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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I first got into the idea of building my own HTPC earlier this year. I put together a list of parts and had it reviewed right here on these forums with the intention to buy the parts as soon as I got a job (I'm a recent grad). Well, 3 months and one career change later, I've updated my system and am looking for some last minute advice before I make the purchase. Here's the specs:
  • APEVIA Black SECC Steel / Aluminum X-MASTER-BK/500 ATX Media Center / HTPC Case - Retail
  • GIGABYTE GA-MA770T-UD3P AM3 AMD 770 ATX AMD Motherboard - Retail
  • SPARKLE SFPX94GT512U2 GeForce 9400 GT 512MB 128-bit GDDR2 PCI Express 2.0 x16 HDCP Ready Video Card - Retail
  • Hauppauge WinTV-HVR-1600 ATSC/ClearQAM/NTSC TV Tuner PCI w/Remote 1178 PCI Interface - Retail
  • AMD Athlon II X2 250 Regor 3.0GHz Socket AM3 65W Dual-Core Processor Model ADX250OCGQBOX - Retail
  • G.SKILL 2GB (2 x 1GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333 (PC3 10666) Dual Channel Kit Desktop Memory Model F3-10666CL9D-2GBNQ - Retail
  • Western Digital Caviar Green WD5000AADS 500GB SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" Hard Drive - OEM
  • Sony Optiarc 24X DVD/CD Rewritable Drive Black SATA Model AD-7240S-0B - OEM
  • BYTECC 6 ft. HDMI Male to DVI-D Male Single Link Cable Model HDMID-6 - Retail

and here's the newegg wishlist with links to each individual piece: Newegg Wishlist


Mostly what I want to be able to do is watch standard cable (OTA) and HD broadcasts in ClearQAM. Currently my TV has a ClearQAM tuner but I can't find the channels between the hundred digital channels it picks up but can't descramble without a digital cable box from cox. (Weird channels too like 128-10890). I figure I have a much better shot with a pc card to pick up HD channels in the clear.


I also want to be able to record shows (looking at mythTV for that) as well as play and rip DVDs. I'll probably be setting up a media server later so I don't need all that much space for now. Flash playback is also a must (hence the processor). I also want to be able to do some emulation on this machine as well. I'm looking at OpenSUSE 11.1 (what I run now) with KDE for the OS.


This is my first build from scratch (I've frankensteined a few machines before) so I'm looking for something relatively seemless. Thanks for the help,


Killsforpie
 

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I see you're going with a full-size ATX motherboard. Most people who do HTPC's tend to go smaller, like micro-ATX or mini-ITX. Also, you could save some money by going with a motherboard with onboard NVIDIA graphics instead. The Gigabyte GA-M85M-US2H is a good micro-ATX board with onboard NVIDIA. You could then get a smaller case to hold it.


-- Kevin
 

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Oh, I just saw you want Flash playback, too. If you want HD Flash, like Hulu HD, cbs.com HD, etc. then you'll probably want a better CPU. I didn't get good fullscreen HD Flash video until I upgraded my Athlon X2 5050e to a Phenom. I hear the Intel dual-core CPU's also do better with HD Flash than the Athlon X2's, such as the E5200.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by k_ross /forum/post/16994414


Oh, I just saw you want Flash playback, too. If you want HD Flash, like Hulu HD, cbs.com HD, etc. then you'll probably want a better CPU. I didn't get good fullscreen HD Flash video until I upgraded my Athlon X2 5050e to a Phenom. I hear the Intel dual-core CPU's also do better with HD Flash than the Athlon X2's, such as the E5200.

The cpu killsforpie chose, is a new generation Athlon II (it's actually a Phenom II core with L3 cache disabled) and it's a 3 GHz version, that surely is enough for Hulu HD?! (if not, then Adobe Flash sucks even more than I knew so far...)


It's roughly 50% faster than the 5050e you mention.


Personally I think a ATX mobo is an overkill too, but as you chose a large case that suits ATX mobos it's not really an issue.


My advice would be to get the Antec case listed in the example build here , together with one of the microATX mobos listed in the same article and therefore save on the graphics card too. but that doesn't mean that your build is not good (it will certainly be capable of doing what you want), it's just overspec'ed IMHO.
 

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Ah, I didn't notice the specifics of the CPU, I just saw "Athlon X2".


To the OP: your CPU is relatively untested with Flash HD video, on this forum anyway. Be sure to report back how well it works!
 

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Note that flash performance isn't just dependent on CPU strength as it uses OpenGL for video acceleration. For example, I have a Phenom 9850 (4 x 2.5 GHz), yet I still experience tearing with 480P content from Hulu even though the cores are far from being maxed out. I'm certain that this is because my 9300GS has crappy OpenGL performance.


The GT model you've listed should be ok, although I'd probably go with a 9500GT just to be sure.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Thanks for all the replies! I went with standard ATX just to make sure I'd have room for everything as well as good airflow. This computer is going right in the living room and I'm not sure what else I might want to add to it in the future (more tuners, wireless card, other drives, etc).


Myth: any suggestions as far as 9500GT graphics cards?


I'll be sure to report back how everything is going once I get this baby up and running.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by killsforpie /forum/post/16999183


any suggestions as far as 9500GT graphics cards?

Choose a passively cooled one, to avoid extra noise.
 

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dunno if your wishlist is all at newegg for ease, or for actual purchase... I do 90% of my buying from newegg, but if you are willing to watch dealnews.com and slickdeals, you can probably shave ~$50+ off the cost of your system... ie. 2G of RAM is on sale for $20 every 3rd or 4th minute
Also look into the Bing cashback stuff (read at slickdeals)... I don't really need anything right now, so I haven't been following it closely lately.


Your AMD proc scores ~1700 on the Passmark CPU list, just under the Intel E6300 (~1800), but well over the E5200 I have (~1200 w/o OC).. seems like a good value proc from AMD (tho I admit being partial to Intel), so I suspect you'll be fine for Flash.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by mythmaster /forum/post/16999763


I think zim2dive is using one if you can find his build thread. I don't remember if it's passive or not.

Its not... but it was cheap (~$32)
(after rebate) http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...82E16814127419


It seems quiet so far, but I use my machine 80% as a server (mail, web, etc), much less for HT than most folks here... plus the Dish 622 DVR is somewhat loud so it would drown out anything else by comparison.
 

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Good call on all the components/specs- I love my Apevia XM-500 case- I think you will too. You *want* a case with a little extra room and can handle both full size and mAtx boards like the Apevia. You don't want to lock yourself into mATX-only. The Apevia is no larger than most mATX-only cases I've seen in this price range. IMO, the Apevia case is the BEST HTPC case for under $200.


I would go with an LG, BTC, LiteOn or Samsung DVD_RW myself in place of the Sony, but other than that, your parts look good.


Be sure the video card is fanless- you can go down to an Nvidia 8xxx series if you need to for passive cooling while still getting VDPAU.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Thanks for all the suggestions. I swapped a 9500gt and samsung dvd for just a couple bucks. Plus I found a code online for 15% off hard drives and saved a couple bucks there. I can't wait for this to come in. I'll be sure to keep the forum updated on the process.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Ok I got all the parts in, put them together last night, hit the power button and nothing happened so I went to sleep. When I woke up this morning I checked the power switch on the PSU and of course it was off (doh!). Now I've got it up and running, put SuSE 11.1 on it and flash to the latest BIOS but I'm having some problems getting the Nvidia Drivers working.


I've installed the drivers through YaST same as I have on this laptop but when I run "SaX2 -r" I get an error in the log that says "NVIDIA: could not open the device file /dev/nvidia0 (Input/output error)". "ls -l /dev/nvidia0" shows it's there. I've googled and checked the SuSE forums but can't find much, other than some references to older cards not being supported (Nvidia claims my 9500gt is). Any help?


Sparkle 9500GT hooked to a Vizio VW37L.


Edit: It works with VESA but not the NVIDIA drivers.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Tried it but it lead to the same problem: sax doesn't finish and nvidia-xconfig also produces something unusable. I may have to create my own xorg.conf file...


Edit: Good news! After reading on the nvnews forums I got the idea that my hauppauge 1600 wintv pci card might be throwing things off so I took it out and poof! Now the Nvidia drivers work!


Of course this brings new problems, but at least there's progress. Now the screen is oversized about an inch in all directions, and none of the supplied resolutions from nvidia-settings will fix it just right. I found a supposed xorg.conf for my tv here but I can't quite figure out how to merge it with my current xorg.conf. The sample config from mythtv.org say the resolution is 1366x768.


I'll also need some help getting that hauppauge card back in and working once the resolution is fixed.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Sorry to triple post but I wanted to update everything again. I finally got a good xorg.conf (borrowed one for the Vizio WX37L on mythtv.org). I've been having problems getting the tv tuner to play nice with the video card though. There seem to be no IRQ issues (lspci -v lists the tuner at 20 and the video card at 221), the video driver simply wont load with the tuner plugged in.


I've played around with my BIOS some (full options available here: http://www.legitreviews.com/article/985/3/ ), switched pci ports for the tuner, Googled a lot, but haven't been able to come up with a solution.


I've got the drivers and firmware for the 1600 loaded according to dmesg | grep cx18. If anybody has any suggestions I'm open.


On another note, I tested fullscreen flash (Legend of the Seeker Ep: 1 from Hulu). It went real smoothly until the horse chase in the woods where I got some minor, although visible, tearing. I haven't checked CPU usage yet but I will soon as I get some of these other issues out of the way.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by killsforpie /forum/post/17035084


Now the screen is oversized about an inch in all directions, and none of the supplied resolutions from nvidia-settings will fix it just right. I found a supposed xorg.conf for my tv here but I can't quite figure out how to merge it with my current xorg.conf. The sample config from mythtv.org say the resolution is 1366x768.

That's called overscan, and it's done by the TV. You can turn it off in most LCD and plasma TV's. How you do it is different on every TV. On my TV, I have to change the aspect ratio from 16:9 to "just scan".

Quote:
Originally Posted by killsforpie /forum/post/17044346


On another note, I tested fullscreen flash (Legend of the Seeker Ep: 1 from Hulu). It went real smoothly until the horse chase in the woods where I got some minor, although visible, tearing. I haven't checked CPU usage yet but I will soon as I get some of these other issues out of the way.

You can improve Flash playback performance by right-clicking the video and selecting the Quality menu. Choose Medium or Low for better performance.


And I'm sorry your tuner card isn't working. I guess posting on the nvnews forum is the best place for help.


-- Kevin
 
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