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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have a little problem. My shiny new projector arrived last week, and while the picture from my workhorse Pioneer DVD player is good, I now find myself lusting after a cleanly scaled HTPC driven DVD player and video scaler.


This being said, I really don't feel like dropping 2-3K on the ultimate HTPC. Stability, ease of configuration, and noise level are all issues, as are SPDIF output, and reasonable video input. I'll also be assembling this myself, to make sure I've got all the right components. Initially, I'll be sticking to NTSC/PAL material, but a reasonable upgrade path to HDTV is also key.


Taking all of this into account, I've come up with the following, which I should be able to put together for about $900.


- Intel 1Ghz PIII / 133mhz FSB

- AOpen i815E Motherboard

- 256MB of PC-133 SDRAM

- 40GB IBM Deskstar UDMA/100 HD

- Pioneer A106 Slot-Loading DVD drive

- ATI Radeon All In Wonder AGP video card


Based on the experiences of people here, does this look like a reasonable HTPC setup? Any serious performance issues people can warn me about? I initially discounted an Athalon system due to rumblings about incompatibilities with the ATI video card, but has this changed recently, and could I build a similar system at the same price point?


I'm not concerned about this system being good for more than 12-18 months, as I'm planning on replacing it about once a year anyway.


Thanks for any input.


DB


[This message has been edited by otaku (edited 05-12-2001).]
 

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The Pioneer Slot Load DVD drives are supposedly very loud. Toshiba's and Asus's are supposedly the quitest. With the 1 GHz PIII, make sure you use good CAS 2 memory as recommended by Xcel in : http://www.avsforum.com/ubb/Forum12/HTML/004647.html


I tried CAS 3 memory (had some lying around) in my 1 GHz PIII/ASUS CUSL2-C and had all sorts of problems. When I installed Micron 7E CAS2 PC133 SDRAM, everything worked perfectly.


I would agree with your decision to stay away from AMD for HTPC. The one recuring theme I see in all of the forums I read is problems with DVD playback and AMD setups. You probably can get an AMD solution to work, it could just take alot more time and I don't think the money saved is worth the headaches and my time.


------------------

Greg


[This message has been edited by Mad Chemist (edited 05-12-2001).]Textf>


[This message has been edited by Mad Chemist (edited 05-12-2001).]
 

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I just built a similar system and am very happy with it - I used a CUSL2C MB. No problems with CAS3 memory.


I did find a very quiet M1212 6x Toshiba DVD here - http://www.teamexcess.com/

- as a bonus it is region free!
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Good reminder on CAS2 memory. That's about all we buy at the office, and what I was planning to use in this machine.


Major bummer about the noise on Pioneer slot load drives though. It's nice not to have the tray, but I'll live with it for less noise. The Toshiba Drive at Team Excess sounds good though. I'll have to order one on monday.


Thanks.


DB.
 

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AMD setups are ok as long as you steer clear of the Via chipset motherboards. My HTPC is running on an older slot based AMD750 motherboard and works fine with everything and is stable for weeks on end. Its running Win2k, GF2-MX, and a AP2496. The newest comparason to this would be the new AMD760 chipset motherboards for the socket-a cpus. You'll be using DDR with those, but there are already several good models out by Gigabyte, Asus, and FIC.


Hopefully Via will figure all this out and put out a decent chipset, as they are the premier supplier of chipsets for the AMD cpus.
 

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I am a newbie, but here is my attempt, based partially on the recommendations of others here. The prices include shipping.

Code:
Code:
$165.53 AMD Athlon Thunderbird 1200 MHz 266MHz FSB OEM (www.atacom.com)
  $19.00 3DFXCool Socket-AHO cooling heatsink and fan (www.3dfxcool.com)
 $185.54 ASUS A7M266, AMD 761 chipset, DDR memory (www.atacom.com)
  $89.99 1 x 256 MB PC2100 DDR Memory (www.crucial.com)
  $93.00 ATI Radeon LE *with* TV-out (www.newegg.com)
  $89.62 WinTV Radio Hauppauge 401 (www.buy.com)
 $159.00 M-Audio Audiophile 2496 (www.digitalconnection.com)
  $23.65 Promise Ultra66 IDE controller (www.buy.com)
 $137.91 40GB IBM 60GXP IDE drives (www.gogocity.com)
   $5.95 Ultra IDE 66 cable (www.buy.com)
  $70.92 Toshiba 12X/40X DVD/CD (www.gogocity.com)
  $36.43 Intel Pro/100 S PCI network card
 $125.00 Quiet Black MidTower with 350W Enermax PS (www.digitalconnection.com)
  $54.00 Lite-on Airboard wireless keyboard (www.digitalconnection.com)
      $0 MS Windows 98 SE (already have)
      $0 dScaler (i.e., dTV, free on the net)
      $0 ATI DVD Player (included with Radeon)
      $0 Girder
      $0 YXY
      $0 Powerstrip (shareware, actually)
--------
$1255.54

Possible Upgrades/Downgrades:

Possible Upgrades/Downgrades:
 +$45 Upgrade CPU to 1333 Mhz Thunderbird (~4% more overall speed)
  -$1 Degrade CPU to 1133 Mhz Thunderbird (~1% less overall speed)
 -$20 Degrade CPU to 1000 Mhz Thunderbird (~6% less overall speed)
 -$66 Degrade CPU to Athlon 850 MHz 200MHz FSB (~28% less overall speed)
 +$62 Degrade CPU/MB/Mem to Pentium III 1000 Mhz, CUSL2 Black Pearl MB, PC133
 -$46 Degrade CPI/MB/Mem to Pentium III 800EB Mhz, CUSL2 Black Pearl MB, PC133
 -$19 Degrade CPU heatsink/fan to generic fan
 -$21 Degrade video to Radeon LE *without* TV-out
 +$87 Upgrade video to Radeon VIVO 64 MB DDR (incompatible with WinTV/dScaler?)
+$119 Upgrade video to Radeon All-in-Wonder (incompatible with WinTV/dScaler)
-$159 Degrade sound card to SB Live! X-Gamer (already own)
 +$13 Add floppy drive
 -$35 Degrade drive to 20 GB
+$103 Add additional hard drive, 20 GB
+$138 Add additional hard drive, 40 GB 
+$220 Add additional hard drive, 80 GB (Maxtor 5400 RPM)
+$119 Degrade to Hitachi GD-2500 5X/24X DVD/CD drive
 +$50 Degrade NIC with CableFree Wireless Network PCI Card (have hub already)
 -$48 Degrade case to Enlight Mid-Tower with 300W Athlon-approved PS
 +$50 Upgrade OS to Windows ME
+$179 Upgrade OS to Windows 2000
Note that a couple of the "degrades" cost money.


Which upgrades/downgrades would you take? Any other criticisms of my basic design?


My short term goal is to do DVD's at 1920x1080i and line double TiVo/DirecTV to either 480p or 1080i *and* do it better than a DVDo iScan Pro or my set's internal line doubler. My long term goal is to record HDTV, preferably from DirecTV but possibly from Dish or ExpressVu, but I have no HD box yet and I cannot get OTA HDTV where I live. It would be a big bonus if I can get the HTPC to pump out DVD video onto a composite cable for my wife's 13" TV out on the balcony for use while she smokes in addition to RGB/VGA for the HD-ready TV in the living room - double bonus if the HTPC can drive both sets at once. Stuff like MP3's, games, and websurfing are very low priorities for me.


I plan to use multiple bootable partitions. One bootable partition will be just the bare necessity HTPC stuff, while another bootable partition will have games and other non-necessities, and perhaps another bootable partition will have an alternate OS for HTPC stuff. I'll probably stick the SB Live! sound card in there in addition to the Audiophile, and use only the SB Live! card in the gaming boot and only the Audiophile in the HTPC boot. My original idea was to have separate drives for each boot, but the mini-tower case I chose has just 6 bays, and I'm going to need lots of bays of HDTV storage.


-Abdul



[This message has been edited by Abdul Jalib (edited 05-14-2001).]


[This message has been edited by Abdul Jalib (edited 05-14-2001).]


[This message has been edited by Abdul Jalib (edited 05-14-2001).]
 

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I built my own htpc with the same kind of goal ; don't want to work with it, so don't want to have the latest improvements at the higher price.


For sure you don't need dvd x40, especially as they are more and more noisy, but it's quite difficult to find older (quieter) ones. My 6x Pioneer slot-in is marvelous in every aspects.


See my (already old) post where I describe how I built my htpc may be 6 monthes ago. Some things are already out to date http://www.avsforum.com/ubb/smile.gif


But my message is clearly ; if you want a dedicated htpc, only for dvd playback or dScaler stuff, you clearly don't need the latest pieces of hardware available.


See my "htpc in the making" post http://www.avsforum.com/ubb/Forum12/HTML/004717.html
 

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Yvonus, in general I would agree with you, but I'm not so sure it's true for us HTPC folks trying to use dScaler/dTV. Here are some random quotes:

Quote:
* Depending on the horsepower of your PC, you may or may not get a better picture with dTV. -- sitkom


* A couple of months ago I posted a dTV feature request topic asking if the dTV developers would consider adding a non-linear 4:3 S--T-RET-C--H mode. I recall that there was some concern regarding the processing horsepower that might be needed to accomplish such a feat. -- SteveV


* While you may be right [that a Celeron will suffice] for DVD output (I once posted a now archived thread "Dazzling output from low-end HTPC" so you won't get any argument from me) the same is not true for software deinterlacing using the current best of class HTPC solution, our own forum members joint project: dTV. It is very CPU hungry and improves in performance with faster processors (less dropped frames). -- Brett
I'm reacting to that by going a bit higher than the Pentium III ~600 MHz CPU's that dScalar seems to strain today. Usually, I would buy a processor that's dirt cheap but able to keep up with today's applications and then overclock it later when it cannot keep up. Alas, the non-Via motherboard I chose is not overclockable without some ambitious soldering.


The 1200 MHz (266 MHz FSB) Athlon Thunderbird seemed like the sweet spot when I looked at the prices on various chips. The 1300 Mhz version is much more expensive, there is not much of a break to go slower on the Athlons, and the Pentium III's offer poor bang for the buck. Is there any cheaper chip in particular you would recommend?


The Toshiba 12X DVD / 40X CD drive that I put in the config is quiet, reportedly. (Anyone know otherwise?) I finally found an ancient Hitachi GD-2500 5X DVD / 24X CD drive for the low, low price of $190. The ancient Hitachi gets raves about how quiet it is, so I'll edit the upgrade/downgrade section to add it.


-Abdul



[This message has been edited by Abdul Jalib (edited 05-14-2001).]
 

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Abdul, you're just right. Dvd decoding requirements have not changed so much while dScaler (old dTV) has for sure !


So I agree with you, find the current "sweet spot" processor (nice way of saying it http://www.avsforum.com/ubb/wink.gif ) and do not search any of the extremes ; the best currently available, nor the ultra-minimum required. My post if of course quite outdated regarding processor speed and ram amount, but the idea remains the same ; you don't need for htpc, the same kind of formula 1 you've got for "real work".


About dvd noise/speed, I'm quite concerned and at the same time, quite comfortable with my investment in a Pionner 6x ! slot-in, inexpensive (at the time), almost noiseless, region free... I see people looking for tools as CdSpeed to force their drive to run at low speed rather than optimized (and noisy) one.
 

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Getting back to the original post in the thread, here are a few potential problems...


As I understand it, the ATI Radeon All-In-Wonder card is incompatible with BT878 chipset cards (i.e., they will not both work in the same machine) and hence incompatible with dScaler (dTV), which demands a BT878 chipset video capture card. You can use the Radeon All-In-Wonder to do line doubling and scaling with ATI's software, or you can use a BT878 chipset video capture card with a Radeon LE (or many other video cards.) What I plan to do is to set up my system initially with a BT878 video capture card and a Radeon LE and get dScaler tweaked as well as I can, and then I'll get an All-In-Wonder card with a 30 day return period, rip out the other cards, and see if I can get a better line doubled picture that way.


You didn't specify whether you were going with a 7200 RPM hard drive. It's probably a good idea for video capture and also to boost the perceived speed of the system. Eventually I plan to add big cheap 5400 RPM drives for HDTV recording, but my system drive will be 7200 RPM.


For the DVD drive, the Pioneer A106 is apparently not completely quiet. The ASUS E608 8X DVD / 40X CD is one of the winners of the current dvd survey thread, being ultra quiet (except when spinning up.)


You did not mention a sound card. The $159 Audiophile 2496 is what most seem to recommend, with a few recommending the $600 1010.


I challenge you to put together that system with a premium sound card for $900. You might be able to do it if you switch to AMD, though. An AMD Athlon with an AMD761 chipset motherboard (e.g., ASUS A7M266 or maybe the MSI M7 Master 7 MS-6341) appears to be reliable and compatible.



------------------

Abdul

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
I had thought I had found the Radeon AIW on the supported card list for dScaler, but in looking at the website this morning, I see the unsupported status of it. Good thing I haven't ordered one yet. http://www.avsforum.com/ubb/smile.gif


I'm actually going with slower drives for the moment to reduce the noise of the machine. Recording isn't a short term concern for me, as I'm not doing HDTV yet, and I've got a DirecTivo to record programs off of satellite.


Based on comments in another thread, I've already bailed on the Pioneer drive in favor of the Toshiba M1212, which several people here seem to like. Of course I am keeping my eye out for one of the older slot-load Pioneers which seem to be quiet as well.


I've actually got a SB Live with S/PDIF output that I'm gong to try in the short term, upgrading if the need arises. I'm really only concerned with digital output to my receiver, so the quality of the analog outputs isn't quite as much of an issue.


DB
 

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I'm about to pull the trigger on my system, so speak up now or forever hold your peace. http://www.avsforum.com/ubb/smile.gif


Here is my lastest configuration. I decided to cannibalize my old PC for its SCSI drive and controller, in addition to its SB Live! card. The IBM 60GXP IDE drive that I was considering is fast but chews up 10% of the CPU per drive. My old IBM Ultra2 wide SCSI drive is known for running cool, fast, and fairly quiet, with minimal CPU overhead. On the other hand, I doubt if I'll have the fortitude to remain all SCSI, when I start wanting vast amounts of disk space to store HDTV.

Code:
Code:
$137.00 AMD Athlon Thunderbird 1000 Mhz 266Mhz FSB OEM (www.newegg.com)
  $19.00 3DFXCool Socket-AHO cooling heatsink and fan (www.3dfxcool.com)
 $155.00 K7 Master MS-6341, AMD761 Chipset, DDR memory (www.newegg.com) 
  $89.99 1 x 256 MB PC2100 DDR non-ECC Memory (www.crucial.com)
 $103.00 ATI Radeon LE *with* TV-out (www.newegg.com)
  $89.62 WinTV Radio Hauppauge 401 (www.buy.com)
   $0.00 Soundblaster Live! X-Gamer edition (own)
  $34.00 Hoontech DB II with IDE connector (www.audiencedp.com)
   $0.00 Tekram Ultra2 Wide SCSI Adapter, DC-390U2W (own)
   $0.00 IBM Ultra2 Wide SCSI 9 GB 7200 RPM hard drive, DNES-309170 (own)
   $0.00 SCSI cable (own)
 $106.00 Toshiba M1201B 5X DVD / 32X CD, SCSI, black (not saying  [URL='http://www.avsforum.com/ubb/smile.gif']http://www.avsforum.com/ubb/smile.gif[/URL]  )
  $10.36 Linkskey PCI Ethernet Card 10/100 LKF5100+ (www.newegg.com)
 $125.00 Quiet Black MidTower with 350W Enermax PS (www.digitalconnection.com)
  $54.00 Lite-on Airboard wireless keyboard (www.digitalconnection.com)
      $0 MX-1000 universal remote (own)
      $0 MS Windows 98 SE (own)
      $0 dScaler (i.e., dTV, free on the net)
      $0 ATI DVD Player (included with Radeon)
      $0 Girder
      $0 YXY
      $0 Powerstrip (shareware, actually)
--------
 $944.04

Upgrades/downgrades that I'm still considering:

 -$81 Degrade CPU to Athlon T-bird 750 Mhz
 +$48 Upgrade CPU to Athlon T-bird 1200 Mhz 266 Mhz FSB Axia blue copper
+$125 Upgrade sound to M-Audio Audiophile 2496
 -$28 Degrade video to Radeon LE *without* TV-out
 +$26 Upgrade NIC to Intel Pro/100 S PCI network card
The Hootech doohicky is necessary to bring the SB Live! X-Gamer up to spec on the S/PDIF output, which apparently could otherwise damage my receiver.


-Abdul



[This message has been edited by Abdul Jalib (edited 05-15-2001).]
 

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Does the Rage Theater chip do the TV-out? The version of the Radeon LE with TV-out (as opposed to the regular Radeon LE that most buy) has the Rage Theater chip on it, though it may be partially or fully disabled. The ATI Wonder cards have the Rage Theater chip and apparently do not peacefully coexist with bt878 cards like WinTV. So, does anyone know if I'll have a problem using dScaler/dTV + a bt878 card (Cybermail) + the version of the Radeon LE with TV-out? Can someone with a Radeon LE without TV-out look and see if there is a (disabled) Rage Theater chip on their card? Has anyone with a Radeon LE with TV-out and a bt878 video capture card gotten dScaler to work with it?


At www.newegg.com, the Radeon LE with TV-out is $98+$8 - http://www.newegg.com/app/viewproduc...ion=14-102-174 - while the Radeon LE without TV-out is $71+$8, no more free shipping but they do have it back in stock now - http://www.newegg.com/app/viewproduc...ion=14-102-165 . I want the TV-out functionality so that my wife can watch DVD's on a little TV while she's banished outside to smoke, but I don't want that feature if it kills dScaler/dTV.


As long as I'm here, I'll note that I made a few small changes to my config. I'm going to use the $19.50 bt878-based Cybermail card instead of the WinTV card, the $162 M-Audio Audiophile 2496 card instead of the kluge of SB Live! + Hoontech, an old 3COM 3C509B-TX PCI ethernet card instead of the cheap NIC, and I added IRMan. Everything is on order except the CPU, so now I'll tell you where I found the slow (hopefully silent) black SCSI DVD player: www.axiontech.com has the Toshiba M1201B for $99.95 plus shipping.


-Abdul
 
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