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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'm am building my first HTPC to use for DVD playback, MP3 playback, PVR, OTA HDTV (eventually), and TV. I am just going to be upgrading a computer that I have sitting around the house, so for now I'm not addressing the motherboard, RAM, HD, etc... because I can upgrade these later if needed.


So far from reading the FAQs and browsing the forum, here's my best guess at the biggest values for an entry level system. Please help all of us first-timers and comment on this list. Alot of these recommendations were from older posts, so there may be better values out there now.


Motherboard

?


CPU

?


Harddrive

?


Video Card

Radeon 7500 ALL-IN-WONDER ~ $120


DVD Player

Toshiba SD-M1612 16x DVD-ROM ~ $45


Sound Card

Update: Phillips dynamic edge ~ $30

Update: Aopen AW850D ~ $24 *** (Potential problem with DD and DTS output)


NIC (since I'll be upgrading to cable modem)

3COM 3C905B ~ $25

*** (Is there something better and cheaper than the 3COM?)



Is there anything else that I'm missing?


Thanks,

Paul
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
Oh, I forgot to add that I really want to have the capability to output DD5.1 and DTS to my Receiver. From my reading on this forum, it sounds like this isn't an issue with the Aopen AW744.
 

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I really hope you get an answer because I to am curious what the pros have to say.
 

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I think you will want to look at the aw850d. It is $24 on some internet sites and does optical and digital coax in AND out. I have no idea of the quality and I certainly am no "pro" :^)


Thanks,

Shawn
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Yeah, I agree... just looked at the 850d specs and that will be a much better choice. I will edit my first post so it has that card instead.


I'm really interested in the DVD player... is this really the best deal? And where are the pros???
 

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You should be able to find cheaper NICs (including ones with WOL, which you may want to have)


I would not go with an AIW card. A plain radeon, and a separate TV card (if needed) will give you better results for a lower total cost...
 

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Just for curiosity, what is the speed of your computer and OS? These may lead to clues of possible road blocks.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Dual 350 mhz AMD processors with 64 MB RAM running Win 98 SP1 right now.


I know this isn't enough to really do much... but I will definitely upgrade the RAM to at least 256MB and also get at least a 1ghz processor. I just don't want to upgrade any of that until I know that the motherboard that I have is going to work. The components that I listed should work independent of which motherboard I have, so thats why I'm addressing them in this thread. I'm going to pull the case off of this thing and see what the mobo is... I'll post that later.


Eiffel,

Can you list some specific NICs that you would recommend? I just got that one from one of the FAQs on this forum. What is "WOL" and why do I need it?

I found that several people on this board recommend the AIW card... I would much rather spend half the amount of money on just the card if that will work. I was just interested in the AIW for the PVR capabilities... If I don't get the AIW, then how do I add PVR? Am I missing anything by not getting the remote that comes with it? What TV card can I add to my list above and how is it more capable than what is included in the AIW? hehe... see what happens when you give me a suggestion... sorry for so many ?'s...
 

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Onkyo TX-NR5009, AppleTV 4K, Sony KDL-55W900A, M&K s-125 lcr, M&K SS-150 surround, SVS 16-46pci sub
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One motherboard to consider is the asus A7N8X delux. It is based on the nforce 2 and goes for $150-160. It has dual lan (one realtek based one 3com based) has built in sound that passes DD and DTS (has coax out) and is extremely stable.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Actually, here are the exact specs on what I have now:


Packard Bell Multimedia 955


CPU: IC CPU K6-2 333MHZ AMD SOCKET7

Memory: 64MB (IC SIMM 32MB NONPARITY EDO60NS)

Harddrive Size: HD 8.4GB(90845D5)UDMA MAXTOR

CD-Rom Speed: CDR 32X MST WHT LTN-301 LITEON

Sound Card: Integrated on motherboard

Video Card/Memory: Integrated on motherboard

Power Supply Wattage: 90W


I'm looking at the motherboard right now, but can't find the model number... any ideas?
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
How do I determine what my current motherboard is to decide whether or not to replace it? I guess if I'm gonna replace my processor, I need to upgrade... so should I just start from scratch?
 

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Scratch it and start over, with the exception of the Harddrive and CD-ROM. You can load all the software you'll want on there, and recycling that part will save you some $, but you won't be saving too many CD's or ANY DVD's on there. I'm sorry, but the power supply needs to be at least 250W. In my experience you save a lot of money buying "barebones kits" or motherboard+cpu bundles.


Putting a good video card or sound card into your legacy machine would be like putting a string bikini on an old lady.
 

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Quote:
Aopen 850D Sound Card
There is a "sound card minimalist thread" running around where another forum member could not get DD or DTS digital passthrough with this card. Tech support did not even report back to him.


I recommend the $30 Phillips dynamic edge. I just got it and can verify excellent spdif SQ and DD/DTS passthrough. Got it at Beast Buy.


Cheers,
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
I updated the sound card info in the initial post... Thanks for the info and pointer to the minimalist thread!


Now it sounds like I'm going to have to start from scratch.... I really don't want to invest more than $300-$400 in my first stab at this thing. After I have a system together, then I can add on to it.


Have any of you been successful at accomplishing a starter system for this amount?
 

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Paulluse,


I haven't had any problem with any of the NICs I have tested in my systems. I got a 'free' Linksys FA311 with my DSL subscription, and haven't had any problem with it. I also bought a cheap D-Link model for $10 (on sale at CompUsa) which worked well too...


WOL, or Wake On Lan is a nice feature to have if you are thinking about remotely controlling your PC over a network (from an other PC, or from a Pocket PC as in Netremote). If this is not in the cards, don't worry about it.


WRT the video card, I didn't know that the AIW 7500 came with the ATI remote. Given that it does, it sounds like a pretty good deal! It won't be compatible with D-Scaler, which means that you video scaling won't be state of the art, but you could later on add a cheap TV card (the generic compUSA card was fairly popular a while ago...).
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
What makes the Radeon AIW 7500 not compatible with D-Scaler? If I get the non-AIW 7500 AGP will that be compatible with D-Scaler?
 

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This is what I understand paulluse...


The video card isn't the issue. It is the capture elements in the Radeon. The developer(s) of dScaler have not written code to capture from the chipsets that ATI uses (this is NOT a knock on them, it is a fantastic product - just the truth).


Other capture products such as Hauppauge's WinTV series utilize the chipsets that dScaler was written for. You may want to check out the dScaler FAQ at http://www.dscaler.org/FAQ.htm , but here is the link to the card support list http://www.dscaler.org/card-support/index.htm .


Hope that helps.


Thanks,

Shawn

""
 

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Generally speaking, there are two routes you can go with a budget system

A) Buy an all in one motherboard and save on additional components

B) Buy bargain components that you can upgrade in the future


Motherboard


If you choose the A route, either the Nforce or Nforce2 board are going to be your best bet, but remember that your upgradability will be limited (less pci slots, etc.)


A)

Nforce A7N266-VM ($67 @ newegg)

Or Nforce2 that DblHelix suggested (probably around $150)


B)

Abit KG7-Raid (about $50 at various clearance sites online)


CPU

AMD 1600+ ($52 @ newegg)


Harddrive

Whatever is on a good deal this week. Take a look at the deal sites and see what is on special after rebate. If you go with the raid board, you may want to go for two drives if they are cheap. A Raid 0 arrray will be faster than basically anything else you would buy. I like maxtor drives, but that is personal preference. Make sure that you get 7200 rpm.


Video Card

I wouldn't get the Radeon 7500 ALL-IN-WONDER ~ $120. I'd echo the sentiment of shstevens here. If you want to use dscaler you need an input capture card that runs off the brooktree chipset. AIW doesn't. I bought a Zoltrix card off Ebay for $40. Look at the recommended card list on the dscaler site and see which one you can find for the cheapest price.


As far as the output video card goes, a 7500 will be fine for your HTPC now, but in the interest of continuing support, I would go with the 9000 Pro.


ATI 9000 Pro Retail $115 (To save some money you could get the non-ati brand and/or the non-pro, but your best bet is just paying the extra $15 for the name brand. It comes with the extra DVI>VGA adapter for dualhead.)



DVD Player

You don't really need the Toshiba SD-M1612 16x DVD-ROM ~ $45. You should be able to get the Cendyne 16x drive at one of the office stores for $0 - $20 after rebate. Just check this week's deal sites or ads in the paper. The drives are typically, if not always lite-ons, which are great drives.


There are only two reasons to pay more.

1) you want a black-bezel drive

2) you want a slot-load drive (pioneer)



Sound Card

If you're looking for a card around $30 just get the


Soundblaster Live! 5.1 for $34 @ newegg


I hate creative and their sound cards, but from a support standpoint it's not worth saving the $5-$10 and getting an off-brand card. Everyone has these cards, so the developers support them. I just had to retire one of my Vortex2 cards and get this one to get 5.1 out with theatertek.


If you feel like splurging you probably want to go for the new M-audio revolution ($100)


NIC (since I'll be upgrading to cable modem)


Won't matter if you get an Nforce board.


3COM 3C905B ~ $25

*** (Is there something better and cheaper than the 3COM?)


As far as the NIC goes, it probably doesn't matter. Sticking with 3com and Intel are good bets. I've been using intel cards for a while and I'm happy with them. When it comes down to it, your NIC is going to be 10x faster than your cable modem connection anyway. As long as the card works at all, the quality probably won't make too much difference. Take a look at what is on special this week in the newspaper ads. You shouldn't pay more than about $20.
 

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Update- the $24 Aopen AW850d at $24 is now the crownholder. Works perfectly on XP pro, passing DD over SPDIF. Note this has a daughter slot that offers coax and optical inputs AND outputs! Sounds great on my system.

Spearse
 
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