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17 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
New guy here. Building my first PC ever. I've been reading reviews, articles and forums for a week solid. Most of the info is very old (2005 ish), or very different goals. I'm hoping that spec'ing out my perfect system will be child's play for some of you, because it's kicking my butt!

The scenario:

I moved from the US to the Middle East (yes,yes, I know). The TV and movie options here are very limited. Many of my coworkers are using bit torrents to find and download TV shows with great success. The physical layout in my home prevents me from running ethernet to my theater room.

The current setup:

I have a Humax satellite receiver, DVD player, and XBOX 360 feeding a Yamaha HT5990 with a single HDMI running to a Panasonic 56" DLP display (1080i). I also have a Squeeze 3 streaming FLAC audio from the home office via a 'g' network, this also provides internet to the XBOX via a bridge cable. All of this is controlled by the "Wife Remote", a Harmony 880.

The Goal:

Build a HTPC that will use my Buffalo A&G wireless router to collect and store a library of current TV shows, sports events, etc, downloaded as torrents. I have an 802.11a antenna that will need a USB 2.0 port on the back. From the HTPC I will feed the HT5990 with video using the XBOX 360 as a media extender. The Squeeze 3 will be served music from the HTPC via ethernet (I guess I'll need a hub). I will not burn DVD's, my goal is to find the shows I want in a format that can be played from the HDD. I will not play HD-DVD or Bluray. There is just no content available here. There is no TV available other than satellite, and that is all IRDETO, for which there are no PCI tuner cards produced to my knowledge. The local satellite image quality looks like VHS, if I could get 480p with Dolby I would be thrilled, if I could get 720p with 5.1 audio I would pee my pants.

Case- I have a 16"x16" footprint, with just over 7" in height, I need room for ventilation so max height of 6-6.5"? I've looked at the Origenx10, Antec Fusion, Silverstone LC11 & 19. Priority here is high quality, quiet, 2 HDD, 1 optical. I don't need a VFD, but I can easily ignore it if it doesn't cause problems.

Motherboard- Here's where I really need advice. Can I get what I want with onboard graphics? How about audio? In my perfect world the Mobo would obviate the need for GPU, audio card, NIC, (anything else?), and do it all without excess heat, extra fans, etc.

GPU- Do I need one? Do some torrents, avi files, use H.264? Do I need a hardware MPEG decoder, or can I get that on the Mobo. Should I offload the CPU by using dedicated graphics, and thus generate less heat? What is the best way to connect the HTPC to my HT5990; I have Component and HDMI slots open? Should I run a separate cable to my TV to tweak the OS, maybe surf without turning on the AV system (HDMI, Component, or even SVideo avail)?

CPU- Until the Mobo and GPU problems are solved it makes no sense to even talk about a CPU. All 3 are interrelated.

HDD- I'm looking for a quite drive around 750GB. I will add another 350GB drive from my office PC full of FLAC music.

Optical Drive- I think I will play all DVD's through my stand alone DVD player, and burn any disks upstairs on the tower PC in my office. So....I think I just need something to load the OS?!?

PSU- I think we are talking about pretty low power loads in this system. I suppose the case may dictate what we do here. Once again looking for high quality, low noise.

Despite this wordy posting, I think the goals are pretty simple; I want to watch TV by downloading files. I just don't fully understand the formats and protocols and how to get the most from the latest hardware. I don't want to overbuild because of heat and noise, and under building just turns into an expensive nightmare.

I would appreciate advice on the parts and pieces that you think would do the job, and work well together, and fit in the case. I would place a heavy emphasis on quality and reliability. If something breaks there is no Fry's, and Newegg takes weeks to ship something here (assuming customs doesn't steal it). I am also willing to spend $ if you think it will 'future proof'.

That is all.

Thank you in advance.

2,210 Posts
Here are some recommendations:

With decent processor power, all else can be solved with brute force, and you'll be set for the future as more and more apps make use of extra cores.

I'd recommend a Q6600 or a dual core E8400 Intel CPU. With these, there's no need for a decoding GPU and all the associated driver problems.

These processors have the power to decode h264 in software. In fact, since the majority of h264 torrents are in the mkv format, you have few options of accelerating the decoding with ANY GPU.

Couple it with a budget motherboard, e.g. eVGA e-7150, with onboard video (including HDMI), digital sound output, gigabit LAN and you're all set. You'll probably have to get a 802.11n or 802.11g (at least) wireless network adaptor if you are even remotely thinking of wirelessly streaming higher definition downloads.

The Antec cases are rather quiet and the Fusion 430 is a decent case with a PSU sufficient for your needs if you go with an mATX board like the one above.

Hard drive: I've had great results in terms of noise, speed and heat (lack of) from WD 750 GB drives.

15 Posts
So it looks like you just need something to play your downloaded media files with then? In that case, this software build should suit you well: http://www.projecthtpc.co.uk/htpc_software08.html

Hardware wise you mention your not needing blu-ray or HD-DVD so you will be fine with onboard graphics. Im even running the above software config with an AMD x2 3800 playing 1080p content, so a good combo would be something like a Gigabyte GA-MA69GM-S2H motherboard and AMD Athlon X2 BE-2350. This would output low heat and power.

Fusion black case would be a good choice which includes a decent PSU. Hope this helps
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