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XBMC Build Help - Intel/AMD, Windows/Linux?

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 
Hi all,

The HTPC bug has bitten again and it seems like every time I am ready to jump in and start buying components, I run into something that makes me hesitate.

I want to build a PC for XBMC use. Mostly local content, DVD rips to ISO and MKV, very few if any HD rips, but would like to have something that can handle it down the road. Streaming content in the form of Hulu and other add-ons for XBMC.

I would prefer not to buy Windows 7 since it adds about $100 to the cost. This leaves me with XP SP3 (which I already have) or Linux. I know nothing about Linux and although I am aware of XBMCLive, I'm afraid it could get ugly if something needs tweaking. On the other hand, I read some forum posts saying XP may have issues with an IR remote driver.

And on the CPU front, I was leaning towards an i3 build but have read that there are some issues with DXVA/VC-1 - not even entirely sure what that means. It also sounds like an AMD-based system would be better for XBMCLive if I end up going that route. The tradeoff is (I think?) an AMD build would need a discrete graphics card as opposed to the iGPU in i3 and doesn't have support for bitstreaming. Don't think that last part is something I need.

So XBMC gurus, what would you recommend? i3/XP? AMD/Linux? AMD/XP? Wait for the new Intel and AMD CPUs that are coming out soon?

Thanks!
post #2 of 12
while i've read others are having issues with win/xbmc with coreI3/5/7s with intergrated gpu, I myself have had absolutely ZERO issues with my setup. I get DTS and DD (thats an xbmc thing though) and have no stutters at all with bluray MKVs. the one time i "thought" i had video issues, turns out that it's just the way the movie is filmed (green zone).
post #3 of 12
Thread Starter 
Anyone have any more thoughts?

Trying to determine what pros & cons are between these choices, would be interested in hearing if I am on the right track and/or missing anything. Ideally I would run XBMC Live, but may run XBMC Windows if I have trouble with Live.

Intel build: i3-540 with iGPU
Good: No discrete video card needed
Bad: 23.976 bug? DXVA problems? Not sure these even affect me since (at least in the short term) I won't be doing any Blu-Ray rips.

AMD build: AMD Athlon II X2 240 2.8GHz + GT430 video card
Good: No issues with either Linux or Win that I'm aware of.
Bad: CPU maybe less powerful than i3, but GPU makes up for it? More noise & heat than i3 alone

Cost ends up being about the same. I realize I can also add a GT430 to the i3 build but then the cost goes up even more than the comparable AMD.

What would you guys do?
post #4 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by bswiz View Post

Anyone have any more thoughts?

What would you guys do?

I would go with the i3 and try out the integrated graphics at no additional cost. Odds are that it will be fine. Worst case scenario is you have to add a discrete graphics card like the ati 5450 for about $25.
post #5 of 12
I would do the same as assassin stated above. If I didn't want to spend money on Win7 I would also give Linux a shot. The only cost is time if it doesn't work out and you will gain some additional knowledge that you didn't have before. A no lose situation.
post #6 of 12
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the input, guys.

I guess what I keep coming back to is, I could get the AMD build so much cheaper. I might even be able to skip the video card since the AMD mobo's come with ATI 42xx graphics built-in. And even if I do need to add a dedicated graphics card, it still comes out cheaper than an i3 build without a video card. So it's about $100 savings.

I want to like the i3 build better but my wallet keeps screaming AMD!

As for Win vs Linux, I've thought about this a bunch too, but in the end I think I will play it safe and go Win7 since I am comfortable with it. Plus it sounds like Linux is more picky than Windows as far as what video HW is supported in XBMC. Ex: ATI apparently doesn't work very well in Linux XBMC, but works fine in Windows. Nvidia apparently works equally well in Linux & Windows.
post #7 of 12
You will probably break even on your electric bill using an i3 in a few years. Plus you know that you don't need a video card.
post #8 of 12
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by assassin View Post

Plus you know that you don't need a video card.

Certainly not trying to be argumentative (especially since your help in the various HTPC threads has been extremely valuable to me and plenty of others!) but that's just the problem.... I don't know for sure if I would be OK without a video card.

At least when it comes to XBMC which I plan to use as the media front end, it sounds like there are some issues with hardware acceleration on the i3. The AMD + Nvidia would, I think, avoid those issues at the expense of probably a little more noise/energy consumption/heat.

Oh and the AMD CPU is probably not as powerful as the i3 but I don't plan to do anything that would really tax either CPU.
post #9 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by bswiz View Post

I might even be able to skip the video card since the AMD mobo's come with ATI 42xx graphics built-in. And even if I do need to add a dedicated graphics card, it still comes out cheaper than an i3 build without a video card. So it's about $100 savings.

Right. But the integrated GPU of the i3 has more flexibility, especially with HD Audio, than the ATI 42xx built in.

If you don't need it then go with the cheaper upfront cost.

But in the end the energy saving of the i3 likely makes this a moot point and you get a more flexible iGPU.
post #10 of 12
bswiz, I have both an AMD setup with discrete graphics card, and an i3 setup. Both work very well as an HTPC. I will guarantee within a year you will want to upgrade the video in the AMD setup. I am not familiar with the 4200 and would recommend doing a search to see if that will work for you.
Remember what we typically think will do us for a while only gets our juices flowing for something better. The extra money spent now may save you money later trying to get your system where you really want it.
post #11 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by SUBCOB View Post

bswiz, I have both an AMD setup with discrete graphics card, and an i3 setup. Both work very well as an HTPC. I will guarantee within a year you will want to upgrade the video in the AMD setup. I am not familiar with the 4200 and would recommend doing a search to see if that will work for you.
Remember what we typically think will do us for a while only gets our juices flowing for something better. The extra money spent now may save you money later trying to get your system where you really want it.

Have you ever hooked up a kill a watt meter?
post #12 of 12
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by SUBCOB View Post

bswiz, I have both an AMD setup with discrete graphics card, and an i3 setup. Both work very well as an HTPC. I will guarantee within a year you will want to upgrade the video in the AMD setup. I am not familiar with the 4200 and would recommend doing a search to see if that will work for you.
Remember what we typically think will do us for a while only gets our juices flowing for something better. The extra money spent now may save you money later trying to get your system where you really want it.

Right now my needs for a HTPC are not too fancy - no BD rips, etc. I have no doubt I will want to upgrade video if/when I get into that. But I think (and I could be wrong) I will be needing upgrades for that kind of thing regardless if I go AMD or i3, so I am thinking I might as well save the money and go AMD.

If you want to see the crazy spreadsheet I've put together, it's here (yes, I am obsessive!)
https://spreadsheets.google.com/pub?...en&output=html

Basically an i3 system with no discrete graphics costs $541. An AMD with no discrete graphics costs $443 (and this might be enough to get me by for now). An AMD with Nvidia 430GT discrete graphics card costs $503.

So what would you guys do? I understand the added power use, but I don't plan to leave this on 24/7, so that isn't a huge factor for me.
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