpc duty just as well if not better then simply using the old desktop.
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post #6 of 21 Old 05-25-2012, 11:24 AM
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I'm running a core 2 quad 9550 paired with a radeon HD 6850 and it can still play any game I throw at it on high settings with good framerates. However, its not good for a HTPC at all - its loud and uses lots of electricity.

If you don't care about power use, why don't you use your current PC but keep it in another room and use extenders at the TV end? The Ceton Echo when it comes out later this year, Xbox 360 now or if you don't use Live / Recorded TV on your HTPC, just get any old media streamer like the WD Live.
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post #7 of 21 Old 05-25-2012, 11:26 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by C17chief View Post

It is still overkill for an HTPC. Where it stands in relation to today's processors is completely irrelevant. Yes, the computer itself is no where near overkill compared to what is available today, but as far as processing power needed for HTPC use, it still far surpasses what is needed, especially with the more current vid card that allows for significant hardware accel vs doing it software.

Anyhow, I was sort of in the same boat with my similar aged machine...E8400 + 8800GTS....I opted not to repurpose it. To me, it was worth a couple hundred bucks for a new low end machine that was smaller, quieter, cooler, and handles htpc duty just as well if not better then simply using the old desktop.

It's interesting as to what is re-usable and what isn't. I've got a Q6600 system that's retired, my wife's old Dell Inspiron E8400 system that's been replaced and is sitting unused, and a soon-to-be-retired (and slowly failing) Q9400 Inspiron. Of these the one that might ever get used again is the "weakest" one - the E8400 Insprion - which might see life again as a server if I ever get the time and motivation to play with setting it up.

But I am still using a much older Pentium D small form factor Optiplex GX620that came from the office as retired XP and MS Office box to serve as a HTPC on a secondary HDTV and surround sound system. It works primarily because it's really small, is pretty quiet, and can sit horizontally on a shelf on the TV stand. With the addition of a cheap Radeon 5450, and a W7 Home Premium upgrade, it's perfect for the limited things we ask of it there -- mostly internet streaming and an occasional DVD. I was happy enough with it that I recently splurged and replaced the hard disk with an SSD and now it's terrific. It's not our main system and I figure in its limited role it will be just fine for a few more years. Will probably end up being the longest used computer I'll ever own.

But the tower systems would be totally unsuitable for that purpose, and aren't worth the expense to try to salvage. Although the one might still make a reasonable server. But it's the case that makes that old Optiplex SFF work.

BTW, I don't consider an i3-2100 overkill for an htpc either, which is why I also don't consider the Q6600 overkill. It seems just about right in the power department (if you ignore the heat issue).
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post #8 of 21 Old 05-25-2012, 12:14 PM
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I've got a Q6600 in my HTPC as well, along with 8GB of RAM, and currently a AMD6850 GPU.

The only thing I've ever felt the need to upgrade is the GPU (Started with a 4xxx, then a 5xxx, and now the 6850). The CPU is honestly still more than powerful enough for anything I do with it, and even though I game at 1920x1080, I haven't ever been CPU limited in games either.

If you already have it and it works great, you might as well use it, in my mind. Sure, the newer stuff will blow that away, but why spend the money if you don't HAVE to?

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post #9 of 21 Old 05-25-2012, 03:07 PM
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When I build a PC I tend to start with solid core components like a quality PSU and case. Add some good cooling fans, an optical drive, hard drive (standard drive for data and recordings and an SSD for the PS), mouse, keyboard, and monitor (unless it's an HTPC, in which case it will connect to a TV). If you get quality hardware in these categories, they should never need to be upgraded when you want to migrate to a newer system. The CPU, motherboard, memory, and GPU are the only items that really need to be changed if you want better performance or the latest features.

I bought a Noctua NH-C12P low-profile CPU cooler for my HTPC back in November of 2008. Since then I've replaced the motherboard, CPU and memory at least twice. Noctua sent me updated mounting brackets for the newer CPU socket absolutely free each time I upgraded as long as I provided a photocopy of the original receipt. I'll never have to buy another CPU cooler as long as I don't lose the receipt (the fan is easily replaced at minimal cost). Same goes for the PSU and other peripherals. There's no need to replace them unless you plan on selling the old PC intact and getting all new hardware.
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post #10 of 21 Old 05-25-2012, 03:15 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RedSwirl View Post

Are those specs gonna be enough though when Next gen console games start raising the bar?

i have no idea, but so long as your system currently handles all the games you want to play i'd stick with it. no sense in upgrading parts for games that have not been released yet. parts are just going to get cheaper the longer you wait.
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post #11 of 21 Old 05-25-2012, 05:24 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RedSwirl View Post

It's a five-year-old system with the following specs:
Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 3.2GHz
3GB RAM
HD6840 1GB VRAM (I added this a year ago)
Vista 32bit
Also, I'd like some suggestions for a wireless USB mouse and keyboard regardless.

Q6600 is the first consumer quad-core CPU to come from Intel; widely regarded as one of the best.
It will still be good enough to run newer games.
You will get better value by upgrading your RAM and changing from Vista to 7.

Logitech Mediaboard - $30 Comes with a touchpad like a laptop, no side number pad. Requires Bluetooth.
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post #12 of 21 Old 05-25-2012, 05:36 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Zon2020 View Post

Of these the one that might ever get used again is the "weakest" one - the E8400 Insprion - which might see life again as a server if I ever get the time and motivation to play with setting it up.

That E8400 is probably faster than the Q6600, since it is a Wolfsdale, as opposed to 6600 which is a Conroe core. The Wolfsdale is much more capable.
I run an E6300 Wolfsdale (2.8 gig, not the older E6300 Conroe 1.86 gig) in my HTPC, and works outstanding, hasnt given me a single issue.
And to the OP, if your Q6600 is running 3.1 gig, it is overclocked. The stock speed is 2.66.
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post #13 of 21 Old 05-25-2012, 06:25 PM
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I'd stick a 120G ssd in it and leave the rest of the Q6600 pc alone -htpc or workstation. (I'd even be tempted to say stick a OCZ AGT3-25SAT3-120G Agility 3 2.5" 120GB SATA3 6GB/s and pair it with Velocity Solo pci-e board, based on a recent experience. The cloning software included is nice, and you also gain a SATA3 port. Assuming the motherboard has a pc has a sapre 1X pci-e slot.) There's lots of deals on the OCZ ssd drives right now, and after the rebate, locally, that 120Gb ssd is $95.

The E8400 is pretty much on par with the Q6600. Been there, done that "upgrade".


Zon, that E8400 Inspiron should become an Unraid media server!
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post #14 of 21 Old 05-25-2012, 07:04 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jdcrox View Post

That E8400 is probably faster than the Q6600, since it is a Wolfsdale, as opposed to 6600 which is a Conroe core. The Wolfsdale is much more capable.
I run an E6300 Wolfsdale (2.8 gig, not the older E6300 Conroe 1.86 gig) in my HTPC, and works outstanding, hasnt given me a single issue.
And to the OP, if your Q6600 is running 3.1 gig, it is overclocked. The stock speed is 2.66.

Just using Passmark as a rough measure, the E8400 is 2222 and the Q6600 is 2970. The E8400 is almost identical to a current Celeron G530 (2273).

The E8400 is newer, but it was a lot lower level (and cheaper) chip than the Q6600. That's why my wife had the E8400 and I had Q6600 and Q9400 systems .

Oh, and actually the stock clock speed on a Q6600 is only 2.4ghz.
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post #15 of 21 Old 05-25-2012, 07:08 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tedd View Post

Zon, that E8400 Inspiron should become an Unraid media server!

Well it should be a server of some sort. I need to start reading Assassin's server guides.

First I need to finish my new desktop build this weekend.
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post #16 of 21 Old 05-25-2012, 08:18 PM
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and / or www.lime-technology.com

I'm mid desktop upgrade currently too. Stock i7 930 to 4 Ghz oc with Corsair H100. Another 12G of ram to 24G, and do a ram disk. Second ssd for swapfile. 5850 to a 6850. Should be excellent bang for the buck. And wih the right 8 ram slot mobo upgrade, it should transistion to a new mobo/cpu nicely, and buy me some time to see how 2011 and 1155 shake out.
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post #17 of 21 Old 05-28-2012, 01:19 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Zon2020 View Post


Oh, and actually the stock clock speed on a Q6600 is only 2.4ghz.

You are right, I still have one on an Asus P5Q Pro, but it hasnt been fired up for a few years. Too much of an energy hog for either an HTPC or a server for me.
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post #18 of 21 Old 05-28-2012, 04:12 AM
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I doubt that computer would ever come close to consuming the $ of a new mobo/cpu/ram and OS in energy as htpc.
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post #19 of 21 Old 05-28-2012, 07:54 AM
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I would repurpose it for now, see how it works for you and then go from there. It will work perfectly well as an HTPC.
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post #20 of 21 Old 05-29-2012, 12:52 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tedd View Post

I doubt that computer would ever come close to consuming the $ of a new mobo/cpu/ram and OS in energy as htpc.

My HTPC is re-purposed from SO's old computer: Asus mATX MB, E6300 Wolfsdale 2.8 gig cpu, 4 gigs DDR2 memory. All in a pretty Silverstone GD05B case. My server is from her older-yet computer, an Athlon X2 BE2300, on a Gigabyte MB. Low power, plenty of ooommmmppphhh to run WHS.
So the Q6600 sits neglected.
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post #21 of 21 Old 05-29-2012, 02:41 AM
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With the $100 a Q6600 cpu commands on the used market, I have to wonder if the ram in that Q6600 will work in Wolfsdale htpc? And just how peppy would that htpc be with a ssd?
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