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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'm about to either upgrade my PC or build or buy a HTPC to feed my HD-ready TV with 1920x1080i and 600p. I've been upgrading my PC over the years. I built it from scratch originally as a Pentium 133 when those were brand spanking new. Almost everything has been replaced at one time or other, and here is how it stands now:


Dual Pentium Pro 180 overclocked to 233, SCSI controller (Ultra), SCSI CD-ROM, SCSI 4.3 GB hard drive, SCSI DAT drive, Voodoo3 PCI card, Soundblaster Live! (gamer edition).


I currently don't use this PC at all, since I have a new laptop.


Pentium Pros are basically Pentium II's with faster caches and no MMX. 233 Mhz Pentium Pro is the equivalent of a 266 Mhz Pentium II, or even faster for 32 bit. The main problem with Pentium Pros is that their motherboards lack AGP slots, but I could get two riser cards to use my two Pentium pros in a dual Pentium II motherboard.


So, I would need a new motherboard, riser cards, a DVD drive, an AGP graphics card, and maybe a disk drive, and at some point I would want to upgrade the sound card. Would it be cost ineffective and crazy to upgrade all this? Is there any HTPC-friendly operating system that makes use of two processors?


I'm thinking I should junk it (or turn it into a Linux firewall) and buy a new system from Dell, which might come out cheaper than upgrading, but any opinions would be appreciated. If there's any way to take advantage of the dual processors, then maybe it wouldn't be so crazy.


Heh, in doing my research on the net, I found a Pentium Pro system for $3536 back in 1996, and then an almost identical used one for sale now for $179 (including monitor.) That certainly argues for junking, I guess. Well, at least I bought the Pentium Pro 180's for cheap originally after they were out of production.



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Abdul

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There's no way you would be able to buy a new motherboard today and use your PPros. The limitation is not in the socket - but in the supply voltage. PPro use 2.8V, while PII use 2.0V. PIII mainly use 1.65V/1.75V and there's no dual processor board that's backwards compatible with the 2.8V required by the PPros. Besides - slot 1 dual motherbards are extremely expensive and slot 1 is dead anyway.


If you still want to have a dual box today I suggest you get a dual fcpga PIII with a motherboard based on the via chipset. If you can wait then the upcoming dual athlon platform is supposed to be ready soon - or you can wait for the dual P4 (todays P4 won't work in SMP btw).


If you're into PC building then upgrades is the only cost effective way of doing it. This is because those brand name PCs cost an extra premium for tech support (which you'll either never use..or find completely clueless) - and the extra development cost associated with making inflexible non-upgradable solutions.


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/frode
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Well, my last "upgrade" was to a 600 Mhz Pentium III notebook with 1400x1050 LCD screen and DVD drive a year ago. The old dual Pentium Pro system still has enough oomph for Linux, IMO, which was all it was ever intended for.


Is Dell really not an option? Try this:


$1194 for all of the following...


1.3 Ghz Pentium IV

128 MB PC600 RDRAM

20 GB Ultra ATA hard drive

32 MB DDR ATI Radeon Card

16X Variable DVD ROM drive

Logitech wireless keyboard and mouse

disposable sound card and speakers

various annoying software

service support


I could be wrong, but I don't think Dell makes their top-of-the-line desktop systems into unexpandable nightmares.


I'm not totally up to speed here, so I'm not sure if that DDR Radeon card is acceptable or if the All-in-Wonder is the thing to have. Assuming the DDR is okay, then all you'd need to add is the Audiophile sound card.


Thanks for the build suggestions. I'll take a look at buying each component separately.


I plan to go single processor this time. Dual processors are not supported by Windows, and every once in a blue moon I would hit a program that would not run in Linux due to the SMP. For HTPC, I want minimal headaches and maximal reliability, and that means a single processor.


What are my choices of OS's and how would you rank them?


-Abdul
 

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A P4-1.3GHz with PC600 memory is significantly slower than an Athlon 1GHz at pretty much everything, and slower than a P3-1GHz at many tasks. Of course SMP is supported by Windows, just not by Windows 98. Works great in NT and 2000.

$1100 and change isn't a terrible price for that machine, but I just added some costs up.. I could build an identical machine, without monitor, for $900+shipping.


Check these benchmark results out. See what PC600 does to your scores, relative to PC800?
http://www4.tomshardware.com/cpu/01q...system-10.html
 

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If you want a dell, check the factory outlet.


I haven't had a dell for a while (except at work) but the build quality used to be pretty good on the dimensions.


Stock intel mb, whatever video card they mention.


Pick the same model that they say is THX certified and get a PIII model. Dell charges double for ram than Crucial so get as little as you can find...


I think it depends on if you want MS Office or not whether going Dell/Gateway/etc is cost effective vs building your own.


Nigel


PS If you want ms office and not ms works, look under the Business section of the factory outlet. I think I even saw a linux model there one day.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
You could build that system for $900?! I get $1520 shipped with no operating system or software:


$360 Athlon 1Ghz (266 MHz FSB)

+ ASUS A7M266 (AMD 760 chipset, DDR memory)

$110 256 MB (2x128) PC2100 DDR memory

$100 8X DVD-ROM drive

$250 ATI Radeon All-in-Wonder

$175 M-Audio Audiophile 2496

$30 Promise Ultra66 IDE controller

$320 Two 40GB IBM 60GXP IDE drives

$10 Two Ultra IDE cables

$20 Ethernet card

$70 Case

$75 Airboard wireless keyboard

$0 Recycled floppy drive

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$1520


-Abdul
 

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Hi Abdul:


___Frode already gave you everything you wanted to know. I am not sure what your PS requirements were in that older box but running two PP’s at their 3.1 to 3.3 V native voltages and pushing 2-45 W + PP’s means it is probably pretty robust. The problem is in its form factor. Many of the older PP boards were Baby AT’s instead of ATX. Even if you have an ATX form factor board and PS, it will not be in step with today’s latest and a new PS would be highly recommended for both the current supply off a particular voltage rail but also for the power saving features built into today’s PS’s. Purchase a new PIII or T-Bird as well as all the surrounding HW and save yourself the headaches. I have to ask this question however … Why have you waited this long to upgrade? A PII 300 - 400 is about where you are sitting as far as performance is concerned even in dual under NT for most PC applications today. 350 to 400 MHz PII’s were surpassed in performance quite some time ago.


___Secondly, If you want to buy a Dell and strip it of most of its parts, spend even more money on real HTPC HW, not receive the support you purchased because you cannot insert your system restore disk and bring it back to OEM stock, pay about 30% more money for a much less configurable PC, receive support for a PC but not an HTPC such as asking why you cannot get AC-3 pass-thru in your particular configuration (I can bet most have never seen a DELL or Gateway TSR lock up on a question like this, its funny http://www.avsforum.com/ubb/wink.gif ), and finally have a box that works as it is supposed to for HTPC use, you should be in good hands …


___Good Luck


___Wayne R. Gerdes

___Hunt Club Farms Landscaping Ltd.

___ [email protected]



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New E-Mail address for the time being ... [email protected]
 

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Turn it into a Linux box, and use it as a firewall. Toss a big IDE disk in it as well and use it for network file storage/backups.


Then, build one of the following two systems:

Athlon 1GHz (266MHz FSB)

ASUS A7M266 (AMD 760 chipset, DDR memory)

256 to 512MB of Crucial ( www.crucial.com ) PC2100 DDR memory

DVD-ROM

One of the appropriate video cards.. GeForce2, Radeon, etc.

M-Audio Audiophile 2496

Promise Ultra66 IDE controller (like $25)

Two 30GB IBM 60GXP IDE drives, on seperate cables, on the Promise controller.

An appropriate case, based on your preferences.

Some kind of NIC


That's a nice cheap machine with truly insane horsepower.


If you need SMP (I'm addicted to it, myself), do the following:


2 x P3-933s

ABIT VP6 (the truly great dual-CPU Via board, made by Freeway, isn't sold in America. I had to get mine from Taiwan.)

512MB of Crucial PC133 memory

Everything else identical, except get a Hercules Game Theatre XP sound card instead of the Audiophile 2496. The Hercules is the card that works best with Via chipsets, and SMP. Nice DD 5.1/DTS outputs, as well.


Put your operating system on one hard drive, and install your applications/data/documents to the other. This will closely approximate/beat the performance you're used to with SCSI hard drives.


Alternately, if you have the budget, get a Tekram or Adaptec Ultra160 SCSI host adapter and a Seagate Cheetah X15 hard drive. You won't regret it.
 

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Does dell still do the 3-4 week pricematch? I remember on my purchase a long time ago where they refunded part of the purchase price because the price dropped a week or two later.


Another factor to consider given that Dell drops in price a bit after intel does.


Nigel
 

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Hi All:


___Again, please consider skipping the ripoff DELL. Why would anyone purchase an overpriced Dell, and throw out the video card, throw out the sound card, strip the OS by the Format C: command to get rid of all the garbage, upgrade the RDRAM to PC800 for a ridiculous cost of $210.00 for 256 MB, have a non-configurable MB (Intel boards are very stable and unconfigurable whereas every ASUS made I815E, P4, and KT133A chipset board made are as stable but vastly more configurable), and lose the support because the PC was stripped of half the HW and all of the SW … Dell does not know what an HTPC is nor how one works. Do you think a Dell TSR knows anything about AC-3 pass-thru or custom T&R’s? If you do, I have some swampland in Florida for sale at very reasonable prices. Read the reviews … The P4 1.3 GHz is about as fast as a 1 GHz PIII and if you cripple it with PC600 RDRAM, your talking about PIII 850 MHz type performance! Why anyone that can build a dual PP Server would consider a Dell like this is beyond me.


___For anyone interested in this route … If you live in the US, I recommend that the first thing you do in the morning is to call Dell at 800-915-3355 and ask the CSR few questions. Ask if the Sound card in the system you will be purchasing has AC-3 pass-thru capability with the included Dell drivers or if it has AC-3 pass-thru capability via S/PDIF at all. Next, ask the CSR if you have custom T&R capability from the Nvidia drivers preinstalled by Dell? Next, ask if you can upgrade the Nvidia reference drivers to the 6.50’s or even the 7.59 beta’s and still have warranty or support. After that, ask what the warranty is if you install a Radeon “LE†after the PC is in your home as well as if you can install a VIA chipset and an AMD Palomino later on? Will the Dell PS handle the 3.3 V current required? Ask if their preinstalled Intel board can handle all 6 PCI slots filled with HW consisting of an M-Audio AP2496, Creative Live Value II, Pinnacle 1394 Fire Wire card, Hauppauge 401 dTV capture card, AccessDTV or HiPix card, and a NIC or modem. Oh, I forgot, the Intel board doesn’t have 6 PCI slots … Ask if the RIMM’s have to be installed in pairs? Since they may know the answer to this question, ask how much will it cost you to have PC800 RDRAM preinstalled as an upgrade before shipment … This is a very simple question and answer session by phone. Before anyone gets ripped off, I highly recommend that they do this first thing and post back to this thread with the details. It should take all of maybe 20 minutes for you to realize that you purchased an under performing PC that only thinks it is an HTPC. The THX certified Dell’s are more expensive than the ones being talked about in this thread and they have the exact same HTPC problems. As a paraphrase of just one of MS’s slogans … “How much money do you want to throw out of the Window today†… and I am a MS fan http://www.avsforum.com/ubb/wink.gif


___Good Luck


___Wayne R. Gerdes

___Hunt Club Farms Landscaping Ltd.

___ [email protected]


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New E-Mail address for the time being ... [email protected]


[This message has been edited by xcel (edited 05-11-2001).]
 

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Wayne...relax. I think pretty much anyone here is likely to roll their own than buy Dell.


But of the upper tier manufacturers Dell/Gateway/Micron are in my opinion hands above HP, Compaq, IBM in terms of not having funky things inside their machines.


The P4s with the RDRAM are just bad anyway from the bang for the buck perspective regardless of who you buy it from. I'd much rather have a PIII.


As far as the THX version goes, I doubt any of the components are different than any of the other versions if you order the TB sound card and the THX speakers. But in any case, if you want to yell at PC manufacturers I'd save my vitrol for companies like Compaq and HP.


At least Dell doesn't go out of its way to make upgrading your PC a royal PITA.


If you're replacing all the components, why would you buy a premade PC from anywhere anyway? Upgrading is IMHO sub-optimal. You're much better off buying a whole new box and moving the important components over (DIO, HD card, etc) a few months later than constantly upgrading the same box...you end up with an extra PC for the kids, Linux, gaming, den, NT server, firewall...


Dells are nice for the folks that don't want to mess around with rolling their own and want the financing options and software.


I doubt AVS, DC or you offer your customers the option of paying $70 a month for their HTPC. Too much risk and cost for the small vendor but easy for someone like Dell...and they make a pretty penny at 13% interest.


But hey, my girlfriend qualified for $5K of financing. I told her I'd build her one but not everyone has that option. Nor does she want to mailorder a PC from a non-name brand. I can understand that...she doesn't know what is good and what isn't...and I'd rather see her go Dell than Compaq.


I may even start with one of the refurb Dells since after you take $300 off the price it's not a bad deal since I can't get her Office 2K for cheap. Toss in the license for that and a lot of the price difference between Dell and self-built goes away.


Now Compaq is a PC manufacturer that I can dislike with a passion after mucking about the insides of too many of em.


Nigel
 

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Hi Nigel:


___There is no problem with the discussion but if someone that can build a PP box wants to get ripped off for an HTPC, buy a DELL and replace the parts. For general use PC’s as well as Ma and Pa Kettle or Joe Q. Public types that do not want to open the PC, they are great. I will still build my own and save a few hundred dollars as well as having a more upgradeable setup each and every time. I highly doubt that many of us HTPC’ers use Intel MB’s in our systems and can you guess why? Upgrade ability is just one of the factors … If you want a great gaming box, hit Alienware for a highly optimized out of the box setup. If you want a great general use performance PC, hit DELL or Gateway, if you want an HTPC, hit AVScience, DC, or build your own. In either case, HTPC’s out of a stock DELL is a waste of money and time at best. That THX box they were touting was an absolute mess when you look at the HW used and for a price that was truly ridiculous.


___As for the refurbbed models they sell … They are cheaper but do you know something was broke in them previously? The only thing I would like from the boxes is the CPU, possibly the case, and maybe the sound and video card for a gaming box. The rest of the HW is a waste for most HTPC’ers.


___Good Luck


___Wayne R. Gerdes

___Hunt Club Farms Landscaping Ltd.

___ [email protected]


------------------

New E-Mail address for the time being ... [email protected]


[This message has been edited by xcel (edited 05-11-2001).]
 
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