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Best HTPC money can buy.  

post #1 of 64
Thread Starter 
Hi,

I have decided to build the best (as at July 2000) HTPC money can buy, to serve my purpose, and wonder whether any of would want to share with me what you think the best components are. I am prepared to spend up to US$5000 if I have to.

I want to use the HTPC for DVD, TV and digital video recording. I want to be able to hook to it a digital camcorder and do some occasional video editing.

I would like to use two displays, sometimes even simultaneously, one, the large one, being a projector (Sony 10HT) and the other a std 17-19" PC monitor (being located within 5 meters from the PC). The sound would be input to a Denon receiver (AVR 3300) via the digital in.

Your suggestions/recommendations against any or all of the following components would be appreciated. It is my intention to use Win 98, initially, then upgrade to Win ME if proven convenient/appropriate.

Case
Mother board
CPU
RAM
Hard Drive
FDD
Video Card
Sound Card
TV tuner/capture card
DVD Drive
Keyboard/mouse (or other wireless control device)
Two display solution (Y cable, dual head or two cards?)

Although I am located in Australia I am prepared to purchase the right parts from anywhere in the world.

Thanks


[This message has been edited by renura (edited July 10, 2000).]

[This message has been edited by renura (edited July 13, 2000).]
post #2 of 64
Hi Renura:

___First off, are you sure you want to do this? Have you ever fdisked a new drive into 2 or more partitions, setup or updated a BIOS from scratch for maximum performance and stability, setup an MSI Master Slotket w/ its 9 set of jumpers if needed, installed any of the 3 major versions of windows with the custom install options, used Power Strip to create new resolutions, setup custom timings inside of a video drivers utilities, setup MS Office Professional 2000 including the SR-1 patch, TweakUI, or MB Monitor to watch your HW and SW environment, Live updated Win98 SE with only the update options that are needed, used msconfig for startup optimization, run Norton Utilities WinDoctor in manual so that you didn’t screw up your entire system? Do you have a B/U recovery plan (B/U software) in place just in case something gets screwed up and you have to start over? Do you know about the performance differences between the I815’s memory latencies and the BX chipset at 133 MHz? Which Duron or Thunderbird can be OC’ed on which boards and which cannot? Are you going to OC for the highest performance of all or accept the default for an also ran? This does not include the individual choices for what ASUS, Abit, AOpen, Epox, IWILL, GIGABYTE, MSI, Shuttle, SOYO, or Tyan board you want. Even your choices for the GeForce 2 GTS you will be purchasing can cause an hour or two write up for any of us and we will debate each other for the next 5 days on which is best! TV on or out of your HTPC is not a good idea just yet so you may want to save your money and purchase a Dish 6000 setup running into your Sony projector. Have you ever used a switchbox to swap form one input to the other?

___What about prices? Do you know you can pick up a 15 GB Maxtor 40+ from your local Office Depot tonight and possibly tonight only for just $85.00 after a pricematch? How about a PIII 700E for ~ $230.00 w/ a web based coupon. Do you know which CPU stepping you are going to buy? This one choice can be the difference between a great HTPC and the best HTPC. Does Australia have an Office Depot or Best Buy?

___The reason why I ask all of these questions is I do have customers that have quite a steep learning curve ahead of them and they only have to learn about the HTPC applications and utilities we are all using today. This does not include the build itself. We can discuss the options for the best HW and SW available for one of the cheapest or fastest HTPC’s on the planet and it should not cost anywhere near $5,000.00. I would suspect you could build a very good to the best system for anywhere from $750.00 up to ~ $2000.00 including 15 to 75 GB/5400 to 7200 RPM drives, TNT2 Ultra’s to GeForce 2’s, CL’s Live Value II’s or the M-Audio DiO 2496’s. Your choices today are so numerous that any BX, I815, KX, or KT platform can do exactly what you will ask of them for HT use and yet do so much more. I try to spend ~ 3-4 hours a day looking at this kind of information and I can barely keep up myself. How willing are you to go the extra mile and setup one of these performance monsters is what it really comes down to.

___I would like you to do a little research before asking the exact questions because even if I name the best components and peripherals in my opinion today, tomorrow could and most likely will be another story altogether. Choose a platform and we will help you as much as we can but blind open ended questions like yours are too broad for a detailed answer of what you are looking for. Once you have paired your choice down to a platform, I am sure most of us are willing to give you all the advice you are looking for.

___In the mean time, here is a great place to start: How about an OC’ed BX chipset using either an ASUS CUBX or an Abit BF6 for the board. I do not want to forget the brand new I815 ASUS CUSL2 as well. The MSI Master 6905 for a Slotket if needed is a good choice. An Intel PIII 700E for the CPU is a great choice as long as the stepping is correct. Micron 7E CAS2 PC133 SDRAM is one of the best. A ThermalTake GoldenOrb or a GlobalWin VOS-32 CPU F/HS Combination for CPU cooling are both good choices for low sound output or cooling performance. An EnLight 7237 M03 w/ 250 W PS or an Antec KS282 w/ 300 W PS for the cases are both decent choices. A CL’s, ELSA, or ASUS GeForce 2 GTS’ for the video cards. Live Value II, M-Audio DiO 24/96, DC Pro 2496, or even an Aureal Vortex II (although they are under CH 11 protection) for sound. You cannot go wrong with the 3COM/USR ISA HW, PCI HW, or PCI WinModem modems are all good choices. The Intel Pro 100+ NIC cannot be beat in most cases. A WD, Maxtor, Quantum, or IBM 5400 – 7200 RPM drive in 45 to 75 GB size are very nice. Pioneer, Toshiba, or a Hitachi 32-40X/6-16X CD/DVD-ROM drives are all very capable for excellent DVD playback. Sony or TEAC FD’s are as reliable as I have used in the past. MS Intellimouse w/ a Natural Pro KB is about the best available for non-IR type KB and Mouse. You cannot beat a CTX VL950 or PL9 for a 19†monitor as far as price and performance are concerned or move into a higher end Hitachi, Mitsubishi, Iiyama, or a Sony high-end monitor for the best in a PC display with cost being no object. An Extron switching device depending on what you need has been discussed here as possibly being the best. SW is another discussion for another thread as well.

___Since you are in Australia, why don’t you contact Tony Lai and have him build you one for 200.00 – 300.00 over cost if he is willing. I am sure he can do an HTPC justice given his informative posts here in the forum.

___Good Luck and enjoy your tens of thousands of combination choices ...

___Wayne R. Gerdes
___Hunt Club Farms Landscaping Ltd.
___ xcel@midwest.idsonline.com

[This message has been edited by xcel (edited July 10, 2000).]
post #3 of 64
I understand there is problem with using the Sony 10HT with HTPCs in any case. Check the DLP/LCD Projector forum.

Steve
post #4 of 64
Thread Starter 
xcel,

Thanks for the reply.

Yes I want to do this, I have already what I consider a reasonable HTPC (PIII 600, 128MB RAM, Abit Be6 MB, 20.gGB UDMA 66, 7200rpm HD,Matrox G400 Marvel, SB live Platinum,Pioneer 10x DVD drive, etc, but I want to build a better one (note my as at July 2000 comment in my post, against the word best).

No, I don't know the answers to all the technical questions you have asked, but I have built several HTPC for relatives and friends, without much hassles.

Yes, I have done some research, and I am familiar with the systems (HTPC) currently being sold by AVScience as well as others (eg DC)

Yes, I know some of the prices and expect not to have to spend $5000, BUT I would be willing to if I could find the best solutions to my needs.
For example, what would be the best solution to the need for the two simultaneous display? Two video cards, Matrox Dual Head, VGA splitters, Ycables, etc?

Similarly, what would you consider the best (for my purpose) wireless control device, a keyboard/mouse, a Pronto, something else?
And what about TV cards? etc


No I dont particularly want to overclock anything.

Platform - I have already mentioned Win 98 and possibly Win ME in the future, as for the combination of MB, CPU and RAM I am open to suggestions, although I have been reasonable happy with the Intel Piii 600, ABit BE6, PC100 RAM combinations.

No, I dont want Tony to build a PC for me, I want to do it myself.

I would be happy to hear your views on what you consider the best hardware components and/or software or combinations thereof (for my purpose, as my post says mostly for DVD, TV and video recording/editing)


Steve Dodds,

I don't have a problem with the Sony 10HT.

Thanks



[This message has been edited by renura (edited July 11, 2000).]

[This message has been edited by renura (edited July 11, 2000).]
post #5 of 64
Hmmm. It's a cliche, but in the PC world, "best" really depends on how you define it. Do you want the quietest system, or the fastest? I value quietness over speed, since software DVD decoding doesn't require much CPU and I don't play games on my HTPC, I just use it for music and movies. When listening to music, I don't like to hear the sound of hard disks churning or fans spinning, and I don't have space for a soundproof cabinet.

The good thing about quiet components is they're also rather cheap. For a quiet system, I'd recommend _Coppermine_ PIII550 or PIII600 - they have very low power requirements and the lowest heat dissipation of any processor. Note you muse get Coppermine, not Celeron, which are hot and hungry.

ASUS CUBX is an excellent motherboard (don't use the added UDMA/66 chip, though). Use a 5400rpm drive - they spin up much faster, and are much quieter than 7200rpm drives, plus they're cheaper. I think Seagate has just brought out an extremely quiet 5400rpm drive.

Make sure you get a power supply that supports suspend-to-RAM, as this is one of the nicest features of the CUBX (NB: the UDMA/66 chip interferes with this feature, so don't use it).

I know GeForce II has much lower power requirements per MHz than the original GeForce, but they run them at a faster clock speed, so I'm not sure which is cooler/quieter overall.

If you want the best system for playing games on your HTPC, then it's a totally different ballgame, of course. Wish you lots of luck.
post #6 of 64
Thread Starter 
Carl,

Thanks for your comments, they are very valid.

I too appreciate quietness, but of course I would not want just that without smooth DVD playback for example.

I agree that "best" is very relative to the purpose for which you want to use the PC for.

As I said in my post, it is a HTPC that I want, not just the fastest PC.

To me a HTPC must serve predominantly one purpose and that is be a Home Theatre PC, which I would define as a PC that has the ability of delivering good Audio-Visual performance, in particular in relation to playing DVDs and audio material (like Audio CDs, MP3, etc).

I guess the best HTPC would not necessarily mean the fastest CPU or the biggest RAM or the quietest HDD, but more like the optimal balance between all of the characteristics necessary for a HTPC.

Maybe as you say I should define a bit more what I would wnat. Well here is some of the things that I consider important characteristics of each component:

Case - well built, attractive enough to display next to high quality Hi-Fi equipemnt, with large enough power supply to support required components and low noise fans.

Mother board - Reliable, softmenu, capable of supporting the required CPU, RAM and having at least 1 AGP and 4-5 PCI slots

CPU - Reliable and fast enough to support smooth DVD playback

RAM - fast and large enough to enable the above, as well as allowing video, sound editing

Hard Drive - Reliable, silent and fast enough to allow smooth live video recording and playback, large enough to containg 2 hours of unconpressed video

FDD - reliable and to match casing

Video Card - capable of delivering the best live video images possible on a PC, easy to use and capable of supporting custom resolutions, capable of supporting multidisplays, possibly having video inputs (digital) DVI or firewire.

Sound Card - capable of delivering the best sound currently possible on a PC, with digital in and out as well as analog in/out.

TV tuner/capture card - depending on the features of the video card, this could just have the best tuner available (both analog and digital), or have also the DVI/firewire inputs, if not a feature of the video card.

DVD Drive- matching the case, fast and accurate enough do deliver good DVD playback as well as audio CD playback.

Keyboard/mouse (or other wireless control device)- easy to use, with a range of 5m minimum, attractive and large enough to allow some typing.

Two display solution (Y cable, dual head or two cards?)- as per original post.

Hope this gives more of an idea of what I would like to build.

Thanks
post #7 of 64
Hi renura. After reading your latest post, I'd say my original comments were all valid. You'd be surprised how low the requirements are for watching DVDs and playing MP3s. Any modern PC is up to the task CPU-wise.

For DVD playback, a 550MHz CuMine PIII processor + GeForce is more than plenty (I use 300MHz PII), and it'll mean your system will be very quiet. For storage, go with the new Seagate ultra-quiet drive. It's designed specifically for digital video recording (they're OEMing them to people like TiVO). For DVD drive, get the cheapest you can find as long as it supports DMA - all DVD drives are perfectly good at reading DVDs - the only thing you need is DMA support, which 99% of all drives have. For sound card, get the DC Pro 24/96 from Digital Connection. It's not perfect (no 6-channel analog out), but it's the best I've seen so far. The video card is the only thing we're your going to have to spend serious $ - if you want DVI, the only choice is the Guillemot Prophet II, which is a very expensive card (I know - I just bought one). It's the only GeForce card I know of that supports DVI. It's also one of the fastest video cards in the world. Oh yeah, and get the ASUS CUBX, clocking it at 133MHz, with some name-brand 133MHz RAM. This is what I'm running - it is rock-solid, and the power management and thermal support work beautifully (very hard to find).
post #8 of 64
Thread Starter 
David, Carl,

Thanks for the comments. I appreciate your suggestions.

David, indeed it is through experimenting that arrived at my first HTPC, and yes I have already given away some of the parts I no longer require. It will probably happen all over again!

Carl, I think you are right in a number of respects, however I don't find it that easy to get the right components.

For example, even a simple thing like the DVD drive, you have to find something that not only works well but also matches the PC case to go into.

As for vidoe cards, will your Geforce support two displays? (a projector and a monitor simultaneously), how easy is it to make (or even support a wide range of) custom resolutions.

Thanks for the suggestions, keep them coming
post #9 of 64
Hi All:

___The issue of gaming and DVD playback are very closely related. If it were not for the gaming industry pushing video card manufacturers for faster and higher quality displays, I believe we would all be using a normal STB DVD player with its rather poor capability today.

___As for Carl’s statement “If you want the best system for playing games on your HTPC, then it's a totally different ballgame, of course.†Unfortunately nothing could be further from the truth. A fast system at incredibly cheap prices is at your hands for almost the same cost. A PIII 500E retail with its included Intel spec’ed CPU F/HS combination is only $30.00 less than an OEM 650E and a ThermalTake Golden Orb CPU F/HS combination. The 650’s will run into the 865 to 910 MHz range without much of a sweat given the proper stepping and surrounding components will perform at this frequency while being quieter than the Retail 500E with its much louder Intel Retail Fan/HS. Maybe you did not know that if you purchased the retail CPU with its included F/HS combination that you actually have a louder setup? The last CPU to not use a F/HS combination was I believe the Pentium 166 I saw in some IBM machines a few years ago. Now that was quiet! Given the awesome performance of the Pentium 166, I do not believe that they could do DVD playback via any software player today. (Yes, I am kidding a bit here http://www.avsforum.com/ubb/wink.gif). I have seen both Dell and Gateway boxes w/ ducting for the PS fan to draw air across the CPU’s attached heatsink (no fan included) for a relatively quiet setup. Unfortunately even for Dell and Gateway, the fastest performers in their lineup are now using F/HS combinations for cooling of the CPU’s. I am also sure that you would like to be using a silencer case fan in any HTPC or would you really consider not using one because it adds to much noise? A case fan will possible add longevity for all of your components and peripherals but the biggest noise producer in your system is the PS’s internal fan if you have used the previous combinations as described above. A HD once spun up produces so little noise in either an insulated or non-insulated case that you will have a hard time hearing it at all if it is running. The Maxtor 7200 RPM 30 GB 40+ performance HD in my PC does not make an audible noise that I can tell during DVD playback and this is even when I am testing players to my monitor with my case open. The DVD-ROM drive had a higher dB output than any of the hard drives I currently have in my systems. Did you also know that the Nvidia line of GeForce cards were designed as gaming platforms first and foremost? 2D rendering was maxxed out almost 3 years ago and the only thing left to improve upon was the 3D display. Guess which most used application needs 3D rendering? Gaming of course. How many of us HTPC enthusiasts are using GeForce’s for DVD playback vs. the multitudes of gamers and performance enthusiasts? Dell sells more GeForce’s in a month than all of us HTPC enthusiasts combined and by last count, most if not all of their tech’s do not know the GeForce can display such a high quality DVD display to a HD FP/RP/DVTV. Our HW comes from the Gamers and performance enthusiasts of the world first and not the other way around. If you think slower is better, wait for the next killer app (HDTV cards possibly) and you will wish that you had spent the extra $30.00 - $100.00 today instead of an entirely new system later on. Running a quick round of UnReal Tournament on your HTPC rig is a very nice benefit indeed.

___You should always choose performance for a cheaper cost if available because most of us only earn so much money. High performance and a quiet HTPC do go together as long as you choose your components wisely.

___Good Luck

___Wayne R. Gerdes
___Hunt Club Farms Landscaping Ltd.
___ xcel@midwest.idsonline.com
post #10 of 64
Sorry Wayne, but I don't understand your points. Yes, he could buy a 650 and clock it to 900MHz, but why would he want to do that? With his $5k budget, he could just buy a 1GHz CPU! That's if there was any benefit to it. My point is that a CuMine 550 is _better_ than a 1GHz CPU for Home Theater, since it runs cooler, quieter, and hence more reliably, and the performance will be 100% identical for DVD/MP3. There is ZERO benefit to having a very fast CPU for DVD playback, and some downsides (heat/reliability/noise).

I will say it again - DVD/MP3 requires VERY small processing power, as opposed to most action games, which will keep on running better and better as you add more MHz. Yes, I would definitely recommend going _without_ a case fan, since a 550MHz CPU running at its spec clock rate doesn't need one. Heck, my 800MHz CuMine runs at 30 degrees celcius, a 550MHz CuMine is going to be like a fridge.

I disagree with you on hard drive noise. I have both 5400rpm and 7200rpm Maxtor drives - the 7200rpm drives are noticeably louder, which makes sense given their specs - Maxtor rates these drives for noise, and the 7200rpm drive is rated as a much louder drive. They run hotter, they take MUCH longer to power up and come out of standy, and it gives you NO BENEFIT whatsoever with DVD/MP3, so why pay the extra money for it?

Finally, you are right that GeForce was designed for gamers, and if it wasn't for gamers we wouldn't have the card. But DVD playback uses about 10% of the GeForce's capabilities. The needs for 3D games and the needs for DVD playback are mutually exclusive - neither helps the other at all, and you can have a fantastic DVD card that is hopeless at games (eg 3DFusion) or vice-versa (eg Voodoo2 in its time).

Renura - very good point regarding aesthetics and dual head. These are the things you should be concentrating on with a HTPC. Forget CPU/RAM/MHz - they're the easy part, and almost any GeForce-equipped PC will do. Think about aesthetics, noise, ease of use, and how the system will integrate with what you've already got.

Regarding dual-head, the GeForce and GeForce 2 don't support it, but the new GeForce MX (aka "GeForce Jr") will. It remains to be seen how good the MX is at DVD, but I suspect it's probably exactly the same as its bigger brothers, so it'll probably make a good choice.

Regarding refresh rates, note that DVI is pretty new, so far I haven't read any reviews of DVD via DVI. I'm not sure how refresh rates affect DVI, if at all. I know the concept still exists, but with an all-digital connection and a digital projector (eg LCD/DLP/D-ILA), it's a totally new ballgame. Hopefully someone will post here soon with experience in this area.
post #11 of 64
Hi Carl:

___Hmmm. A 550 MHz CPU runs cooler and quieter. The Cooler part is right but a PIII 550 running at just 366 MHz runs cooler as well. So to keep your system cooler you run you would be willing to run your setup underclocked and with your current F/HS combination you are quieter how? Cinemaster will playback at 366 without a problem and MP3’s will run on a Pentium 133 platform. How does a 550 run cooler, quieter, and more reliably than an 800 MHz + CPU again? More slowly, louder and slightly more cooler is what you meant to say correct? I do not know how your louder system became quieter when underclocked, overclocked, or running at spec? I have yet to hear a frequency change in a CPU just yet …

___With his 5K budget, he could purchase 3 high performance HTPC’s and that is why I brought up this discussion in the first place. I most certainly would rather have 3 new systems that are quieter than your 2 or less.

___The MX2’s will be a great addition to our capabilities for the price for everyone as long as there drivers become more mature than the present GeForce 2 GTS’.

___Wayne R. Gerdes
___Hunt Club Farms Landscaping Ltd.
___ xcel@midwest.idsonline.com
post #12 of 64
I'll just put in my 2 cents worth with the topic of hard drives. I recommend staying away from Seagate drives, as they are the least reliable drives made on the planet, or at least in my experience. Of all the drives I have worked with, at least 60% of all the Seagate drives died prematurely (6 months or less), and Seagate is never happy to honor a warranty (and a lot of the time won't). The most reliable drives I know of are the IBM's (every one I have ever installed is still running), closely followed by the Fujitsu's. The rest are in a bunch behind these 2 leaders, with Seagate far behind the pack, of course. I have never been concerned with noise, though, until I got into this home theater thing, so I don't know which ones are the quietest, though I have noticed that 5400 RPM units have always been quieter (and cooler) than the 7200 RPM units, but that is just common sense and no big revelation there http://www.avsforum.com/ubb/smile.gif

Bob
post #13 of 64
Renura,

I just built up a new HTPC with a 850Mhz Athalon CPU, 256Mb PC133 RAM, 40Gb Western Digital 7200RPM HD, Elsa Gladiac GeForce2 video card, DC 24/96 audio card, DC low noise rack mount case, Toshiba 1002 DVD/CDRW drive, Gyromouse, 10/100 ethernet card (for DSL).

I don't think that the extra ram or faster CPU are overkill for my HTPC because I am planning on adding a HD tuner card and doing HD software decoding and HD program timeshifting as soon as products become available later this year.

I'm not into overclocking as I want the most reliable system for playing movies, and don't want to look in several places if my system crashes. Simplicity is best when you have more flexibility in your budget to just buy a faster CPU.

The DC 24/96 card is the best that I've heard for movies and music.

Digital Connection has a rack mount insulated, low noise, black case that is the best that I've seen (and heard) so far.

I had thought about going to a DVD RAM drive to have an advantage for future archiving/backups, but most models out now are only 2X for DVD playback, and I didn't want this new technology to be the weak link, holding back the rest of the speedy components, so I went with the DVD/CD RW drive.
(fighting against technoweenie urges to buy the latest cool component)

I had the PC Concepts Airboard which I liked, but would sometimes conflict with other software.

I found that I was only using the mouse anyway for movies and music, so I just got a Logitech cordless mouse which worked quite well. When I built up ths latest HTPC I got a new Gyromouse which is cool because you can just change the angle of your wrist to aim the cursor, but the Logitech mouse is probably easier to use overall.

There are many people who modify their Prontos to use Airboard commands and other system components. If I had the extra time and money I would probably set up a Pronto for my HT.

-Dean.
post #14 of 64
Oh yeah, I forgot, I wouldn't skimp on the horsepower, either, as simple DVD playing probably won't be the only duties of your HTPC in the hopefully near future. Like Wayne and Dean pointed out, HD software decoding and HD timeshifting should be around shortly, if not already, and the horsepower needed to do these tasks will be pretty hefty. It never hurts to have more than you need, and more often than not, you need more than you epected. I remember getting my first Pentium and saying to myself, "I'm never gonna need anything faster than this".....hehe.

[This message has been edited by Bob Sorel (edited July 13, 2000).]
post #15 of 64
These are good points. If you want to do something CPU-intensive (ie more than DVD/MP3, which is not CPU-intensive by today's standards), by all means get faster components. All I'm saying is that it's not needed for DVD or MP3 playback.

Note also that a DVD 1x drive performs 100% identically to the latest 10x drive when playing movies - the only benefit is when reading DVD-ROMs (eg Microsoft Encarta). There is ZERO benefit for playing DVD movies, and there will be ZERO benefit for playing DVD-Audio.

I maintain that to say that there's no downside to getting faster components is generally incorrect, since most PC components today get worse in at least one respect, and often in multiple respects, as they get faster, even without considering price.

RAM is one exception. There is no downside that I can think of to PC133 vs PC100 (except price). Every other component I can think of has at least one disadvantage as you go up the performance scale. Of course there are potential benefits to weigh against these downsides, but for some applications, and DVD/MP3 is one of them, buying only what you need as opposed to what is available makes a lot of sense.
post #16 of 64
Thread Starter 
Hi,

Its getting more interesting now.

Perhaps we can start making choices, now!

The only component that everyone seem to agree as being currently the best for the HTPC is the DCPro 24/96 sound card - OK I have put an order in, we have a sound card! (and here goes the first US$335 incl shipping and taxes)

It seems to me that some components are more critical than others for our purpose. As there are only limited choices, having sorted the issues of the sound, I think now I have to focus on the video side of things.

I am looking for a video card which by itslef or together with another card has the following characteristic:

best picture quality for DVD playback;
best TV tuner available (HDTV if ready by the time we finish this dicussion);
supporting custom resolutions;
capable of supporting a projector and a monitor simultaneously;
DVI or firewire inputs and outputs

What card or combination of cards should I buy?

Thanks for all your help, so far.



[This message has been edited by renura (edited July 13, 2000).]
post #17 of 64
Have you removed the requirement for dual-head output? If so, I recommend Guillemot/Hercules Prophet II 64Mb GTS with DVI.
post #18 of 64
Thread Starter 
Carl,

no, the requirement is still there (I just edited the post to reflect that)
although I would consider alternative solutions, if available or technically possible (eg a better quality splitter cable, or another video card)

Does the Gillemot Prophet II GeForce have DVI IN?

Thanks

[This message has been edited by renura (edited July 13, 2000).]
post #19 of 64
Carl:

___The 1X DVD drives of the past (First Generation) do not work as well as the latest (Third Generation) 4.8’s on up CD/DVD-Rom drives for DVD playback using some disks. If you do a search for a similar topic here in the forums, you will see failures of playback for some DVD’s from even the second and earlier third generation of drives by members of this very forum. That is what firmware updates and drive capabilities are all about. When purchasing a new CD/DVD-ROM drive, you will always want to go with at least a third generation and verify you have the latest firmware installed as well. These small updates in both firmware, and or layer change read capability can make the difference in being able to play or not play the latest DVD’s of today.

___As far as reliability or aspects getting worse as frequency increases, that is not correct in almost all cases today as well. Do you know the first Pentium 60’s were running a .5-micron core and you could cook your dinner on those things? If you were to lay your fingers on them, you would burn them. The latest .18-micron steppings from Intel are barely warm to the touch in some cases at frequencies running well up into the 900 MHz range. Today’s HW running at rates only dreamed about only 3 years ago is not only extremely fast but is also much more reliable. This may have more to do with the OS but more than likely, it is a matter of both HW and SW playing together properly.

___Now for the most stable MB manufactured to date for an HTPC or anything else for that matter. This would be the Intel BX chipsets on an Intel MB itself. You can have every soft menu III feature known to man for OC’ing a chipset with the Abit boards or the 3 extra USB headers with the ASUS CUBX and its huge row of CAPS but neither will compare to the stability of the standard Intel mother boards of today. These boards will not supply anything but a standard-non OC’ed frequencies and the tools are so minimal as to make the tweaker in me scream but for the most stable setup, the Intel boards are it hands down. There simply is not a more stable setup anywhere. As for the VIA or AMD chipsets, if you have an AGP card that can handle the 89 MHz AGP frequency, the OC’ed BX chipsets at 133 MHz are not only more stable than any of the 133’s, 133A’s, IronGates, or KX chipsets at their standard 100 or 133 MHz FSB frequencies today but are also much faster in most benchmarks as well. This one is going to raise a small storm here in the group ...

___Carl, sorry for being so terse with your earlier. I only had 2 hours of sleep because of some unforeseen circumstances and was extremely tired yesterday and today.

___Wayne R. Gerdes
___Hunt Club Farms Landscaping Ltd.
___ xcel@midwest.idsonline.com
post #20 of 64
How is a 550MHz CuMine quieter than an 800MHz? Don't you use smart fans? In my systems, the fan speed varies with the processor's temperature. The lower the CPU temperature, the slower the fan spins. Slower fan = quieter. I would welcome the ability to run a 550MHz CPU at 366MHz if it would mean I could get rid of the fan completely while keeping the CPU temperature reasonable - do you think it's possible with CUBX motherboard? I'm not sure it'd work, since I believe modern motherboards refuse to boot without a fan...? Maybe you could fool it somehow.
post #21 of 64
Thread Starter 
Wayne,

Thanks for your very detailed and useful posts.

Based on your experience, and assuming that ultimately I will choose to go with an Intel Cumine PIII CPU, which Intel motherboard do you suggest?

I noticed that Asus make a motherboard with a firewire port, do you have any experience with that?

Since we are at it, is there any difference between the current PIII XXX and XXXE CPUs (eg the 700 and 700E)?

Thanks again for your help.

Renura
post #22 of 64
Renura,

Do the two displays have to be simultaneous? I have 3 monitors and a FPTV, and switch between VGA sources for gaming, HTPC, and HD-DSS.
If you get a quality switcher there will be little picture degradation, although only one picture viewable at a time.

-Dean.
post #23 of 64
Hi Renura:

___There are so many posts that I would like to contribute to but I have a 5 HTPC/high performance PC order going right now. I do not have the time for a full-blown review but this mini-review should help. The Intel board you may be interested in would be the SEATTLE SE440BX-2. I am not recommending it because the difference between maximum stability and almost maximum stability with the ability to control 50 other BIOS features is maybe that the Intel board can run a DirectX game at 100% CPU utilization in a loop for 5 days vs. an OC’ed chipset running this same game in a loop for 3 days. You may never test your systems capability to this level but if you do, the Intel board will be on top 5 days later. If you were running Windows 2000 on the OC’ed but stable system against the Intel board running the same torture test using Win98 SE, the Intel board would fail first. That is how close they really are when one discusses stability.

___The reason I mention the Intel BX board in the first place is that it does have the highest stability of any BX, I810, I820, I840 chipset as well as any VIA chipset produced to day. The big problem is that it has absolutely the minimum in the extra features us tweaking folk simply must have http://www.avsforum.com/ubb/smile.gif. If you had purchased an Abit BH6 ver. 1.00, Samsung GH CAS2 PC100 SDRAM, and a PII 233 running at 336 MHz over 2-1/2 years ago (~$500.00 at the time), you could than have purchased and installed a PII 300 SL2W8 ($225.00 at the time of purchase) and run that at 504 MHz. You could have than purchased a PIII 600E and run that at 800 MHz (~ $235.00 at time of purchase) without ever changing out the Motherboard or SDRAM. If instead you would have purchased the PII 333, PC66 SDRAM, and the Intel motherboard of the time (~ $1100.00 total) you would have been stuck at 333 MHz and your system would be slower than the OC’ed Abit board at 336 MHz. If you wanted to upgrade to a 450 MHz class system at the same time you upgraded the much cheaper Abit boarded system with the PII 300 running at 504 MHz (my exact system) above, you would have had to install a new Intel motherboard, new PC100 SDRAM (probably), purchased the new PII 450 at the time (~ $900.00) and you would be running at just 450 MHz as well. You spent over $700.00 more than the Abit purchase once again and your system is still over 15% slower or more in every single benchmark or real world application you could throw at it. Ok, lets discuss your recent final upgrade to ~ 800 MHz. You again would have to purchase a new Intel MB, keep the same PC 100 SDRAM because this motherboard will not let you use the 133 MHz FSB, and purchase a PIII 800E (~ $650.00 from 3 months ago) and your system would not even come close to the OC’ed PIII 600E at 800 MHz in the original Abit MB you purchased over 2-1/2 years ago. Do you see where I am going with this? You had to purchase over $1,500.00 worth of Intel HW in actual purchase costs and you never had a system that could compete in any benchmark or real world use application you would have used in the last 2-1/2 years. I flashed my Abit BH6 just last week and low and behold, a 12.5 multiplier showed up! If Intel can keep the same pinout or make Coppermine’s into the 1.5-1.6 GHz range which could attach to a Slotket II, that old Abit BH6 with its initial $120.00 investment may still yet own the Intel equipped system in the performance category. The next Intel MB, SDRAM, and CPU you would again have to buy to achieve a 1.3 – 1.4 GHz range system is going to be another complete replacement of motherboard, CPU, and SDRAM whereas the Abit just needs a cC0 stepping FC-PGA PIIIE at 1.1 GHz overclocked to ~ 1.4 GHz if this next steeping makes it to these outrageous MHz ratings. I am speculating big time on this next upgrade but I had no idea 2-1/2 years ago that the Abit would still have been in my stable of high performance PC’s this long. There is a hitch to this next upgrade for the near to intermediate term future. This next upgrade would probably see the Abit board go out to pasture as well given that the next generation of Intel CPU’s will more than likely be the Williamette and have completely different voltage spec’s, pinouts, pull downs, and even bus widths. I do not even think a Slotket IV (if such an animal were to exist in the future) will be able to convert one of these CPU’s to work with our tried and true BX chipsets with the slot1 interface.

___Anyway, the Abit, ASUS, AOpen, MSI, SOYO … or whoever has had much longer longevity and higher performance even though they will only torture test for 3 days in a row instead of 5 like the Intel boards.

___Clear as mud and as simple as Calculus, right http://www.avsforum.com/ubb/wink.gif

___I have posted the following information at least 3 times in the last 4 months so I may as well post it again. The differences between the different PIII Katmai’s and Coppermine’s, are as follows:

The 600E and the 600EB are the same .18-micron cored "Coppermine" chips with on DIE full speed 256 Kb cache but with a different multiplier. Performance of their respective caches will be exactly the same at the same frequency. These are not the "Katmai" standard PIII's or the B series (133 MHz FSB) w/ the ½ speed 512 Kb of off DIE cache and a .25-micron core. The standard series of PIII’s have been reported to run as high as 675 MHz (but this is about the max you can achieve if you are really lucky) with the now aging .25-micron Intel cores. I am including a link to a page with the descriptions and specifications of each for your review. Here is a very descriptive link between all of "The Many Flavors Of Coppermine". The 4-way associative cache of the older "Katmai", Celeron "Mendocino" and Celeron II "Coppermine128" vs. the 8-way associative cache of the "Coppermine" is for another discussion as well.

___Have a great night.

___Wayne R. Gerdes
___Hunt Club Farms Landscaping Ltd.
___ xcel@midwest.idsonline.com

[This message has been edited by xcel (edited July 15, 2000).]
post #24 of 64
Thread Starter 
Dean,

Ideally, what I would like to be able to do is improve on what I can do with the Matrox G400 dual head already. With the two VGA outputs being able to be separately configured to deliver any combinations of resolutions one wants.

Being able to send one thing to one display and a different thing to the other display simultaneously is what I would like.


Wayne,

Thanks, once again your short reviews are long enough for me!

It seems to me that I won't even bother thinking about longevity of components such as motherboards. Stability, flexibility, performance and compatibility with the rest of the components is what I am looking for.

It will probably sounds strange, but I have decided to choose the motherboard after I have chosen other components (like video card, sound card, CPU, hard drive, etc), but I guess its just designing a house to accommodate the furniture, rather than design the house and furnish it later.

Renura
post #25 of 64
In my limited experience, Intel motherboards are very good, but ASUS is even better. After reading everything here, I still recommend ASUS CUBX. It's the best MB I've ever bought, and I've been very, very happy with it from all perspectives. Note that you do NOT want a PIII600 (0.25 micron) - the 600E is better in every way (0.18 micron), and the 600EB adds 133MHZ FSB (still 0.18 micron but faster if your chipset can support it). Officially 440BX doesn't support 133MHz FSB, but CUBX lets you run it, and works perfectly with GeForce 2. Then again, as I've said over and over, speed isn't important in the applications you've listed so far, so I'd recommend buying an EB but running it at 100MHz FSB.

I don't think there are any video cards out there that have every feature you want. So it's either compromise now or wait for GeForce MX or ATI Radeon or Matrox's next generation and see if any of those get closer to the mark.
post #26 of 64
Hi Carl:

___Any of the recent BX chipset board designs will allow you to 133 MHz and higher. The problem being is the OC’ed 89 MHz AGP frequency at that FSB. The ASUS stability is good, but if you are not OC’ing like you obviously are not or are you w/ the 133 MHz FSB on a BX chipset, the Intel board will be the board of choice because of its greater stability. This is without taking into consideration its lack of features of course. If you plan to OC, you have a multitude of choices and each will have their pro’s and con’s as well. Having just built an ASUS CUBX in an OC’ed system last week, I do not agree that it is the best MB to place in your system today for OC’ing. It is a great board but I found some instability at 133 – 140 MHz that neither my Abit BH6 ver. 1.1 nor my Abit BF6 had w/ an ELSA ERAZOR X2. As for the EB you recommended, this is not what anyone would want to purchase and run at 100 MHz FSB. If you were to purchase a 600EB w/ its 4.5 multiplier, you would be running your system at 450 MHz at the non-OC’ed std. 100 MHz FSB. This is just not enough in some circumstances to playback all DVD’s without 100% CPU utilization and the accompanying frame skips. This is why you would choose the 600E in this case if you wanted just 600 MHz of 100 MHz FSB performance. There are some video cards that just cannot run at 89 MHz AGP frequency stable in an ASUS CUBX as I found out last week.

___Good Luck

___Wayne R. Gerdes
___Hunt Club Farms Landscaping Ltd.
___ xcel@midwest.idsonline.com
post #27 of 64
I ran into precisely the situation that Wayne mentioned when I was constructing my HTPC. I purchased an Abit BE6 2.0 motherboard, PC133 RAM, and an Intel 600EB, but all I had hanging around for a video card at the time (just to test out the PC) was an old piece of crap Velocity 128 AGP card. When I tried running the PC at 133 mhz FSB, the video card could not handle the inceased AGP bus speed, thus giving me no video at all. I then throttled the FSB back to 100mhz, and the video came up fine, but the 600EB was only running a 450 mhz, as Wayne has already mentioned. Once I put my CL TNT 2 Ultra card, and then later my Elsa Gladiac GeForce 2, I could then pump the FSB back up to 133 mhz in order to run my CPU at its full rated 600 mhz speed, and these two video cards had no problem running on the increased AGP bus. The point here is that, yes, you can run a BX chipset (or at least the Abit versions) at 133 FSB as long as you have the opportunity to test your video card to make sure that it will handle the increased AGP. Also, if you use the 600E instead of the 600EB, you will have the opportunity to OC up to 800 mhz (if I understand this correctly), should you wish to push your FSB up to 133 mhz.

Wayne, now that I bought the "wrong" components, is there any way that I can OC my 600EB, or am I stuck at 600 mhz? I know I could replace either my motherboard or my processor, but I was hoping that there would be a way around my current limitation. Anyone want to swap a 600EB for a 600E? http://www.avsforum.com/ubb/smile.gif
post #28 of 64
Hi Wayne. No, I'm not talking about OC'ing, I'm talking about UC'ing - yes, running a 600EB at 450MHz is exactly what I meant, and I think it'd be an ideal solution for what renura wants. I've never seen my 300MHZ PII skip a frame, so I don't see how a 450MHz PIII could possibly be a problem, and it'd be as stable as it gets. You'd have no problems with AGP compatibility, that's for sure - every component would be running at or under its maximum rating, and we all know those ratings are pretty conservative to begin with.

I'm not sure why OC'ing keeps on coming up in this thread - the question being asked in this thread is, what's the best PC for DVD with a $5k budget? With such a large budget for such a simple task, I don't see how OC'ing can even enter into the equation. Don't get me wrong - I think OC'ing is really great for getting the most speed/$ possible. But that's not the issue here, is it? Just because it can be done doesn't mean it's the best solution for every problem.
post #29 of 64
Carl, regardless of my budget for any given project, I always try to get the best value for my money, being a frugal (or in my case, cheapskate) consumer, and that is why I mention OC'ing. No matter what CPU I would choose, I would like to push it to the max, to squeeze every drop of performance from it. Sure, if I run the CPU at its rated speed, or if I actually underclock it, it will probably last 5 years, but do I really think that I would WANT to use the same CPU 5 years from now? By then we will probably running 10 ghz processors and my lowly 600EB will be comparable to what a 386 is like now. If I had a $5000 budget for a HTPC, I would try to get $10,000 of value from it, not just settle for a "good, stable" unit. Every person is different in this respect, though, so each individual should evaluate his situation and determine what is best to suit his personal needs. If you treasure the conservative appoach, then underclocking is great. If you are a hot rodder like myself, then you go for the gusto.
post #30 of 64
Does anyone in this thread have any idea what I'm talking about? Someone - anyone? It's pretty frustrating to post the same thing over and over and over and just to get the same misunderstanding everytime. I'm saying that sometimes slower components are BETTER than faster components! That for a lot of purposes, an adequate system is BETTER than a very fast system because it's quieter, cooler, and more reliable, let alone cheaper. And if that's the case, then it's NOT better value to overclock, since then you DECREASE the value of the system. Does no-one here agree with me on this, even in theory? Should I just give up and move on to some other topic?
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