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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Below is my thoughts after lots and lots of reading on this forum for my first pass at an HTPC. I thought I'd add some input on why I chose an item, and possible other items that competed. I'd be most glad to hear any input on whether I went off course somewhere, or whatever you have to offer.


I don't blame anyone if you decide to pass on this post. May be too long. To allow focus on areas where 'you' interest, I will break this down in sections.

CPU

Decided to go with AMD 2600+ Barton

Reasons:
  • Runs cooler than Intel
  • Less expensive
  • Excellent reviews
  • Near point of price curve where costs go up a lot vs. extra benefit

Motherboard

Abit NF7-S v2

Reasons
  • Less Expensive than my other preference (see below)
  • Lots of good reviews
  • Has good list of features

This one is a hard decision for me. Lot of various preferences on this site. A strong contender for me is the Gigabyte GA-7NNXP. I am tempted to go with the Gigabyte because:
  • Also has Serial ATA Drive capability
  • Raid Controller
  • Gigabit Ethernet in addition to 100MB Eth.(But will I ever use?)
  • Dual Bios
  • Reportedly very good sound on board
  • Wake on Lan and modem (Again, may not ever use)


One negative is a 2nd fan on board. The other thing is that I have seen so much more positive feedback on the Abit boards. Although, I could be talked into the Gigabyte.

Power Supply
Zalman 300w Power Supply

Reasons:
  • Good, quite fan


I'm wondering if I need to add another case fan, and/or an air duct cooler

Case

After a lot of looking and thinking, I decided on this case:
Silverstone SST All Aluminum ATX Case

Reasons:
  • Looks nice
  • External drives access if I want, for both form factors
  • Plenty of drive mounting capability
  • Front access to USB and Firewire
  • Not overly expensive

It's not as nice looking as some others, but good enough, and above list won out for now.


I have strongly considered the Ahanix Dvine.4, but leaning against it due to more expense, fewer drives capability. And, I did read a fairly negative review of the quality of the case itself (not the aluminum casing).

Video Card

ATI Radeon 9700 Pro

Reasons:
  • Good Graphics for Gaming (Although I may never do gaming, maybe I should be prepared)
  • Radeons seem to have the most use in this forum, and most recommendations

I strongly considered the 9600 non-pro. But I was pointed to a thread that discusses this card, and problems with it if you don't have it physically hooked to a VGA.

DVD/Divx Decoder
PDI/Xcard Combo

Reasons:
  • Have read lots of recommendations for this card for ease of setup, and very high quality video output

I also plan to feed my Ultimate TV Satellite through this to deinterlace it.

HD Card for Over the Air HD
MyHD Video Card 120

Reasons:
  • Good reviews
  • SPDIF out
  • Play DVDs upscaled to HD (Am I wasting money on the xCard combo?)
  • On Screen Display is extensive (according to the review)
  • Support QAM and 8VSB decoding

Memory
Corsair 512MB Memory
Cooling
  • Zalman CNPS6000-Cu Fan for CPU. Although I have read that I should be looking at Panaflo. I may take a look before I push the send order key.
  • Zalman Heatpipe for Video Card
Mouse/Keyboard
Gyration Multimedia Suite

I've seen mixed reviews on this. But I like what I see, and see enough people saying it works well for them that I'm going to give it a try.

What am I forgetting?

As for Software

This topic is one I will take it slow with.


For now, I plan to start with:
  • dScaler (But I guess I need the one with the xCard/PDI combo)
  • Considering Theatertek
  • Powerstrip


I would like to do PVR, but can't, because:
  • Doesn't support Satellite
  • Doesn't support HD

Is that right, on the HD? With regard to Satellite, I have an Ultimate TV, and I guess I'll stick with that for now.

Other

I plan to look at:
  • Girder
  • X10
  • MX-700 Remote


That's about it for now. This looks like about a $1500 computer. Hmmm, I could do it for less.
 

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I've been a big fan of AMD for a long time, but I've always thought that INTC would be better for a HDPC, mainly because as I recall they have better heat protection (shutdown if cooling fails). I've never compared how much heat they generate compared to INTC.


I have had the MyHd-120 for about 3 weeks now and like it, but note it can only do one thing at once. Thus, you probably are not wasting your money on the Decoder, assuming I understand what you're using that for (it's not something I own). But assuming you want to have the MyHd record something while you're watching a DVD, you won't be able to do that through the MyHd.


I have two of the Gyration mice, and like them. I unfortunately didn't buy the combo keyboard because at the time I was going to use them for just a regular computer (where there's really little point to a cordless keyboard). One of the mice developed a glitch where sometimes the in air operation of the mouse would act like it was trying to be moved down screen, but a fresh install of XP (for other reasons) seemingly took care of that problem. I actually really like those mice--they are completely ambidextrous and work well as an optical mouse too.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Hmmm... you know, I think I read that the Gigabyte shut down upon too much heat. That definitely rings a bell. I'll have to check into that. I'm still struggling over whether to go with the Gigabyte motherboard.


Thanks for your response on the MyHD board. I am of the opinion that we are at the beginning of the curve as far as flexibility on a lot of this, especially re: HD. Not much in the way of PVR flexibility; issues with Satellite not being able to be utilized for PVR, etc.


Oh, and I just realized I didn't list Hard Drives on my list of things. I have known from beginning what I plan to do on those, so they slipped my mind here. I plan on Western Digital (they work so very good with you if you do have a warranty issue), and seem to perform pretty good. I'm looking at 250GB 7200 RPM drive, and possibly a smaller one for primary drive, maybe 80GB. The thought would be: OS and program installs on the 80, with backup of that to teh 250, and storage of media stuff on the 250, which could be recreated if I did lose a drive.
 

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I hate WD drives because years ago I HAD to use their warranty services. ;) I've never used the warranty on any other drive.


Seagates and Samsungs are quieter. Seagate has at least two level of drives, however, so go for the better one (for better reliability).


(BTW, on the warranty joke, that meant I was upset I had to replace a drive twice, not that their warranty service wasn't good.)
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Quote:
I hate WD drives because years ago I HAD to use their warranty services. I've never used the warranty on any other drive.
I understand your comments. I too have used their warranty service, as you can tell by my comments.


I may do a little checking around forums before I pull the trigger. Working in IT, I have seen all kinds of drives fail, and as a consumer purchaser of the WD drives, having warranty that works so well means a lot. That being said, I would definitely rather not have to use it.


If I knew that service was as good for Seagate, or other that came recommended well, I would definitely consider that.
 

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Abit NF7-S is a great board. I've used it OCed to 217FSB since August last year. Very stable. It also has Soundstorm SPDIF optical IN/OUT. I recently set it back to 200FSB because it still performs WM9-HD flawlessly at this lower clock. I decided to be conservative to maximize the longevity of the CPU.


Another board I would consider is the DFI Nforce 2 "LANPARTY NFII ULTRA B." It is considered the best board available now. Though you may not OC for stability/longevity purposes, it has been OCed to 260mhz FSB with some modding. http://www.newegg.com/app/viewProduc...136-138&depa=1


It has a extra large AGP slot area to accomodate 5950 cards or Zalman heatsink mods without losing a PCI slot. It also has Soundstorm and SPDIF IN/OUT Coax ports.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
dguns


In the past hour or reading, I have become interested in doing raid. I just read the review of the DFI, Abit, and Gigabyte boards on Toms hardware guide. And, it pointed me to an interesting article on raid 1.5 that can be accomplished with the DFI board. I just posted another thread asking about raid on the Gigabyte. I see that it and the Abit use the same source for raid. I presume they would do raid 0 or 1, with 0 being striping, and 1 being mirroring.


I am interested in data protection. My other post is making assumptions like it would be raid 5. But the 1.5 in the article above gives me that, I think.


I don't really want to mirror, although that is an option. What is not explained in the article is what would happen with 3 drives.


Maybe I'll get more information in that other thread. But, from just a little reading, I'm all of a sudden interested in the DFI board.
 

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is myhd compatible w/ dscaler ? seems i read somewhere that it wasn't. The fusion is. i just installed it finally got done with the tweaking and it looks sweeeet....


mowerman
 

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Just a note on hard drive consideration. I have built numerous PC's for family, friends and business associates and IMHO these have been my observations:


WD: Noisy and usually problematic once out of warranty. I stop installing them 4 years ago. I think that was also the same time they went to 1 year warranties too.


Maxtor: Haven't used in over 6 years but were noisy and the lease dependable of the lot. When I used them last in a 4 disk raid setup I had to replace everyone of them within 2 years. Just not acceptable at all to me.


IBM: Were rock solid and fast at one time but in the last 2 years have had manufacturing problems and I discontinued my use of them. Relatively were a pretty quiet drive.


Seagate: Highly dependable and very quiet. Not the fastest of the mainstream drives but quitness and dependabilty a big plus in my book. Have used almost religiously over the last few years. However, two things on Seagate. their ATA hard drives can not be used in RAID configurations unless you get their special RAID drives and those must be used in RAID configuations only. A negative in my book. Their mainstream drives will not raid. Not sure about their new SATA drives yet as I haven't built any PC's yet with the new SATA motherboards but I have 4 PC's that will be built on the SATA technology over the course of the next couple of months so my opinion here is deficient. Secondly, Seagate has just dropped their warranty period from 3 years to 1 year and that concerns me due to the fact that when WD did that their drives got absolutely horrible so Seagate is on my watch list now.


Samsung: A possible unsung hero (hehehe) of the hard drive community. I have only used a few so far and they have been in use for the last year without a problem. I have found them to be cool, stable and quiet and is the only one left with a 3 year warranty now I believe. They also work in RAID and was why I swapped out my Seagates for these. These drives are now on the top of my list for the moment or until they give me a reason to think otherwise but for now these drives get my nod.


Overall, anyone will tell you though that any hard drive can go at anytime these are just my opinions from real life experiences. I haven't seen a good summary on hard drives here so this is why I took the time to give you my life experiences with HD's.


Hope it helps.
 

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"is myhd compatible w/ dscaler ?"


Nope. Like all hardware decoding HDTV cards, it is a closed system and have their own video spaces. MyHD has recently been working on DVD functionality. It is the only one of the hardware HDTV cards to do it natively. Yes I know of the Hipix hack, but with that you still need ZoomPlayer.


You might wait for the Fusio III. Be prepared, no matter which Fusion you buy. Be prepared for a long series of work in progress with the software.


I have both in my main HTPC, and to my eyes the myHD-100 is noticably better in PQ than the Fusion II. I also have audio issues with non-HD channels (no audio at all) and no SPDIF from HD content (crickets).


As far as the AMD, there have been issues in the past, but it may have been more related to VIA chipsets. There also has been issues with some of the HDTV cards with AMD/Dual processors and HyperThreading.


My main HTPC is a Pentium 4, 533 on the Asus P4PE. It runs rock solid. HTPCs do not have to be top of the line for what they are doing. Heck, my first HTPC, a P3 1GHz on an Intel MicroATX is doing just fine as my NTSC PVR with 2 Haupauge PVR-250s and SageTV.


Lastly, here comes the howling form the masses, I have found that the most stable path is to turn off APCI in the OS and assign the IRQs as best you can.


Oh on the Seagate/Western Digital wars. I have never had a Western Digital fail. I can not say the same for Seagate, I just had to replace one on my brother's PC that was developing an area of soft (gradually failing) sectors.
 

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Also I would really recommend the Asus a7n8x-E Deluxe. It is VERY stable. It won't overclock as high as the NF7-S or Lanparty but once again it is very stable. Also has gigabit lan and some other nice features. Price point is in the middle of the lanparty and NF7-S
 

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MyHD does not do QAM. The only ones that do or are planned to do are the AccessDTV (limited due to onboard memory) and the Fussion III (not released and un-proven).
 

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Quote:
Originally posted by mcochris
How many fans/size does this case support?
I have this case, it came with one rear 60mm fan and you can add an 80mm

under the 3.5 bays...the one on top of the vidcard needs to slowed down

it's a bit loud.

http://img9.photobucket.com/albums/v.../installed.jpg
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
On that DFI board, I notice it comes with a filler for a 5 1/4 drive bay slot to use for the front USB, etc. Do you know if I "must" just that, or, if the motherboard has front ports already, can I hook to them?
 

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You already have 4 USB ports in the back. The ones in the 5 1/4 drive bay plate are optional. If your case has USB 2.0 compatible ports in the front bezel, then they could be plugged in its place into those ports in the board. But if the case has an old design with USB 1.0 plugs, then it can't be used as it will cause instability.
 

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If you have a HD display and want to use FFDShow to the max you had better forget about the Athlon. They are just not fast enough.

Something like a P4 2.8 overclocked to 3.3-3.5G on a good Intel dual channel board is required.



Owen

_____________________________

The FFDShow resize - sharpen dude
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Quote:
But if the case has an old design with USB 1.0 plugs, then it can't be used as it will cause instability.
WOW! Thanks for that. I hadn't heard that the ports were even different.

Quote:
If you have a HD display and want to use FFDShow to the max you had better forget about the Athlon. They are just not fast enough.
That's interesting. I have read lots and lots of threads on this forum, and NO-ONE has said that the AMD Athlon wouldn't be fast enough for HD display. I do see you are qualifying it by referencing FFDShow. I had not yet decided about that. I have seen a lot of people seemingly having tweaking problems with it, so I am leaning against using it. But, who knows what the future will bring.
 
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