What's a Good HTPC Setup?

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by Shake 'n' Bake, Aug 4, 2009.

  1. Shake 'n' Bake macrumors 68020

    Shake 'n' Bake

    Joined:
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    Albany
    #1
    I've been looking at building an HTPC. I know the Mac mini will do that quite well, I'd rather have a go at building something and trying Ubuntu.

    I don't have much HD content yet, but I will in the future. The Atom barebones systems look pretty good for the HTPC environment. Do you think it can handle Blu-Ray?

    If the Atom isn't the right thing, do you think I should go with Intel or AMD? As a yardstick, I can get a Phenom X4 for around the same price as a C2D.

    If a barebones doesn't work, where can I get a good quality, pretty good quality HTPC case with 5.25'' and 3.5'' bays? The ones at Newegg are either cheap and shabby or expensive.

    Another necessity is a WiFi card, preferably 802.11n. Are there any that work with Ubuntu?

    I'd like to stay at $400 or less.

    Thanks for your help.
     
  2. geoffreak macrumors 68020

    geoffreak

    Joined:
    Feb 8, 2008
    #2
    I highly doubt you could handle bluray, much less most 720p content with Atom.
    Core 2 Duo actually can't handle some bluray rips, so a Core 2 Quad or i7 is recommended at the minimum.

    I've seen a number of HTPC cases around. Watch Engadget for some good HTPC cases. I usually see a new case on there once a week.

    $400 is not enough to build a bluray rig. You will need around $1000.

    Check this guide too.
     
  3. Shake 'n' Bake thread starter macrumors 68020

    Shake 'n' Bake

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    #3
    That guide is pretty good. I can modify it to suit my needs by tossing the C2Q for higher C2D or Pentium Extreme (if the PX has come down in price), ditching the sound card, going for a lower capacity HDD, and going DVD rather than BD.
     
  4. jackiecanev2 macrumors 65816

    jackiecanev2

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    #4
    Wirelessly posted (BB 8900: BlackBerry8900/4.6.1.250 Profile/MIDP-2.0 Configuration/CLDC-1.1 VendorID/301)

    Do you plan on using your HTPC to record ota HD? How well-versed are you in using linux? What kind of HD content are you talking about (720,1080, compressed, bluray rip, etc)?

    We need some more info.
     
  5. Cave Man macrumors 604

    Cave Man

    #5
    If you build it around the 9300/9400 chipset and you have drivers that offload decoding to the gpu, then yes an ION-based machine could handle Blu-ray.

    That would be pretty tough. You'd need to get a dedicated board such as Zotac's. But if you price it out you might get under $500.

    The ION can handle Blu-ray just fine under Windows. It's Mac OS X that has problems since it is cpu-centric.

    There are plenty of Core 2 Duo machines capable of Blu-ray rip playback, even the 2 gHz Mini.

    It can be done for far less than that.
     
  6. geoffreak macrumors 68020

    geoffreak

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    Feb 8, 2008
    #6
    The irony here is that it was you who told me that the Mini cannot handle some rips with a high bit rate (you even named a few movies). Mind telling me which statement is true so I can get it right next time?
     
  7. Cave Man macrumors 604

    Cave Man

    #7
    The GMA950 Mini had problems, but from what I've seen on the Plex forums the 9400m Mini has no problems with Blu-ray rips. Probably the improved bus speed. Put in a desktop 2.3 or higher C2D and all would be golden for playback. Multitasking could be troublesome, though.
     
  8. geoffreak macrumors 68020

    geoffreak

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    #8
    Cool, thanks for the info.

    Also, would you really need to multitask on a true HTPC?
     
  9. Shake 'n' Bake thread starter macrumors 68020

    Shake 'n' Bake

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    #9
    Quick question: Do you think a higher frequency or more cores is better for an HTPC?
     
  10. Cave Man macrumors 604

    Cave Man

    #10
    Well, I have Eye TV running on mine and it also streams to my Apple TV. If all three are working (e.g., I'm watching a movie on the HTPC while it's transcoding an Eye TV recording, and the kids are watching a show on the ATV) then a Core 2 Duo would likely have problems, unless it's in the 2.8 gHz or so range. On my 2.3 gHz quad core, all three running take about 250-300% of the cpu (thus my estimate of a 2.8 gHz C2D).
     
  11. geoffreak macrumors 68020

    geoffreak

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    #11
    A good balance between the two would be best.
     
  12. Cave Man macrumors 604

    Cave Man

    #12
    If it's just for playback, then I'd go with a low/mid-2 gHz C2D. That will minimize heat and, thus, fan noise. If the gpu does the decoding, then you can use lower clock speed cpus.
     
  13. rowsdower macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Jun 2, 2009
    #13
    Make sure you get a card that supports VDPAU. Even if you end up with a processor that can handle all the content you want, you will use less power and generate less heat if you can offload decoding to the video card.
     
  14. Shake 'n' Bake thread starter macrumors 68020

    Shake 'n' Bake

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    #14
    I'm asking only because I found a 2.3 GHz Phenom X4 and a 2.4 GHz Phenom X3 and a 3.0 GHz Phenom X2 for the same price.

    I'm looking to do DVD, and later BD, playback, music playback from a server, and maybe some recording using a TV tuner.

    And another quick question: Which is better, Phenom or Athlon?
     
  15. Shake 'n' Bake thread starter macrumors 68020

    Shake 'n' Bake

    Joined:
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    #15
    Here are the parts I found. What do you think?

    Asus M2A74-AM
    AMD Phenom II X3 710
    nMEDIAPC 5000S
    4 GB 1066 MHz DDR2 RAM
    160 GB Western Digital Caviar Blue
    Radeon HD 4350 512 MB
    DVD-RW
    Diablotek PHD380M

    Total not including tax and shipping: $435.92.
     
  16. Cave Man macrumors 604

    Cave Man

    #16
    I can't speak about the AMD chip as I'm unfamiliar with them. Four gb of RAM is probably more than you'd need. I'd probably go for 2 gb RAM and spend the extra money on a larger hard drive.
     
  17. Shake 'n' Bake thread starter macrumors 68020

    Shake 'n' Bake

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    #17
    The HDD doesn't need to be that large, as I have most of my stuff on a server. For recording TV, however, a larger drive could come in handy. I'll see what I can find.

    EDIT: Changed HDD to 500 GB Caviar Blue and RAM to 2 x 1 GB 800 MHz DDR2. Cost lowered by $10.

    It looks like I'm going to try Ubuntu and XBMC and if that doesn't work, Windows 7 Home Premium x64.
     
  18. Shake 'n' Bake thread starter macrumors 68020

    Shake 'n' Bake

    Joined:
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    #18
    I didn't see this reply for some reason, but I'll respond.

    Sometime within a year, I'd like to record TV. I may be able to get the stuff from my cable.

    This will be my first time using Linux. I almost used Xubuntu to make a server once, though. I was playing around on the Live CD version.

    I'd be playing DVDs at first, but BDs later when they come down in price.
     
  19. Shake 'n' Bake thread starter macrumors 68020

    Shake 'n' Bake

    Joined:
    Mar 2, 2009
    Location:
    Albany
    #19
    I tried three versions of Linux on my Studio 540: GeeXBox, Kubuntu, and Ubuntu. GeeXBox and Kubuntu I just didn't like.

    Ubuntu was OK. It looks the best, but I feel all versions of Linux look "cheap." I couldn't get any sound from the integrated card on the motherboard. XBMC was unbelievably slow. I also couldn't get my WiFi USB adapter to work, although I'm sure I could get it going if I took some more time. My computer is not old or low-spec. I expected XBMC to be much better.

    I wish I could make my own version of Linux. But again, you run into the problems like lack of drivers.

    Here are the specs:

    2.33 GHz C2Q
    6 GB 800 MHz DDR2
    750 GB 7200 RPM HDD
    ATi Radeon 4350 512 MB

    The specs of the system I want to build are lower, aside from the processor and GPU. It looks like I'll be getting Windows 7 Home Premium x64, if I can't get these problems fixed.
     

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