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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I wanted to run this by everyone before I made any hasty purchase decisions. I'm putting together an inexpensive HPTC. I wish to use it for (in order of what I perceive as its main functions)...
  • Audio jukebox (primary use)
  • Recording/archiving video from DBS, maybe laserdisc (to burn VCDs or SVCDs on another PC on the network)
  • Recording audio from FM and DBS sources
  • Region-free DVD
  • Internet access (it will be on a network)
  • Internet streaming audio

Based on threads I've read here and on other sites, I've come up with the following components
  • Antec KS788 case: $74 (shipped, Provantage)
  • 800 MHz AMD Duron: $34 (Newegg)
  • ASUS A7V133 Motherboard: $101 (Newegg)
  • 256MB Crucial PC133: $34 (Newegg)
  • ATI Radeon VE 32MB w/TV out: $47 (Newegg)
  • IOMagic PC PVR: $49 (iomagic)
  • Maxtor 60G/5400RPM: $98 (Newegg)
  • Toshiba SD-M1612 DVD: $59 (Newegg) Don't need CD-R as I already have that capability elsewhere on the network)
  • Soundblaster Live 5.1: $32 (Newegg)
  • Hoontech SB Live III add on: $36 (hoontech) Can someone verify that this can be used with the SB Live 5.1?
  • Wireless Keyboard and Mouse: $38 (hugebee)
  • Linksys network card: $15 (Newegg)
  • Sony floppy: $9 (Newegg)

Total: $626 (remember, I said inexpensive :) )


I'd like to keep the total under $700 if possible, so from this list I can upgrade a couple of things if folks think it makes sense to do so. I considered the "ATI All-In-Wonder Radeon 32MB DDR 4X AGP Video Card" ($143) instead of the ATI Radeon / IOMagic PVR combo. I could also go with a beefier CPU such as a 1GHz Athlon ($67). Are there places that I could scale back? I don't think so, as I went cheap pretty much across the board. Maybe a smaller HDD, but I'd prefer not to do that.


Any help, suggestions, comments, and criticisms would be very helpful. Also, any info on my choice of vendors would be good. Newegg seems to have a decent reputation and most of the stuff I'm buying is OEM, thus the low price.


Thanks!

-Steve
 

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Steve,


A couple of quick points:


- I'm not familiar with the 1612 - are you sure region free firmware is available for it? If it is a new device (judging from the 16x speed) don't assume you can flash it to be region free. To my knowledge the current Toshiba 1502 has no region free solution either (they tweaked the latest firmware to stop you uploading new firmware).


- Is noise from the HTPC an issue for you? If so, plan for an alternative heatsink as the standard Athlon one will be noisy. You could also swap the Maxtor out for the much quieter Seagate Barracuda IV.


- You didn't mention if you were feeding Dolby Digital or DTS out to an AV receiver/amp etc. If so, I'd look closely at a different audio card. I thought the SB was locked to 48khz for SPDIF.


Otherwise it looks great!
 

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For region coding information visit www.inmatrix.com

I'd be tempted to look at DDR capable motherboards though. 256MB of PC2100 RAM is $29 at crucial, and the price difference in motherboards isn't really a factor either...


You should investigate the Soyo Dragon - onboard 5.1 sound with spdif output, and onboard LAN. Price at Newegg $139, which will save you $53 overall, which you can spend in pushing the processor speed up or on more RAM... ;)
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Quote:
I'm not familiar with the 1612 - are you sure region free firmware is available for it?
Thank you for pointing that out. Exactly why I posted here! You're right, it's not. I did find this page that has a good list of DVD drives and their region free status. That drive is NOT changeable, so I'll have to look for another. The speed of the drive is an absolute non-issue for this system. For ripping CDs and the like, I'll use another system on the network.
Quote:
Is noise from the HTPC an issue for you?
Yes it is. I chose a case with a power supply from smartpower that incorporates a variable speed fan. I'm going to be looking into CPU cooling solutions as well. As far as the drives goes, I choose a 5400 RPM drive. Again, for this system that extra bit of blazing speed isn't that important. I have the 40G cousin to this Maxtor in my office PC and find it to be quite quiet. I will certainly look into the Seagate though.
Quote:
You didn't mention if you were feeding Dolby Digital or DTS out to an AV receiver/amp etc. If so, I'd look closely at a different audio card. I thought the SB was locked to 48khz for SPDIF.
Yes, that's my plan. I'll look closely at the card to make sure it can do what I want. What I really need is a way to digitally record the PCM audio bitstream from my DirecTV receiver (Sony SAT-T60 w/ TiVo). That, more than anything else, will be the primary function of the sound card. Is that even possible?
Quote:
I'd be tempted to look at DDR capable motherboards
Thanks, I'll look into that to...
Quote:
You should investigate the Soyo Dragon - onboard 5.1 sound with spdif output, and onboard LAN. Price at Newegg $139
I've never built a system around a Soyo board. I've always been an ASUS or ABIT kinda guy. ;) Anyway, I'll take a look at that. I'm less concerned with the 5.1 out than I am with the analog and digital IN, so unless I can do what I want with that board, I'll end up adding another soundcard anyway.


Thanks for all the help so far. I'll check out these suggestions and report back on what I find.


-Steve
 

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Quiet DVD drives that can be made region free appear to be getting scarcer. Certainly all the old Toshiba's are gone from the retail channel. No doubt this is a result of the DVDCCA putting pressure on the vendors to fix this loophole in their global protection racket.


I just got a Toshiba R1102 which is a DVD/CDR but damn expensive at ~$149. Region free firmware is available for this although I haven't tried it yet.


The French firmware site you linked to is always a good resource. Most of their firmware has been offline for the last two weeks however - I wonder if the DVDCCA folks have started putting legal pressure on them?


Cross check that site's firmware against reviews on storagereview.com re performance and noise, and you can't go wrong.


I'm not an expert on DirecTV - you might want to ask that question in a seperate thread or try the DirecTV forum on this site.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
On the topic of Region Free DVD ROM drives...


On this page , of the drives that newegg carries, the Sony DDU1621, Pioneer 106S, Liteon LTD-163, and Hitachi GD-8000 all have region free firmware available. But only the Liteon is in stock.


I'll look toward other sites as well (mwave, others). I'm leaning toward the Pioneer 106S (slot) or Pioneer 116 (tray). Any perceivable advantages of one loading systems over the other for an HTPC application?


If worst comes to worst, I currently have a Creative DVD2240E which IS RPC-1 (region free) in my office PC. I can use that and get another DVD drive to replace it.


Thanks again all!


-Steve
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
After doing some more research, I've decided to go with the following components
  • Pioneer 116 (has available patched RPC-1 firmware)
  • Hauppauge WinTV-radio 401 (Instead of the IOMagic PC PVR). People here seem to be pretty fond of this card and it will serve me if I ever upgrade to a DTV system (with dscaler and the like). It's a bit more expensive though, but I want something that's based on a technology that's going to last me a while.

I'm also going to stick with the non-DDR motherboard. Looking at the reviews, benchmarks, and specs there just doesn't seem to bit a big performance advantage for the added cost of the motherboard (about $40 more). For that $40, I can get a faster processor.


I'm still trying to see if I can record the PCM bitstream from the DirecTV box. I've asked in a few places and the response has been "yea, I don't see why not", but no one has come forward to say that they've done it.


I also looked into the SPDIF specs on the Soundblaster card. The output is locked at 48KHz, but the input is variable (5KHz to 48KHz).


The one thing that I'm hung up on right now is a quiet AMD (duron/athlon) fan. Can anyone offer suggestions?


Thanks again for the help! To me, this is half the fun of putting together a system like this.


-Steve
 

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Asus also have 3 DDR motherboards that are available with the 6 channel cmi8738 sound onboard - the A7M266 (AMD761/Via chipset combo),the A7V266 (KT266) and the A7V266E (KT266A).


Newegg have the A7M266 for $149, with a $20 discount applicable if you also buy an AMD processor. I don't know whether this model has the onboard LAN or not (it is optional from Asus), but you'll save the $68 on the SB Live/Hoontech combo, hence saving $40 overall ($55 if it does have the onboard LAN.)


The cmedia chipset is not locked to 48KHz. It will do 44.1kHz or 48kHz.


As for quiet coolers, it depends on what processor you eventually decide to get.


For upwards of 1.2GHz Athlons, it gets tricky. The Zalman Flower, Pal Alpha8045, Thermalright SK6, or NoiseControl Silverado should all be considered.

I have a Pal Alpha8045 on a 1.33T-Bird that is OCed to 1440. It hits about 51C at full load using a quiet 80mm fan. My PSU is louder.
 

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yes, you can record the digital bitstream from the sat box. i do it all the time. i record to a 4 hr dat tape, and if i hear anything i like, i burn it to a cd. you could record to the hard drive directly too, of course!



good luck


oscar

HOME THEATER CREATIONS
 

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I can recommend the 'flower' heatsinks from Zalman, available at Zalmantech.com. I have the top of the line model which cost $49 and it is exceedingly quiet - it keeps my 1.2g PIII as cool as the Intel heatsink it came with.


They might soak up that ~$60 you saved on the SoundBlaster though! ;-)
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
PARTS ARE ON THEIR WAY!


Everything has been ordered. I ended up making a couple of changes to the original list...


Pioneer DVD-116 (which is RPC-1 settable for region free)

Hauppauge WinTV-radio Model 401


I decided against DDR/PC2100 because after looking at the results of many benchmark tests, it didn't look to be much of an advantage. Plus with only $169 of this invested in the motherboard, CPU, and memory, if I need to do an upgrade down the road the cost of my "scrap" will not have been that much.


I also went ahead with the SB Live! 5.1 because a) I'm not a fan of on-board anything... just a personal bias I've always had (maybe irrational), and b) I didn't see a need for 44.1 and 48 KHz output. The SB Live! stuff plus the Hoontech add-on seems to provide pretty comprehensive audio I/O options which is what I was looking for.


If everything shows up in reasonable time, I'll be assembling and testing this weekend. I'll report back with the results/issues/etc. as soon as I get it all together. I'll be using Windows 98 (second edition) along with installing dScaler and VirtualDub. Plus I'll be on the hunt for a good MP3 archiving program (something simple, functional, CDDB compatible, and without all the flash and bugs of something like WinAmp and MusicMatch).


In case anyone is interested, the PC will be integrated into this system in my living room. The turntable will go into another room and up top is where the PC will live (though I may shuffle things around to get it on the bottom of the stack instead).


-Steve
 

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Hi Steve, if you really want to have a region free-well lets say region switchable system, then you should get an older software player as well. Newer players like the recent ATI players and Post 2000 WinDVD basically make it a pain in the a*** to switch regions-you have to switch the windows region code then reboot then you have to switch the dvd player region code.

I wonder why the movie studios insist so much on the region sh*** they basically drive people into divx-its not like that 70% of the retail DVD players sold over here in europe aren´t hacked or easily hackable by the user.

Anyway there is another way to bypass region coding if you can´t get a hackable drive anymore simply get two RPC2 drives and set one of it to region 1 and the other one to the region you live in you you want to watch the other movies maybe a little bit costly but does the job as well.
 

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Steve O wrote:
Quote:
I also went ahead with the SB Live! 5.1 because a) I'm not a fan of on-board anything... just a personal bias I've always had (maybe irrational), and b) I didn't see a need for 44.1 and 48 KHz output.
Steve, I didn't think I needed 44.1 either, until I wanted to play some Audio DTS CDs in my home theater - suxxor


Now I've got to go through all the crap again finding a sound card to do DD & DTS for DVDs, _AND_ one with DTS pass thru. I'm on my 3rd card, the Herc Fortissimo II
 
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