April 25, 2008
I've kept a PC in my living room for the past three years as my primary home theater interface, and I heartily recommend
it. It's shocking how cheap and easy it is to build a home theater PC these days.
I've been pondering an upgrade to my creaky old home
theater PC, and rave reviews of the new integrated AMD platform at Tech Report, Silent PC Review, and Tom's Hardware finally pushed me over the edge.
I didn't buy the PSU because I already have that particular model, but I bought everything else on this list for a
grand total of less than 250 bucks. (You can save a bit on the power supply, but I don't recommend it, particularly if you plan to leave your HTPC
running 24/7. Efficient power supplies not only save you money on electricity in the long run, but also tend to be of generally higher quality, and quieter to boot.)
The new AMD 780G platform is striking in its simplicity. Just pop in the RAM and the low-power Athlon X2 CPU and you
have an (almost) complete ultra low-power home theater PC. Just check out the awesome array of rear panel connections:
We have the expected stuff (4x USB, gigabit ethernet), but the exciting part is DVI, VGA, and HDMI video out!
Not to mention optical digital out for beautiful, pristine digital audio direct to your receiver. Those are the key
connections for a home theater PC. We even have an eSATA port and firewire thrown in, which is always nice.
I simply dropped the new motherboard and DVD in my existing transparent acrylic Micro-ATX PC case, replacing the old stuff. (If you're thinking of going this route, I can recommend the Antec Minuet Micro-ATX case for $100, which conveniently comes with an efficient power supply, too -- but be aware of the half-height expansion slots.)
I kept my existing hard drives (a small 2.5" boot drive for low noise / power consumption, and giant capacity 3.5"
drives for long-term storage and recording), and my
Hauppauge PVR-150 dual analog PCI tuner card, which I love to death.
For the longest time, integrated graphics was synonymous with craptacular graphics. That's not the case for this new AMD 780g chipset. The integrated graphics are fully DirectX 10 compliant, comparable to the latest entry-level discrete video
cards. Gaming isn't our goal, though this would be perfectly adequate for many games. More importantly for a HTPC
build, the integrated graphics support the full suite of H.264
and WMV video playback acceleration.
I know a WEI graphics score of 3.5 doesn't sound like much, but brother, let me tell you -- this is light years ahead of anything else on
the market at this power consumption point.
Update: I had a hardware failure of my own causing (don't ask) and I needed to replace this motherboard. Fortunately, there is a new version of this motherboard with 128 MB of dedicated "sideport" DDR3 graphics memory on board. With the addition of dedicated video memory the WEI graphics score went from 3.5 / 3.6 to 4.0 / 4.0!
My old Pentium-M single core struggled to
play back 1080p videos. The Athlon X2 4050e CPU I chose is one of AMD's low power dual core models, far from top of
the line. The testers at SilentPCReview found any modern dual core chip is more than enough for the most strenuous of video playback
Gradually underclocking the CPU, we found that the Blu Ray disc began to stutter at about 1.1Ghz, while
audio glitches were detected in the WVC1 clip at 1.4Ghz. 1.5Ghz was the lowest clock speed that would smoothly play
back all our clips. This was a fantastic result as the lowest clocked X2 on the market is 2.0 Ghz.
AMD is a better choice for a home theater PC because their idle voltage and multiplier throttling -- the marketing
term is "Cool n' Quiet" -- is outstanding. (I'm also glad to have the opportunity to support AMD because I'm desperately afraid of a world where Intel is the only CPU vendor. And you should be too.) This variant of the Athlon 64 X2 chip is so new that
CPU-Z doesn't quite recognize it by name. But as you can see, at idle, it clocks down to a miserly 1 GHz and reduces its power consumption to barely over one volt.
My old highly optimized HTPC build consumed just under 80 watts at idle, up from around 65
before I began upgrading it to make it more Vista friendly. Guess how much this new HTPC platform build, which is
more than twice as powerful, consumes at idle? Let's whip out our handy dandy kill-a-watt and find out:
FORTY. SIX. WATTS.
That is flippin' amazing. We're talking about a powerful modern PC here, with quite a bit of additional
hardware you wouldn't find in most PCs, including a
dual TV tuner PCI card and three hard drives. Granted two of those drives are in sleep mode most of the time, but
still. 46 watts -- twice the power at almost half the energy consumption! Incredible! Silence and efficiency were
nowhere near this easy three or four years ago.
Needless to say, I'm pretty excited about this particular $250 upgrade, and I can sell my old parts to underwrite
On the software front, as I mentioned at the top, I've been a fan of Windows Media Center since the first version; it's one of the best products to
come out of Redmond in years, and the version of Media
Center bundled with Vista (well, Ultimate and Home Premium, anyway) is the best yet. With a hardware setup this
compelling, I'm sure you'll have no problem at all mating it with your favorite HTPC software.
If you do end up running Windows and connecting your HTPC to a DVI or HDMI capable television, beware. Getting
an exact, pixel-for-pixel connection between your HTPC and your TV isn't easy. For example, I had trouble getting the
ATI Catalyst graphics driver to accept 852x480, the standard resolution of our old plasma EDTV. Sure 800x600
worked fine, but the aspect ratio was totally off. That's where PowerStrip comes in.
PowerStrip will let you achieve that ideal pixel-for-pixel perfect connection between your graphics card and your
television. I selected the built in EDTV preset as a custom resolution, and all was well. PowerStrip is the go-to
utility for tweaking home theater display output.
We use our home theater PC every day. It's silent, draws very little power, and it's small enough to tuck away cleanly in
our living room decor. It plays anything through a slick 10-foot UI, and offers unrestricted access to the web
at any time. Putting a great one together today is almost ridiculously easy. If you haven't considered building your own home theater PC -- why not?
UPDATE: since people asked, here's a complete from-scratch build list for a home theater PC.
If you plan to use Vista Media Center, add a Vista Home Premium SP1 license for $110. I also saw that Blu-Ray internal drives (read only) are down to $130 as of the time I'm writing this.
Posted by Jeff Atwood
I suggests the Mini-ITX motherboard. This kind of motherboard is wonderfull to build an HTPC. ;-)
This kind motherboard is small (17x17) builtin all necessary for home theater, fanless, consuming 12w - 20w.
Nice article. I've had a HTPC in my living room for almost 4 years now using Beyond TV from Snapstream Media. It came to point that I had so much stuff packed in that little box I thought it was going to burn up.
So I bought I cheap tower case and transplanted the "guts" of the HTPC to it and moved it to the basement. It now has 3 OTA HD tuners, 1 PVR-150, 1 PVR-500 (dual analog tuners) and almost a terabyte of drive space. For my living room I built one using an ASUS M2A-VM HDMI and a left over AMD64 X2 4000, 2gigs of ram running Vista Ultimate and Beyond TV Link Client. I'm also in the process of ripping my DVD's to a Divx format and dropping them onto my Beyond TV Server.
At this point I can't imagine using the cable company DVR or Tivo. It just seems the have to many restrictions in place on how you can use the equipment. They may be in some cases cheaper but you know what they say..."Freedom ain't Free!"
I'm curious as to how will the AMD processor handles x264 playback of 1080p. In my experience the hardware playback is useless at the moment to me, because most my movies are encoded in the MKV container, and no player supporting hardware playback (eg. PowerDVD) also supports hardware playback of x264.
What is the CPU load during playback? The CoreAVC decoder supports multithreaded decoding, and is a very efficient software decoder, so it's the best option. My Intel Core2-Duo E6750 (non-overclocked) decodes 1080p x264 in CoreAVC with roughly 50% CPU-load.
Or are you able to play 1080p MKV movies using hardware decoding on your new HTPC?
If you get your HDTV from a satellite, what do you do?
Up here in Canada I use Bell ExpressVu.
How do we use that?
I used to have a Hauppauge card myself, but on satellite I never did figure out how to get a decent signal out.
Plus, I can find no way to change the channels for unattended recording of shows.
Any suggestions ?
Thanks for a decent article, BTW.
p.s.: For the Intel "fanboy" who wrote:
"For those that are AMD gunshy (like myself)"
AMD has a much friendlier warranty handling, and the Intel chipset uses as much power as the CPU, so the power figures for a similar rig are nearly 100W at idle, and about 175W at load.
I'm thinking of using the the Shuttle K45 as a base for a dual core HTPC and backup PC. (Uni soon too, may be useful for taking home during holidays.) The main problem is VGA output only. What can VGA easily be converted to, so that I can use it with a store bought TV?
As for remotes, I've used WinLIRC (for Windows - just LIRC for Linux). Can use it with either USB or serial receivers I think, and the serial receivers are simple enough for you to build them yourself. Then you can use any remote with it, which I love.
A HTPC is definitely something I'd like, but you need it to have a nice small case, and the barebones systems for HTPCs are never cheap.
If you are looking for a low power solution with less hassle, try this:
* in-expensive Vista Laptop with 200GB hd: $700
* HDHomeRun network dual-HD tuner (http://www.silicondust.com/wiki/products/hdhomerun): $169
* XBOX 360 + remote control: $350 +$20
This setup has several advantages:
* Laptops are naturally optimized for low power usage
* The computer has a built-in display and keyboard, so no need to much around with the tv or plug in a keyboard when things go wrong
* Laptops are smaller and easier to place on AV racks
* Streaming video from the computer only uses 1-3 watts more than running idle
* The HD Homerun sits on the network and can stream live HD to any client on the network. It also can pick up both clear cable and antenna.
* the Xbox 360 has a built-in Windows Media Extender, and the remote is aware. Simply press the green button on the remote and the xbox starts up, finds your MCE box, and gives you the full MCE interface
* The Xbox already has vga and component output capable of 1080p (get the XBOX Elite for HDMI) as well as optical digital audio.
* because Tuning, Storage, and display are separated they can be placed optimally in your house. Want to add the ability to view and record in another room? Just place a 360 there and it will act as another extender.
* As a bonus, The XBOX itself provides the ability to rent and download High and Standard definition movies from XBOX Live, and the XBOX is a great gaming console
I enjoy the article but what's a "10-foot UI"?
Many wrote product reviews at Newegg claiming that the GA-MA78GM-S2H motherboard's northbridge gets very hot.
Ditto on that question. :D
I recently replaced my MythTV Ubuntu box with a Mac mini. It's cheap, makes no noise, and runs pretty much all the software I need out of the box.
I've had trouble with Hauppauge's software in the past. How well does this device handle itself?
XBox Media Center is nice. On XBox hardware, it has some problems playing 1080i/p content. For general dvd rips, its great.
They've ported it to OSX in attempt to get over the limits of the XBox platform. I see the standardization of the platform as one of its best benefits. shrug Ah well.
I tried to put together a Home Theater PC about a year ago, and it was a complete disaster. The analog is ugly because I don't have a good signal to feed it, and the digital is unusable - it looks like it gets about 3 frames every half-second on an HD channel, and SD has a weird stuttering effect like some frames are going backwards.
The worst part is, there's no way to debug it. Where does the problem lie? Do I need new software, driver updates, a faster CPU, better video? The only way to move forward is to keep throwing time and money at the problem and hope that you luck into a solution.
I'm hoping to repurpose that system and start over with a new one, using a configuration that is known to work for someone else. Jeff, your article lays out a great benchmark system - thank you.
Many wrote product reviews at Newegg claiming that the GA-MA78GM-S2H motherboard's northbridge gets very hot.
"very hot" is subjective, of course, but I classify it as "so hot that if you touch it you feel like you run the risk of burning yourself" and I have yet to see that from the northbridge heatsink on the Gigabyte 780g.
I'm thinking about putting together a "media-center" for our living room.
We have two unused desktop PCs - both are XP Pro (Actually, one might be Media Center, but I'm not sure).
Both are a little long in the tooth, but I think we will be okay.
Ideally I'd like to get DVR recording, DVD playback and iTunes (iTunes - my wife has a huge inventory of iTunes, and she HATES media player).
We have Comcast digital cable - I would like to be able to record from the digital channels, so I imagine I'll need something to support a cableCARD.
What I'm wondering is:
Is it worth retrofitting one of the PCs? If so, what would be the recommended pieces-parts to upgrade (my thought is graphics card for a TV tuner card, probably a 5.1 soundcard would also be good, maybe a Blu-Ray DVD drive, maybe a bigger HD - does memory and processor play a large part of a media player?)
Is there a way to keep iTunes in the setup? I don't want to have to migrate it all to Media Player and convince my wife to use it (I would prefer iTunes as well).
The main problem with htpc setups nowadays for me is finding a DVD / BluRay player that will keep quiet enough. You mention cheap players being available, but you don't happen to have any ideas on getting a quiet one, do you? (don't say Plextor, because their consumer market stuff doesn't have the option to throttle down speed anymore...)
I have been running mythtv on gentoo for a couple of years. While the approach I took (not using one of the pre-canned mythtv linux distros) takes some time, I view it as a learning experience (not sure is the wife agrees...).
For a hobbyist type, it offers limitless opportunity to tinker.
For anyone building a similar home theater PC, you might want to consider the ATI TV Wonder 550 PCI or even the 650 PCIe cards:
They have better image quality than the Hauppage:
And can be made to work in a half height PCI slot:
And since it is from ATI, hopefully it works better with the 790G chipset's graphics... perhaps wishful thinking.
I am going to be undertaking an HTPC build based mostly on Jeff's specs as soon as Uncle Sam gives me my Gubmint tax rebate check. I am going with the AMD Athlon X2 4400+ as opposed to the new 45W Athlon 4050e CPU. Tom's Hardware recently showed that there isn't a hell of a lot of difference between the two processors in terms of power used and since it is my understanding that Cool n' Quiet disables itself as soon as you start overclocking I thought I would go with a 10% faster CPU that costs $11 less.
Thank you for the build list for your HTPC. I've wanted to build one for ages, and I'm only now starting to acquire the parts that'll eventually make their way into a standalone HTPC. For example, I've been playing with a Hauppauge 150 tuner card, but it's full-height. So, if/when I finally build a standalone HTPC, I'd like a full-height case. (I also think it'd make upgrades easier.) Do you have any particular recommendations or would you not even consider full-height? What do you think of the Antec New Solution NSK2480? No eSATA, but it's got 120mm fans.
Any of the low-power Athlon X2s are fine; I would choose one of the newer models (4850e, 4450e, 4050e) to make sure you get the latest and greatest, but the X2 BE-2350 and X2 BE-2300 are fine as well, they're 65nm and designated "low power" too.
I have since removed the ATA interface 2.5" HDD, since it was a major performance bottleneck on this board. With the 2.5" SATA drive, the disk score went from 3.8 to 5.3 as a result. (I updated the WEI screenshot in the post.)
The stock AMD OEM fan is fine -- the temperature control works a treat. But I couldn't resist the siren's call of the Scythe Ninja Mini, which fits by bare millimeters in the case. But the advantage is one less fan, and the CPU runs cooler fanless than it did with the low-RPM fan.
I also replaced the stock cooler on the northbridge with a Zalman ZM-NB47J cooler I had laying around, with some thermal adhesive.
None of that (except the HDD) was really necessary but I am an inveterate tweaker and I have a heatsink fetish. :)
Latest power consumption numbers, reflecting the new Ninja Mini passive cooler, and the two 320 gb 2.5" SATA hard drives:
Idle at desktop: 44.5w
1 core 100% loaded: 78w
2 cores 100% loaded: 91w
typical video playback: 50-60w
hi-def video playback: 75-80w
I would highly recommend checking out XBMC.org it's a great media center application that is supported under windows, linux, xbox and in beta for mac currently.
So at this point, you cannot build an HTPC to decrypt digital cable signals, correct?
But is there a way to watch the digital channels (well specifically the HD channels) if you keep the cable box and feed the output of the box into the computer? I guess my main question is can you get true HD onto your HTPC this way?
@Lauren. You can receive unencrypted digital cable into Vista Media Center and other HTPC systems using a SiliconDust tuner for instance. This will also support over the air ATSC HD as well. Premium Cable is heavily DRMd so you have to buy speciffic, blessed Vista systems from HP, Sony and Dell.
It is certainly TrueHD.
"On the software front, as I mentioned at the top, I've been a fan of Windows Media Center since the first version; it's one of the best products to come out of Redmond in years, and the version of Media Center bundled with Vista (well, Ultimate and Home Premium, anyway) is the best yet."
Jeff, should you include a wireless keyboard and maybe a mouse in your build list? Or is the remote sufficient for everything you need to do with MCE? Do you ever game on your HTPC?
Thanks for the informative article Jeff.
I also replaced the stock cooler on the northbridge with a Zalman ZM-NB47J cooler
I'm interested in this aspect - did the Zalman cooler result in a cooler northbridge?
I'm in the process of building a HTPC myself with the same motherboard, and just wondering whether it's worth upgrading the NB heatsink like you did.
My 2 year old XP MCE is in need of a tune up and I am happy that I found your site. I would like to use your setup, however I have a few questions that do not look like they have been answered thus far.
1) I have a SDTV. It sounds like you are hooking up your VGA directly to your EDTV. My Tv has only svideo or composite connectors. Any suggestions? VGA to svideo? (I know I should get a new TV, but the upgrade of the Media Center is setting that back a while)
2) Do you have any recommendations for an OTA HD tuner? Could I store the program to disk and then convert it for play on my SDTV (I usually use DIVX for compression)
@Erds: That's a good question. Not everyone wants to throw away a perfectly good 36" SD TV when they build an HTPC (including me). I was planning to buy a tuner card that included some kind of TV-out port. Since it's SDTV, S-Video or even composite will be good enough. The Hauppauge WinTV-PVR-500 MCE is a good example.
So I did this, and have been using my new HTPC for a few days. One thing is driving me crazy. Hopefully I'm not too late to the party to get a reply.
I opted to use VGA to connect to my TV since the HDMI ports on the TV were already in use. I want to output 720p WXGA, which should be 1366x768.
However, the onboard ATI drivers only let me output 1280x768, which leaves vertical bars on both sides.
Any idea if I can force the ATI to pick a 1366x768 resolution?
Other than that, great post, and thanks for inspiring me. This is now the second PC I've built thanks to Coding Horror (I also shamelessly stole the Hanselrig).
Update: On second glance, the Hauppauge 500 card has no TV out ports. They're all inputs. The 350 has a TV out ports (S-Video and composite).
Any suggestions [for SDTV]? VGA to svideo?
Yes, I have done this -- with a high quality SD set and some intense TV-out video driver setting tweaks it is possible to make 800x600 look .. uh .. tolerable is maybe the best word. It's not going to look very good even when compared to my outdated EDTV set.
So yes, it is possible to use a SDTV set in a HTPC build, but it's not going to look or feel very good. For video playback and the media center UI it'll probably be fine. But being able to use Windows / web browser at usable resolutions is one of the biggest reasons to build a HTPC -- lots of flexibility.
Any idea if I can force the ATI to pick a 1366x768 resolution?
This is the reason to use PowerStrip, which lets you set up arbitrary video output resolutions. It also has a TON of presets for most TVs so that res is likely already available, just have to select it and add it to Windows:
Thanks so much for the great post, very informative! I am looking to build my own htpc, was wondering if your setup that you describe here would be appropriate for what we are trying to do.
We do not want to record live tv, we get that with our satellite box, and taking my wife off of that is going to be like robbing as crack hound of their fix.
We want to be able to rip all our dvd's to a hard drive, rip all of our cd's to the hard drive, get rid of those two players and use the htpc to play those, as well as web browsing, using the new TV for image displays and the such. We want to be able to access the HTPC from our mac in our bedroom to watch movies over the network.
Would the htpc you have described here do the trick? We will be getting a high def flat screen, and a new hdmi capable receiver as well. Thanks for your help in advance, I look forward to reading your response.
Please forgive another newb question, but is there a comparable mobo that comes in the ATX form factor? I am purchasing a silverstone lc20m case, and not sure if this micro atx will fit. Again, I may be asking a really dumb question and I apologize for that.
Another vote for an SD setup! I watch so little TV, it's hard to justify spending $600 or more for a new LCD TV when my CRT still has an acceptable image.
I'm justifying building the HTPC on the basis of:
1. I get over-the-air broadcast TV, so will need to go to an external digital tuner anyway;
2. I need something to timeshift TV that can handle digital broadcast (that is, NOT my old VCR);
3. I've been wanting to upgrade my VCR to a PVR anyway, with DVD-writing capability;
4. This could take the place of my DVD player as well;
5. There is some online video I'd like to watch on a bigger screen (YouTube.com, Icenetwork.com, SciFi.com), so a computer hooked to the TV would be nice.
The system board above sounds nice, but it doesn't seem to have composite video, so I'd need to add a video card still, right? (Until I finally get a TV with DVI/HDMI inputs.)
To address the readability problem when surfing the web, I realized I could VNC to it from the web-surfing computer that's already in the same room to set up the viewing, then watch it on the larger screen.
I'm looking at the Hauppage WinTV-HVR-2250 dual ATSC tuner card, to allow recording and watching different shows at the same time.
I've been using BeyondTV on my office computer happily, and will probably stick with that.
Ok, for many years I've been wanting to do this.
My current plan is to buy a Mac Mini and slap vista on it.
Here's my question, is it possible to build a mini-pc with No fans? I'm thinking one of those mini-itx like things with a heatsink and using a CF card as storage.
I don't need HD, but it needs to handle DVD,DivX,Xvid etc. It'll also need to run Vista or Linux?
My vision is for an extremely low power (as low as possible) that I can constantly leave running with enough room on the CF USB flash sticks to store a days worth of recordings which will then be scheduled to backup to a NAS.
I'd also want it to be a low powered download machine.
*I know you might as well use it as a NAS to, but I was really after a solid state machine with as few moving parts as possible.
Most plasmas draw as much power as your fridge, and you're excited about a reduction from 80 to 40 watts for your PC?!
I'm debating the 2.5 ghz 45w cpu vs the brisbane 2.8ghz 65w cpu and unclocking it. The Brisbane is $10 cheaper with the MB you recommended. Any thoughts? How about a Blueray player?
I just read the following on http://gbpvr.com/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Hardware/DualCaptureCards regarding dual tuners:
NOTE 4. Dual Tuner Limitations by PVR OS. There is a limitation in Microsoft’s MCE OS, which doesn’t concern simultaneous use, but configuration states. Even if you have two cards - one analogue and one digital (or two hybrids) you will NOT be able to use analogue and digital at the same “time”. Here, “time” relates to a particular configuration state of the system - if you want to switch from viewing analogue channels to viewing digital, you must delete all channels from the MCE Guide, rescan from scratch and re-setup the EPG. Annoying? Very. That is just another reason why GB-PVR is so much better than Media Center.
Can someone explain this criticism of MCE to me in light of Jeff's system? Thanks.
Hope this finds you well Jeff, and BTW congratulations to you and your wife.
Got a hair up the you know what this morning and decided to build a HTPC based on your specs for a new complete system. Unfortunately, the Hauppauge card is no longer available on Newegg, can you recommend a replacement?, and you didn't mention the boot drive spec's either, I was thinking of getting a Solid State Disk (those are too expensive right now for me) please shed some light on your setup.
I was able to build a similar system today, but some of the parts are discontinued. The final tally was just over $700 building from scratch (before OS and Blu-Ray player software).
Antec Minuet Micro ATX case w/350W PS, $119.99, Micro Center
AMD Athlon X2 4850E (45W) - $64.99, newegg.com
Gigabyte GA-MA78GM-SH2 - $99, Micro Center
Corsair 2x1GB XMS2 DDR2-800 $67.99 - $40 rebate = $27.99, Micro Center
Western Digital 2.5 120GB SATA drive (laptop drive; low power/noise), $59.99, Micro Center
Western Digital 3.5 640GB SATA drive (OEM), $79.99, Micro Center
Hauppauge WinTV HVR-1250 PCI-E TV Tuner w/Remote (low profile), $51.99, newegg.com
Sony Bulk OEM Blu-Ray/DVD/CD-ROM, $129.99, Micro Center
TrendNet 802.11g USB wireless adapter, $18.99 - $12 rebate = $6.99, Micro Center
Thanks for this Jeff. I priced this out in Canada and between filtechcomputer.com and canadacomputers.com, I can get everything I need for under $400. Pretty amazing.
Corsair 2x1GB XMS2 DDR2-800 $31.99 (after rebates)
Gigabyte MA78GM-S2H $89
Antec NSK2480 $97.99
AMD Athlon 64 X2 4850e $68.99
Hauppauge WinTV 1250 $62.99
I already have a hard drive so I didn't need one. I went with the NSK2480 because it sounds like cooling and ventilation are better than in the Minuet (according to silentpcreview). Also, I won't have to deal with half size cards which should make upgrades a little easier. Sure it's bulkier and not as pretty but that's ok. The dual tuner WinTV 2250 is actually pretty hard to find in Canada so I'm just going single tuner with the 1250. Hopefully I can get by on just one.
Just wanted to post this comment in case any other Canadians are reading this. Even though this post is six months old, the components listed still seem to be right choices (except the CPU -- the 4850e is so cheap you may as well go for that instead of the 4050).
will this MB along with 4850e be able to decode 1080p movie?
Plan to build one. I already have a lot of components.
I guess I only need MB and CPU.
Do I have to use a laptop hd as the main drive? I guess you are using desktop drives as data drive.
I plan to build one HTPC and also use it as my code SVN repository. So I might need 3 drives (1 laptop and 2 with RAID 0 for data).
Hey. PC's are nice, but I'm planning a HT system of note! I checked out a new site called www.smarterhometheater.com, and they've got seating advice, decor and soundproofing options, and free advice!
Have you SEEN some of the home theaters out there? It's insane! Cool.
will this MB along with 4850e be able to decode 1080p movie?
It will, depending on the decoder.. I've had spotty luck with ffdshow alone doing full 1080p on some Blu-Ray titles, even when the dual core Athlon is overclocked to 2.5 Ghz (!).
Using CoreAVC for H.264 handles it just fine, though.
I'm looking to build an HTPC and like the parts you used in your article. I have a 7-year old(?) 43-inch Sony HDTV (http://www.amazon.com/Sony-KP-43HT20-Rear-Projection-Monitor/dp/B00008OAIJ), but it doesn't have HDMI or DVI inputs. Is there some sort of adapter I can use to deliver high definition to my TV using the onboard video on the Gigabyte mobo you used? I have quite a few inputs on the back of my TV:
-Basic component (red, yellow, white)
-5 input component (I don't know what it's called, but I believe it is the HD input. The colors are something like red, green, blue, black, white.)
Jeff, I've followed your blog for quite some time and it's always been great info. I was wondering if you know of any resources that could help me understand the options for a HTPC and Dish Network satellite.
Is it possible to hook my Dish 722 into a HTPC? Are these issues more so with just satellite or would I be able to hook Comcast up more easily?
Hey Jeff, based on your site I've come up with this config, trying to keep power consumption low - do you (or anyone else) see any glaring issues with this? Thanks in advance!
2.5 Boot drive: Seagate Momentus 7200.3 320GB
3.5 Storage drive: Western Digital WD10EADS Caviar Green 1TB
Processor: AMD Athlon 64 X2 4850E
Case: Antec NSK2480
Blu-Ray reader: LG GBC-H20L
Wireless: D-LINK DWA-130 Wireless 802.11 Draft N USB Adapter
MoBo: Gigabyte GA-MA78GPM-DS2H
RAM: Corsair XMS2 TWIN2X2048-6400C4 2GB 2X1GB PC2-6400 DDR2-800
Input device: Logitech Dinovo Edge Bluetooth Ultra Slim Wireless Keyboard
GET a LIFE! As long as it works who cares about wattage....your talking about wattage....i cant believe your talking about wattage...
Seconded. Particularly for those that like tweaking.
I spent a little more money on mine. I despise Antec cases so I bought a Silverstone, used a Core 2 Quad chip/mobo (really shines when ripping/encoding video), and instead of the junky integrated graphics, I just bought a good passive video card.
Power consumption is around 100 W at idle and I can't hear any noise from it while sitting on my chair. It's not your 46 W, I guess, but it amounts to less than $5 on my utility bill at the end of the month, so I'm not going to get obsessive about it.
But you're right, if you're not overly concerned about performance, then an HPTC is just as dirt cheap to build as a regular PC. Well worth it too; I canceled my cable TV service a few months ago because I never used it, so in a few months this baby will have paid for itself.
I never did get around to trying MCE or Vista yet. For my HTPC, I've been running the .Net 2.0 based and FREE GBPVR!
I enjoy this because it is free, and it has a large support base. It's not open source, but it does allow for third party plugins, and many of the users have added to it, including a Netflix WatchNow! plugin, and another that allows remote access to Game System emulators.
(You can see the current list of plugins here: http://gbpvr.com/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Plugin/Plugin)
It's highly customizable, has a web scheduling/streaming interface, and many more options.
Granted, it's got a bit of a learning curve, but even right out of the box, it's pretty much a ready to go solution.
Jeff, many thanks for this post.
Nothing like someone else having tried and tested a combination of hardware ... I've just put one of these together (mobo, CPU, case/PSU and RAM as you spec'd) and am loving the quiet and low power use. Driving a 1080p Sony LCD flawlessly. My AppleTV is looking scared.
Took me a while to figure out how to get audio on the HDMI output: Change 'Onboard VGA output connect' in the Advanced BIOS Features to D-Sub / HDMI, from D-Sub / DVI. Why do they send the video but not the audio until this is set?
The issue I'm still wrestling with is a black screen after WMC wakes up (when pressing power/green button on remote, after it was put to sleep with the power button on the remote). There's the mouse pointer and nothing else.
Only way I have found to break out of it is CTRL+ALT+DEL and select Task Manager. At that point the WMC window comes alive, and I just click on it to full screen it again. I was wondering if you or any reader has seen/heard about this?
This is with the Windows 7 public beta 1 (build 7000) plus whatever System Update wants to give me as of today ... which includes this ATI driver: 'Prerelease - WDDM 1.1. But I also had this with the latest driver bundle for this mobo from the Gigabyte support site.
Web searches suggest there is a long history of black screen + pointer with WMC in different circumstances, and graphics driver/configuration is usually somehow the culprit. My next move is to get a (non-prerelease) driver directly from ATI, unless someone has a better suggestion?
It's been two years. Have you updated this PC at all? I'd like to see what you've done next.
Does anyone know if Skystar 2 DVB card (satellite card) is supporte by windows media center editions?
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