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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
First, please excuse me if I violate any forum rules, I believe this is the right place for my topic. I know some people can take that personally.


Hello all, I am a long time lurker, first time poster. I have just purchased my hardware and expect to begin my first ever PC build ASAP. I'm real excited and a bit nervous at the same time. The most i've ever done to a PC or notebook was upgrade ram and drives. Mostly I'm concerned about the first time it is turned on and any programming required to get it going. Also, I am far from an audio/video phile other than enjoying it greatly, so I hope to learn a lot from this board.


I figured this was a good place to post my info and solicit any feedback from the pros and average guys like me.


My goal with the PC is to use it primarily as an HTPC, but I want it to be built so that it is ready for future expansion (hardware and software) and I didn't want any hardware limitations if my kids decide to use it for gaming in the future (they're still too young for gaming now), but didn't want to go overboard with the hardware.


I plan to use the PC via HDMI connection to a large screen LCD 52" or greater. I have a 52" now, but once my basement is finished I may end up with something larger - haven't decided yet. So for now I want to build the HTPC and work out any bugs before my home theatre is complete. That way I can hopefully hand the remote to my wife and the UI will be simple enough that we won't have any battles - and I want her to be able to enjoy it as much as I expect to.


So, let's get to the hardware:
Case: Apevia X Qpack2 (500W PSU) - I was drawn to this case due to its size, room, available drive slots for future expansion and other features. I wanted something different than the typical DVD player or component look because I think that look is somewhat boring. I looked at some cheaper cases, but based on reviews I chose this one. Purchased for $79.99 after discounts.

Mobo:Gigabyte GA-73PVM, LGA775 Nvidia7100 w/ HDMI. From what I've read, the Nvidia IGP and HDMI on this mobo are near perfect for an HTPC, the cost was reasonable at $68.99. I'd be interested to hear thoughts on the performance of this board.

CPU: Intel Wolfdale E5200 2.5Ghz, dual core LGA 775. Everything I've read about this card had high praises. Supposedly easy to overclock if necessary (don't think I will, but I appreciate the flexibility). The best part about this card is that it retails for $69.99, but I used my AMEX reward points and only paid $9 shipped for the CPU. Really made my day.

RAM: I plan to use XP to get started with the HTPC, and then hopefully I'll be able to try out Windows 7. I've been told that XP will only use or recognize 2GB of ram, but some net research told me that it could use up to 3.5, or even 4GB with some tweaking. So with the money I saved from the processor, I went with the Corsair 2x2GB ram set for $54.99 and a -$20 MIR. The 2GB stick was going to cost me $24 anyway, so for less than 50% additional cost I could get ideally 75-100% more ram capacity.

HDD: WD Caviar 500GB, 7200RPM SATA $56.99.
Optical: Sony Optiarc DVD Burner w/ Lightscribe SATA - $31.99


No video card, I didn't think it was necessary for now, perhaps in the future if performance isn't what I expect.


Total price after discounts, rebates and shipping is roughly $315!! I feel pretty good about my purchases and the strength and flexibility of the machine for the price that I paid.


I had snatched up a Logitech DiNovo Mini for $80 when Dell had a sale two months ago. Haven't used it much yet, but that is what I plan to use for control for this machine. If you add in the dinovo, my total cost is roughly $395.


Initially I plan to use XP combined with various MC software. I'm currently toying with mediaportal on my netbook with FFDShow to learn the software and get a headstart for my HTPC. I'd appreciate any other recommendations for software, I've heard good things about mediaportal. So far so good on my testing, it does seem a bit buggy at times though (probably operator error).


I'm traveling overseas the next two weeks, so I won't be able to start my build until August, but I will be checking in here to get some feedback until then.


Thanks in advance!
 

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First off, good luck.. Not to knowledgable about the particular system you're planning but, I know when I did research on my build I was eager to see anything and everything there was out there before I wrote any checks.

One thing I think we do have in common is wanting our HTPC to be usable by our family members that don't have a "geek" card. so here's a link to my web page (not yet complete) that I've put together to document my HTPC build. It will give you yet another persons take on a great addition to AV entertainment. Best of luck


neilshtpc.weebly.com
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thanks for the good wishes.


I didn't just rush out and buy equipment, my buddy and I have been talking about this and researching for a year now, but I appreciate the feedback. Just finally pulled the trigger.


The family factor, or "spousal unit approval factor" as I've seen written elsewhere is vital to success.


I checked out your website, nice job! Looks like you and I are in similar situations.


I've thought about doing a RAID setup, but I don't think I have the stored content for it yet, and I'm not sure when I'll ever need that much capacity once I get around to copying my DVD collection to the drives.


Honestly, I'm considering using a network storage unit when I get around to really filling up the HDDs. I haven't made it that far yet in my planning or actual needs.


Quick question, your CPU seems fairly similar to the one that I've purchased. Did it come with a cooler (fan or heatsink)? Are you happy with the temps? I almost bought an additional cooler, but my CPU comes with one so I figured I would give it a shot before I bought a new one. The factory provided coolers have mixed reviews from what I've read.
 

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Quote:
Did it come with a cooler (fan or heatsink)? Are you happy with the temps? I almost bought an additional cooler, but my CPU comes with one so I figured I would give it a shot before I bought a new one. The factory provided coolers have mixed reviews from what I've read.

Retail boxed CPUs come with heatsink and fan. Intel warrants their CPUs for 3 years if you use their heatsink and fan. Sure, after-market coolers might lower the temps a bit, but you pay more and void the warranty. Stock coolers are good enough for HTPC and general use.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by hirent /forum/post/16851165


Retail boxed CPUs come with heatsink and fan. Intel warrants their CPUs for 3 years if you use their heatsink and fan. Sure, after-market coolers might lower the temps a bit, but you pay more and void the warranty. Stock coolers are good enough for HTPC and general use.


I would have to agree, temps are fine in my case and I can't say it's loud either. Save your money, check out the gyration air music remote. Its not perfect or cheap, but I think it's the best remote solution yet (with the built in mouse function).
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by boofatty /forum/post/16847552


I'm currently toying with mediaportal on my netbook with FFDShow to learn the software and get a headstart for my HTPC. I'd appreciate any other recommendations for software, I've heard good things about mediaportal. So far so good on my testing, it does seem a bit buggy at times though (probably operator error).


Media Center works well for me. I too experimented with media portal but found it buggy. Maybe I'm not patient enough.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Well I'm back, and today I finally had time to put it all together. I will try to post some pics tomorrow.


Here's what I learned

1. When I first plugged it in, nothing happened. every so often I hear a very quiet "squeak" sound, indicating there was power in the PSU, but literally nothing happened. i was concerned because I had heard of many DOAs when ordering computer parts. So I fiddled, unplugged everything from the mobo and kept trying to power up until it finally worked. When I assembled the parts, the mobo manual indicated that I should connect the small 4 pin power connector to the "sys fan" on the board. Turns out that when I unplugged this connection, and powered up again, that was the only connection preventing startup. I have no idea why, but it's running fine now without that connection.


2. I read the manual for the mobo through and through and figured that at initial startup, i would need to do some input before it would start. To my surprise, before I could hit the button for BIOS, it was asking for a boot disk. So I put in my XP boot disk and off it went.


3. The windows install went well until I received the blue screen of death saying "windows was shut down due to hard drive error". This one had me for a while until I did a google search. One of the recommendations had to do with the IDE of AHCI settings. When I read through the mobo, at startup, it asks you if you want to run in AHCI for sata or continue in IDE. I still don't know exactly what this means, but Ifigured since I'm using all SATA devices, I needed to be in AHCI, so that's how I went. The recommendation to solve this problem was to revert from AHCI to IDE, and it worked. XP continued installation in 20-25min.


Parts:

1. I love my case selection, although I was hoping it would be a bit smaller. I knew the dimensions, but I guess in my mind I was hoping for something smaller. Now I know for HTPC #2 in the distant future.


2. CPU, RAM, Mobo, etc working great so far.


3. I used the WD 500gb HDD for install. I also bought a 1TB samsung, which I plan to use for my DVD storage. At initial install, the samsung was not installed. I installed the samsung after windows was fully operational. The problem I have now is that within the bios, it sees the drive; within the xp device manager, it sees the drive. But when I go to my computer, it isn't there. Not sure why, haven't started digging into this yet.


4. The dinovo mini works well, still need more time to configure and get used to it. It is definetly a light duty keyboard mouse combo strictly for use while sitting on the couch with no intention of serious computing.


I'm excited, this is the first time I've ever built a PC. I still need to fine tune everything, but I'm looking forward to it.


The next chapter in my journey will be the software and storage solutions. One thing I'm particularly worried about is finding the best method to store and catalog files on the hard drive for use with the theatre software i choose. Does anyone have any suggestions? I'm leaning toward mediaportal as my software of choice, but exploring XBMC.
 

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I've built mine really around Media Center. I love it as it does everthing I want/need it to do. Started with Vista, but now use Win7. I mostly use mine for TV recording and storage. For BD's and what-not...I went with what works 100% and went with a PS3. My PC does have a BD drive, and does fine doing it, though.


I use the Xbox360 as an extender as my system is also a high-spec gaming system and is not quiet so it is in another room. For TV I have a CableCARD tuner along with 3 QAM tuners meaning I can do up to 4 HD channels at once and watch them all in another room with my 2 360s. I also keep DVD rips in MP4 format and both the 360 and the PS3 play them (although the PS3 scales them better). They're really PSP-formatted, but the PS3 seems to scale them so the picture is acceptable to me.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·

Quote:
Originally Posted by boofatty /forum/post/16968213


Well I'm back, and today I finally had time to put it all together. I will try to post some pics tomorrow.


Here's what I learned

1. When I first plugged it in, nothing happened. every so often I hear a very quiet "squeak" sound, indicating there was power in the PSU, but literally nothing happened. i was concerned because I had heard of many DOAs when ordering computer parts. So I fiddled, unplugged everything from the mobo and kept trying to power up until it finally worked. When I assembled the parts, the mobo manual indicated that I should connect the small 4 pin power connector to the "sys fan" on the board. Turns out that when I unplugged this connection, and powered up again, that was the only connection preventing startup. I have no idea why, but it's running fine now without that connection.


2. I read the manual for the mobo through and through and figured that at initial startup, i would need to do some input before it would start. To my surprise, before I could hit the button for BIOS, it was asking for a boot disk. So I put in my XP boot disk and off it went.


3. The windows install went well until I received the blue screen of death saying "windows was shut down due to hard drive error". This one had me for a while until I did a google search. One of the recommendations had to do with the IDE of AHCI settings. When I read through the mobo, at startup, it asks you if you want to run in AHCI for sata or continue in IDE. I still don't know exactly what this means, but Ifigured since I'm using all SATA devices, I needed to be in AHCI, so that's how I went. The recommendation to solve this problem was to revert from AHCI to IDE, and it worked. XP continued installation in 20-25min.


Parts:

1. I love my case selection, although I was hoping it would be a bit smaller. I knew the dimensions, but I guess in my mind I was hoping for something smaller. Now I know for HTPC #2 in the distant future.


2. CPU, RAM, Mobo, etc working great so far.


3. I used the WD 500gb HDD for install. I also bought a 1TB samsung, which I plan to use for my DVD storage. At initial install, the samsung was not installed. I installed the samsung after windows was fully operational. The problem I have now is that within the bios, it sees the drive; within the xp device manager, it sees the drive. But when I go to my computer, it isn't there. Not sure why, haven't started digging into this yet.


4. The dinovo mini works well, still need more time to configure and get used to it. It is definetly a light duty keyboard mouse combo strictly for use while sitting on the couch with no intention of serious computing.


I'm excited, this is the first time I've ever built a PC. I still need to fine tune everything, but I'm looking forward to it.


The next chapter in my journey will be the software and storage solutions. One thing I'm particularly worried about is finding the best method to store and catalog files on the hard drive for use with the theatre software i choose. Does anyone have any suggestions? I'm leaning toward mediaportal as my software of choice, but exploring XBMC.

I've got #3 above fixed. Within device manager it was showing the drive, but it was "unallocated". After some reading, I figured out I needed to "partition" the drive and thus format it. So I right clicked, made new partition with the full disk size and it worked.


Since then, I've made a small partition on the 1TB drive and installed Win 7 so I could dual boot and toy with Win 7, which I'm on right now. I gotta say, Win 7 is purty. I never got onto the Vista bus, but I had seen it used, so jumping from XP to 7 is like night and day for me.


On my home laptop, I had XP MCE (2005), but I never really had the chance to play with it much as that was before I got onto the HTPC train.


Quick question for the MCE users, are there any flaws? I've been told that the 2005 version wouldn't play many formats of video files; is there a way around that with the codec packs? I love the interface of MCE and it seems more stable than media portal.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·

Quote:
Originally Posted by steven975 /forum/post/16968639


I've built mine really around Media Center. I love it as it does everthing I want/need it to do. Started with Vista, but now use Win7. I mostly use mine for TV recording and storage. For BD's and what-not...I went with what works 100% and went with a PS3. My PC does have a BD drive, and does fine doing it, though.


I use the Xbox360 as an extender as my system is also a high-spec gaming system and is not quiet so it is in another room. For TV I have a CableCARD tuner along with 3 QAM tuners meaning I can do up to 4 HD channels at once and watch them all in another room with my 2 360s. I also keep DVD rips in MP4 format and both the 360 and the PS3 play them (although the PS3 scales them better). They're really PSP-formatted, but the PS3 seems to scale them so the picture is acceptable to me.

I've thought about the extender situation some. I'm not there yet. I have a western digitial HDTV, which I like. I've read that there are some firmware additions to the WD unit which allow for USB networking, so that it could potentially be an extender. Once my HTPC is setup, that will be the next adventure for me.
 
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