I've spent some [too much] time over the past few days investigating what would be best for an "HD PC" - a PC that is primarily for playback of HD and SD video files, as well as possibly HD and SD DVDs. The PC would not be used for gaming. (I myself have a satellite HD-DVR, so I don't need tuner cards.) I have built a number of PCs, and I'm familiar with what an HD TV needs to be "fed". I did read through the recommendations here and at Anandtech, and did some research and I came up with the following:
1 - An "HD PC" needs to have an HTPC case, and be living room friendly. As such, it needs to be relatively small, horizontal, attractive, cool and quiet. The HTPC case designed by Silent PC Review fits all that, is inexpensive, is manufactured by a major case company, and includes a good PS for an HD PC. So, I can't see not building it in an Antec NSK-2480 case (especially at under $80).
2 - This means a micro ATX board.
3 - An "HD PC" is not used for gaming, and not used for multitasking. In order for it to be cool, quiet and inexpensive, it needs to use integrated graphics. These days, software decoding is cheaper, cooler, and much simpler than adding a HW-assist graphics board (and then having to spend hours getting the right PDVD update that still doesn't work right.
4 - HDMI is a must. Having to buy an optional HDMI fixture just adds to the cost.
5 - The only Core 2 Duo motherboard that fits the description is Abit 190HD, but there are endless horror stories on multiple forums about quality problems.
6 - The only remaining motherboard that fits everything, is the Gigabyte GA-MA69GM-S2H
for AMD X2 dual core processors (which btw, is also a recommended board in the stickied thread and is the top matx AMD mboard in the Sept 10 revision of that thread at Anandtech, with the comment "Notes: The board is capable of full 1080p (H.264/VC-1/MPEG-2-encoded) HD DVD or Blu-ray playback with a faster processor (2.4GHz or higher)."). And, the big bonus is that the bottom line is much cheaper than Core 2 Duo motherboards and necessary fixtures. The Gigabyte board includes HDMI, Component and SP/DIF outputs installed, for under $80, as well as what looks to be the best IGP at the moment, the ATI 1250. The customer reviews and expert reviews for the board are both very positive.
In my case, I have a tradition of always buying the cheapest CPU that will fit the socket, and then waiting some months to get the $300 CPU for $40.
I do think a dual core is required, so I'm going to get the 4000+ and try OC-ing it using the Ctrl-F1 options - supposedly you can get 2.8ghz without much trouble, which should be more than enough for the 1.6 version of CoreAVC which is about to be released.
I'd be happy to hear any comments, arguments or questions, and so I decided to start a thread to consolidate discussion about this motherboard.
PS Some previous threads about this board:http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showthread.php?t=895541http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showthread.php?t=895600
PS The board has an amazing amound of support for both Legacy (old) devices and Modern devices, as it has connectors for 2 PATA (IDE) devices (cable included), 1 FDD (cable included) 2 PCI slots, PS2 mouse, PS2 keyboard, VGA monitor, Composite Video, S-Video, and Component Video, as well as HDMI 1.2, DVI-I, IEEE 1394a (Firewire), Toslink Optical Digital Audio SP/DIF, many USB 2.0 ports (4 jacks mounted), 8 channel lossless HD Audio (6 multi-purpose analog stereo jacks mounted), Gigabit Lan, 4 SATA 3.0gbs (2 cables included), 4 DDR2-800 RAM, 1 PCIe x16, and 1 PCIe x4, whew - amazing how all this fits on a micro ATX board. The board even includes headers for the other legacy devies, namely parallel and serial ports. The only thing not supported directly is a modem, which can easily get for ~$10 and install into a PCI slot if you needed to have one.Important Memory Information:
In other words, if you are buying memory, you need to check that it is either "1.8V" or that the range of voltages includes 1.8V (for example "1.8V-2.0V").
4 DDR2 DIMM memory slots (supports up to 16GB memory)(Note 1)
Supports dual channel DDR2 800/667/533/400 DIMMs
Supports 1.8V DDR2 DIMMs
(Note 1) Due to the limitation of Windows 32-bit operating system, when more than 4GB of physical memory is installed, the actual memory available for the operating system will be less than 4GB; Windows 64-bit operating system doesn't have such limitation.
If Overclocking, be sure to read:
"Appendix III. Calculating Memory Frequency when Overclocking"
( scroll down a little to "AMD Platform" section )
in the long post:http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showt...15#post8204615