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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I want to jump into the HTPC arena but I don't have much of a budget right now. However, I might already have enough spare components to throw together the base computer. The only critical components missing are the TV tuner/capture board and the case.


Here's what I already have:


Abit BH6 mobo

Pentium III 500MHz (Slot 1)

256MB PC133 SDRAM

SBLive 5.1 soundcard

PC Works 4.1 surround speaker system

80GB hard drive

Generic 8x DVD-ROM drive

R/F Wireless Keyboard w/Trackball

nVidia Riva 128 AGP videocard


Is this enough to get started? If not please advise on cheapest alternatives.


Also what TV card do you guys recommend? I was thinking about the Creative Video Blaster Digital VCR.


What's the quietest case available?


thanks
 

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The CPU may not be powerful enough to do smooth software DVD playback. If you get a radeon card, which has some hardware assist, you MAY be able to get away with the PIII. Can't really comment on tv cards yet. I have a Hauppauge PVR250 card on order, which I've heard good things about. As far as cases go, I think the Atech case is pretty quiet, but expensive. I have the Digitalis Vision2 case. As long as you put a quiet PSU and HSF, then it is very quiet and solid.


Also check out www.silentpcreview.com
 

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The P3 500 MHz should be good enough - I was doing fine for regular DVD SW Playback on my Celeron 366. ZoomPlayer & Divx stuff is a bit too much for it though.


If you're patient enough, about every 2 months in the Hot Deals forum in Anandtech, someone will put up a Dell Deal for about $400 (got mine last month - 2.4 GHz processor), and you can go from there.


Of course, this is assuming $400 is still within your budget.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Thanks for the replies & advice guys. Did some interesting experimentation over the last couple of days. I hooked up my P3-1GHz laptop (with ATI Radeon 7500 video chip) and compared DVD playback with my Panasonic XP-30. The XP30 hooks up to the X1 through component-to-VGA cable, the laptop through regular VGA of course.


I found that the image was slightly sharper from the laptop. I used Zoomplayer and was impressed with its ability to reposition and zoom the image on the fly. Very cool. However, one negative I definitely noticed was that in panning scenes, where the camera pans across a wide area, the XP30 was smoother than the PC. Otherwise I would say the computer is superior in the PQ department overall, though the XP30 does hold up pretty well in comparison. You have to really pay attention to see the superiority of the DVD playback from the computer. However, when I compared computer DVD playback to my cheapo Mintek 1600, it was no contest.


The thing that worries me, is if my 1GHz laptop gets slightly choppy on panning scenes, how is a P3-500 going to fare. I guess I'll just have to try it and found out. At least it won't cost my anything to put together the basic HTPC. I can hold off on the TV tuner card for now.
 

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I am using an OLD PII333 as HTPC with onboard 3D Rage vid. I run ffdshow and mainly for divx playback. Unless I turn on the sharpen or nosies filter and it'll stutter sometime but when its off then the playback is smooth. You just have to tweak the system, disable as many services as u can.
 

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As mentioned above, Dell has ongoing good deals. I use www.techbargains.com to monitor them. Got a 4550 P4, 2.66 mHz, 60G system for $397 delivered after rebates two weeks ago. I had a Radeon 7500 and am using Theatertek without ffdshow or reclock with a beautiful picture and no stutter. Digitalconnection has a good deal on Revo sound card plus Theatertek.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
On the jerky panning issue I mentioned in my previous post, disregard. It had nothing to do with the PC not being powerful enough. It was a refresh rate issue. I was feeding the projector [email protected] I changed to [email protected] and now when the image pans it's just as smooth as my XP30. Apparently the Infocus X1 projector prefers a 60Hz input.


I now see no reason to keep using my XP30 for DVD playback. The PC gives better PQ in every respect, and using Zoomplayer I can set it so that 2.35 ratio movies position the image at the bottom of my 1.78 ratio screen, so I get masking on the sides and bottom of the image. That's something I could never do with the Panasonic XP30 dvd player.


And being able to lay back on the couch and browse the web on a 120" screen is just too cool. And I must say the SereneScreen Aquarium screensaver is awesome on the big screen. My dogs were totally freaked out by the fish. Just when I thought they'd finally gotten used to the big screen, lol. :)


I still need to get the TV card though. In addition to Tivo-like functionality I want to watch VHS tapes through it, and I want to use DScaler to improve the image. Which TV/capture card do you guys recommend ($100 or less preferred).
 
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