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Looking for Some Build Advice

post #1 of 25
Thread Starter 
Let’s get this out there first, I am a HTPC noob. I’ve always wanted to build my own pc, and the prospect of having a machine that will store the 350 or so DVDs I’ve collected, stream Netflix, and act as a DVR, and maybe eventually be able to handle some light gaming all with a slick interface has got me more than a little excited. I am slowly trying to piece together everything I need for this build. I’ve been basing my choices primarily on the recommendations offered by Assassin and will be using the guides on his blog to help me through it all. I’m trying to build a system that will give me the best possible video/audio and be somewhat future proof (maybe resistant is a better word). This is what I have come up with so far:

- Silverstone Tek GD05B-USB3.0 Aluminum/Steel Micro ATX Case
- ASRock Z77 Extreme4-M LGA 1155 Micro ATX Intel Motherboard
- Intel Core i3-3225 Dual Core Processor 3.3 GHz 3 MB Cache LGA 1155
- Samsung 840 Series SSD 120GB SATA III TLC 2.5-Inch
- Seagate Barracuda 3 TB 7200RPM SATA 6 Gb/s 64 MB Cache Bare Drive
- G.Skill Sniper Series 8GB Dual Channel Memory Module
- LITE-ON 8MB Cache SATA Bluray Burner with 3D Playback iHBS212-08 LightScribe Support
- Antec NEO ECO 400C 400W Continuous Power ATX12V 2.3/EPS12V 80 Plus Certified PSU ???
- Ceton InfiniTV 4 PCIe – 4-Channel Internal Cable TV Tuner Card

Display is a Pioneer PDP-5080HD (1365 x 768 resolution)

Some questions I have:

1. First, thoughts on choices?
2. I know people say they don’t seem to notice dropped frames, but I know that will bug me. With the above setup, will I need a discrete video card to eliminate any chance of this and if so, which one?
3. It’s getting hard to find Windows 7 for cheap, what are your thoughts on Windows 8? I haven’t decided between XMBC and WMC yet, and will probably want to play with both. I will also want to be able to use a remote (Harmony One) to control it all. What about software like Media Browser, MadVR, FFDShow, Shark007codec and the like? Will they play nicely with Windows 8 or will they not be needed? To those who have used Assassin’s guides, will I still be able to follow along without issue?

I apologize for all the questions, but with work, Christmas approaching, and 2 young boys and a very pregnant wife at home, I haven’t been able to devote time to finding definitive answers to some of the questions I have.

Thanks in advance for any advice.
post #2 of 25
Thread Starter 
post #3 of 25
Looks OK to me although I would question the need for a 7,200 rpm disk - a 'green' 5,900 or 5,400 rpm would be quieter and run cooler. You might also consider replacing the stock Intel fan with a Scythe Shuriken for quietness. Bear in mind that WMC TV will result in the disk being more noisy seeking during recording. If you are concerned about dropped frames and want to play with MadvR + LAV + Reclock you will need a discrete video card, something like a Nvidia GT430 should be fine given your TV is 1280x720. No experience of W8 but installs of previous versions says avoid it unless you have to, at least until the first service pack is released!

Follow the Assassin guides but if you are going down the MadVR + Reclock route I would stick to the LAV filters and not bother with the Shark codec's.
post #4 of 25
Thread Starter 
The only sub-7200 RPM 3 TB drive I could find is the WD Green, which I haven't read great things about. My system will be in a closed cabinet so noise is not a huge priority, but I definitely don't want to hear it constantly seeking. While noise isn't as important for me, heat is a greater concern so maybe I'll do some more research on that one. As for the OS, I think I'm just going to stick with Windows 7. It's what I know and what I'm comfortable with, and I don't think I need to make my learning curve any steeper by throwing Windows 8 into the mix. I was hoping that Ivy Bridge and the on-board HD4000 graphics would get me by, but the video card you suggested is pretty cheap. I definitely have more reading to do about the MadVR + LAV vs Shark. I have a lot to learn still.
post #5 of 25
Consider W7 Pro because it allows you to remote desktop in to make tweaks. There is also a small application called RDP Clip which can allow you to remote desktop in even using W7 Home but its main advantage is allowing you access to the HTPC even when it is being used by someone else - multiple log ins.

In my experience the best way to build a HTPC is from the outside in. Most people seem to start with with the processor and work around that but it usually ends up with compromises. Firstly work out how much room you have in your cabintet and go for the biggest case you can accomodate because big cases = better and quiter cooling. If you have a big case go for an ATX board as it will give you room for a big/quiet CPU fan and you will have plenty of space to dress the PSU leads to facilitate air flow. It also means you can install multiple cards (Graphics and TV receiver) with space between them. MadVR is changing and its GPU requirements are increasing so you might consider a GTX650Ti but these are all double width so are a bit of a challenge to get into a microATX build. A more powerful video card will also run quieter because it will never be stressed. My previous HTPC build used a Moneaul 320 half height case with a fanless PSU, microATX, silent cased 2.5" HDD, SDD, TBS sat card and Sparkle passively cooled GT430 but it needed 3 x 40mm case fans so the noise became noticeable. When I started playing with MadVR the GT430 went up to 95c and closed down on some interlaced material. It then occurred to me I had lots of space in the cabinet so I bought a big Origen AE SV16 case and moved everything across but installed a GTX 650Ti. Whilst the case has lots of empty space the 80mm fans are quiet and the GTX650Ti fan never goes over 900rpm/45C even with MadVR running Jinc and I have almost totally silent HTPC; in fact the fans from the 65" Viera plasma are more noticeable.

Incidentally I decided to use a 1Tb 2.5" drive in a Grow-Up Japan HDD silencer for TV because the seek clicking during recording was intrusive. Not cheap (same price as the HDD) but superb!
post #6 of 25
Thread Starter 
Wow, so it's a whole new ballgame if you want to jump into MadVR? I was under the impression that a $50 GPU would be enough, but that is apparently some dated info. Quickly looking over at the Doom9 forum, it sounds like a GTX 650Ti would be bare minimum. Is it worth it? Video quality does mean a lot to me, but this could be a couple hundred dollars more that I didn't plan on. Anyone know if I'd even be able to fit that GPU in my build (see part list above)? Also, will my CPU be strong enough?
Edited by cpercival - 11/29/12 at 10:17am
post #7 of 25
Not quite, you only need a more powerful card for MadVR if you are going to use the latest upscaling settings. Stick with the older ones (Lancos, Spline etc) and the GT430 will work but if you are dealing with heavy de-interlacing consider a fan cooled GT430, although they can get very noisy. Your case will accomodate the GTX650Ti but it does occupy two slots width which means you will probably only have room for one other PCi card in there.
post #8 of 25
Thread Starter 
What do you get with the latest upscaling settings? Are they noticeably different? The absence of dropped frames is probably more important to me than resolution. The max resolution on my display is only 1365 x 768 anyway, although it will accept a 1080p signal. I might get a new display some day, but the picture I get seems better than many newer sets I see today so I don't think it will be any time soon. That being said, I would still like it to look as good as possible.
I'm not that familiar with de-interlacing technology, so I'm not sure what my demands will be. Most of my movie collection consists of DVDs, but my Bluray collection is what's growing. I will also be recording HD programming with the Ceton tuner. I'm not even sure if any of this matters.
post #9 of 25
I'd get a 1080p display first before a HTPC, if video quality means a lot to you. Big difference in the latest sets compared to the old one's.
post #10 of 25
Thread Starter 
When I was doing my research on displays a few years ago my understanding was that for the size of my display (50") and the viewing distance (10'), the human eye is unable to discern the difference between 768 and 1080. Resolution then became secondary to other qualities such as black level and color representation and depth which the Pioneer Kuro line excelled at. If I sat closer I'm sure I could tell the difference. That's why the dropped frame issue is currently more important to me. I definitely would be able to see that from across the room. Also, a collection of close to 400 DVDs and Blurays takes up a lot of room, even when they are stored in Case Logic books. And forget about trying to keep them organized. Also, I get frustrated with the limited storage space on my Charter owned DVR.
Edited by cpercival - 11/29/12 at 12:43pm
post #11 of 25
Thread Starter 
I think I've been making this more difficult than it needs to be. What it boils down to is just these two questions - will I be able to play back HD movies that look at least as good as a standalone bluray player such as a ps3 with the setup listed above and a GT430 gpu and do I need MadVR to do it? Sorry for beating around the bush.
post #12 of 25
No you don't need Madvr.

I think it is vastly overrated for 1080p/720p material in the testing that I did. I have been asking for screenshots to prove otherwise for probably a year now.
post #13 of 25
Thread Starter 
Ok, but still need discrete graphics to eliminate dropped frames and a GT430 should do it?
post #14 of 25
Originally Posted by cpercival View Post

Ok, but still need discrete graphics to eliminate dropped frames and a GT430 should do it?

No. Intel gets its as close as anyone else. Start at the end of this thread and read backwards. Lots of people getting incorrect rates and "dropped frames" with AMD/ATI, NVidia and Intel. Reportedly Ivy Bridge is even better...


The whole 24p and "dropped frames" issue is horribly overrated for *some* (and personally I think most) people.

I have been saying it for over a year now:

1. Start with the integrated graphics
2. If for any reason at all you aren't happy add a discrete card

And there you have it. The down side is extremely small with this approach.

This is all my opinion of course. smile.gif
post #15 of 25
Whilst I used Assassin's guides for my first build I have to say we diverge on this subject as my experience is that dropped frames are a problem at least on my screen, a Panasonic Viera 65"VT50, which is no slouch in the quality stakes. Unfortunately there is no easy script because it is dependent on so may variables - type of equipment, type of video material, mains frequency and individual susceptibility. Assassin says this is not a problem for him, he has not seen the effect and to stick with the simple solution but he is doing himself and potential builders a dis-service by taking that inflexible stance. Unfortunately this not something someone can capture as a still or even as a video file because it may not happen on your display. My acid test is simple - get a copy of 'Cowboys & Aliens' and watch the opening long panning shot. If the pan is smooth with no jerks you do not have a problem otherwise more work is required and that means delving into the world of MadVR and maybe Re-clock. Install and re-run the C&A sequence. There are some hugely talented people behind these developments (Nevcariel, Mindbomb, Madishi etc) who would not be wasting their time on this if they did not recognise there was problem. So plan your build to allow you to add a high performance video card when time and funds allow if you and your family notice the problem - here I am back in agreement with the venerable Assassin!
post #16 of 25
There are "jerks while panning" in the movie theater as well.

This has been debated before many times.

I didn't say it didn't exist. Just that many people don't see it, or see it and don't care, or see it and aren't affected by it. Thus, I think it's overrated. There are many many many people not running perfect 23.976 who are 100% satisfied with their htpcs.
Edited by assassin - 11/30/12 at 4:15am
post #17 of 25
Thread Starter 
I think I'll do exactly that. I'm guessing I might have the check out some gpu power requirements to make sure I'm covered there. I think I read somewhere that madvr is very gpu dependent and does not rely on the cpu that much so hopefully I'm all set there. Does faster memory make a difference at all? The motherboard I picked will accept ddr3 2800.
post #18 of 25
There is also a ton of misinformation about the actual power usage of graphics cards.

Here is a good reference.

post #19 of 25
Thread Starter 
I will check that out. Thanks for all the help.
post #20 of 25
You are completely over thinking this whole thing. I built an i3 Sandy Bridge PC about a year ago using Assassin's guides. I chose the LAV filter route and playback is absolutely perfect. I have a Pioneer plasma just like yours and it accepts a 1080p signal without issue. There are no "dropped frames" or stuttering whatsoever. The good news about having a Pioneer TV is that your regular DVD's will look like Blu-Ray anyway. Save your money on the graphics card, go buy some popcorn and enjoy the show.
post #21 of 25
Originally Posted by assassin View Post

No you don't need Madvr.
I think it is vastly overrated for 1080p/720p material in the testing that I did. I have been asking for screenshots to prove otherwise for probably a year now.

I've fooled around some on my desktop with it but its hard to tell on my Samsung 1200p 27" monitor. I think the monitor was bad representation of what I would see on my projector.

I used my i7 desktop with video cards simply because its convenient to play on. It's powerful enough to use all settings.

I basically came to conclusion that unless I upgrade my displays to be compatible with high end settings its not going to do much for me.

So if I run into abundance if extra $$$ and find myself with a high refresh rate modern higher end display I'll retest.

It was interesting but seemed a high end thing that wasn't worth effort on my modest consumer displays.
post #22 of 25
Originally Posted by assassin View Post

There are "jerks while panning" in the movie theater as well.
This has been debated before many times.
I didn't say it didn't exist. Just that many people don't see it, or see it and don't care, or see it and aren't affected by it. Thus, I think it's overrated. There are many many many people not running perfect 23.976 who are 100% satisfied with their htpcs.

I'd say 99% wouldn't notice the difference unless they read something here and looked for it.
post #23 of 25
Bear in mind the bigger the display the more you are likely to see or notice dropped frames and once you do see them your eyes will be drawn to them forevermore! But it should not happen and it is only there because of the indifference shown by Intel, Nvidia and AMD. If stand alone Blu-ray players or media players had this problem it would be fixed immediately but the Video card makers are only interested in gamers. A cheap Sigma SMP8911 Dual-Core 800Mhz with VXP Video Processor chip can do the job perfectly as witnessed by $150 Popcornhour media players and I never witnessed any dropped frames on mine regardless of what I threw at it.
post #24 of 25
I watch on 92" DLP projector with integrated graphics from my 3570k CPU and its never bother me. HTPC is my primary viewing device other than live sports.
post #25 of 25
Two things - you are on a different mains frequency to me - 60hz vs 50hz - which is another intervening variable, and secondly it does not bother you so it is not a problem. It is the same with fluorescent tubes and conventional light bulbs, some people can see the flicker and it bothers them, others are immune.
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