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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Well, I've been lurking here for about a month now and doing my homework, and I've been putting in as many hours in the research lab as I have been on these forums.


I'm trying to put together a "budget" HTPC that is upgradable so that in the future it may be referred to as "enthusiast." Here's what I got planned so far:


case + 300W PS from gigacase.com

Asus A7n266-VM mobo (onboard video GF2MX, onboard sound DD 5.1 w/SPDIF out)

Athlon XP 1700+

512MB crucial RAM

80GIG WD 8MB cache HD

Lite on XJ-HD166S 16X DVD-ROM drive

Sony Floppy

TV card?!?


Coming soon (later): IRman/Girder/Pronto

Coming even later: More HD space!

Coming if I ever get a PhD: Projector!


This will be connected to a Kenwood VR-407 and a standard def OLD Sony trinitron TV from like 1986.


Here's my predicted usage of the system:

50% PVR, 25% DVD, 25% Jukebox


As you can see, my componets aren't top of the line on either system, but it'll do.


What's really important to me is PVR function. I am aware of course that there's nothing really out there can fully compete with TiVo. I would like a programming guide so that I can get rid of digital cable, but Snapstream and Showshifter don't do that, and SageTV is out of my range. Am I best off getting one of the ATI AIW cards (VE)? Or are the hardware solutions like the happauge-pvr cards the best way to go?


I would appreciate any suggestions, but please remember that its hard to pay for good stuff when you're on a lowly stipend!


Thanks,

Rod
 

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Since you want an upgradeable system you might want to stay away from an Nforce 1 board in favor of an Nforce2 board. If you can wait a couple weeks I think the 200mhz fsb boards are coming out. Otherwise, system looks good.


Tom
 

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If you really want the PVR stuff with a useful, integrated programming guide, you are in a tough spot. HTPC's work great as DVRs, but the software available to compete with Tivo or ReplayTV is pretty much a joke. SageTV and MCE are the best ones out there, Snapstream and Showshifter are okay, but the vendor supplied ones (Haupauge PVR, ATI MMC) are pretty bad.


There are plenty of shareware/freeware apps out there that can do scheduled, repeated recordings with the same convenience level that anything else available for a budget htpc can really provide.


As for your setup, I'd recommend putting a little more money into the CPU or getting a hardware mpeg encoder. The 2200+ is right at the price/performance break right now and only about $40 over the 1700+. Software video encoding is cpu intensive.


All modern OS's have bootable installation CDs. I assume you'll be on a network. Don't bother buying a floppy drive you'll never use.


Consider the NF2 boards if you will be getting a separate video card, but if you aren't, the NF1 integrated boards are great for the price.


Memory: Nforce boards are slightly happier with 2x256 than 1x512. Not a big deal, but they run a little faster with a matched pair. They cannot handle ECC memory, so get regular stuff.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
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Since you want an upgradeable system you might want to stay away from an Nforce 1 board in favor of an Nforce2 board. If you can wait a couple weeks I think the 200mhz fsb boards are coming out. Otherwise, system looks good.
Ah, I forgot to mention: I'd prefer a micro-ATX board since the case I want to get can only fir micro ATX boards. I picked this case because it has space for more hard drives and it barely fits upright in my home entertainment center. I also like the A7N266-VM because it has onboard digital audo and integrated graphics, meaning that I don't have to buy those separately. If you can point me to a board that is like that, then I'd jump on that in no time.


EricN: Thanks for the advice. I have a question though: Will the share/free- ware work in conjunciton with a hardware based mpeg encoder? Or will the encoder only work with the software provided with it?


Maybe I'm being too picky with the programming guide. I KNOW what shows that I want to record since I really don't watch too much tv these days. I also check TVguide.com everyday to see if I'm going to miss anything, and having the ability to remotely tell my PC to record would be awesome. Also, for the Showshifter/Snapstream/Happauge/ATI software will I be able to customize channel names?


Will I still have to use Dscaler or Powerstrip if I'm just feeding a regular standard def TV?


Also, from other members HTPC, a 1700+ seems to be enough to do mpeg encoding as long as its not doing anything else. Does anyone else have a 1700 who would like to comment?


Thanks again,

Rod
 

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Take a look at the Chaintech Micro-ATX NForce2 IGP board...


As for that drive, it might be a bit loud for a HTPC. Go for a Seagate Baracuda ATAIV or ATAV instead.
 

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Okay, you said PVR is a big issue for you...and you want to go low end. Here's my advice. PVR on the HTPC cannot even begin to compare with TIVO...as others have said. Especially PVR on the cheap. (HD PVR is another issue entirely) Get a relatively cheap TIVO with a 20GB drive. Then modify it and install a 120GB drive onto the TIVO (plenty of sites on how to do this ). Get an Xbox with a DVD remote (not fabulous quality but you get games as well). Then go buy a cheap laptop so you can port it around with you on campus. Upgrading components on your computer down the road isn't really all that practical since the price of the components will fall so much you'll just end up scrapping the old PC.


Just my 2 cents...
 
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