Custom HTPC: Novice looking for advice - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 19 Old 12-28-2012, 03:17 AM - Thread Starter
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Friends,
I’ve done some online research and came-up with the following configuration. Please let me know if you see any issues/have recommendations. Thanks.

Overall Objective
A small (fits in the TV cabinet like a full size CD player), quite HTPC that also serves as a NAS.

Specs
Case: Silverstone ML03B HTPC Case
I’ve looked at 10’s of cases. For a HTPC, this one seems ideal for my (about the size if a large CD player, can accommodate 1 ODS, 1 SSD and 2 HDD, USB 3 ports in front). Unless there is a serious flaw here, I am fixed on this one.
CPU: Intel Core i5-3570K 3.4GHz Quad-Core Processor
Good price/performance ratio and the ability to overclock. Combined with the latest Intel chipset, the 3570K will compensate for the lack of graphics card. I indent to use the stock Intel fan unless they are noisy.
Motherboard: Asus P8Z77-I Deluxe Mini ITX LGA1155 Motherboard
Selected the Mini ITX form factor because of limited space in the case. The P8Z77I maybe an overkill, so would I am open for suggestion for a comparable MB.
Memory: Crucial 4GB DDR3-1333 Memory (2 x 4GB)
Nothing special, but reliable memory for a reasonable price. I don’t think I would be needing more than 8 GB for my purposes.
Storage: Samsung 830 Series 128GB 2.5" Solid State Disk
Boot/OS Drive. This model seems has good reviews (but its pricy)
Storage: Seagate Barracuda 3.5" 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive (2 X 3TB)
These will be used for storing/serving my media in a RAID configuration (mirrored for a total of 3TB usable space).
I’ve struggled choosing between the Seagate and the ED Reds… At the end, Seagate seemed to have better reliability.
Optical Drive: LG WH14NS40 Blu-Ray/DVD/CD Writer
Need this to play media but, mor importantly, for off-line backups of critical data. Selected the LG based on reviews.
Power Supply: Silverstone Strider Essential 400W 80 PLUS Certified ATX12V Power Supply
For the case, this seems the ideal fit (especially, if the reviews indicating that this is a quite one are true.
Case Fan: SILVERSTONE SCOOL81 80mm Case Fan with Thermal Sensor (two)
I went with those for since they are quite and, with the thermal sensor, they should run and reduced speed most of the time. The caser can take 4 of these. I think 2 should be more than enough.
Tuner: Hauppauge WinTV-HVR 1850 PCI-E x1 - TV Tuner
Main purpose is to tune over the air and (possibly) basic non-encrypted cable. This seems to be the most reliable in a space that seems very unreliable. Looking for recommendations here if there are better options.
Operating System: Microsoft Windows 8 Professional (OEM) (64-bit)
There are several free options here. Also, Windows 7 maybe more desirable for a number of reasons (I am not going with it because I don’t want to upgrade later on). WHS 11 has some pluses but is orphaned at this point. I am going to gamble that Windows 8 will meet my basic needs, will continue to thrive and is the easiest to work with on the long run. I know there are many who disagree but, unless there is a massive limitation, I am fixed on this
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post #2 of 19 Old 12-28-2012, 04:04 AM
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ML03B: If you add a discrete card in future, you'd better choose a full-height case. Otherwise good.
Quote:
Good price/performance ratio and the ability to overclock. Combined with the latest Intel chipset, the 3570K will compensate for the lack of graphics card.

That's not a correct way of thinking. Processor plays little role at video playback, GPU is the most important. If you care about PQ without a discrete graphics card, AMD A10-5800K is the best choice.

Mini-ITX: ML03 has enough space for a microATX mb.

Crucial 4GB DDR3-1333: I recommend DDR3-1600 (for Intel) / DDR3-1866 (Intel, AMD). Performance improvement is not big, but they are cheap anyway.

2 X 3TB These will be used for storing/serving my media in a RAID configuration (mirrored for a total of 3TB usable space): What media are you going to store? Unless they are irreplaceable, mirror is a waste. HD video eats disk space very quickly.

Silverstone Strider Essential 400W: I think this is a good choice (I'm using it inside ML03). Its sleeveless cables are easy to handle inside ML03 (you still need an SATA power extension cable) and it is reasonably quiet (not as quiet as Seasonic, though).
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post #3 of 19 Old 12-28-2012, 04:56 AM - Thread Starter
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Thanks for you prompt response and helpful feedback...

On
Quote:
Originally Posted by renethx View Post

ML03B: If you add a discrete card in future, you'd better choose a full-height case. Otherwise good.
..
Agreed... This is the compromise I am accepting with the ML03B size.

On
Quote:
Originally Posted by renethx View Post

That's not a correct way of thinking. Processor plays little role at video playback, GPU is the most important. If you care about PQ without a discrete graphics card, AMD A10-5800K is the best choice.
...
I thought that the i5 supports Intel’s powerful HD Graphics 4000, so there’s no need for an additional graphics card for HD Video playback (keep in mind I am not using the HTPC for gaming). Its not that money is no object, but I didn't consider a less powerful CPU and and graphics card... However, space is limited and cooling/noise may become issues. Considering my purpose for this box, do you still think the CPU/Chipset combination is not suitable?

On
Quote:
Originally Posted by renethx View Post

Mini-ITX: ML03 has enough space for a microATX mb.
..
Agreed. However, several reviews I read stated that because of the limited space, using th Mini ITX will make cable/connection management easier.

On quote name="renethx" url="/t/1447897/custom-htpc-novice-looking-for-advice#post_22752577"] ML03B: Crucial 4GB DDR3-1333: I recommend DDR3-1600 (for Intel) / DDR3-1866 (Intel, AMD).[/quote] ..
Good point.

On
Quote:
Originally Posted by renethx View Post

2 X 3TB These will be used for storing/serving my media in a RAID configuration (mirrored for a total of 3TB usable space): What media are you going to store? Unless they are irreplaceable, mirror is a waste. HD video eats disk space very quickly.
..
Mostly, music, family pics/videos, etc. --thing that are not necessary easily recreated. I may attach an external drive (no mirroring) for other media --if necessary.

On
Quote:
Originally Posted by renethx View Post

Silverstone Strider Essential 400W: I think this is a good choice (I'm using it inside ML03). Its sleeveless cables are easy to handle inside ML03 (you still need an SATA power extension cable) and it is reasonably quiet (not as quiet as Seasonic, though).
..
Do you know if the Seasonic is as good a fit for the ML03? Please provide a model number. Also, is the noise reduction considerable? Since the box is sitting under the TV, noise is a huge consideration for.
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post #4 of 19 Old 12-28-2012, 06:30 AM
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Get micro ATX AsRock board for less $$$ and use the cash to get better 1866mhz memory ddr3

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"Too much is almost enough. Anything in life worth doing is worth overdoing. Moderation is for cowards."
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post #5 of 19 Old 12-28-2012, 06:32 AM
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Quote:
I thought that the i5 supports Intel’s powerful HD Graphics 4000, so there’s no need for an additional graphics card for HD Video playback (keep in mind I am not using the HTPC for gaming). Its not that money is no object, but I didn't consider a less powerful CPU and and graphics card... However, space is limited and cooling/noise may become issues. Considering my purpose for this box, do you still think the CPU/Chipset combination is not suitable?

Intel HD Graphics 2500/4000 is good for casual (i.e. most) HTPC users. But even Radeon HD 7540D in AMD A6-5400K Trinity (< $100) is better than Intel HD Graphics 4000 in every respect. Power consumption is almost the same as Intel at video playback (as for A8/A10, just downclock CPU a little bit). If you prefer Intel, Core i3-3225 is enough (the same graphics as i5-3570K). In summary,

- GPU is the only hardware piece you should consider in most video playback tasks. Simply GPU in A6/A8/A10 > Intel HD Graphics 4k.
- CPU is important in a couple of cases. For example,
# 2D to 3D conversion: A6 is a bit weak. A8/A10/Core i3 are fast enough.
# Real-time encoding (in DLNA): A8/A10/Core i3 are fast enough.
# SVP (Smooth Video Project): A10-5800K is fast enough for the high quality setting. All the other CPU+iGPU solutions are too slow. You will need Core i7 (LGA1155 / LGA2011) for the highest quality settings.
Quote:
However, several reviews I read stated that because of the limited space, using th Mini ITX will make cable/connection management easier.

Well, there are plenty of spaces above the lower part of the microATX mb; cables don't need to be fixed to the bottom of the case. smile.gif You can still add low-profile expansion cards if necessary.
Quote:
Do you know if the Seasonic is as good a fit for the ML03? Please provide a model number. Also, is the noise reduction considerable? Since the box is sitting under the TV, noise is a huge consideration for.

I am thinking of Seasonic S12II 380B (80 Plus Bronze) and G-Series 360W (80 Plus Gold). As stated above, (sleeved) cables can be placed over empty expansion slots. You won't hear noise from any of SilverStone Essential and Seasonic at a distance of 6 feet anyway.
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post #6 of 19 Old 12-28-2012, 03:52 PM - Thread Starter
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Thanks Mfusick... renethx is talking me our of the Intel configuration... Maybe you can recommend and AMD-based MB for an FM2 socket? Thanks.
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post #7 of 19 Old 12-28-2012, 04:15 PM
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APU's are rubbish. Here an i3 beats the 5800K bloody:

http://www.hardwaresecrets.com/article/A10-5800K-vs-Core-i3-3220-CPU-Review/1646/19

You buy an APU you are deliberately gimping CPU performance and upping power use too. I'd get an i3 3225. I'd never compromise on the CPU.
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post #8 of 19 Old 12-28-2012, 04:29 PM - Thread Starter
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renethx,

Thanks for the through response. So, AMD A10-5800K Trinity 3.8GHz (4.2GHz Turbo) Socket FM2 100W Quad-Core Desktop APU (CPU + GPU) with DirectX 11 Graphic AMD Radeon HD 7660D [AD580KWOHJBOX] would be a better choice than any i5 for my purposes? I am really not familiar with AMD... It sounds like their CPUs don't come with fans... any suggestions? Also, does ASUS F2A85-M PRO FM2 AMD A85X (Hudson D4) HDMI SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 Micro ATX AMD Motherboard sounds like a good compliment (notice I am moving way from mini ITX to Micro ATX)? Finally, any particular recommendation on memory? G.SKILL Sniper Series 8GB (2 x 4GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1866 (PC3 14900) Desktop Memory Model F3-14900CL9D-8GBSR seems to have many favorable reviews but I can't tell if its "low profile". Thanks.
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post #9 of 19 Old 12-28-2012, 07:09 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tiddles88 View Post

APU's are rubbish. Here an i3 beats the 5800K bloody:
http://www.hardwaresecrets.com/article/A10-5800K-vs-Core-i3-3220-CPU-Review/1646/19
You buy an APU you are deliberately gimping CPU performance and upping power use too. I'd get an i3 3225. I'd never compromise on the CPU.

What does that review have to do at all with use in an HTPC? Rene has tested these things for HTPC use. I think the APU is the iGPU chip to get at the present time.

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post #10 of 19 Old 12-28-2012, 07:15 PM
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My biggest gripe with AMD for HTPC are their *horrible drivers. I nearly pulled my hair out for 6 months before my first Intel HTPC (which had an NVidia card fwiw).

For those not using or not wanting Madvr this is potentially a deal breaker.

*(for HTPC. From what I understand they are great for gaming. Even reviewers at Anandtech have mentioned this repeatedly now for HTPC so I must not be alone).
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post #11 of 19 Old 12-28-2012, 07:40 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sammy2 View Post

What does that review have to do at all with use in an HTPC?

+1

From his various posts, it seems that Tiddles88 is a hardware enthusiasts, but knows little about video playback (as usually seen in this type of people). I just quote a reply to one of his posts:
Quote:
Originally Posted by renethx View Post

Well, there is no reason to buy a slower GPU just because CPU is better. GPU is everything in video playback, the main task of HTPC.

- Decoding is done by a decoder in GPU: UVD (AMD) / MFX (Intel)
- Deinterlacing is done by stream processors in GPU (AMD) / Media Sampler+EUs (Intel)
- Post processing is done by stream processors in GPU (AMD) / Media Pixel Ops+EUs (Intel)
- madVR (if you are interested) uses stream processors (AMD) / EUs (Intel) exclusively via Diret3D API for its complex algorithms.

So CPU plays very little role in video playback.

SVP (Smooth Video Project) is an exception, that requires both CPU and GPU power (via OpenCL). A10 is just excellent in this case (good balance between CPU and GPU, and good CPU-GPU communication via improved memory controller). None of Intel can touch Trinity.

BTW a typical CPU-intensive task related to HTPC is video encoding. In x264 encoding, A10-5800K is roughly 20% faster than Core i3.
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post #12 of 19 Old 12-28-2012, 07:41 PM
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What problems do you see in the current 12.10 driver? I have none.

Another posts of mine:
Quote:
Originally Posted by renethx View Post

Trinity GPU is a lot better than Intel GPU, not only in gaming but also video playback, even cheap A6-5400K is better than Core i3-3225. For example,

- You can choose full RGB as well as limited RGB with AMD, while you can use only limited RGB with Intel.
- AMD's 23.976Hz is much more precise than Intel's.
- Intel GPU is not supported properly by XBMC (you will use CPU exclusively at video playback).
- Even A6-5400K, $70, is better than i3-3225, $130, for madVR. (A6-5400K supports BR 3D, BTW.)
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post #13 of 19 Old 12-28-2012, 08:10 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by renethx View Post

What problems do you see in the current 12.10 driver? I have none.

New drivers seem to be better and much less buggy on my systems although I admittedly haven't tested them as extensively as you. I also haven't had near as many AMD complaints as I did even 6 months ago with people setting up and using their HTPCs using my guides (I get a ton of PMs and E-mails weekly on all sorts of topics, problems, etc). If the drivers are indeed improved for most users (meaning the average or newbie HTPC users isn't pulling their hair out with aspect ratios changing on their own, resuming in the wrong ratio, sound issues, etc which plagued some of my AMD builds in the past then its a huge step forward).

I will agree with Renethx that currently for HTPC users the CPUs are getting less and less important. For many users we are now at a time where most CPU grunt is far more than what is needed for the software and playback that most people are using (not everyone I fully understand).

With that being said I think Intel and AMD both have excellent integrated options for 1080p playback.
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post #14 of 19 Old 12-28-2012, 08:30 PM
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Originally Posted by readyemail View Post

renethx,
Thanks for the through response. So, AMD A10-5800K Trinity 3.8GHz (4.2GHz Turbo) Socket FM2 100W Quad-Core Desktop APU (CPU + GPU) with DirectX 11 Graphic AMD Radeon HD 7660D [AD580KWOHJBOX] would be a better choice than any i5 for my purposes? I am really not familiar with AMD... It sounds like their CPUs don't come with fans... any suggestions? Also, does ASUS F2A85-M PRO FM2 AMD A85X (Hudson D4) HDMI SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 Micro ATX AMD Motherboard sounds like a good compliment (notice I am moving way from mini ITX to Micro ATX)? Finally, any particular recommendation on memory? G.SKILL Sniper Series 8GB (2 x 4GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1866 (PC3 14900) Desktop Memory Model F3-14900CL9D-8GBSR seems to have many favorable reviews but I can't tell if its "low profile". Thanks.

All retail AMD APUs come with a heatsink/fan. I recommend using it first. It is very quiet at moderate load such as video playback. Make sure to select "Quiet" (or similar) in BIOS fan control (otherwise the fan may run at full speed all the time). Downclocking is also recommended. Scythe Shuriken and Scythe Big Shuriken fit nicely ML03 and is powerful enough to cool down A10 at load.

ASUS F2A85-M PRO is almighty, but consumes more power than others such as GIGABYTE (by 5-15W). My observation agrees with this review by Silent PC Review. GIGABYTE GA-F2A75M-D3H is perhaps the best bang for your buck inside ML03. Memory brand does not matter, but taller heatspreader may conflict with a low-profile CPU cooler such as Big Shuriken. I recommend G.SKILL F3-1866C9D-8GAB Ares DDR3-1866 CL9 2 x 4GB Kit, $50.
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post #15 of 19 Old 12-28-2012, 09:17 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by renethx View Post

+1
From his various posts, it seems that Tiddles88 is a hardware enthusiasts, but knows little about video playback (as usually seen in this type of people). I just quote a reply to one of his posts:

You are knowingly buying a rubbish CPU. If you need more than HD 2500 get a GT 640 or GTX 650. Why would you knowingly buy a crappy CPU? The cons outweigh the pros.
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post #16 of 19 Old 12-28-2012, 09:47 PM
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Trinity swept away all low-end / mid-range discrete GPUs, up to HD 6570, GT 630 = 440. Are higher cards such as GT 640, GT 650, HD 6670, and HD 7750 worth considering for video playback? No, unfortunately. These cards are better than Trinity in the performance of stream processing units, but are not powerful enough to execute madVR Jinc algorithm for 60fps. In other words, they add nothing over Trinity GPU in video playback. Only GT 650 Ti / HD 7770 and higher could add substantial PQ improvement over Trinity. (Of course these cards won't fit ML03.) In summary,

- Low-end section (< $100): A6-5400K is the only CPU+GPU to consider. It can do whatever Intel HD Graphics 2500/4000 does, and more (full-range RGB, more precise 24Hz/1.001, madVR Lanczos 3 + AR), except for some CPU intensive video playback tasks such as 2D-3D smooth conversion and real-time transcoding for which a 2 core / 4 thread (Intel) or 2 module / 4 core (AMD) processor is necessary.
- Mid-range section: A10-5800K is the best buy. It does everything people expect in a mid-range CPU+GPU. AMD did a marvelous job in combining somewhat failed Bulldozer / Piledriver core with powerful VLIW4 Radeon GPU. It supports SVP's high quality setting. eek.gif
- High-end: If you want better PQ than A10-5800K, go with Core i3 (non-SVP) / i7 (SVP) + HD 7770 / GT 650 Ti or higher. Don't compromise or else you will waste your money.

I am willing to discuss on this topic further if you actually own (some of) these processors / graphic cards, tested them thoroughly in various video playback tasks and found wrong arguments in my posts. Otherwise I will stop here.
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post #17 of 19 Old 12-29-2012, 06:50 PM - Thread Starter
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Renethx, All,

I want to thank you for the valuable feedback and the enthusiasm/passion for the subject matter. My inclination now is to go with the AMD configuration but I am going to give both a second look. Thanks again.
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post #18 of 19 Old 01-02-2013, 07:46 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by renethx View Post

All retail AMD APUs come with a heatsink/fan. I recommend using it first. It is very quiet at moderate load such as video playback. Make sure to select "Quiet" (or similar) in BIOS fan control (otherwise the fan may run at full speed all the time). Downclocking is also recommended. Scythe Shuriken and Scythe Big Shuriken fit nicely ML03 and is powerful enough to cool down A10 at load.
ASUS F2A85-M PRO is almighty, but consumes more power than others such as GIGABYTE (by 5-15W). My observation agrees with this review by Silent PC Review. GIGABYTE GA-F2A75M-D3H is perhaps the best bang for your buck inside ML03. Memory brand does not matter, but taller heatspreader may conflict with a low-profile CPU cooler such as Big Shuriken. I recommend G.SKILL F3-1866C9D-8GAB Ares DDR3-1866 CL9 2 x 4GB Kit, $50.

I agree with most of this. I run an A10-5700 with the Gigabyte motherboard and the GSKILL Ares RAM (although I picked up 16 GB for $55 because it was only $10 more than the 8 GB, probably overkill). The stock heatsink/fan looks to me like it might be insufficient for the A10-5800K. I personally went with the Big Shuriken 2, which was actually pretty easy to mount and dead silent. On my A10-5700 it spins at only 600rpm idle, so again probably overkill for the 65W A10-5700. It should be just fine for A10-5800K. Note that I don't downclock at all. If you downclock, then maybe the stock HSF would be sufficient as renethx mentions.

One note about the Gigabyte mobo: there is no heatsink on the voltage regulators unlike the ASUS. Silent PC review mentions that the system temp sensor is right by the regulators, and they do get a bit hot, so having a big HSF that overhangs them like the Big Shuriken might be helpful to keep them cool.
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post #19 of 19 Old 01-02-2013, 09:52 AM
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This may be changing the subject a little, but I have some feedback on Windows 8 as an HTPC. I just upgraded this week and while there are some good points, there are other limitations that are major depending on how you're interacting with the OS.

I used a Logitech Harmony 650 remote for Win 7 and it worked very well. After upgrading to Windows 8, it is all but useless. In fact most remotes will be very limited as long as they use keyboard commands. There are quite a few things that require a mouse within the new Metro UI (if you are using it). For example, you can navigate through some of the Netflix app, but can't select a TV Series season or move to the Home menu at all. In fact most apps have some sort of limiting navigation factor that can't be overcome without a touch screen or a mouse. I've heard word that the WMC remote can be configured using a registry edit to work with Metro, but I haven't tried it yet.

WMC, if you use it, should still work fine (minus third party plug ins). I haven't gotten my code to enable it yet. Still waiting....not sure why it takes 72 hours for MS to generate a code. XBMC seems to work well though I doubt all of the plug ins will work. I haven't got that far yet.

that said, if you are using a mouse/keyboard anyway you won't have a problem.

If you have an Android, get the Splashtop 2 app (for free) and you can access the UI using a touchscreen interface as if you were using a Surface tablet. I like it quite a bit and its one of the reasons I haven't reverted back to Windows 7. The other being the superior Netflix app as opposed to the buggy one in WMC.

Not much else to offer from me, it looks like everyone else is on top of hardware.
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