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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello,


I am getting ready to upgrade my computer and was wondering what would be the best motherboard, or hardware for that matter, to use. I have plenty of experience in building computers but am not sure what it takes to build an HTPC.


Right now I am looking at these three AMD compatible Mobo's,

Asus A7N8X,

Chaintech Zenith Series CT-7NJS,

or the Leadtek WinFast K7NCR18D.


The proc. will probably be an AMD Athlon XP 2400+,

with either 512 or 1gig PC3200 DDR Memory.


I am not limiting myself to these; they are just what I have found the latest info on so far.


Any help will be appreciated.

Thanks,

James
 

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I can't tell you which is the best, but I can tell you that any motherboard which uses the CMedia sound chip will eventually require a separate sound card for HTPC functions. That rules out the Chaintech. The ASUS should be OK, but I couldn't find any info about the chip used on the Leadtek.


More info on the CMedia's problems in my web page, below, and especially in the follow-up, "Troubleshooting" page:

http://www.jimrothe.com/htpc_troubleshooting.html
 

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Quote:
Originally posted by jvrieger
Hello,


I am getting ready to upgrade my computer and was wondering what would be the best motherboard, or hardware for that matter, to use. I have plenty of experience in building computers but am not sure what it takes to build an HTPC.
James,


Check the HTPC FAQ at the top of this forum.


However, the motherboard is not really a big factor with regards to HTPC.


The biggest factor is the video card - which will probably require an AGP slot on the motherboard.


Since the video card does most of the processing, CPU isn't that important unless you do post-processing with "ffdshow"

or the like. If you contemplate post-processing, and require a powerful CPU, get a compatible motherboard.


Although motherboards may have on-board features, like sound support; plug-in soundcards are usually better.


I would just look for the motherboard that supports the components I want to add, and has the fastest data bus rates.
 

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Rothe...that is misleading information about the C-Media sound onboard! I have had NO problems for 2 years on my Soyo Dragon Plus with the C-Media outputting SPDIF to a A/V 6.1 receiver.


That doesn't mean that you haven't had problems or that others haven't in the past, but almost ALL soundcard/video card/ motherboard combinations can POTENTIALLY lead to problems. There is just such a huge number of possible hardware/software combinations in an HTPC that generalizing a problem to a specific piece of hardware can be problematic (as you have described on your site).


Many have had success with the C-Media chipset in their HTPC's. That doesn't gurantee that you will, but neither is using another soundcard going to guarantee flawless operation.


As the saying goes...YMMV....

-Alex-
 

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Yes, I use the Pinnacle PCTV Rave. However I only use that for Dscaler (s-video)that is outputted from a TIVO and pump the TIVO audio directly into my receiver. I have no experience with Full Duplex audio.


However that doesn't mean that my C-Media isn't working in my HTPC. I get great SPDIF out for DVD and local media files (avi, quicktime, mp3, CD-Audio, etc...). It works for what I use my HTPC for.


I thinkt that you may have a point with a problem with Full-Duplex audio on your PC as I think that I have a point with the C-Media audio on my PC. It is a matter of what you are asking the hardware to do. There are very few audio cards (if any) that I have heard of that don't have some peculiarities to them (read all the threads on the Audigy, or M-Audio, or Turtle Beach or any other card/audio chipset you could think of...someone, somewhere is going to have a problem with it).


That doesn't mean that you exclude that piece of hardware for consideration in any HTPC. For every complaint there is always someone who has had success. It is just making sure that what you choose will work for the intended objectives of the machine.


What do you think?

-Alex-
 

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Yeah I've had the hiss problem with an ATI TV Wonder in my main PC with a Cmedia card in it (Hercules Muse). Now in my HTPC the same TV Wonder with a Realtek 650 chipset (nice chipset IMO) doesn't exhibit the problem at all.
 

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Quote:
Originally posted by bairda
It works for what I use my HTPC for....


It is a matter of what you are asking the hardware to do....


That doesn't mean that you exclude that piece of hardware for consideration in any HTPC. For every complaint there is always someone who has had success. It is just making sure that what you choose will work for the intended objectives of the machine.


What do you think?
I think we're on the same page about this, at this point. Clearly, we had somewhat different definitions of what a home theater PC should do. As an All in Wonder user, it's probably not surprising that I thought of personal video recorder (PVR) functions as a core function, and I jumped on the CMedia shortcoming for this application. I should have considered that not everyone has PVR functions on their list of what their HTPC should do, a fact that is especially apparent considering all of the HDTV cards that get discussed on these forums.


Anyway, we had a little discussion, brought out some recurring issues, and hopefully Jvrieger got a little smarter for his upcoming project. Web forums are pretty cool, huh? :)
 

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"However, the motherboard is not really a big factor with regards to HTPC."

Sorry Doc, I'll have to take exception with this statement. ;)

I recently upgraded from a very reliable ASUS CUSL2 mobo after +18 months of good use to an Intel D845WN. After rebuilding my HTPC and reusing the same Enermax 350w PS, Radeon 9500pro, sound card, MyHD, etc., I was actually shocked to discover that the change in mobo actually increased my overall picture quality! Whites were much whiter, blacks had less noise, and small fonts were a bit easier to to define. I'm guessing that the power components of the Intel mobo play a huge role here.....in terms of proper in-spec voltages and cleaner power to the individual components.

I know it seems weird, but true.

Any comments anyone? This development really surprised me!
 

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Although I might not know which MB it best, I do know that the ABit NF7-S NForce 2 MB is not it.


I have this board and it is very buggy. I do not recommend this board for an HTPC since it requires constant work to keep it running.


With any MB, see if you can find an Internet forum that you can browse and see what problems people are having. Keep in mind that all MB's will have some problems and people don't usually post when things are running well. You'll see a lot of negative posts but try to keep an open mind and determine if there are any real problems that you can't live with.
 

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Quote:
Originally posted by Karnis

Any comments anyone? This development really surprised me!

I'm not buyin' it, Karnis. Not meaning to say that you're nuts or anything ;) but there are just too many software variables involved to point to the "standardized" hardware as the source of the perceived differences. Without a backup of the drive in each configuration with which to tediously go through every INI file and registry setting, I don't think we're ever going to know EXACTLY what's making a difference here.


I will say, however, that I've seen differences in TV tuner performance by tweaking motherboard timing. For example, one of the channels that I regularly watch broadcasts at a base frequency of about 200 MHz (Channel 11? 9? I forget.) One of my favorite programs was always plagued by some minor herringbone patterns, which are generally caused by interference from another radiated signal.


After investigating every possible radiation source external to the system, I started looking for internal radiation sources. Considering that the frequencies of some of the components in most motherboards operate at multiples of 33 Mhz, I surmised that I might be able to reduce the effect of this interference by changing the base frequency of my processor. I was theorizing that harmonics of these frequencies were stepping on my TV tuner, so moving the harmonics away from that 200 MHz mark would solve my interference problem.


Sure enough, kicking it up from 133 to 139 MHz completely eliminated the herringbone patterns on that channel. I credit the Soyo Dragon Plus for making it so easy for me to change the frequency. "An overclocker's dream," as Tom's Hardware Guide said when it was new. :)
 

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Quote:
Originally posted by Karnis
"However, the motherboard is not really a big factor with regards to HTPC."

Sorry Doc, I'll have to take exception with this statement. ;)

I recently upgraded from a very reliable ASUS CUSL2 mobo after +18 months of good use to an Intel D845WN. After rebuilding my HTPC and reusing the same Enermax 350w PS, Radeon 9500pro, sound card, MyHD, etc., I was actually shocked to discover that the change in mobo actually increased my overall picture quality! Whites were much whiter, blacks had less noise, and small fonts were a bit easier to to define. I'm guessing that the power components of the Intel mobo play a huge role here.....in terms of proper in-spec voltages and cleaner power to the individual components.

I know it seems weird, but true.

Any comments anyone? This development really surprised me!
Karnis,


I'll have to defer to your experience.


However, I do detect some skepticism in your comment, "I know it seems weird, but true".


I'm out of my field here - does a mobo really have the capacity to "clean up" the power to a significant extent?

I would have thought that filtering power would require some significant capacitance - and I don't see where you put that

in all those little chips.


I also upgraded recently from a CUSL2 to a P4PE. However, I also upgraded power supply, video card [ to Radeon 9500 pro].

I principally wanted to be able to experiment with fddshow post processing on TheaterTek.


Your comment, "Whites are much whiter, blacks had...." - you could get a job selling laundry detergent. Cheers! :)
 

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Quote:
Originally posted by Morbius
I would have thought that filtering power would require some significant capacitance - and I don't see where you put that

in all those little chips.
Well motherboards do have capacitors that regulate (ie "filter") the power from the power supply. The quality of the power supply is probably a bigger factor but...


For an example of problems caused by cheap or insufficient capacitors on a motherboard and one persons rather extreme efforts to solve the problem, see this thread over at AsusBoards.com.
 

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Quote:
Originally posted by Morbius
I'm out of my field here - does a mobo really have the capacity to "clean up" the power to a significant extent?

I would have thought that filtering power would require some significant capacitance - and I don't see where you put that

in all those little chips.
Lots of motherboards have decent power filtering caps on them... and some have really low quality ones that pop like a shotgun blast when they take a surge. I was quite intrigued by the new Gigabyte GA-SINXP1394 that I picked up. This board has basic processor power regulator circuitry on the main board but also includes a second add-in power regulator that sits in a special slot behind the CPU (similar to the old Pentium Pro boards with their separate regulators). Gigabyte calls this 'six phase' power delivery whereas most systems are referred to as '3 phase'. This is Gigabyte's method of ensuring the highest quality power to the CPU, which is somewhat critical if one were to overclock. I personally don't overclock my systems, but it's nice to know that if I did, this board might stand up fairly well.


In any case, different motherboards will all use different power supply filtering and different regulator methods. It's very possible that a better power design could improve video quality by reducing harmonics, providing stronger regulation (lower drift), and even ensuring regulation under heavy loading. While I would be hard pressed to see the difference on my LCD display, I have noticed an apparent improvement in quality in material sent to my DLP projector since upgrading to the new motherboard.
 

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Unless you exactly figure out what has improved picture quality and are able to reproduce the the revese/forward process,..., you just have to leave it right there, where you like the PQ/SQ most. and forget about what has improved what... That's what I learned from this weird hobby. :confused:
 

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Quote:
Originally posted by dbett
Well motherboards do have capacitors that regulate (ie "filter") the power from the power supply. The quality of the power supply is probably a bigger factor but...
dbett,


I realize that motherboards have capacitors - I recognize some of the "non-chip" components of the motherboard are

capacitors. However, they are relatively modest sized.


A motherboard doesn't have anything remotely approaching the capacitors one would find in an audio power amp. Those

capacitors truly do add a significant "inertia" to the circuit in order to stabilize power fluctuations.


Of course, computers have switching power supplies - and hence have finer grained transients than the 60 Hz that one

finds in an audio amp.


I was just wondering if the frequencies are high enough so that those little caps on the mobo can do a significant

filtering job.


Like you, I would have thought that the power supply would be the biggest determinant in the quality of the power.
 

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Quote:
Originally posted by Morbius
I was just wondering if the frequencies are high enough so that those little caps on the mobo can do a significant filtering job.


Like you, I would have thought that the power supply would be the biggest determinant in the quality of the power.
Well I don't know about the effect the quality/quantity/etc. of the capacitors may have on components such as PCI or AGP cards, but having followed the saga surrounding my Asus P4S8X motherboard, a number of people determined that by literally soldering on additional capacitors they could increase the stability of the CPU and RAM. (That's the link I posted above). Luckily I have had no problems with my board - although it's running in my desktop rather than my HTPC.


So I don't think it's impossible that Karnis' new motherboard could have better power regulation to some of his components and that cleaner power is allowing those components to provide superior performance. But then what the h#ll do I know. :D
 

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Quote:
Although I might not know which MB it best, I do know that the ABit NF7-S NForce 2 MB is not it.
You must have the version 1.0 of the NF7-S...it had some issues. If you bought one today, however, you would be buying the 1.2 version which fixed everything. The feature set and bios options of this board pretty much can't be found on any other NF2 board right now, so if you have some very specific needs, it's your only choice. :(


My life did become a little easier after swapping out for the 1.2 ver though.
 

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How about HT capability?


For all of you who plan on an HTPC as a HT appliance ONLY, seems like performance is not much of an issue and you would be more worried about things like heat and noise. However, for those of us without a lot of bank who can only afford 1 PC for the whole house, I'd like to be using my PC to do other things while I'm recording movies with PVR etc. HT-enabled CPUs have >1 logic core, so you take a minimal performance hit when doing more than one task. To enable HT, you would need an HT-enabled Intel CPU, plus a MB with a 7205, 845, or the new 975 chipset. The former and latter chipsets are usually paired with higher-end MBs, and should give you other nice features like built-in RAID support and 6.1 channel audio.
 
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